University of Notre Dame


Hesburgh Libraries

Rare Books & Special Collections

Guide to the Louisa May Alcott Collection

MSN/MN 3010


Collection Summary

Title: Louisa May Alcott collection
Dates: 1879-1887
Collection No.: MSN/MN 3010
Creator: Alcott, Louisa May (1832-1888)
Extent: 4 items; 1 container; 1 linear inch
Language: Collection material in English
Repository: University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh Libraries, Department of Special Collections. 102 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Abstract: This small collection consists of one letter written by Louisa May Alcott, one letter written on her behalf by her London publisher, one inscribed photographic portrait, and one page from the manuscript of the novel, Jack and Jill: a Village Story.

Selected Search Terms

Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888
Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888--Correspondence
Novelists, American--19th century--Correspondence
American literature--19th century
Copyright, International

Administrative Information

Restrictions: There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], Louisa May Alcott Collection, [Collection and folder no.], Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.

Acquisition and Processing Note: The circumstances surrounding the acquisition of this collection by the Hesburgh Libraries are not known. Arranged and described by George Rugg. Finding aid 2014, by Kenneth Kinslow.

Biographical Note

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) is the American writer best known for her novel Little Women and such sequels as Little Men and Jo's Boys. Although she was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, she grew up in Boston and Concord, and among the close family friends were: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, and other leading intellectuals of the day. Because of the family's financial difficulties, she worked at a variety of jobs including: seamstress, governess, teacher, and domestic servant. However, she also profited from the advanced educational theories of her father Amos Bronson Alcott and the intellectual atmosphere created by the family's circle of friends and acquaintances. Her parents encouraged her writing, which soon began appearing in journals and which gradually became an important revenue stream for the family.

Because she wrote such books as Little Women and edited such monthlies as Merry's Museum for young readers, Louisa May Alcott was long considered a children's author. However, toward the latter part of the 20th century, scholars began paying more attention to her sensational stories and novels which were published anonymously or under such pseudonyms as A. M. Barnard. Though none of these works can be considered outstanding, they reveal Alcott's understanding of literary techniques and conventions, characterization and plot, and her use of detail and vernacular speech to provide a realistic picture of New England life. They also indicated her strong interest in such important issues of the day as: abolition, educational reform, temperance, and women's rights. Though still revered for a handful of juvenile classics, a more complete picture of Louisa May Alcott has emerged.

Scope and Content Note

The collection includes 4 items: 1 letter written by Louisa May Alcott; another letter written on her behalf by her London publisher, an inscribed photograph, and finally a page from the manuscript for the novel Jack and Jill: A Village Story.

Arrangement Note

Materials are arranged one item per folder.

Related Material

The primary collections of Louisa May Alcott's papers are at the Houghton Library at Harvard; the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts; the Boston Public Library; and the Clifton Waller Barrett Library, Manuscript Division, at the University of Virginia.

Container List

  • Letter. Louisa May Alcott, n.p., to "Dear Miss Warren," n.p., n.d. Folder 1 (MSN/MN 3010-1).
    ALS, 2 pages on 1 folded sheet.
    Folder includes a typed transcription of the original letter, the script of which is slightly faded.
    • Letter. Sampson Low Marston Company, London, to Roberts Brothers, Boston, 1887 April 23. Folder 2 (MSN/MN 3010-2).
      ALS, 3 pages on 1 folded sheet.
      This letter sent on behalf of Louisa May Alcott by her London publisher has reference to a Canadian edition of Jo's Boys.
      • Photograph. Louisa May Alcott, 1887 December 31. Folder 3 (MSN/MN 3010-3).
        1 b/w print, 4 x 3 in. on 9 x 6.5 in.
        Credit: A. W. Elson Co. Boston.
        This studio portrait is inscribed: "I am quite chipper and hope soon to be let out for a holyday [sic]. Your old friend L. M. Alcott." The person to whom Alcott gave the picture is not known.
        • Manuscript leaf. Louisa May Alcott, 1879. Folder 4 (MSN/MN 3010-4).
          AMs, 1 page on 1 sheet.
          This single leaf is from a holograph manuscript of Jack and Jill: A Village Story, which was first serialized in St. Nicholas and then published in book form in the fall of 1880. Since leaves of this same manuscript are included in other library collections and sometimes appear on dealer websites, Alcott scholars believe that the manuscript was broken up and its leaves sold piecemeal. The text itself comes from Chapter 8, entitled "Merry and Molly," with only one minor discrepancy between the manuscript page and the serialization as well as the first book edition.