In 2019 Grinnell College acquired and moved the Des Moines Salisbury House’s library collection of nearly 5,000 rare books and historic documents to Burling Library. Grinnell College and Salisbury House continue to collaborate with exhibits and events. The collection is open to researchers in the Burling Library Special Collections and Archives reading room. In 2021, the College is acquiring a rare book scanner and digitizing material to be accessible online at Digital Grinnell. Ongoing exhibits and events featuring the collection are open to the campus community and visitors.
Among the rare items in the collection are:
- Medieval manuscripts and early printing examples
- Galley proofs of Tales Told of Shem and Shaun, the working title of Finnegans Wake, with handwritten edits by James Joyce; and a 1935 limited edition of Joyce’s Ulysses with original illustrations by Henri Matisse
- Signed books and documents by King Louis XVI and the Marquis de Lafayette, Queen Elizabeth I, John Hancock, Joshua Reynolds, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Cardinal Richelieu, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and many other renowned individuals
- The Kelmscott Chaucer, printed on handmade paper by Kelmscott Press in 1896, which contains many of Geoffrey Chaucer’s works and 87 woodcut illustrations by Victorian painter Edward Burne-Jones
- Correspondence between Salisbury House owner and builder Carl Weeks and prominent authors such as D. H. Lawrence and Ernest Hemingway