Collections Overview

About Our Collections

The Dudley Observatory Library Collections of 19th and early 20th century scientific publications together with the records of the observatory itself – both manuscript and printed – provide a record of astronomical endeavors during an important era of general scientific activity. Researchers who have found it have been amazed by the wealth of information available to them. It is the current aim of the observatory to preserve and to protect this resource, as well as to make the collections better known in the international research community. The monograph collection includes many early library acquisitions, verifiable through early accession lists and a card catalog from the turn of the century, that reflect the state of scientific research and sources from that period.

This resource in the history of astronomy is divided into several sections.

  • Archives – 80 linear feet of records, documenting the history of Dudley from 1852 to the present. These are mostly paper documents, but there is a sizable collection of photographic images dating from the 1860s to the present (c.25 linear feet.)
  • Digital Archives – Selections from our archives are available through the New York Heritage Digital Collections
  • Artifacts – The Dudley Observatory has a large collection of astronomical artifacts.
  • Library – 400 linear feet. The monograph collection includes titles on astronomy, the history of astronomy and astrophysics, and those titles having significant connection.
  • Rare Books – 60 linear feet.The rare books comprise an extraordinary collection of early astronomical works. These books represent some of the seminal works in astronomy and include early editions of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Gauss and many others. This collection was begun by Benjamin A. Gould, Jr., Dudley’s first Director and a collector of rare books. Several of Gould’s letters found in the Dudley Archives mention his attending book auctions or his purchasing rare books. The 15th, 16th and 17th astronomical works in this collection represent seminal works in their fields. An exhibit featuring some examples of these books was held at the Schenectady Museum in April, 2000.
  • Gould Collection – 60 linear feet. The astronomical books belonging to Benjamin A. Gould, Jr. form a separate collection within the Library. The Gould collection retains the characteristics of a typical 19th century working astronomical library and has been used by researchers and historians of astronomy.
  • Journals & Observatory Publications –
    • Journals – 754 linear feet. The journal collection can be divided into three parts: 1) the current collection still being received; 2) the historic collection of closed subscriptions dating from the late 19th century; 3) the “rare” journals (pre-1800.)
    • Observatory – 298 linear feet. Observatories have had exchange policies on their publications from the nineteenth century. Most of this collection has been amassed by Dudley in exchange for Dudley’s publications.
  • Oral Histories – Reflections: Stories of Astronomy, Earth and Space.  In this oral history project, students interviewed people affiliated with the Dudley Observatory to get a glimpse of the frustrations and passions in the real lives of scientists, at the same time, preserving the history of the Observatory.
  • Pamphlet Collection – 50 linear feet This un-cataloged collection contains pamphlets and reprints on numerous astronomical subjects dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Collecting Policy

Dudley presently limits its acquisitions to:

  • Journals and monographs in the history of astronomy or astrophysics.
  • The history of the Dudley Observatory and the astronomers who worked there.
  • Current materials on astronomy, imaging, and education.

Access Policy

Dudley Observatory’s rare book collection is currently housed in Special Collections at Union College and is available subject to their access conditions.