DeGolyer Library Collections

Rare Books | Manuscripts | Maps | Newspapers | Periodicals | Ephemera | Oral History

With an emphasis on the humanities, business history, and the history of science and technology, the DeGolyer Library holds 150,000 rare books, over 2,500 separate manuscript collections, about 900,000 photographs, approximately 3,000 early maps, over 2,000 periodical and newspaper titles, and a sizable collection of printed ephemera.

Great strengths of the DeGolyer Library include early voyages and travels, especially those bearing on the European discovery and exploration of the New World. The collection of Western Americana is numbered among the finest in the country, and the library also has exceptionally well-developed collections in the fields of business history and transportation history, in particular the history of railroads. Our holdings in the history of science, especially geology, also have much to offer the researcher, as do our special collections in the history of art, especially in the Stanley Marcus collection.

Literary collections include a range of English and American authors and literary genres, from a 16th-century edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to dime novels and comic books. DeGolyer Library is also home of the University Archives, the official repository for SMU records of historical importance. While ably supporting the work of traditional historians and literary scholars, DeGolyer collections afford numerous opportunities for interdisciplinary research in such fields as American studies, women’s studies, popular culture, the history of photography, and the history of the book.

Rare Books

DeGolyer Library holds approximately 150,000 rare and historically significant printed books, with a focus on early voyages & travels, Western Americana, the history of science and technology, business history, the book arts, and English and American literature.

  • European exploration holdings thematically begin with the Christopher Columbus letter on the first voyage, published in Rome in 1493, followed by works by Spanish colonial figures including Hernan Cortés, Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, and Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá.
  • Western Americana titles include well known works by Lewis and Clark, Zebulon Pike, Davy Crockett, and Washington Irving, as well as more obscure works.
  • Science and business history collections include early geological studies and Isaac Newton’s Principia, and first editions of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.
  • Literary works focus on British and American authors with large research collections on Charles Dickens and Jack London.

Beyond historical and literary classics, we are committed to collecting commonplace imprints of the western country, including almanacs, cookbooks, and homespun poetry and fiction.


DeGolyer Library has over 2,500 separate manuscript collections, from single letters to large corporate archives, containing an estimated 2,000,000 items. Strengths include Western Americana, business history, and railroad history. There are also some notable accessions in literary studies and women’s studies.


The map collection at the DeGolyer holds over 3,000 maps, dating from the 16th century through the 20th century. Strengths include maps of North American and the American West. Featured mapmakers include Nicolas Sanson, Guillaume DeLisle, John Mitchell, and J.H. Colton. Maps found in our rare books include significant examples of the mapmaking art, such as a Ptolemy from 1561 and the Turgot plan of Paris from 1739. Early American maps range from the depictions by 16th-century explorers to 19th-century county atlases. We also hold guide books from the 19th and 20th centuries, and hundreds of 20th-century road maps issued by oil companies and state tourist agencies.


DeGolyer Library has over 2,000 newspaper titles, from single issues to unbroken runs of 50 years or more. Highlights include:

  • The Deseret News, the first newspaper printed in Salt Lake City, which we hold from 1850-1878.
  • Harmon News (Harmon, Tex., 1902-1905), an amateur newspaper published and printed by Jesse F. Drummond, “editor and prop.” Drummond was 14 years old when he established the only newspaper in this Lamar County village.
  • Woman’s Journal (Boston, 1870-1910), a significant document in women’s history and the suffrage movement.
  • The Banner of Light (1862-1900), an essential source on the Spiritualist movement of the nineteenth century.

Foreign holdings include the only known copy of the first newspaper printed in San Miguel de Allende, Le Ballon Poste (Paris, 1870-1871), the first “airmail edition” of any newspaper, distributed by balloon, and The London Chronicle, a source not only for English history but also for European and international affairs as well.


DeGolyer Library holds several hundred journals, most in the fields of western history (Southwestern Historical Quarterly), railroad history (the UP Streamliner), the history of photography (Stereo World), and bibliography (Book History). Also held are humor publications, trade publications, and literary magazines.

Historical titles range from scholarly society journals including Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (London, 1666-1860) to 20th century pulp magazines, like Ranch Romances (Chicago, 1929-1955).

Highlights include:

  • Religious periodicals The Nevada Pulpit (Carson, Nev., 1874) and the Pacific Christian Advocate (Portland, Ore., 1884).
  • Business journals Merchants’ Intelligencer and New York Weekly Record of General Information, Business, and Amusement (New York, 1833)
  • Agricultural bulletins The Texas Wool Grower (Ft. Worth, Tex., 1883-1884) and The Cattleman (Fort Worth, 1914- ).


Ephemera includes materials meant to be used and thrown away. Some ephemeral collections, such as the Rowe-Barr Collection of Texas Currency, include items of great rarity. Other collections are accumulations of ordinary items. Examples of ephemera include:

  • Broadsides and brochures.
  • Menus, invitations, and programs.
  • Comic books, greeting cards, and catalogs.
  • Calendars, pamphlets, and tickets.

Oral History

The Ronald Davis Oral History Collection on the Performing Arts includes interviews with writers, directors, actors, producers, singers, composers, and vaudeville and burlesque performers. DeGolyer Library holds the interview transcripts. A guide to the collection is available.