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History and Holdings of the Library

This digital collection comprises an annotated and illustrated bibliography of the libraries of the Oneida Community (OC) from both the Mansion House at Oneida, New York, and the satellite branch at Wallingford, Connecticut. The library of the OC is one of the only intact, in-situ library collections of a nineteenth-century American intentional community. The Oneida Community Mansion House holds approximately four thousand publications belonging to the OC. Rooted in the theology of Perfectionism, the OC is also known for its practice of bible communism, complex marriage, and stirpiculture (eugenics). Additionally, OC founder John Humphrey Noyes encouraged members to attain perfection by reading, writing, and participating in other intellectually-stimulating activities. The OC library reflects the Community's expansive interests and commitment to intellectual freedom, in stark contrast to many of its communitarian peers. Taken as a whole, the collection provides insight into one of the most radical social movements of the nineteenth-century United States.

Dating from 1677 to 1881 (and additional publications as late as 1905 that demonstrate cultural continuity with the communal era), the publications in the OC collection represent a number of genres, including literature, theology, self-improvement, history, science, and politics. The OC's openness to other innovative movements is evidenced by the presence of Perfectionist, Spiritualist, Fourierist, Shaker, Moravian, Mormon, and "free love" publications in its library. Approximately two-thirds of the publications in the collection contain manuscript markings, ownership inscriptions, annotations, and drawings. Many also contain bookplates and inserted materials, such as calendars, handbills, calling cards, and photographs. Study of the publications in the OC library, and their marginalia, offers a new avenue for scholarship about the Community, its members, and their everyday struggles to attain perfection.