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Michigan State University

Early American Textbooks: Resources in Special Collections: Home OLD

Textbook collections at MSU

Special Collections has about 1200 American textbooks published before 1960. This guide highlights some of the most well known and widely used authors and series. These include a few British texts imported for American schools during colonial days, and textbook series that started before 1960 and continued beyond that date.

Please note that Special Collections volumes do not circulate. The Special Collections Reading Room is in the Main Library, Basement West. Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 am to 5 pm; Sundays during fall and spring semester, 1-5 pm.

The HathiTrust Collection has digitized about 2850 textbooks published before 1960. The rest of this research guide will only identify books in MSU Special Collections, but search tips for HathiTrust are given below.

Advanced Searching for HathiTrust (or Special Collections)

If you have a specific textbook in mind, search the library catalog by Author or Title.

To find textbooks by subject, use the library catalog Advanced Search page.

1. Use "textbooks" for your first keyword.

2. Use a school subject (geography, biology, etc.) for your second keyword.

3. Limit your search to Electronic Resources (online) or to Special Collections (must use in Reading Room.)

4. You can narrow your search by date.

Submit your search.

Screenshot of MSU library catalog advanced searching page.

The historical significance of textbooks

"Textbooks are not just pedagogical instruments–they are intensely political documents whose content reflects a given vision of a people, their history and position in the world, and their values and aspirations."

Joseph P. Farrell, writing in the Encyclopedia of Education (Macmillan Reference USA, 2003)

Resource Guide author

Michigan State University