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Highlights of the Collections

Yale began with a collection of books, and since 1701, an astounding array of objects have entered the university’s holdings, which are invaluable for teaching and research. From millions of items, the curators offer a selection of their favorites:

Yale Gallery of Art
The Yale Center for British Art
Sterling Memorial Library
Yale Collection of American Literature
Beinecke Rare Books & Manuscripts Library
Engineering and Applied Science Library
Historical Medical Library
Divinity Library
Collection of Musical Instruments
The Peabody Museum of Natural History

Yale University Art Gallery

Vincent van Gogh
The Night Café, 1888

Thomas Eakins
John Biglin in a Single Scull, 1874

John Trumbull
The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, 1787–1820

Goddard or Townsend family craftsmen
Desk and Bookcase, c. 1760–85

Benjamin West
Agrippina Landing at Brundisium with the Ashes of Germanicus, 1768

Dan People
Ivory Coast or Liberia Mask, late 19th–early 20th century

Henry Moore
Draped Seated Woman, 1957–58

Mark Rothko
Untitled, 1954

Edward Hopper
Sunlight in a Cafeteria, 1958

Pablo Picasso
First Steps, 1943

Kasimir Malevich
The Knife Grinder, 1912

Walker Evans
Alabama Sharecropper’s Wife, 1936

Julia Margaret Cameron
Untitled (Portrait of a Woman), c. 1860

Marcel Duchamp
Rotary Glass Plates (Precision Optics), 1920

Unknown Chinese potter
Hawthorn vase, Ch'ing Dynasty (1662–1722)


The Yale Center for British Art

Warwick Castle, c. 1748–49

Thomas Gainsborough
Mr. & Mrs. John Gravenor and Their Daughters, Elizabeth and Ann, 1750

William Hogarth
The Beggar’s Opera III, xi, 1729

Sir John Everett Millais
L'Enfant du Regiment (The Random Shot)

Joshua Reynolds
Mrs. Abington as Miss Prue in Congreve’s Love for Love, 1771

George Stubbs
A Zebra, 1763

J. M. W. Turner
Dort or Dordrecht: the Dort Packet-Boat from Rotterdam Becalmed, 1817–18

Joseph Wright of Derby
The Blacksmith’s Shop, 1771


Sterling Memorial Library

African Collection

The Howell Wright collection of books, manuscripts and photos on the early history of modern Southern Africa. The papers of Mary Henrietta Kingsley, 1897–1900, that document her travels throughout West Africa. The Karis-Gerhart Collection of South Africa Ephemera and the Gail M. Gerhart collection of documents relating to the Pan Africanist Congress of South Africa (1944–1979) and the black consciousness movement of South Africa (1967–1979).

Arts of the Book Collection

Contemporary artists’ books, student printing from the Bibliographical Press, and the original wood blocks used by master printer Fritz Eichenberg.

Babylonian Collection

The world’s oldest cookbook, which dates from the old Babylonian period (ca. 1800 BC) and includes recipes for stews and soups.

A chapter from the world’s oldest written story: the epic of Gilgamesh.

A mathematical proof that shows how to calculate the diagonal of a square and predates the work of Pythagoras by some 1,200 years.


Yale Collection of American Literature

Papers of The Dial magazine, 1920–1929, including a typescript of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land; the papers of Eugene O'Neill, America’s only Nobel Laureate dramatist; and a copy of The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America by Anne Bradstreet (London, 1650)—the first book published by an American woman.


Beinecke Rare Books & Manuscripts Library

The Gutenberg Bible, printed circa 1455 and one of 22 complete copies of the first book set in moveable type.

Two copies of the double-elephant folio-sized edition of Birds of North America by John James Audubon.

Western Americana Collection

The Field Maps of the Lewis and Clark expedition: 83 manuscript maps and related material, dating from ca. 1803 to 1810, that detail the route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition to the Pacific Coast and back, 1804–1806. 19th century manuscript diaries and journals recording the overland journeys and around the Horn by sea voyages of pioneers to California and Oregon. Manuscripts, books, prints and photographs concerning the Mexican War.

East Asia Collection

Komonjo harimaze byobu: 27 original Japanese documents written by government officials and religious personnel between 1192 and 1747 and pasted on 2 double screens.

