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Rare Books

The Rare Book Collection encompasses 352 linear feet and over 2,500 books from the early day of the history of molecular biology and genetics.

photo of book pile from Archives

This collection is an invaluable resource for studies of eugenics in the United States in the early part of this century. As might be expected, the collection of eugenics texts is especially comprehensive, including books from Europe. It includes popular treatments of eugenics; monographs; and reports of international congresses. There is a set of the Eugenics Records Office Bulletins together with other publications of the ERO. In addition, there is a remarkably large collection of books on anthropology.

In addition, there are many key texts on genetics in the early part of this century, dealing with both animal and plant genetics. There are books on embryology and experimental biology, which are a valuable resource for individuals carrying out historical research on experimental biology. There are many difficult to find and rare books in the collection and their availability in this one location is very helpful.

The whole collection provides a snapshot of the intellectual milieu in which Davenport and his fellow eugenicists worked. Dr. Jan Witkowski, Executive Director of the Banbury Conference Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory asked the noted scholar, Professor Daniel Kevles, J.O. and Juliette Koepfli Professor of the Humanities of History, California Institute of Technology and author of the seminal book “In the Name of Eugenics.” Dr. Kevles’s assessment of the books from the Rare Books Collection is as follows:

These books “provide a window onto the intellectual world in which (Charles Benedict Davenport and his fellow eugenicists (as well as students of heredity, human and otherwise) were working. I would think that a number of those books are rare and would be difficult to obtain for scholarly purposes. They are thus doubly important to maintain and have available in one place.” (Daniel Kevles, personal communication to Dr. Jan Witkowski, Executive Director of the Banbury Conference Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 1995).