Modern Books & Manuscripts Collection

José María Castañé Collection


Photographer unknown. Japanese soldiers during
World War II. Photograph, [1941]. JMC 1577.



Dame Laura Knight. Study for “The dock, Nuremberg,” drawn during the processing of the prisoners. March 1946. Black crayon on paper. JMC 1723

The Castañé Collection gathers together documents, photographs, and books that tell the story of the pivotal political and military events of the twentieth century.  Formed over a period of 25 years by José María Castañé, a Spanish businessman and patron of the arts, its topical foci are the Russian Revolution; the Russian Civil War; World War I; the development of Fascism and Nazism; the development of the Soviet Union; the Spanish Civil War; World War II, particularly the German invasion of the Soviet Union, and major battles in the European theatre of war; the Nuremberg Trials; and the Cold War. In size, the collection consists of some 3,000 individual items and small collections, numbering perhaps 15,000 pieces in all.

An illustrated essay by the donor and collector, “The José María Castañé Collection of Twentieth-Century Historical Documents: Its Origins and Development,” is published in Harvard Library Bulletin, Volume 25, Number 3 (July 2015); offprints are available by request.


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Description of the Collection

The general collection


Photographer unknown, but probably German. Album including 45 photographs of Hitler, Mussolini, Goebbels, youth groups, and alpine scenery. Undated. JMC 3721.

Assembled document by document, the bulk of the textual material in the collection lies in this single series. It contains many iconic pieces: the hand-corrected text of President Truman’s announcement of the surrender of Germany on 8 May 1945 (JMC 6709); Winston Churchill’s appointment cards recording meetings during the Tehran and Yalta Conferences (JMC 6227 and 6228); documents by leaders including Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Joseph Stalin, Charles de Gaulle, and many, many more. Documents by less-known figures provide a glimpse of personal perspectives: the World War I diary of Sgt. George Williams, who fought at Verdun (JMC 5670); Albert Dupré’s letters from the French trenches (JMC 8381); a NKVD report of searches in February 1937 during the “Great Purge” (JMC 6696); an account of the summary execution of a Spanish Communist Party member (JMC 10077); and a letter from an American soldier to his family about Russian prisoners of war in Dachau begging to be shot rather than returned to the U.S.S.R. and tried for treason (JMC 6181).

Single-topic document collections

The following collections will be cataloged separately:

  • The Nuremberg Trial papers of U.S. judge Benjamin Kaplan (1911-2010).
  • Military papers of Italian General Annibale Bergonzoli (1884-1973), who fought in the Spanish Civil War and in North Africa in World War II.
  • Post-war letters by British Air Marshall Arthur “Bomber” Harris (1892-1984) about the carpet-bombing of German cities in World War II.
  • The archive of Prince SergeĬ Vladimirovich Gagarin (186801937), Chief of the Chancellery of the Ministry of the Imperial Court under Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.

  • Photograph

    Vremennyĭ Soviet Rossīĭskoĭ Respubliki, zasiedanīe pervoe, Subbota, 7 Oktiabria 1917 g. [Saint Petersburg] : Pechatano po rasporiazhenīiu Predsiedatelia Vremennago Sovieta Rossīĭskoĭ Respubliki, [1917] RC9.A100.917v (1). A stenographic record of the October 7th meeting of the Provisional Government with the Bolshevik representatives. Ignited by Trotsky's speech (presented in this document) the Bolsheviks walked out, and three days later, decided to
    start an uprising now known as the October Revolution.

    In his role as chief secretary within the Tsar’s household, Gagarin was between the State Council and Duma, and the 142 documents he accumulated provide an impressively complete picture of legislative procedures. The heart of the collection gives a snapshot of the activities of the Russian Provisional Government of February-October 1917, but the archive spans the years 1906-1922, including some documents from early Russian émigré organizations and the acts of the Constitutional Assembly in exile in Paris, after the Bolsheviks took power.

    Gagarin’s office continued to function after the Provisional Government took over, under the supervision of a Commissar. Many of the documents are different versions of particular draft bills in the State Council and the State Duma, allowing one to trace changes, amendments, and comparisons, compiled by the State Chancellery, of wording from the different versions of the bill.

    Topics covered include a variety of political, educational, and economic issues: rules and provisions for electing a Constituent Assembly; the regulation of unions and other voluntary associations; production of fertilizers in 1915-16; legislation administration of aid to wounded soldiers, war widows, and orphans; and the functioning and membership of the State Duma and the State Council. Perhaps the most important documents are reports of meetings in the crucial months of February and March 1917, and the first meetings of the Council and the Duma after the Tsar resigned.

    The collection as a whole represents the history of Russia in one of its most important periods. To locate these items in HOLLIS, search Keyword Gagarin archive, or Other Call Number RC9.A100.917v.

