Press Room

Five Fun Finds in Collections of Distinction

by admin

Boston Public Library unveiled its initial eighteen Collections of Distinction in June, which represent the most outstanding, expansive, and renowned of its holdings of more than 23 million items. Within the collection is an array of books, maps, manuscripts, letters, drawings, and other works dating back to as early as the 10th century. Staff recently identified five fun finds within the collections to share with library users and visitors:

  • Shakespeare: The first four folios of Shakespeare’s work are included among the 15,000 volumes.Francis Clalin
  • Urban Maps: The holdings feature the second largest collection of birds-eye and panoramic maps in the United States.
  • American Civil War Massachusetts 20th Regiment: A photograph of Francis Clalin, a woman who served as a man in the Civil War (pictured at right), is the most requested item in the Rare Books Department.
  • Incunabula: The two earliest titles in the collection are attributed to Johann Gutenberg, including a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, printed between 1454–1455, and Catholicon, printed in 1460. The latter is one of only twelve copies located in the United States and the only one printed on vellum (calfskin).
  • Colonial and Revolutionary Boston: The collection contains Paul Revere’s original manuscript and sketch of the Boston Massacre.

Boston Public Library gives priority to Collections of Distinction in terms of access, acquisition, digitization, and preservation; and continues to identify additional candidates for Collections of Distinction status. To view the criteria for identifying Collections of Distinction or to learn more about the individual collections, visit