Emily Dickinson Collection

Emily Dickinson daguerreotype

Emily Dickinson, Daguerreotype ca. 1847
Amherst College Archives & Special Collections

The Emily Dickinson collection includes original poems, manuscripts, and letters from Dickinson to family and friends, spanning her life from 1830 to 1886, as well as numerous rough drafts and fragments of her poems.

The family of Emily Dickinson was intimately involved in the life of Amherst College from its very origins. Dickinson's grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson, was one of the founders of the College; her father, Edward Dickinson, was College Treasurer from 1835 to 1873; her brother Austin (Class of 1850) took over as Treasurer from 1873 until his death in 1895; and nephew Ned Dickinson served the College as an assistant librarian. The intellectual life of the College had a profound influence on life in the Dickinson home. Beyond the personal papers of Dickinson herself, the Amherst College Archives & Special Collections provides extensive documentation about the faculty, students, and other members of the College community who played some role in Dickinson's social and intellectual development.

Our manuscript holdings include several fascicles and hundreds of letters, but the great strength of the collections at Amherst is the numerous rough drafts and fragments of Dickinson's poetry. She often jotted down single lines and raw snatches of poetry on whatever materials were close at hand. Her writing materials range from slit open envelopes, such as "The way hope builds his house," to scraps of wallpaper and a chocolate wrapper. It is impossible for any transcription of these fragments to capture the important details of how Dickinson originally laid out her poetry on the page.

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