Collections range from the 14th century through the 20th, with particular strengths in Italian history and culture (especially the Fry Collection), political movements of the Left and Right, and 19th- and 20th-century literature and literary studies.
Holdings for European history include collections related to Russian liberal parties, French and German socialists, German workers’ theater, cooperatives in Yugoslavia, Cossack emigrés, Nazism, Italian Fascism, Vichy propaganda, and French student revolutions. Related collections document the two world wars.
Literary materials include the Renée Lang Collection on French and German literature, the Ellis Collection of German language textbooks, and an Icelandic literature collection, among others.
In addition to the collections listed below, the Department includes other important holdings (especially works published before 1801) for European history, literature, and related fields. Check for subjects or authors in the Library Catalog and the card catalog in Special Collections.
Collection strengths and named collections
- Bolz Collection, containing a German Bible of 1582, tracts by Martin Luther, as well as titles on natural history and hunting. Shelf list available in the card catalog in the Department (under call numbers 1027325 noncurrent – 1027453 noncurrent).
- Chateaubriand Manuscripts, containing some 20 manuscript pages from Mémoires d’outre-tombe, written by the 19th-century French author and statesman. The manuscript, containing unpublished variations from the printed edition and many changes in Chateaubriand’s hand, is of special interest for the study of stylistics. A transcription and translation into English are shelved with the manuscript. See details under call number MS 151.
- Milan Komadinic (b. 1882) was the founder and organizer of the first society of cooperatives in Yugoslavia. The Cooperatives Collection (also known as the Komadinic Collection also contains materials on general and political science and early socialist movements before World War I. About half of this collection is available in Special Collections under call numbers CA 11000 – CA 12831, with records for individual titles in the Library Catalog and a shelf list in the Department’s card catalog; the remainder of the collection is in the circulating collections in Memorial Library.
- The East Germany Collection, or Collection O, contains pamphlets and newspapers documenting political parties and the fall of East Germany (1989-1990). To find titles cataloged individually in the Library Catalog, use the call number Coll. O.
- English Political Pamphlets (1661-1900). Originally a collection of about 5000 pamphlets, this collection is now divided among several campus library locations. Special Collections holds the Strangford Pamphlets on English history (in 68 vols.) and 31 other boxes under three call numbers ; a partial inventory is available in Special Collections. One volume is available as Microfilm 2695 (in the Microform/Media Center in Memorial Library).
- French Political Pamphlets (1547-1648). Some 1200 pamphlets, described in French political pamphlets, 1547-1648: A checklist by R.O. Lindsay and John Neu and a supplement. Call numbers begin French pamphlet.
- French Political Pamphlets(1648-1652) — Mazarinades. Several hundred pamphlets attacking Cardinal Jules Mazarin, acquired in 1958. See Mazarinades: A checklist by R.O. Lindsay and John Neu and Bibliographie des mazarinades by C. Moreau. The collection was acquired in 1958. Call numbers for individual pamphlets begin Mazarinades M; many of our holdings (but not all) are represented by records in the Library Catalog.
- French Student Revolutions (1968, 1972). Collections G and K contain materials collected during the two student revolutions of 1968 and 1972, including handbills, posters, journal issues. Card files available in Special Collections list the contents.
- Fry Collection of Italian History and Culture. Collection Fry. Assembled and donated by William F. “Jack” Fry, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, this extensive collection includes manuscripts and correspondence, broadsides, printed ephemera, periodicals, and books from the early Renaissance through the 20th century. The largest category is materials from the period of Italian Fascism, illustrating, for example, Fascist propaganda, educational policies and practices, youth and women’s activities, racial policies, Italian colonialism, and anti-Fascist opposition. Highlights from this section of the collection appear in a print exhibit catalog entitled Italian life under Fascism: Selections from the Fry Collection. A version of this exhibit is available online. The next largest category documents aspects of the history of the Veneto from the 15th century through the 19th, with particular attention to the French and Austrian occupation of Veneto in the 19th century. Correspondence and printed ephemera are complemented by many official avvisi and manifesti. Other materials fall into the following categories, as assigned by the donor in his extensive notes on the collection: the Church and Italian culture, partisans in Italy during World War II, 20th-century Italian Communism, political culture in postwar Italy, documents from Istria and Latina, theater and music in Italy, the period immediately preceding the Fascist period, the Italian postal and telegraph service, and other rare books and manuscripts mainly from Italy (15th-20th century). Prof. Fry’s detailed descriptions of his gifts are available in Special Collections; some early printed books in the collection are cataloged separately in the Library Catalog (with call numbers beginning Coll. Fry). A searchable database describing the Fry Collection is in progress.
