Thoreau Letter
The Julian W. Abernethy Collection of American Literature is the largest major gift to Middlebury College. The greatest strength of the original collection, received in 1923, lies in first edition books, pamphlets, and manuscripts related to the transcendental movement. In recent years, the collection has grown to include travel writing of Americans abroad and popular periodical literature of the 19th and early 20th century.

Wales Hawkins Memorial Collection

The Wales Hawkins Memorial Collection

To Commemorate the Friendship of Wales Monroe Hawkins and Robert Frost

Gift of Corinne Tennyson Davids, 1952-62

The Wales Hawkins Memorial Collection was so named by its donor, Corinne Tennyson Davids of Manchester, VT, to commemorate the friendship of Robert Frost and Wales Monroe Hawkins, Frost's neighbor in South Shaftesbury, who was engaged to the donor before his death in 1928. After Hawkins's death the donor, then Corinne Tennyson, decided to build a permanent memorial to Hawkins in the form of a Robert Frost archive, the building of which would last for decades. With the encouragement of legendary professor of American Literature, Reginald L. "Doc" Cook, as well as from the poet himself, the collection found a home in Middlebury.

Discussions regarding the donation of Corinne Tennyson Davids' expansive Frost collection to the Julian W. Abernethy Collection of American Literature began as early as 1947-48. With Frost's active support, Mrs. Davids brought "Doc" Cook, Abernethy Curator Viola White, and College Treasurer Walter E. Brooker, into the negotiations. The first installment of the large and eclectic collection arrived in September 1952, and included inscribed first and later editions, other books by and about Frost, magazines and newspapers containing poetry, articles, and reviews by and about Frost, and any other material related to Frost's work, including pamphlets and brochures. Over the next decade, Mrs. Davids continued to collect and organize, and donate Frostiana to Middlebury. Added to the collection were unique items including the declaration of Robert Frost as Vermont's First Poet Laureate by Joint House Resolution 54 by the Vermont General Assembly in 1961, a program of the 1961 Presidential Inauguration signed by President John F. Kennedy, an autographed copy of Frost's Inaugural poem, Frost's annual Christmas cards containing original poems, and a copy of Leo Cherne's bust of Frost presented to the American Poetry Society. Among the most outstanding materials in the Wales Hawkins Collection, is a large collection of woodcuts by J.J. Lankes, acclaimed illustrator and friend of Frost, and correspondence between Mrs. Davids and Lankes.

The Reading Room of Special Collections serves, to a certain extent, as a permanent exhibit of representative materials from more than 4000 items of Frostiana in the Wales Hawkins Memorial Collection.

Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection

Gift of Helen Hartness Flanders, 1941-1958

Mrs. Flanders and Mrs. Fairbanks


One of the nation's great archival collections of New England folksong, folklore, and balladry, the Flanders Ballad Collection was the lifework of Helen Hartness Flanders (1890-1972), of Springfield, Vermont.

In 1930, Mrs. Flanders, daughter of a former Governor of Vermont, wife of Ralph Flanders, Republican Senator from Vermont from 1946-1959, and a trained musician, was appointed by the Committee on Traditions and Ideals of the Vermont Commission on Country Life to spearhead a project to document the traditional music of Vermont.

Over the course of thirty years, and with the assistance of Marguerite Olney, Flanders gathered and preserved more than 4,800 field recordings of New England folksongs and ballads as sung by native Vermonters and other New Englanders. 

Primarily of Anglo-American origin, but also including some Franco-American music and fiddle tunes, the songs were recorded on wax cylinder, disc, and reel-to-reel magnetic tape. In addition to the invaluable content of the songs, the formats document the evolution of recording technology in the mid-20th century.

