American Antiquarian Society

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American Antiquarian Society
WorcesterMA AntiquarianSociety 2.jpg
American Antiquarian Society is located in Massachusetts
American Antiquarian Society
Location 185 Salisbury Street, Worcester, Massachusetts
Coordinates 42°16′38″N 71°48′39″W / 42.27722°N 71.81083°W / 42.27722; -71.81083Coordinates: 42°16′38″N 71°48′39″W / 42.27722°N 71.81083°W / 42.27722; -71.81083
Area 1.8 acres (7,300 m2)
Built 1910
Architect Winslow, Bigelow & Wadsworth
Architectural style Colonial Revival, Other
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 68000018
Significant dates
Added to NRHP November 24, 1968[1]
Designated NHL November 24, 1968[2]

The American Antiquarian Society (AAS), located in Worcester, Massachusetts, is both a learned society and national research library of pre-twentieth century American History and culture. Founded in 1812, it is the oldest historical society in the United States with a national focus. Its main building, known also as Antiquarian Hall, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark in recognition of this legacy. The mission of the AAS is to collect, preserve and make available for study all printed records of what is now known as the United States of America. This includes printed records from first European settlement through the year 1876.

The AAS offers programs for professional scholars, pre-collegiate, undergraduate and graduate students, educators, professional artists, writers, genealogists, and the general public. AAS has many digital collections available, including A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns 1788–1824.

The Library collection of the AAS contains over three million books, pamphlets, newspapers, periodicals, graphic arts materials and manuscripts as well as books from all fifty U.S. states, most of Canada and the British West Indies are included in their repository. The Society has two thirds of the books printed in the United States before 1820. Many of these volumes are exceedingly rare and many are unique. One of the more famous volumes held there is a copy of the very first book printed in America, The Bay Psalm Book. AAS claims proprietary reproduction rights[3] to the works in its collection, even for those works that are no longer under copyright; a position which is not supported by US law. AAS also has one of the largest collections of newspapers printed in America through 1876.


AAS was founded by Isaiah Thomas on October 24, 1812 by an act of the Massachusetts General Court. It is the third oldest historical society and the first to be national in scope.[4] Isaiah Thomas started the collection with approximately 8,000 books from his personal library. The first library building was erected in 1820 in downtown Worcester, Massachusetts. This building was later abandoned and a new building was constructed. Designed by Winslow, Bigelow & Wadsworth, the Georgian Revival building was completed in 1910 and stands on the corner of Park Avenue and Salisbury Street. There have been several additions to this building to accommodate the growing collection, the most recent of which was completed in 2003.

History of printing[edit]

As part of AAS' mission as a learned society, it offers a variety of public lectures and seminars. One topic to which AAS dedicates significant academic energies is printing technology, especially in eighteenth-century British North America. Since Isaiah Thomas was a newspaper man himself, he collected a large number of printed materials.[5] With regard to printing, paper making, edition setting, and reprinting, not much had changed in European technology by the eighteenth century. It was not until the late eighteenth century that paper making material began to evolve from a hand-woven cloth to an industrial pulp. AAS undertakes special efforts to preserve printed records from this time period, as the Society maintains an on-site conservation department with various sewing, cloth, and binding materials to aid in the preservation process.[6]

Notable members[edit]

Isaiah Thomas, the founder of the American Antiquarian Society

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]