Floscvli/Ex Veteris, Ac Novi/Testamenti, S. Doctorvm/Et Jisignivm

Philosopho-/Rvm Floribvs Selecti. This book of religious and moral teachings in Latin to aid missionary efforts was produced by the Jesuit Mission Press which was in operation from 1590 to 1614 in Kyushu, Japan.

Hyakumanto dharani: five small wooden pagodas that contain 4 original dharani—Buddhist Sanskrit charms (in Chinese translation) printed between 764 and 770 in Japan in an imperial project to seek a spiritual protection of the land.


Engineering and Applied Science Library

Electronic resources such as access to thousands of full-text electronic journals, including hundreds of titles that are not available in print format, and searchable databases such as the ACM Digital Library and IEEE Xplore.


Historical Medical Library

Fasciculus medicinae: with: Consilium pro peste evitanda/Pietro da Tossignano; and Anatomia corporis humani/Mondino dei Luzzi. Venice : Joannes and Gregorius de Gregoriis, 5 February 1493 to 94.

Dioscorides Pedanius, of Anazarbos.
De herbis masculinis et feminis [and other botanical and zoological works, including the Herbarium of Apuleius]. Lombardy, Italy; about 1400.

The Harvey Cushing Collection of Books and Manuscripts
Manuscript 23, which written in red and black ink on vellum, with numerous hand-colored drawings of plants and animals.

Lam Qua’s portraits of patients under the care of Peter Parker, M.D., a physician who practiced medicine in Canton, China, in the 1840s.


Divinity Library

The Day Missions Collection of printed material that records the history of Christian missions, as well as the literature produced by the peoples to whom the missionaries went.


Collection of Musical Instruments

Guitar by Joachim Tielke, Hamburg, 1702.

Theorbo-Lute by Sebastian Schelle, Nurnberg, 1726.

Tenor Viol by Pietro Guarneri, Mantua 1689.

Grand Piano by John Broadwood & Sons, London 1842.

Harpsichord by Francois-Etienne Blanchet the Elder, Paris, ca. 1740.


The Peabody Museum of Natural History

Specimens of a “living fossil” fish called a coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae), the skeleton of a quagga (Equus quagga), an extinct mammal, and the skin of a huia (Heteralocha acutirostris), an extinct bird.

A “giant” deepwater marine isopod (the group also includes the terrestrial sowbugs and pillbugs) belonging to the genus Anuropus, and one of only a few in museum collections.

Birdwing butterflies (Genus Ornithoptera)—natives of the South Pacific that are large, strikingly colored in velvety greens, blues, and yellows, and in flight resemble birds.

A chimu-Inca bronze knife collected by Hiram Bingham at Machu Picchu during the 1912 Yale Peruvian Scientific Expedition.

Stibnite crystals, some over two feet long, acquired in 1884 by Yale geologist E. S. Dana, from the Ichinokawa mine on Shikoku Island, Japan. (Stibnite powder was used by the ancient Romans as eyelid makeup.)

Deinonychus antirrhopus, a feathered dinosaur from before the origin of flight.

Icaronycteris index, one of the earliest and most complete bat fossils.

Rhamphorhynchus phyllurus, an early fish-eating marine flying pterosaur.

A trilobite, Olenellus getzi, one of the oldest multicellular animals in the fossil record, that was collected by an Amish farmer in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

A fossil dragonfly, Dunbaria fasciipennis, collected in Kansas in 1923, that influenced studies of the evolution of flight.

Fossilized worm burrows, 1.1 billion years old, that suggest advanced invertebrate animals existed far earlier in time than was previously thought.

The Weston, CT, meteorite, which struck the ground in 1807. The first documented fall of a meteorite in North America was chronicled by Benjamin Silliman, Yale’s first professor of science.

The Dolland telescope, built in England and in the early 1830s housed in an observatory atop an Old Brick Row building. Astronomers Denison Olmstead and Elias Loomis used it to become the first in North America to observe the return of Halley’s Comet in 1835.

Cycadoidea dacotensis, the evolutionary precursor of today’s flowering plants.

A 2,000 year old cylindrical pottery vessel painted with red and white chevron designs from the Caribbean archeology collection, much of it assembled over the last 70 years by Irving Rouse, the Charles J. MacCurdy Professor of Anthropology Emeritus.  the end


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