The Library has acquired through donation, exchange and purchase over 10,000 books, pamphlets, serial issues, and ephemera items relating to the study of Anarchism and radical movements. These publications were printed between the 1850s and the 1970s primarily for the French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, and Yiddish-speaking communities within the United States. While touching upon many political and social issues, the collection focuses on the history and philosophy of anarchism and the lives and writings of its major proponents. Of particular interest are pamphlets documenting the beliefs and activities of local organizations and short-lived movements.
These materials are contained in five primary collections: The Paul Avrich Collection on Anarchism, The Radical Pamphlet Collection, The House Un-American Activities Committee Pamphlet Collection, The M & S Collection of Twentieth Century Radical Publications, and the Anarchism Collection. Some of these collections are well-cataloged, while others have been only partially processed.
The largest component deals with the operations of the Communist Party of the United States of America, its members, and various front organizations. Many pamphlets relate to the presidential campaigns of Earl Browder and William Z. Foster. Includes campaign literature for state and local contests in New York and California, and material concerning Afro-American communists and communist youth and student groups. Most items relating to socialism are found under the Socialist Party of the United States of America, its members, and affiliates. Included are state and local campaign materials, and pamphlets by Norman Thomas. The anarchist component of the collection includes materials published in the United States by leading European anarchists such as Johann Most, Rudolf Rocker, Alexander Berkman, Petr Kropotkin, Errico Malatesta, Carlo Tresca, and Emile Armand, with many works by Emma Goldman. Also includes pamphlets by American anarchists Benjamin Tucker and William B. Greene, and materials published by the Industrial Workers of the World.
The unique materials of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, now totaling over 1 million items, include books, broadsides, pamphlets, theater playbills, prints, posters, photographs, and medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. At the center is Thomas Jefferson's book collection, which was sold to Congress in 1815. The Rare Book & Special Collections Reading Room is modeled after Philadelphia's Independence Hall. This room is home to the divisional catalogs, reference collection, and reference staff. Collections are stored in temperature and humidity controlled vaults.