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Manuscripts and Annotated Books

Handwritten treatises, catalogs, and reports; albums of drawings of gardens and plants; printed materials with manuscript annotations

Rare Books Museum Collections Library and Archival Collections Online Exhibits Publications Related Content

Manuscripts and annotated books constitute a group of unique items within the Dumbarton Oaks collection. In addition to the original materials from Europe, Asia, and the Americas—drafts of horticultural, taxonomic, and antiquarian treatises, drawings of garden designs, handwritten catalogs and reports, albums of botanical miniatures, sketchbooks, scrapbooks, and painted scrolls—they also include printed copies distinguished by marks of previous ownership and use. Such annotations range from simple subject matter headings and traces of censorship to more extensive field notes, commentaries, corrections, and marginalia.   

Often works of superb artistic quality, highlights of the manuscript holdings comprise such singular objects as a set of fifty botanical illustrations by Giovanna Garzoni from the Strozzi library in Florence; a tiny illuminated volume attributed to the Huguenot artist Jacques le Moyne de Morgues; a presentation copy of Claude Mollet’s gardening treatise dedicated to Louis XIII; Hans Puechfeldner’s album of garden drawings modeled on the engravings by Hans Vredeman de Vries; and two autograph Red BooksGlemham Hall and Brandsbury—by the landscape designer Humphry Repton. Other items of interest include a handwritten Linnaean taxonomy of the British flora by the botanical artist Mary Delaney; an anonymous guide to the Spanish royal garden of La Granja largely derivative of the Viaje de España by Antonio Ponz; a copy of the report on the state of the Viceroyalty of Peru by the outgoing viceroy Francisco Gil de Taboada; and a catalog of historical manuscripts in the library of Hagia Sofia in Istanbul.  

Similarly unusual are corrected proofs of the catalog of the botanical garden in Pisa by Michelangelo Tilli, previously in possession of another botanist, Pier Antonio Micheli; and what appears to be the author’s copy of a rare treatise on the rose by the Spanish physician Nicholas Monardes.


Searching for Materials in HOLLIS​

To quickly locate manuscripts in HOLLIS, select Archives/Manuscripts from the “Resource Type” dropdown list on the “Advanced Search” page.

To locate annotated books in HOLLIS, perform a basic keyword search. Relevant keywords including the following:



“handwritten notes”

“manuscript notes”

“marginal notes”


Digitized Rare Books

Museum Collections

Manuscripts in the Byzantine Collection

Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss acquired the first manuscript for the museum in 1939. The manuscripts in the Byzantine Collection available as digital facsimiles and accompanying high-resolution images may be explored online.

Library and Archival Collections

The Manuscripts-on-Microfilm Database includes almost 2,000 microfilm rolls that are reproductions of medieval and early modern manuscripts, the originals of which are held in institutions around the world. This database allows researchers to search for specific manuscripts represented within the collection.

The Rare Book Collection contains a miscellany of autograph letters from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century cultural notables. Six examples from the Autograph Letter Collection are available online with transcription, translation, and commentary.

The Arthur Kingsley Porter Photographs of Architecture and Manuscripts, 1980s, include manuscripts from repositories in Egypt, Greece, and Italy.

The majority of the Hans Belting Research Papers and Photographs, ca. 1960s–1980s, consists of photographs of Palaiologan manuscript illumination as well as research notes, correspondence, and photographs of other Late Byzantine manuscripts.

The Illuminated Manuscript Photographs Collection, ca. 1950, includes reproductions of selected pages from manuscripts in worldwide repositories.

The Kurt Weitzmann Photographs of Manuscripts, 1980s–1990s, include nearly 17,000 black-and-white photographs of pages of Greek, Latin, and ancient manuscripts, and duplicates the Kurt Weitzmann Archive at Princeton University.

In addition to documentation of Der Nersessian’s professional life at Dumbarton Oaks, the Sirarpie Der Nersessian Papers and Photographs, 1939–1966, includes photographs and negatives of illuminations in Armenian manuscripts that Der Nersessian considered for her 1993 publication, Miniature Painting in the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia from the Twelfth to the Fourteenth Century.



Discover featured titles below, or search all titles from Dumbarton Oaks Publications.

Online Exhibits

Explore highlights from the collection related to botanical illustration below, or view all online exhibits.

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