Houghton Library

Houghton Library Reproductions and Permissions


Houghton Library’s mission is to support research and instruction and to facilitate and promote scholarship within the Harvard community and beyond. The library fulfills its mission by making its collections available in the reading room and online whenever possible. All digital images created from material in the public domain will be incorporated into the catalog record or finding aid and made available to public.

All requests for copies are considered on a case-by-case basis depending upon size, binding, condition, copyright restrictions, and donor stipulations. Houghton Public Services staff will determine whether material may be copied, consulting with the Curator if necessary. Public Services staff will provide a cost estimate, and instructions for flagging as needed.

Houghton Library offers patrons the option of ordering reference copies strictly for personal use or higher resolution images to be used in publication.

Ordering Images

For Imaging Services pricing, please see the Digital Imaging and Photography Service Price List. All orders require payment in advance.

To request reproductions, please review the policies below and then complete and submit this Photoduplication Request Form.

Ordering Reference Copies for Personal Use

  • Requests totaling more than 10 pages will be processed by the Harvard College Library Imaging Services department.  
  • Requests for whole items that are in the public domain will be processed as scans and delivered via web link.  The images can then be downloaded as a PDF or printed.
  • Requests for unique (manuscript) objects that are currently under copyright may be scanned and retained by the library for preservation and archival use and delivered by post as paper copies.
  • Requests for scattered pages from manuscripts or books will be processed as paper copies and delivered by post.
  • If the library holds negative microfilm of an item or collection, readers may obtain a positive film copy of the entire reel.

Ordering Copies for Publication

  • Harvard College Library Imaging Services creates high resolution images in TIFF format delivered either electronically or on compact disc.
  • The sale of copies does not constitute permission to publish, share, or further reproduce Library materials.
  • Permission to publish, when required, must be negotiated through the Houghton Permissions Coordinator. For guidance, please see Permission to Quote or Reproduce Houghton Library Materials.

Format Specific Considerations


Only fully cataloged manuscripts can be considered for duplication (for collections, those that bear individual folder labels). Exceptions may be made for Harvard Theatre Collection materials in arranged series or by the Curator) and only if the condition of the material permits safe handling. Categories of manuscripts not eligible for duplication include (but are not limited to) MS Accessions, MS Storage, and Arranged Manuscripts.

Readers may request up to five sheets per folder. If the request is for more than five sheets, the entire folder must be duplicated. If a majority of folders within a box is requested, or most of a codex, the entire item must be duplicated. Cost estimates for duplication may include the cost of copying of folder labels.

Printed Books

If the book is under copyright, no more than ten percent can be copied. If a large portion of a book in the public domain is requested, the entire book must be duplicated.

Existing Microfilm

If the library holds negative microfilm of an item or collection, readers may obtain a positive film copy of the entire reel. If the library holds positive microfilm, readers may use that film onsite to produce paper copies or scans. Reading Room staff will inform readers of the existence of either negative or positive film.

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Permission to Quote or Reproduce Houghton Library Materials


Houghton Library does not require that researchers request permission from Houghton to quote from material or publish images of published material (books, woodcuts, engravings) or from most unpublished material (manuscripts, letters, and drawings) in its collections, nor does it charge fees for such activities. Exceptions are listed under Contacting the Library. When a researcher quotes from material from the collections, Houghton requires citation as described in the Citation Credit Lines section.

Fees are charged for obtaining images of the collections, and they can be found on the Reproduction Services and Price Lists for Library Patrons page. Fees for obtaining audio transfers can be found in the Permissions Information section of the Woodberry Poetry Room web site.

Copyright Information

The vast majority of Houghton material is either in the public domain or under copyrights not controlled by Houghton.  If researchers wish to quote, publish, perform, reproduce or otherwise make any use of an item in Houghton’s collections that requires permission from the copyright holder(s) of the item, it is the researcher’s responsibility to obtain all such permissions.

Two helpful resources in this regard are the Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States, published by the Cornell Copyright Information Center, and the WATCH File (Writers, Artists, and Their Copyright Holders) maintained by the Harry Ransom Center and the University of Reading.  Permission to examine materials or sale of photo-duplication for scholarly research is not authorization to publish.

Contacting the Library

You do not need to contact the Library for permission if you are quoting excerpts from unpublished material, such as a manuscript or letter.  You do need to contact the Library for permission if you are publishing a substantial portion of a manuscript or an entire letter; or that relies upon a Houghton manuscript for its text; or if you are writing a biography or critical work which is largely based on Houghton manuscript or archival collections.  The Library captures such information in its curatorial files to help others using the same collections. Please use the Houghton Permissions Form.

