Although most of the librarys 5,000 linear feet of manuscripts and archives relate directly to Essex County, as a result of the areas maritime connections, the records are global in scope.
The collection includes:
- Letters, financial papers, diaries, account books, logbooks, and records that provide insight into nearly every facet of the country's history. These documents support research in fields from maritime, literary, and religious history to abolition, women's rights, medicine, music, public, and private philanthropy.
- Business and personal papers of financier George Peabody; writers Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Lucy Larcom; merchant families such as the Derbys and the Crowninshields; naval architect Josiah Fox; shipbuilders Fernald and Petigrew; and the architectural drawings of Samuel McIntire and William G. Rantoul.
- Other documents include unpublished sermons of local ministers; the records of local churches, militias, clubs, hospitals, libraries, schools, voluntary societies, and municipal governments.
*View the partial manuscript collection list for the Phillips Library [PDF format].
- Court Records: The library retains on deposit the records of the Essex County Courts from 1636 to 1820, including the Essex County Quarterly Court, General Sessions of the Peace, and Court of Common Pleas, as well as those of the special Court of Oyer and Terminer that heard the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials.
- Customhouse Records: A detailed picture of the shipping trade in 19th century Massachusetts is provided in the complete records of the Newburyport Federal Customhouse from 1789 to 1910. These documents are augmented by the microfilmed customhouse records for Salem and Marblehead.
- Probate Records: From all over the world, descendants of Essex County residents contact the Library to locate their ancestors wills and disposition of their estates. Essex County Probate Court records from 1636 to 1914 are available on microfilm, making it possible to trace the history of a piece of land, or trace the provenance of a piece of furniture or a painting.
- Maritime Records: In addition to the customhouse records, more than 3000 logbooks record voyages to all parts of the world between 1729 and 1961. Covering every aspect of life at sea, foreign ports, trade, and cargo, some of them also include sketches and paintings.