The Walden Woods Project’s Thoreau Institute Library holds more than 60,000 items that include books, manuscripts, periodicals, art, music, maps, pamphlets, correspondence, and personal histories about the lives and writings of the Transcendentalists. In particular, it provides the most comprehensive body of Thoreau-related material available in one place.
We encourage people interested in knowing more about the life and writings of the Transcendentalists, or who want to see our exhibits, to come and visit. The library is open most weekdays, Monday through Friday, 10-4. The library has limited staff: to be sure staff is on hand when you come, we encourage you to please call ahead at (781)259-4730 or e-mail the library. We look forward to greeting you!
Ask the Curator — Have a question about Thoreau? Ask our resident Thoreau scholar!
Library Tours and Talks
- Library Gallery Talk: A guided tour and talk for groups.
- Can’t bring your class or group to the library? Let’s Talk Thoreau!
Catalogs & Finding Aids
Thoreau Institute Library Catalog (Public Access Catalog)
We are honored to be the designated repository for a number of important collections, including the collections of the Thoreau Society, the Emerson Society, and the Margaret Fuller Society. It is the mission of the library to collect, preserve and make available research materials relating to the Transcendentalists, their historical context, and their contemporary relevance to human-rights and environmental issues. Our growing collection serves as a vital resource for scholars from around the world, as well as for students and teachers locally.
The combined collections include many items of special interest. Items marked with an asterisk are currently on display in our reading room:
- Thoreau manuscripts, including:
- One leaf from Walden
- Two leaves from “Walking”
- One leaf from Cape Cod*
- One leaf from “Life without Principle”*
- Two leaves from “Autumnal Tints”
- One leaf from “Moonlight”
- The complete second draft of the essay “Sir Walter Raleigh”
- Earliest extant Thoreau correspondence — Thoreau to Oliver Sparhawk, 1834*
- Thoreau survey of Charles Gordon’s Farm (1858)
- Thoreau’s sketch-plan of Emerson’s ledge wood-lots beyond Walden*
- Rare wrapped dozen John Thoreau & Co. pencils*
- Protest document of “400 Inhabitants of Concord Against the Execution of Washington Goode” signed by Thoreau and Emerson
- Photographic or pictorial material in the collections including daguerreotypes of Thoreau, his sister Sophia, and their father John
- Whole brick from the site of Thoreau’s Walden house excavated in 1945 by archaeologist Roland Wells Robbins*
- Roland Wells Robbins field notebooks from his Walden excavations
- Sophia Thoreau correspondence to Mary Anne Dunbar
- An original Sophia Thoreau watercolor*
- Francis Allen correspondence relating to the production of the 1906 edition of Thoreau’s works
- The Parmenter Collection of Ricketson Papers, including letters from Daniel Ricketson to Henry David Thoreau
- Sewall Family Papers
- Caproni plaster cast of Walton Ricketson’s 1898 bust of Thoreau, modeled after the 1854 Rowse crayon portrait*