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 very heart of any creative use of the mind . . ." -George J. Seidel
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Phillips Library

Featured Collections

George Peabody

A native son of Essex County, George Peabody, a 19th century investment banker turned philanthropist, established institutions on two continents to continue his social interests. A statue of him stands in London, and the Peabody Essex Museum bears his name. The Phillips Library is honored to be the repository of 145 linear feet of his business and personal papers. For further information see

Nathaniel Hawthorne

With Salem as the birth and dwelling place of Nathaniel Hawthorne, it is understandable that the Phillips Library is a major hub of Hawthorne scholarship. In addition to the more than four feet of Hawthorne manuscripts, the library holdings include papers of the residents of Salem who were contemporaries and commentors on one of the leading 19th century American literary figures. The C. E. Fraser Clark Collection of Hawthorniana augments the primary materials, and makes it possible to view all of the American editions and literary criticism of this premier writer. The museum is also home to the 1840 portrait by Charles Osgood of Hawthorne, probably the best known of all the Hawthorne images.

For more on PEM's Hawthorne collection please visit our bicentennial exhibition.

Edward Sylvester Morse

The library is the repository of the papers and sketches of Edward Sylvester Morse, “father of Japanese archaeology,” and director of the Peabody Museum from 1880 to 1916. A polymath best remembered in his homeland for his books Japanese Homes and Their Surroundings (1886) and Japan Day by Day (1917), he is revered in Japan for his influence in creating interest in Japanese folk culture and art. As the curator of mollusks he contributed to the library’s holdings in natural history, and his collecting of Japanese art provided a basis for the Asian holdings of the museum. For further information see

Frederick Townsend Ward China Collection

The Frederick Townsend Ward Collection is one of the world’s outstanding collections of Western-language materials on the history of Imperial China. Approximately 10,000 books, pamphlets, broadsides, and periodicals, and many rare maps, prints, and photographs document the history and culture of China and the interactions of China with the West up to the early 20th century establishment of the Chinese Republic. The publications document diplomatic and commercial relations between China and the Westerns nations, and missionary activities in China from the 16th to the 20th centuries. Included in the Ward Collection are some of the most comprehensive holdings in the world of Chinese coastal newspapers in English. In addition to the original works acquired early in the 20th century at the bequest of Elizabeth C. Ward in honor of her brother, the library continually adds to the collection, being especially diligent in acquiring graphic representations, newspapers, and periodicals.

Herbert Offen Research Collection

The Herbert Offen Research Collection focuses on books about Chinese furniture, architecture and gardens, with supporting sections that explore Japanese and Korean studies of like topics.

Visit Offen Collection Page
Oblique Sailing Case, 1823. Stephen Jenkins. Ink on paper.
Oblique Sailing Case, 1823. Stephen Jenkins. Ink on paper.


Approximately 3000 logbooks record trading voyages of New Englanders to Asia, Africa, South American, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean from 1729 to 1961. These are supplemented by accounts of private voyages. Indexes are available to provide access by port, ships spoken, captain, log keeper, and special aspects of the log.

Essex County Genealogy

In what has been described as the “best documented county in America” the Phillips Library holds the records of some of the earliest European settlers in North America. In addition to published genealogies relating to the original families who have spread throughout the world, the library holds court records, probate records, and tax records for Salem and the county, as well as vital records for many municipalities in Massachusetts and town histories for the New England states. Visitors from all over the globe who have Essex County roots visit to document their family origins. For further information see RootsWeb

1692 Salem Witchcraft Trials

For well over one hundred years, students have used the reference sources of the 1692 Salem witch trials housed in the Phillips Library. Now, at the beginning of the 21st-century, the library maintains a rotating display of the original 17th-century documents, and has, in cooperation with the University of Virginia, made all of them available for viewing via the internet. Whether the student is seeking information about his ancestors, or the role of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s great-grandfather in the trials, the Phillips Library is the repository to which one turns. For further information see

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