Students in the History of Technology class examine early modern books from Special Collections

Special Collections & Archives

Inquiry-based learning relies on strong collections of primary source materials. The Department of Special Collections and Archives offers students and scholars access to printed materials from the 15th century to the present, manuscript collections of individuals and organizations, and historical records of the college and local communities. Books, photographs, scrapbooks, diaries, audio visual materials, and ephemera provide rich materials for investigation.

Special Collections Digital Projects

Rare Books

A strong teaching collection of rare books documents the development of print culture from the birth of movable type to the present day. This collection was built on generous donations by George Pinne and Peter Ridgway Jordan. In 1997, Marie-Louise Rosenthal donated a copy of the famous Lectern Bible, a masterpiece of 20th-century printing, created by Bruce Rogers. Among the treasures are first editions of Darwin, Hobbes, Dickens, and Twain, 15th-century manuscript codices, several editions of Chaucer, including the famed Kelmscott Press edition, examples of emblem books, and a lovely 1567 herbal.

Salisbury House Library Collection

The Salisbury House Library Collection came to Grinnell College Special Collections in 2019. From the historic Salisbury House estate of Des Moines, Iowa, the collection was built by Carl and Edith Weeks primarily between the 1920s and 1960s. The library totals nearly 5,000 rare books and manuscripts dating from the 12th century to mid-1960s. A project archivist is working to process and curate the collection.

The collection is open to researchers and visitors while it is being processed. Visit the Salisbury House Library Collection for updates, resources, and more. 

Grinnell College Archives

The Grinnell College Archives document the people, places, and activities that have shaped the college. Far from being dry institutional records, these materials record the dramatic social, political, and curricular changes that have affected American culture: abolition and the civil rights movement, political unrest and anti-war activism, feminism and changing gender roles, and the value of core curriculum requirements. The Archives offer a wide variety of resources to explore. 


Manuscript collections provide a unique look at individuals, families, and groups through their papers, diaries, journals, photographs, correspondence, architectural records, and other materials. Among our collections are the James Norman Hall Papers, the records of the Congregational Church in Grinnell, the George Herron Papers, the John Kleinschmidt Collection of Grinnell Local History, and the Fleming Fraker Postcard Collection. Manuscript collections offer an opportunity to discover a variety of documents related to a single individual or group.  

Sites of Interest

Below are links to additional resources for local and Iowa history.

Contact Us

Please use this contact form to reach the staff of the Grinnell College Libraries Special Collections and Archives.

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