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Oliver Wendell Holmes Correspondence

 Collection — Container: MS Am.1303
Call Number: MS Am.1303

Scope and Contents

This collection contains 29 letters from Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894) to various correspondents, dating from 1852-1892.  Primary recipients are Phineas Barnes and Clara Barnes Martin, friends of Holmes who write about personal and family matters. Other letters pertain to Holmes’ literary endeavors and reminiscence of Beverly Farms, Massachusetts.  Also included are letters to James T. Fields and Bram Stoker.


  • 1852-1892
  • Other: Date acquired: 00/00/1939


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Items in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. In most cases, the Boston Public Library does not hold the copyright to the items in our collections. It is the sole responsibility of the user to make their own determination about what types of usage might be permissible under U.S. and international copyright law.

Biographical / Historical

Oliver Wendell Holmes,1809-1894, was a poet, physician, professor, lecturer, and author. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Holmes attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Harvard College, and later Harvard Medical School. After a brief time as a professor at Dartmouth College, Holmes returned to teach at Harvard, serving as dean for the medical school for part of his professorship.  He was also a member of the Saturday Club. Among the subjects Holmes wrote about were the benefits of using a stethoscope, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and mental health. In addition, Holmes also wrote “Old Ironsides”, a poem that saved the frigate USS Constitution from being disassembled by the government, and “The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table”, a series of fictional essays of breakfast table talk.  Moreover, he gave The Atlantic Monthly magazine its name and coined the terms “anesthesia” and “Boston Brahmin”.


29.00 Items

Language of Materials



Arranged chronologically.

Source of Acquisition

Goodspeed's Book Store

Method of Acquisition


Processing Information

This electronic finding aid is transcribed from legacy data. In many cases, transcriptions were not verified against collection materials at the time of transcription. As a result, this finding aid could be incomplete and might only reflect a partial understanding of the material.

Statement on harmful description

Archival description reflects the biases of time periods and cultures in which it was created and may include direct quotations or descriptions that use inappropriate or harmful language. Creator provided descriptions may be maintained in order to preserve the context in which the collection was created and/or used. Legacy description and potentially offensive content may be made available online until a collection can be reprocessed because the access that they provide to primary source materials is uniquely valuable to the research community at large. Our efforts to repair outdated descriptions and to describe our collections more equitably are iterative and ongoing.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Correspondence
Rare Books and Manuscripts staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2015-02: Finding aid updated by Anna Lawrence, February 2015.

About this library

Part of the Boston Public Library Archives & Special Collections Repository

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