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Carolyn Davis collection of Louisa May Alcott

 Collection 0002-LIT-RARE
The Carolyn Davis Collection consists of more than 300 books by and about Louisa May Alcott. This collection has representative examples of almost all of Alcott's most popular works as well as a number of her lesser-known writings. Among these titles are her first book Flower Fables (1854), early to modern printings of Little Women, and a number of other works such as Little Men, Jo's Boys, and Under the Lilacs. The collection also encompasses some biographies of Alcott, books about Concord, Massachusetts, magazine articles, newspaper articles, and ephemera

Dates

  • 1863-1998
  • Majority of material found within 1863-1998

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.

Extent

301 items

10 folders (10 folders and 301 items)

Biography

Carolyn Davis is the generous donor of more than 300 items by and about Louisa May Alcott to the Marylandia and Rare Books Department of the University of Maryland Libraries. Mrs. Davis' lifelong love of books and libraries moved her to donate her collection so others could share her appreciation of the works of Louisa May Alcott.

Mrs. Davis was born in Keene, New Hampshire. As a child she was nicknamed "Jo" and aspired to write children's books much as Jo did in Little Women.

After graduating from Keene Teachers College, Ms. Davis taught for two years in Alstead, New Hampshire. She married Richard F. Davis and moved to Ithaca, New York where she worked in one of the Cornell University Libraries. Her husband accepted a position in the Dairy Science Department at the University of Maryland in 1954. The Davis family was an active participant in the campus community, attending athletic events, theatrical productions and Agriculture Days. Mrs. Davis also attended classes at the University of Maryland, completing her certification for school librarianship. She subsequently obtained a job at the High Point High School Library in Beltsville, Maryland where she worked for sixteen years.

Mrs. Davis began collecting Louis May Alcott books in the early 1980s after finding a first edition at a town fair in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years she continued to acquire books, visiting bookshops all over the east coast in her quest for the works of Alcott and her family. When Mrs. Davis decided to move to California in 1999, she found a new home for her collection in the University's Rare Books Collection where the books are available for others to enjoy the writings of Louisa May Alcott.

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) is widely known as author of Little Women or Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy and until the late twentieth century her literary reputation largely rested on this work. Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, to the transcendental philosopher Amos Bronson Alcott and Abigail May, Louisa grew up in Concord, Massachusetts with her three sisters. The family often experienced severe poverty and Louisa's income became pivotal to the family survival. She worked as a nurse, seamstress and domestic servant until the publication of her first book Flower Fables in 1855 which netted the author thirty-two dollars. With the publication of Little Women in 1868 Alcott achieved critical and financial success. The characters of the novel were drawn from those of Alcott's sisters, and many of its episodes from those she and her family had experienced. Alcott's masterpiece was followed by a succession of wholesome domestic narratives, the so-called Little Women series.

Since Alcott's death her reputation has been reappraised as a result of the discovery of a large number of sensational "pot-boilers," written in secret and published anonymously or under the pseudonym A. M. Barnard. These tales, written prior to the publication of Little Women , earned her between $25 and $100 each from periodical story papers. Beginning in 1975, republication of Alcott's sensation stories spurred interest in her long out-of-print adult novels. The discovery of these stories has led to a recognition of Alcott as a far more complex and prolific writer than was originally thought. As readers become more familiar with her sensation stories, and as Little Women and its offshoots are reread, it is becoming possible to see Alcott as a complex writer deeply engaged with the issue of being a woman in nineteenth-century America. No longer merely the author of Little Women, Alcott has taken her place as one of the foremost American authors of the nineteenth century.

Arrangement

Organized as two series:
Series 1
Books
Series 2
Louisa May Alcott Ephemera

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Carolyn Davis began collecting Louis May Alcott books in the early 1980s after finding a first edition at a town fair in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years she continued to acquire books, visiting bookshops all over the east coast in her quest for the works of Alcott and her family. When Mrs. Davis decided to move to California in 1999, she found a new home for her collection in the University's Rare Books Collection where the books are available for others to enjoy the writings of Louisa May Alcott.

Related Material

Louisa May Alcott materials are found in many U.S. libraries. The major collection of correspondence and material is at Harvard's Houghton Library. Finding aids for the Alcott family papers at Harvard can be found on their website. The University of Virginia's Barrett Library also has Alcott family papers and manuscripts. Although a finding aid is not available on the library website AlcottWeb has recieved permission to publish a guide to this collection on their site. Other collections of Alcott materials exist at the Brigham Young University Library, the Concord Free Library, the Orchard House in Concord, MA, and the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, MA.

All of the books in this collection have been cataloged and are available in the Maryland Room, Hornbake Library. Specific information is available by searching the University of Maryland Libraries Online Catalog.

Full text of Alcott's works

  1. Little Women. Available at the University of Virginia.
  2. Louisa May Alcott eBooks. A number of Alcott's works are available in their entirety at the Project Gutenberg website.
  3. Collection of Alcott's works . This website has approximately twenty-six of Alcott's works available.
  4. "The brothers" Short story from the November 1863 edition of the Atlantic Monthly.
  5. "Love and Self-love". Short story from the March 1860 issue of the Atlantic Monthly.
  6. "Debby's Debut" . Short story from the August 1863 issue of the Atlantic Monthly.
  7. "A Modern Cinderella: or, The Little Old Shoe" . Short story from the October 1860 issue of the Atlantic Monthly.

Louisa May Alcott Websites

  1. Louisa May Alcott. Biography of Louisa May Alcott available at the University of Virginia.
  2. Louisa May Alcott Collection at Bringham Young University. This provides an overview of the highlights of the Louisa May Alcott Collection at the Harold B. Lee Library, Bringham Young University.
  3. Perspectives in American Literature. This is reference guide put together by a professor at Gonzaga University. The site contains a selected bibliography of Alcott.
  4. Empirezine: Louisa May Alcott This website contains a biography of Alcott as well as a comprehensive bibliography.
Title
Guide to the Carolyn Davis collection of Louisa May Alcott
Status
completed
Author
Processed by the Marylandia, Rare Books and National Trust for Historic Preservation Library Collection Department, University of Maryland Libraries.
Date
2010-11-23
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2010-11-01: EAD markup checked and verified using Oxygen software by Jennie A. Levine Knies, November 2010.
  • 2017-04-05: Finding aid title, agent links, and extents revised; related accessions related; text in biographical note wrapped; finding aid filing title, description rule and series scope and content notes added and finding aid status updated by Maya Riser-Kositsky, April 2017.
  • 2017-05-08: Related materials note revised by Maya Riser-Kositsky, May 2017.
  • 2017-10-19: Finding aid reviewed and minor updates made by Caitlin Rizzo.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Library

Contact:
University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742
301-405-9212