Visual material


Dmitri Baltermants, photographer. “Grief.” [1942]. The photograph shows the German massacre at Kerch in the Crimea. JMC 4850.

The visual materials in the Castañé Collection are particularly rich for historical research. Some photographs are included in the general collection series, generally by unknown photographers: for example, Nadezhda Krupskaia giving a speech promoting literacy in Moscow, 1927 (JMC 1913); Japanese soldiers in winter uniform, November 1941 (JMC 1577); and a group of eight photographs of the concentration camp at Nordhausen (JMC 8391). Photograph albums compiled by unknown officers and soldiers provide a personal perspective on war, but share common themes: landscapes, the civilian population, prisoners of war, soldier everyday life, military equipment, destruction, graves. These anonymous unpublished photographs are supplemented by photographs by well-known Soviet photographers include many iconic images from World War II; official Nazi Party photographer Heinrich Hoffman; and Izvestia photographer Sergei Smirnov.

The following sub-collections will be cataloged separately:

  • Photograph albums compiled by officers and soldiers. Seventy albums, containing approximately 10,000 separate prints. Events documented include World War I (JMC 2240, 2341), the Spanish Civil War (JMC 4484 and others), Vietnam (JMC 2489), the Soviet army in East Germany (JMC 2494), but are principally German albums from World War II showing the  Blitzkrieg in Poland, France and the Low Countries, and Operation Barbarossa. This series includes British and U.S. albums about campaigns in North Africa, the Pacific, and the Baltic.
  • Soviet photojournalists: iconic documentary photographs of World War II in the Soviet Union.
  • Barcelona photojournalist Agustí Centelles: documentary photographs during the Spanish Civil War.
  • Heinrich Hoffmann (1885-1957), official Nazi Party  photographer: set of unpublished original negatives, including images of the Nuremberg Party Day celebrations in 1934 and 1935.
  • Sergei Smirnov, chief photographer at the Moscow newspaper Izvestia: original photographs of the political lives of Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, many unpublished.
  • Portrait photographs, autographed, of political and cultural leaders.
  • Portrait photographs, autographed, of military leaders.

Printed material


Eine wahre geschichte: worte und bilder von zwei Deutschen aus dem auslande. Stuttgart: Franckh'sche verlagshandlung, [©1936]  A biography of Hitler, written for children. 2014-1799; JMC 3231

Monographs and periodicals in the collection range in date from the first decade of the twentieth century to the 1980s. Many are signed by their authors, or bear important inscriptions. Covering the same topics as the documents, highlights include a rare proof copy of the Treaty of Versailles, the personal copy of Irving Hoover, at that time serving as President Woodrow Wilson's aide, and who accompanied Wilson to Versailles for the signing of the treaty; Stalin’s book on Lenin, inscribed by Stalin to Tatiana Slavotinskaia (rumored to have been his lover); Kim Philby’s marked copy of George Unwin’s Studies in Economic History; an illustrated children’s biography of Adolf Hitler; the Hawaii Office of Civil Defense pamphlet on air raid precautions, issued shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor; Field-Marshal Montgomery’s own copy of his Normandy to the Baltic, published for private circulation to the British army of the Rhine; key Nazi texts such as Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Alfred Rosenberg’s Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts;  and presentation copies of books by Leonid Brezhnev.   

Additionally, there are three small collections of printed material:

  • Russian revolutionary posters and flyers.
  • German propaganda flyers, in Russian, dropped over Byelorussia, Russia and Ukraine during World War II.
  • Chromolithographic portraits of Spanish Civil War nationalist military leaders edited by official photographer Jalón Ángel, stamped as private property of General Francisco Franco.

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Related sites


Nadezhda Krupskaia giving a speech in Moscow. Photograph, 1927. JMC 1913.

In 2004, José María Castañé founded the Fundación José María Castañé for the purpose of deepening understanding of the history of the twentieth century through original documents. The Foundation retains a portion of the collection in Madrid, where the documents may be consulted by appointment. Additionally, the Foundation gave a group of documents about the political situation before, during, and immediately after  the Spanish Civil War to the Residencia de Estudiantes, Madrid.



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Bei zhida-politruka / Rozha prosit kirpicha! [Beat your Jew political instructor / His mug is asking for a hard punch!] Printed propaganda dropped over the Soviet Union by the Germans. [June-October 1941] JMC 6689

The library is currently in the process of cataloging the Castañé Collection. Individual books and periodicals can be found in HOLLIS by a keyword search for José María Castañé Collection. These items can be requested for use in the Houghton Reading Room.  The collections of documents, visual material, and printed material detailed above will ultimately be described in guides available through OASIS, and links to these guides will be incorporated into this page. Until these guides are complete, access should be arranged in advance by contacting the Modern Books and Manuscripts Department. For further information about research at Houghton Library please see the Library’s home page.

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