- German Textbooks (or Ellis) Collection, containing some one thousand textbooks (1860-1970) published and used in the U.S. to teach German language and culture. For details see The Frances Ellis Collection of North American German Textbooks: A preliminary catalogue of holdings in the Department of Special Collections, compiled by John B. Dillon, Barbara Leary Hinrichsen and Thea L. Lindquist. Individual titles are cataloged with call numbers beginning Ellis. coll.
- German Workers Theater. Collection H contains some 169 plays (in fragile condition) published by the Arbeiter-Theaterverlag Alfred Jahn in Leipzig during the Weimar Republic. Jahn was the head of the German Worker-Theater Union (1924-1928), subject to the control of both the Communist and Socialist parties. Inventory available in Special Collections.
- Germany (1920-1960) or Collection M (primarily Nazi-era materials). Mainly German books and pamphlets collected by Sigrid Lillian Schultz, journalist. Some of these titles are from Himmler’s library. Cataloged in the Library Catalog under call numbers beginning Coll. M Nazi. Related titles have been donated by World War II veterans, public libraries, and other library donors (see, for example, titles cataloged in the Library Catalog under call numbers CA 14960 – CA 14997). Other Nazi-related titles have been transferred to Special Collections from the circulating collections in Memorial Library.
- Hugo Grotius Collection, containing titles on theology, history, and politics by or about the 17th-century Dutch jurist and humanist Hugo Grotius, as well as his editions of classical authors. Includes significant specimens illustrating the history of printing. Donated by Annie M. Pitman. Shelf list available in the card catalog in the Department (under the call numbers 1364311 noncurrent – 1364401 noncurrent).
- Wolfram Haller collection of documents concerning Hans Viktor Von Unruh. Hans Viktor von Unruh (1806-1886) was a German liberal and member of the Prussian Parliament. Call number MS 433.
- Icelandic literature. The Thordarson Collection includes many Icelandic titles; see also manuscripts MS 137 – MS 140.
- Irish Manuscripts (or Myles Dillon) Collection, or MS 175 – MS 183. Manuscripts written in Gaelic in the 18th and early 19th centuries, including verse, battle sagas, and a sermon; donated by a former professor (1937-1946) of Gaelic and Irish history and literature. See Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the University of Wisconsin-Madison by Cornelius G. Buttimer (Dublin, 1989).
- Maps of Ireland. Collection Y. 53 maps (1600-1799), mostly hand colored. Inventory available. Some maps cataloged individually (with call numbers beginning Coll. Y).
- Renée B. Lang Collection. Autograph letters, manuscripts, typescripts, hors commerce publications, published and unpublished materials, books (many inscribed and rare), and posters from the Belle Epoque, by and about French and German writers of the 19th and 20th centuries. A major portion of the collection pertains to Natalie Clifford Barney and her work; the collection is also strong in works of Gide, Rilke, and Valery. The collection also includes books from other periods, all from the library of Renée Lang, writer, teacher, and woman of letters. Many individual titles are cataloged with call numbers beginning Lang.
- Several Latin and classical collections, including 48 titles in 16th-18th century editions donated by Moses Slaughter, a professor of classics (a shelf list is available in the card catalog in Special Collections — see call numbers X35 and X32 for special Collections); more than 100 titles, mostly in Latin, from Professors Herbert and Evelyn Howe (cataloged with call numbers CA 10200 – CA 10323); numerous editions of Aulus Gellius’s Attic nights anthology (cataloged with call numbers CA 10104 – CA 10134, CA 10561- CA 10580), many of these the gift of William Reeder or the Reeder Family. Gifts of Jane Bruère and Richard Bruère (cataloged with call numbers CA 15060-15142) also include numerous classical titles.
- Latvian Collection. Collection I. Titles published in the period 1905-1939 and dealing with literature, politics, and government, cataloged individually with call numbers Coll. i Latvian no. 1-107.
- Lithuanian Collection (or Senn Collections I-II). Some 132 volumes mostly in Lithuanian from the period of independence 1920-194, collected by Alfred E. Senn, prominent professor of Indo-European languages. Senn Collection II documents the independence movement of Lithuania, 1972– , and contains materials collected by his son, Alfred Erich Senn. Individual titles are cataloged under call numbers beginning Senn Coll I and Senn Coll II.
