Houghton Library

Houghton Library Reproductions and Permissions


All requests for copies are considered on a case-by-case basis.  If an item can be duplicated, Public Services staff will provide the patron with a cost estimate.

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, digital images created from patron requests will be incorporated into the catalog record or finding aid and made available to public.  To determine if an object has been partially or wholly digitized, please consult the catalog record or finding aid: http://hollis.harvard.edu/.  To see Harvard Library’s policy regarding the use of digital images in the public domain openly available online, please visit: https://osc.hul.harvard.edu/pdpolicy.  

Houghton Library offers patrons the option of ordering reference copies or higher resolution images for publication

Ordering Images

Reference Copies

  • Requests totaling more than 15 pages will be processed by Harvard Library Imaging Services.  
  • Requests for whole items that are in the public domain will be processed as scans and delivered via web link.
  • Requests for unique (manuscripts) objects that are currently under copyright will be scanned delivered as paper copies.  The library retains the scans for preservation. 
  • Requests for scattered pages from manuscripts or books will be processed as paper copies and delivered by post.
  • If the duplication of the greater part of an item is requested, the entire item must be duplicated.
  • The duplication of uncataloged manuscript collections and printed material under copyright may be restricted.  
  • If the library holds negative microfilm of an item or collection, readers may obtain a positive film copy of the entire reel.

Images for Publication

  • Houghton Library will provide up to ten high resolution TIFFs of material already digitized and available online through the Harvard Library catalog at no cost.
  • For material not previously digitized, Harvard Library Imaging Services will create high resolution images in TIFF format delivered either electronically or on a flash drive.
  • Permission to publish, when required, must be requested online. For guidance, please see Permission to Quote or Reproduce Houghton Library Materials.

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Permission to publish material from Houghton collections


Houghton Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of most collection material (a few exceptions are listed below), nor does it charge permission or use fees.

Permission may be needed from other copyright holders or executors. See Copyright for more information.


Please cite all material referenced, quoted, or reproduced with the following citation format:

[Call number]. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

For example, a photograph reproduced from the Henry James papers would be cited as:
MS Am 1094 (2245). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

When to Contact the Library

Please notify the library if you plan to publish facsimile editions of Houghton materials, and for articles, editorial projects, biographical and critical works that incorporate a substantial portion of a manuscript and/or collection. The library may wish to receive a copy of such works for its records.

Researchers must notify the library when publishing images of or quoting from the collections listed below.

The list includes the major collections for which these conditions apply, but it is not exhaustive. Please email the library with any questions, houghton_library@harvard.edu.

  • American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM)
  • American Repertory Theatre Production Videos
  • Thomas Bouchard
  • Emily Dickinson
  • T.S. Eliot (some collections*)
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Joseph Clark Grew
  • Iranian Oral History Project
  • Alix Jeffry
  • Frederick Kiesler
  • John Lindquist archive
  • Amy Lowell
  • Angus McBean archive
  • L.E. Sissman
  • Andrei Sakharov Archives
  • Arks Smith
  • Tobi Tobias
  • Gore Vidal
  • Thomas Wolfe*

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


The vast majority of Houghton material is either in the public domain or under copyrights not controlled by Houghton. For material that is protected by copyright, certain uses (including but not limited to quoting, publishing, performing, and reproducing) may require permission from the copyright holder(s). When required, it is the researcher’s responsibility to obtain such permissions.

The following resources may be helpful in this regard:

  • Columbia University’s Copyright Advisory Office includes an overview of copyright law, including fair use, as it applies to research and teaching.
  • Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States, published by the Cornell Copyright Information Center can help researchers to determine if a work is in the public domain.
  • Several online resources can be useful in finding the current copyright holder of a work, and requesting licensing permission if it is required:
    • The WATCH File (Writers, Artists, and Their Copyright Holders) maintained by the Harry Ransom Center and the University of Reading is a database of copyright contacts for writers, artists, and prominent figures in other creative fields.
    • Artists Rights Society is a copyright, licensing and monitoring organization for visual artists in the United States.
    • DACS is a visual artists’ rights management organization in the United Kingdom.‚Äč
    • The ADAGP is a French collective which monitors copyright in the visual arts.
    • ASCAP and BMI are performing rights organizations which license and collect royalties for musical works.

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