After a decade of collecting, Mrs. Flanders became concerned about the safety and long-term preservation of this unique collection, which had been housed in her own home in Springfield, VT. In May, 1941, she donated the collection to Middlebury College with the proviso that it be kept in a "fireproof environment" and that it should be used as a resource for academic and scholarly research. Mrs. Flanders and Marguerite Olney, who became curator of the collection at Middlebury, continued to add to the prodigious archive of field recordings until 1958.

Over the years, Mrs. Flanders had donated other materials from her collection to the College and by the early 1960s, comprised her personal research library containing several thousand books on American folksong, folklore, and balladry, dating from the late 18th through mid-20th centuries; over 600 broadsides; more than 200 songsters and hymnals; original 18th and 19th century music manuscripts; an archive of transcriptions of songs and their multiple variants corresponding but not limited to songs represented by the field recordings; and Mrs. Flanders personal and professional correspondence and business records. 

The Flanders Ballad Collection remains one of Middlebury's greatest research collections, consulted frequently by folklorists and musicians locally, nationally, and internationally. Titles of books, songsters, and hymnals in the Flanders Collection are available in Middlebury's online catalog. Selections from the Flanders Collection, including photographs and broadsides, are available online in the Flanders Ballad Collection.

Please visit the Flanders Online Archive to sample some recordings from the collection and for recent news about our new project to digitize our Edison wax cylinder recordings.  


Hemingway Family Archive

The Leicester Hemingway Family Archive, 1852-1961

Gift of Anne Hemingway Feuer & Hilary Hemingway Freundlich, 2007


The Hemingway Family Archive is perhaps the single most important acquisition for the Julian W. Abernethy Collection of American Literature since the purchase of Henry David Thoreau's personal copy of the first edition of Walden in 1940. The collection joins the ranks of other major Hemingway archives in more than 75 private and institutional collections, the most distinguished of which include those at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum, in Boston, and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Tom Staley, Director of the Ransom Center, has deemed the collection "a particularly fine catch for Middlebury," one that "matches very well with the other collections."

The final product of a vast family archiving project undertaken by writer Leicester Hemingway (1915-1982), younger brother of the legendary Ernest (1899-1961), in the process of researching and writing his biography, My Brother Ernest Hemingway (1962), the collection contains more than 1600 items. Listed in the inventory are scanned color copies of 151 handwritten or typed letters by Ernest Hemingway, from childhood until shortly before his death. There are copies of Ernest's published articles in Esquire, as well as copies of drafts of a number of articles and book chapters. Of significant literary note is the 15-page carbon copy typescript of the original two opening chapters of The Sun Also Rises, excised before publication by the author at the recommendation of his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald. This draft varies slightly from the only other known copy, now at the John F. Kennedy Library.


Among the vast manuscript holdings, the bulk of which date from the mid-19th century until shortly before the author's death in 1961, are original letters, diaries, notes, original stories, architectural drawings, etc., of Ernest's family including his mother, father, grandparents, and siblings. Items of particular interest include diaries of grandfather Anson Hemingway dating from the 1850s; family Civil War letters; courtship letters of his parents, Clarence and Grace Hall Hemingway, prior to and after their marriage; and revealing letters to Grace from Ernest's four wives, (Elizabeth) Hadley Richardson (1921-1928), Pauline Pfeiffer (1928-1940), Martha Gellhorn (1940-1945), and Mary Welsh (1945-1961).

There are nearly 700 original family photographs, including photographic portraits of Hemingway ancestors and the wedding portrait of Clarence and Grace Hemingway. A telling representation of the rise in popularity of snapshot photography among the turn-of-the-century American middle class, the childhood of Ernest Hemingway and his siblings (sisters Marceline, Ursula, Madelaine, Carol, and brother Leicester) at home in Oak Park, IL, and at their summer retreat on Walloon Lake, in northern Michigan, is documented on an impressive scale and provide images that offer fascinating insights into the Hemingway family dynamic. Later original and exhibit photos record Hemingway's marriages, his three sons (Jack, Patrick, and Gregory), literary colleagues, his beloved residences in Key West and Cuba, as well as his well-known wartime, hunting, and fishing exploits that informed and inspired so much of his writing. Perhaps the most important aspect of this collection is the span of time—more than a century—represented by the materials. While a number of the original Ernest Hemingway items, represented by copies in this collection, are available in other repositories throughout the United States, this archive provides a broad familial context for the writer's personal life and published works in a single location.