- Lost Dauphin Collection. The search for the Lost Dauphin (Louis XVII) is the subject of this sizable library acquired in 1943 from the estate of William Ward Wight, amateur historian from Milwaukee. It includes background material on the Bourbon family, plus over 500 pamphlets and documents by various pretenders to the throne. Special Collections holdings include 7 volumes of collected pamphlets, plus an eighth volume available as microfilm 720; the remaining items are in Memorial Library’s circulating collection..
- Porter Collection of 18th-century Spanish literature. Some 2711 items, dating from 1321-1960, but mostly from 18th-century Spain. Most are in Spanish; some 500 are in French, Latin, English, or German. The collection documents popular literature and culture. Some individual items are cataloged with call numbers beginning Coll. P. An inventory is available in Special Collections. Other volumes are in the circulating collections of Memorial Library with the call number PQ 6171 .A195.
- Rousseau collection. Works by and about Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his impact on 18th-century thought. The collection includes contemporary pamphlets by both his supporters and critics, some judgments from the 19th century, biographies by Barbier and de Barrel-Brauvert, and first editions of Rousseau’s works. Acquired in 1962, titles in the collection are listed in the card catalog in Special Collections under the call numbers 1316301 noncurrent – 1316540 noncurrent and 1280521 noncurrent – 1280535 noncurrent (the latter set from Prof. Tucker). Some titles are also reflected in the Library Catalog. Special Collections also holds other individual titles by Jean-Jacques Rousseau acquired through other means, as reflected again in the Library Catalog.
- Russian (or Don Cossack) Collection. More than 150 works by Cossack emigrés on many aspects of Cossack life. The heart of the collection focuses on the years 1929-1939, when the Cossacks still formed a distinctive emigré group in Europe, especially in Paris and Prague. Also histories of pre-revolutionary Russian Cossack life. A representative collection from two private libraries. Inventory available in Special Collections.
- Russian Underground Collection. Rare publications on early Russian liberal movements, including 2932 clandestinely circulated items printed between 1825 and 1925, and 300 Russian Social Labor Party titles. First printings of works by Lenin, Trotsky, and Plekhanov document the party split in 1903. Many of the materials are extremely rare, and were smuggled at great personal risk. Russian satirical journals (1905-1907) are detailed in Section XII of The revolutionary word: A guide to the Russian underground collection in Memorial Library of the University of Wisconsin-Madison by Alfred Erich Senn. Some of the satirical journals have been digitized as part of the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.
- Socialistica Collection (also known as the Schlueter-Walling Collection). 800 works on French and German labor movements, donated by William English Walling. About 600 volumes had belonged to German socialist Hermann Schlueter. The manuscript collection of Hermann Schlueter and a few archival materials are also included. For reasons of condition, most of the collection is available only on microfilm under the title Sammlung social-politischer Schriften (Micro Film 8479).
- Andrew Laurie Stangel Collection (received as a gift from Dr. Stangel). Most titles concern German history in the latter half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th (most individual titles cataloged with call numbers beginning CA 17439). The collection also contains hundreds of pieces of printed ephemera, including postcards from the period.
- Temperance Collection (or Guy Hayler Collection), mainly tracts from British and American temperance movements. Hayler was a prominent British temperance crusader at the turn of the 20th century. Contents microfilmed as Temperance tracts: Collection of pamphlets (call number Micro Film 6317),
- Tucker Collection. About 150 volumes in the field of 18th-century French literature and culture, acquired in 1962 from the library of Professor Tucker. Some manuscript volumes and other titles are in Special Collections (inventory available); the remainder is in the circulating collections of Memorial Library.
- Vichy Collection. Collection A. 15 boxes of Vichy, German, Allied, and resistance propaganda and documents distributed in France (1939-1947). Most are in French; others are in English or German. A card file describing the contents is available in Special Collections. A few titles have been cataloged individually with call numbers beginning Coll. A.
- World War I Collection. About 1500 archival and published items (ca. 1914-1921) related to World War I, many of which were acquired by the University during or in the immediate aftermath of the war. The collection emphasizes European publications, and includes propaganda pamphlets, publications of relief organizations, official documents, maps, periodicals, books, printed ephemera and newspapers. Manuscript materials include a growing collection of personal letters and diaries of soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Item-level inventory available in Special Collections and in an online finding aid (although this finding aid is extensive, it does not describe all relevant holdings in Special Collections). Selected items have been digitized as part of the online World War I Collection in the University of Wisconsin Digital Collection. Related materials are contained in the Stangel Collection (see above).