A researcher must also seek permission if the unpublished material is on deposit (this should be noted in the HOLLIS record or the finding aid); if the Library owns or administers the copyright; or if it has a stewardship agreement in place that requires the Library to report on such use. The list that follows includes the major collections for which these condition apply, but it is not exhaustive.  If in doubt, please contact Permissions Coordinator in Houghton Public Services via e-mail.

Permission is required for the following collections. Please use the Houghton Permission Form.

Modern Books and Manuscripts Harvard Theatre Collection
  • Alcott Family
  • American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM)
  • Emily Dickinson*
  • T.S. Eliot (some collections*)
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Joseph Clark Grew
  • Houghton Mifflin Company
  • William Dean Howells
  • Iranian Oral History Project
  • James Family
  • James Laughlin
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Amy Lowell
  • New Directions Publishing Co.
  • Charles Sanders Peirce
  • Theodore Roosevelt Collection
  • L.E. Sissman
  • Andrei Sakharov Archives
  • Lev Trotsky
  • John Updike
  • Gore Vidal
  • Thomas Wolfe*
  • Marguerite Yourcenar
  • American Repertory Theatre archive (recordings and manuscripts)*
  • Costas Cacaroukas archive (photographs)
  • William and Jean Eckart archives (theatrical designs)
  • Robert Fletcher archive (theatrical designs)
  • Al Hirschfeld drawings and prints (including Melvin R. Seiden Collection)
  • George Hoyningen-Huene archive (photographs)
  • Alix Jeffry archive (photographs)
  • Frederick Kiesler archive (theatrical designs)
  • John Lindquist archive (photographs)
  • George Platt Lynes collection (photographs)
  • Angus McBean archive (photographs)
  • Joan Personette archive (theatrical costume designs)
  • Will Rapport archive (photographs and drawings)
  • Nicolai Sergeyev archive (manuscripts of dance notation)
  • Arks Smith archive (photographs)
  • Tobi Tobias archive (oral history of Danish Ballet)*

*There can be no reproduction or publication of material in these collections without advance permission from the copyright holder.

Permissions Quick Reference

Permission is NOT required to quote or reproduce:

  • Printed books, whether quotations or images (except if you are creating facsimile editions)
  • Excerpts from manuscripts, letters, or typescripts
  • Published or unpublished material used in conjunction with an oral presentation

Permission IS required to quote or reproduce:

  • Publications of the Harvard College Library, Houghton Library (including Harvard Library Bulletin), and the Harvard Theatre Collection
  • Material from the Library’s administrative files
  • Reproductions of post-1800 unpublished visual materials, such as drawings, paintings, and photographs, for which Houghton owns or administers the copyright as detailed on the above lists
  • Material on deposit
  • Collections for which stewardship agreements are in place, as detailed on the above lists

Permission IS also required to:

  • Publish facsimile editions of Houghton materials
  • Create articles, editorial projects, biographical and critical works that incorporate a substantial portion of a manuscript or the entire text of a letter

Citation Credit Lines

Houghton Library requires researchers to cite the collection name and/or the call number of a collection when quoting from or reproducing an item in library collections.  Images taken from Houghton collections should be captioned with information about the original source, and quotations should be footnoted.  In addition to traditional bibliographical citation, the library requires the following credit line:

[call number of item], Houghton Library, Harvard University
Manuscript Example:  MS Am 1452 (6), Houghton Library, Harvard University
Book Example: Typ 515.00.532, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Full Book Example:  Albert Flamen, Devises et emblesmes  d’amour moralisez.  Paris 1672, Typ 615.72.396, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Full Manuscript Example: Edward Lear Landscape Drawings, San Giovanni, MS Typ 55.26 (107), Houghton Library, Harvard University
Full Drawings Example: H. H. Richardson Architectural Drawings, Trinity Church, façade with apsidal ends, MS Typ 1096 (TC D213), Houghton Library, Harvard University

Other collections that require their own credit line:

Harry Elkins Widener Collection
[call number of item], Harry Elkins Widener Collection, Harvard University
Example: HEW 4.9.12, Harry Elkins Widener Collection, Harvard University

Harvard Theatre Collection
[call number of item], Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Book Example: TS 8502.88 1765, Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Manuscript Example: bMS Thr 411 (6), Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Series Example: TCS Photos 4 (Barrymore, Lionel), Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Theodore Roosevelt Collection
[call number of item], Theodore Roosevelt Collection
Manuscript Example: bMS Am 1785.7 (44), Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Visual Materials Example: 560.14-056, Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Harvard College Library

Woodberry Poetry Room
[call number of item], Woodberry Poetry Room, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Audio Recording Example: Plath, Sylvia. Poetry Reading, 13 June 1958, sponsored by Woodberry Poetry Room, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Please contact Houghton Public Services via e-mail for assistance with citation information and the call number for a source of a quotation or an image.

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