The William L. Clements Library is a rare book and manuscript repository specializing in Americana and particularly North American history prior to the twentieth century, the holdings of the Clements Library are grouped into four categories: Books, Manuscripts, Graphics and Maps. The Book collection includes 80,000 rare books, pamphlets, broadsides, and periodicals. Within the other divisions, the library holds 600 atlases, approximately 30,000 maps, 99,400 prints and photographs, 134 culinary periodicals, 20,000 pieces of ephemera, 2,600 manuscript collections, 150 pieces of artwork, 100 pieces of realia, and 15,000 pieces of sheet music.
The Clements Library was designed by architect Albert Kahn and is visited by over 450 researchers each year. In addition to students and faculty, notable scholars from around the world frequent the library. Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian, David McCullough, used the collections for his book "1776".
William L. Clements was an alumnus and regent of the University. He founded the library in 1923, donating his personal collections of over 20,000 volumes of rare books along with newspapers, maps, and rare papers. Clements didn't only give his collection to the University, but he donated funds that went toward the construction of the current library building. Clements dictated that the library remain separate from the University's greater library system. It is still governed by an independent board of trustees.
Albert Kahn, a Detroit-based architect, designed the building in the style of the Italian Renaissance. His inspiration was the Vignola casino in Caprarola, Italy. Renaissance style places emphasis on symmetry, proportion, geometry and the regularity of parts. Orderly arrangements of columns, pilasters and lintels, as well as the use of semicircular arches, hemispherical domes, niches and aedicula replaced the more complex proportional systems and irregular profiles of medieval buildings..
The library's collections are spread across five divisions: the Book Division, the Manuscripts Division, the Graphics Division and the Map Division. The Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, established in 2002 as a fifth division, moved in 2013 to the Hatcher Library, the special collections section of the University of Michigan Library.
Exhibits showcasing the library's collection are on public display on weekday afternoons. Exhibited materials have included rare books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, and prints. Past exhibition topics include: the history of wine-making in America, the sugar trade in the Atlantic world, sports played in 19th century America, and the War of 1812.
Cover image by Jeff Jensen - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13251164. Information courtesy of Wikipedia.