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Rare Book Collection

The Rare Book Collection was begun in the mid-twentieth century by Mildred Bliss and reflects the areas of specialized research conducted at Dumbarton Oaks.

Access the Collection Search the Collection Rights and Reproductions Collection Strengths

The Rare Book Collection supports research conducted at Dumbarton Oaks under the auspices of the three programs of study, in Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape Studies. Its holdings combine portions of the reference libraries that the founders of the institution, Mildred Barnes Bliss and Robert Woods Bliss, built to accompany their collections of Byzantine and Pre-Columbian artifacts. The garden-related materials were added from the late 1940s to support the program in the history of landscape architecture and garden ornament envisaged by Mrs. Bliss. In addition to the original Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden Libraries, the collection includes a belle-lettres section of rare and first editions owned by Mrs. Bliss; a collection of autographs; the music scores commissioned or collected by the Blisses; a selection of US and European seed catalogues; and documentary materials pertaining to the history of the Dumbarton Oaks Garden and its designer Beatrix Farrand, comprising her original drawings, known as the Garden Archives.


Access the Collection

The Reading Room is open to researchers, by appointment, 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 2:00–4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Schedule an appointment

Rare Book staff also offer primary source instruction sessions for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. To schedule a class visit or for general inquiries about the collection, please email and allow at least one week for your request to be processed.


Search the Collection

Rare Book Collection materials are searchable through HOLLIS, Harvard’s online library catalog. The HOLLIS User Guide provides general tips for searching HOLLIS. To filter directly for items in the Rare Books Collection, specify “Code: Library + Collection” contains “ddorar*” in the Advanced Search Options. ​For more detailed instructions and additional search tips, see How to Search for Rare Books in HOLLIS.

Search the Library Catalog


Rights and Reproductions

Dumbarton Oaks welcomes scholarly and educational use of collection images. High-resolution images of digitized rare books may be downloaded by clicking the “Digital Facsimile” button on each book's page, then selecting the “Print/Save” option at the top of the screen. 

Request images

For the benefit of future researchers, we ask that you give appropriate credit when quoting from or reproducing an item in the Dumbarton Oaks collections. The credit line should read: [Author], [Title], Dumbarton Oaks Rare Book Collection, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, DC.


Collection Strengths

This online guide offers a detailed overview of the areas of study that are most systematically represented within the collection, with links to other relevant institutional and external resources. It also provides structured access to the digitized holdings—comprising manuscripts or other unique materials and items of special significance for each of the study programs—that constitute a representative cross-section of the nature and scope of the collection.