ExhibitionsCollection Description

On-Line Catalog
The Salem Athenĉum uses Library Thing for our on-line catalog.  Please note that we are in the process of entering our collection into an electronic system for the first time and only the most recent accessions, and the non-fiction shelved in the main reading room are described here.  Titles are added every week so keep checking back to find more interesting books from the stacks!

To inquire about availability or to place a hold, please call 978-744-2540, email info@salemathenaeum.net, or visit during open hours.

We encourage all our members to create their own Library Thing accounts (it's free!) to track your personal reading and submit reviews to the database to help everyone find a good read.  See Library Thing for details on using the database and creating your own account.

Volunteers to help add books to the catalog are welcome!



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Tour the Exhibition

In addition to the Kirwan Collection on permanent display in the Wendt Room, the Athenĉum hosts several exhibitions each year showcasing materials from the collections and related works.  Subjects have included Salem imprints, children's books and their illustrators, decorated book covers, Jacob Bigelow's American Medical Botany, works on insects, archival records about the planning and construction of Plummer Hall in 1907, and popular reading from 1760-1810.

We encourage members to curate an exhibition of their interest or of their own collections.  Honorary curator, Elaine von Bruns, has created most of the exhibitions in recent years, and has now helped us create our first digital exhibition.  Displaying rich marbling, tiny decorative patterns, and mood-setting illustrations, UNDER THE COVERS: The Hidden Art of Endpapers is now a permanent on-line feature.  Click on the exhibition poster to take a tour under the covers of the Salem Athenĉum collection.


Collection Description

The Athenĉum has more than 50,000 volumes collected over the past 200 years.

Historical Collections - The Athenĉum has four collections of books gathered in the 18th century: the Social Library (est. 1760), the Philosophical Library (est. 1781), the Holyoke Collection, and the Theological Collection. The Social Library and the Philosophical Library collections contain volumes that were combined to form the initial Athenĉum library in 1810. Included are a broad collection of works of literature, history, science, natural history, voyage and travel, religion, philosophy and more.  Edward Augustus Holyoke was the first president of the Athenĉum; the Holyoke collection is a group of books that were in his personal library. The Theological Collection includes commentaries, theological tracts, and sermons.

19th and Early 20th Century Books - The Athenĉum has a sizable collection of books published in the latter half of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century. Included in this collection are works of literature, biographies, travel books, historical, and scientific works.

Recent Acquisitions - The Athenĉum purchases new fiction, mysteries, poetry and popular non-fiction: art, biography, current affairs, history, scientific discovery, and travel. A special collection focus is on books and libraries. The Athenĉum also subscribes to periodicals related to the book collections. Books and magazines may circulate to the members of the Athenĉum.

Tours are available of the entire library. Please contact the Director.

Holyoke Collection


The Salem Athenĉum
337 Essex Street, Salem MA 01970
tel 978.744.2540 | fax 978.744.7536

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