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The Abernethy collection contains books, pamphlets, and manuscripts related to and produced by American writers.

Julian W. Abernethy, class of 1876, served as a Middlebury College trustee from 1901 to 1923. He was a teacher and scholar of American and British literature, and an avid bibliophile.

He primarily collected American literature from the late 18th century through the early 20th century, and his library included first editions, collected works, critical editions, and manuscripts, including works by the following authors:

  • Bronson Alcott
  • William Ellery Channing
  • Emily Dickinson
  • T.S. Eliot
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Margaret Fuller
  • Elizabeth Peabody
  • George Ripley
  • Henry David Thoreau


Henry David Thoreau was of particular interest to Abernethy, and the collection includes the following:

  • Books from the personal library of Henry David Thoreau
  • Artifacts from the site of the cabin at Walden
  • Pencils and letter openers crafted by Thoreau
  • Abolitionist scrapbooks maintained by Thoreau’s sister Helen
  • Thoreau’s personal, annotated copy of the first edition of Walden (purchased by Middlebury College in 1940)

In his will, Abernethy stipulated that his library should be kept independent of the College’s circulating collection and that, should the College ever split into separate colleges for men and women, his library would form the core of the newly independent women’s college.


Search for items in the Abernethy collections using the library catalog.