Here at the College, the acquisition of the collection has generated broad and positive media coverage, stimulating a revived awareness and interest in the Abernethy Collection. Special Collections has received a number of smaller interesting gifts of Hemingway-related materials as a result. The superb replica of the Hemingway's legendary fishing boat, the Pilar, a gift to the College by Middlebury resident Jack Goodman following the acquisition of the Hemingway Collection in 2007.

The significance of the Hemingway Collection as a curricular resource had an immediate impact on faculty and students, who have made use of the materials in many classes and independent research projects. Beyond offering a rich context for understanding Ernest Hemingway's childhood and early development, the original family letters, photographs, and other documents, also promise to provide keen insights into family and domestic life in late 19th and early 20th century America. Until this extraordinary collection is completely processed and cataloged, its full research potential for students, faculty, and Hemingway scholars, is yet to be realized.

In 2008, an exhibit consisting of only a few dozen items out of thousands in the Hemingway collection, was mounted for the official opening of the Axinn Center at Starr Library. The Hemingway materials represent the development of a towering figure in 20th Century American literature whose work resonates throughout the study of academic disciplines represented by the departments in residence at the Axinn Center—English and American Literatures, American Studies, History, and Film & Media culture.

Abernethy Collection of American Literature

Gift of Julian W. Abernethy, 1923

Julian W. Abernethy


The Julian W. Abernethy Library of American Literature was bequeathed to the College upon the death of Julian W. Abernethy, Class of 1876, College Trustee from 1901-1923. A distinguished teacher and scholar of American and British literature, Abernethy was an avid bibliophile and during his lifetime amassed an extraordinary collection of first editions, collected works, critical editions, and original manuscripts by the most notable men and women in American letters from the late 18th through the early 20th centuries.

Arguably the greatest strength of the original collection lies in books, pamphlets, and manuscripts related to the transcendentalist movement. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott, William Ellery Channing, George Ripley, and Elizabeth Peabody are well represented. It was Henry David Thoreau, however, who Abernethy collected with a passion, considering himself “a Thoreau collector with an unappeasable ambition.” Documenting his constant pursuit of new Thoreau material, the collection contains detailed correspondence between Abernethy and several antiquarian book and manuscript dealers. Among the most unique Thoreau items in Abernethy’s collection are books from his library and artifacts from the site of the cabin at Walden, pencils and letter openers crafted by Thoreau, and abolitionist scrapbooks maintained by his sister Helen. In keeping with Abernethy’s spirit, legendary Abernethy Curator and Middlebury College librarian Viola White purchased Thoreau’s personal copy of the first edition of Walden with the author’s annotations, in 1940.

In his will, Abernethy stipulated that his library should be kept independent of the College Library’s circulating collection, provided a fund for its maintenance, and perhaps most curiously stipulated that, should the College split into separate colleges for men and women—at the time a persistent consideration for administration, trustees, and alumni—his library would form the core of the newly independent women's college. Without question, a residual benefit of the College’s sustained commitment to co-education is the retention of the Abernethy Collection.

In 1927, after years of legal red tape in passing the Abernethy library on to the College, construction of east and west wing additions to the Starr Library began. Largely funded by Frank D. Abernethy, the east wing was designed to house the newly acquired Abernethy collection. In the early 1960s, the Abernethy Room was relocated, joining the College’s other Special Collections in the West wing. In 2008, the original Abernethy Room was restored to its former splendor as part of the renovation/construction of the Axinn Center at Starr Library, while the Abernethy Collection remained in Special Collections in the Davis Family Library.