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American Studies
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The American Studies Collection at SUB Göttingen

Göttingen State and University Library houses one of the largest and most wide-ranging American Studies collections in Europe, encompassing historical and contemporary primary sources as well as scholarly publications on American history, culture, literature, folklore, politics and geography. The collection features books, journals, maps, microforms and photographic prints as well as digitized copies of historical documents.

Starting with its foundation in 1734, Göttingen University Library has been collecting books and other materials from and relating to the British colonies on the North American continent since the University’s founder, Georg August, Duke of Hanover, also ruled Great Britain in personal union (as King George II). 

Among the most important historical sources of the collection are two editions of the famous Columbus letter describing his first voyage and a copy of the first American census of 1790 bearing the handwritten name of Thomas Jefferson. 

Parts of the collection of 18th and 19th century Americana, among them a variety of travel reports in both German and English, have been digitized. You can browse this collection on the website of the Göttingen Digitisation Centre (Americana, Itineraria, VD17 and VD18). 

Apart from entertaining business relations to book-sellers abroad, the library also benefitted from the generosity of some of its famous patrons: Shortly before his death, the financier John Pierpont (J. P.) Morgan, who studied at Göttingen University in 1856/57, donated money to the library for the purchase of English and American books. He also presented the library with a copy of the expensive twenty-volume edition of Edward Sheriff Curtis's The North American Indian (including photogravure plates), a massive documentary project that he had helped finance.

The library’s historical collection has been continually supplemented by items bought at national and international auctions, among them first and rare editions of major 19th century literary works such as Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass(1855) and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick

After World War II, SUB Göttingen was tasked by the German Research Foundation (DFG) to collect primary sources and scholarly literature pertaining to the United States of America as part of its Special Subject Collections Programme. This resulted in a substantial collection of contemporary German and international research literature comprised of both books and journals. The collection of primary literature contains editions of historical sources (both in print and on microform) as well as editions of literary texts representative of a large variety of genres: Volumes of contemporary poetry published in limited editions, literature of the fantastic (science fiction, horror, fantasy), crime fiction, anthologies of short stories, regional and non-fiction writing as well as literary magazines.

Tips for exploring the Göttingen collections

Further Reading

1776 Independence: Die amerikanische Revolution im Spiegel zeitgenössischer Druckwerke. Ausstellung 1976. Göttingen: Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, 1976. Arbeiten aus der Niedersächsischen Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen 14.

Eck, Reimer, ed. Nordamerika aus der Sicht europäischer Reisender: Bücher, Ansichten und Texte aus vier Jahrhunderten. Ausstellung der Niedersächsischen Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen, der Niedersächsischen Landesbibliothek Hannover und des Amerika-Hauses in Hannover. Hannover: Amerika-Haus, 1991.

See also the general list of publications on SUB Göttingen and its collections which are relevant to the subjects covered by the Library AAC!

The American Studies Collection at the JFKI Library

The library of the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies of Freie Universität Berlin holds the largest North American Studies collection in Germany. In addition to books and journals pertaining to a broad range of subjects, it holds extensive collections of newspapers, comics and TV series. Please visit the library's website for more information.

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