Harvard in the 17th and 18th Centuries is an online guide to the discovery of thousands of items—diaries, commonplace books, correspondence, legal documents, University records, drawings, maps, student notebooks, scientific observations, and lecture notes—that form the early documentary history of Harvard.

All of these unique holdings are located in the Harvard University Archives, which serves as one of the great social history collections on the evolving United States. Holdings in the Archives serve the research needs of Harvard students, faculty, and staff; researchers in general; and the general public.

By exploring the materials in Harvard in the 17th and 18th Centuries, Internet users can gain insight not only into the development of the country's oldest institution of higher learning, but also into the material culture of colonial life, the legal and social concerns of citizens, the costs of goods and services, the books that influenced thought and education, and myriad other aspects of material and intellectual life in New England.


Harvard in the 17th and 18th Centuries is not a digital collection per se, but an online discovery portal for unique, generally unpublished materials. The site serves primarily as a portal to catalog records and finding aids, and it offers access to digital content where it is available through HOLLIS+, the Harvard Library union catalog.

Catalog Records
The results of searches and browses on this site will appear in the form of catalog records in HOLLIS+, the Harvard Library union catalog.

Queries initiated from this site's Search page will be limited to the 17th- and 18th-century holdings of the Harvard University Archives as listed in the HOLLIS+ catalog.

To search Harvard's full HOLLIS+ holdings, visit

The selection of any term listed on the Browse page will yield a list of all HOLLIS+ catalog records specifically related to the selected term.

Finding Aids
Some collections also have more detailed descriptions in separate "finding aids" that are linked to the HOLLIS+ records. A link to "finding aid" will bring you to detailed descriptive information on the holdings that they represent.

Digital Content
Where available, digital content is included in the site. To view digital content, site users can navigate to Holdings Online for links to digitized collections in HOLLIS, and explore the Collection Highlights.

Because these archival materials are generally handwritten or hand-drawn, digitized images are not full-text searchable.

The digitization of unique materials in the Harvard University Archives is an ongoing process. As items enumerated in Harvard in the 17th and 18th Centuries are newly digitized, they will be made available through this site and through the HOLLIS Catalog.


Harvard in the 17th and 18th Centuries assembles materials into seven broad categories representing the depth and scope of the holdings: college life; teaching, learning, and research; religion; governance; and significant personalities document the core of life and work at Harvard as it developed over two centuries.

Collections with references to local and regional history and world events draw together materials that situate Harvard in an increasingly complex and evolving environment.

Collection Highlights is a select group of digitized materials that provide insight into the collections' contents. Included among them are materials on John Harvard, John Hancock and his sister Mary Hancock, Lady Mowlson (née Anne Radcliffe), Thomas Danforth, Thomas Hollis, Benjamin Wadsworth, and John Winthrop, as well as locations such as Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Casco Bay, Maine.

In addition, nearly 13,000 pages from these holdings have been digitized and are available online.