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Mary Church Terrell Main Library
148 W College St. Oberlin, OH 44074-1545


The main visitor lot is the east Service Building lot, and the south row of the Carnegie Building lot for visitors to offices within that building.

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History of the Collection

Some of the more significant accummulations in the Oberlin College Libraries include:

William Cowper (1731-1800)

Poet and hymnodist William Cowper was one of the most popular poets of his time. Cowper changed the direction of 18th-century nature poetry by writing of everyday life and scenes of the English countryside. He was one of the forerunners of Romantic poetry. Special Collections has multiple examples of books with fore-edge paintings but - tellingly - Cowper has two such books given this admiring treatment, including our only example of a double fore-edge painting.

Hannah More (1745-1833)

Although remembered as a prolific writer and campaigner on the subject of Christian morality and the education of young women, Hannah More is nevertheless counted as stylistically a member of the Romantic Movement based on her poetry. That many of her books should be among the remains of the library's old collection is not surprising given her great popularity and anti-slavery sentiments, coupled with the religious milieu of the early college and town of Oberlin.

William Blake (1757-1827)

Largely unappreciated within his own lifetime as a printmaker and poet, Blake is now considered one of the most important creatives ever to come out of Great Britain. Blake's printing methods, gorgeous visuals, and mystical poetry are combined as highly concentrated, original works, unlike anything that had come before. Many consider him to be one of the earliest masters of the "Artist Book." Terrell Special Collections own approximately 60 limited edition color facsimiles, mostly published by the William Blake Trust, as well as original volumes by other authors for which William Blake supplied the engravings.

Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Our Robert Burns Collection consists of approximately 60 separate records, many of them multivolume editions of Burns' Poems . . .  or Works. Burns was especially popular with those who opposed slavery. Many volumes were awarded bespoke, craft bindings and show interesting associations. Most of these were given as a gift to Oberlin College Library by Donald L. Mennel in 2021. Mr. Mennel also gifted a set of antique plates and tinted engravings that commemorate the life of Robert Burns.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

This collection of over 50 works by or about William Wordsworth derives mostly from donations and endowed fund purchases which accrued steadily in the 1940s and 1950s. Of special note within the collection is the first edition of Lyrical Ballads, published in 1798.  Several of the books have interesting associations, including one inscribed to a Mrs. Harrison by Wordsworth on August 19th, 1843 bearing Wordsworth's signature, and others that tie the original owners or the physical volumes to the Lake District.

An equally significant portion of our Wordsworth holdings was donated by Donald L. Mennel in 2021, which includes a copy of the privately printed, four page poem Grace Darling that is signed by Wordsworth. Many of the volumes have craft bookbindings which suggests they were highly esteemed.  A 2002 donation by Oberlin Alumnus Robert Campbell that focuses on England also includes 19th-century guides to the Lake District which provide very helpful context.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

Our Coleridge holdings before 1850 amount to approximately 50 works. Bookplate evidence reveals that many volumes were donated individually over time. However, a large number of the volumes, including some with handsome bindings, were accrued through the use of an endowed book fund that dates to the early years of the opening of the Spear Library in 1885. This indicates an early and ongoing interest in Coleridge at Oberlin College.

Robert Southey (1774-1843)

Southey was another of the "Lake Poets" who was well connected (not always in a friendly way) through partnership, marriage, and correspondence with a long list of leading writers and politicians. From 1813 until his death he was the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom. A polarizing figure as a poet, and advocate for reform, Southey is still respected as a historian, which accounts for a good portion of the approximately 50 early works by Southey in our holdings.

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)

Leigh Hunt was a leading intellectual, essayist, and critic in addition to writing poetry. He was instrumental in editing a number of literary journals that helped to introduce the Romantics to the public, where his outspoken independence and candid impartiality earned him enemies and admirers alike. The Library currently holds approximately 40 works by Hunt from the period of his lifetime until shortly thereafter.

George Gordon (Lord) Byron (1788-1824)

Byron is for many the defining figure of the Romantic period; an aristocratic celebrity artist whose adventures both scandalized and thrilled the public in equal measure. Byron's love life, his alignment with revolutionary causes, and tragically young death are what we might expect today of a "rock star" in terms of image. Special Collections currently holds over 30 works that date to the period of Byron's lifetime or shortly after.