May 17, 2022

Arizona State University’s “Civic Classics Collection” of Rare Books and Manuscripts Made Accessible to the Public Online

From Arizona State University:

“The Federalist Papers,” a collection of short essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay in 1788, is one of the most well-known pro-Constitution writings. A first edition printing of this book, along with 23 other rare books and manuscripts related to significant figures, moments, ideas, debates and movements from American history, can be explored through Arizona State University’s Civic Classics Collection.

The collection, maintained by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, the Center for Political Thought and Leadership and ASU Library, covers a range of topics including the founding of America, political economy, race and America, civil rights history and activism, and first peoples.

Paul Carrese, founding director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, first established the collection in 2017 in collaboration with senior members of the university administration. Since then, the collection has grown to further research in American political thought and support civic education within and beyond the classroom.

Jakub Voboril, a postdoctoral scholar in the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, joined the project after the first handful of items were purchased and helps coordinate the school’s efforts with the library.

“We slowly began to collect items such as a first edition printing of ‘The Federalist;’ a first edition printing of Adam Smith’s ‘The Wealth of Nations;’ a contemporaneous printing of the Seneca Falls Declaration or Declaration of Sentiments printed in Frederick Douglass’ North Star newspaper; two signed, first edition books by Martin Luther King Jr.; a first edition printing of Frederick Douglass’ biography; and many more,” Voboril said.


Through the virtual guide, a number of materials from the collection have been made available online. On the website, users can explore different titles through videos, text, photographs, learning activities and more.

Over the years, countless ASU staff and faculty have contributed to the development of the collection and its associated online resources including library leaders Jim O’DonnellLorrie McAllister and Kathy Krzys, as well as Voboril and Carrese. Throughout the fall semester, three undergraduate students, Anusha Natarajan, Bronwyn Doebbeling and Kathryn Clark have also been helping to improve the virtual guide.

Julie Tanaka, who recently joined the library as curator of rare books and manuscripts and interim head of distinctive collections, said she looks forward to bringing her expertise in rare materials and teaching with special collections to enhance the programming already in place and to expand the use of the collection.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.