Emily Dickinson Collection
Scope and Contents
The Emily Dickinson Collection documents the creative work and personal life of Emily Dickinson, spanning her lifetime, from 1830 to 1886; her family and friends; and the early publication history of her work. The Collection also includes material from Dickinson scholars Mabel Loomis Todd, Millicent Todd Bingham, Jay Leyda, and others. The bulk of the material falls into the period 1850-1955. The Collection occupies approximately 21 linear feet of shelf space.
This collection includes original poems, manuscripts, and letters from Emily Dickinson to family and friends; images of the poet including the daguerreotype and silhouette; physical artifacts related to Emily Dickinson; manuscript transcriptions; printers' copies and proofs; Mabel Loomis Todd's correspondence, research indices, and writings; and material from or about Dickinson's friends and family, including correspondence, photographs, objects, and scrapbooks.
- Creation: 1840-2005
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1850-1955
Conditions Governing Access
Because of the fragile nature of these unique materials, access to original Dickinson manuscripts is extremely limited. High resolution images of all of the Dickinson manuscripts held by Amherst College are freely available online via Amherst College Digital Collections (
Conditions Governing Use
Requests for permission to publish material from the Collection should be directed to the Head of Archives and Special Collections. All of Dickinson's poems and letters published before 1923 are in the public domain. Permission to quote from the Johnson and Franklin editions should be directed to Office of Copyrights and Permissions, Harvard University Press, 79 Garden Street, Cambridge, Mass. 02138-1499 (tel. 617-495-2600; fax 617-496-4677). It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.
Biographical / Historical
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, on December 10, 1830 to Edward Dickinson (AC 1823) and Emily Norcross Dickinson. She attended Amherst Academy from 1840 to 1847, then enrolled at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary from 1847 to 1848. She remained in Amherst for the rest of her life, and traveled only briefly to Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
For virtually her entire adult life, Emily lived in the Dickinson home at 280 Main Street with her father, mother, and her younger sister, Lavinia, who Emily called "Vinnie." Her brother, (William) Austin (AC 1850) lived next door with his wife, Susan Huntington Gilbert, one of Emily's closest friends. Emily was very close to their three children, Ned (Edward) (AC 1884), Mattie (Martha), and Gib (Thomas Gilbert). After the death of her father in 1874 and her mother the following year, Emily remained in the family home, living alone with Vinnie. Emily died there on May 15, 1886, at the age of 55. Renowned for a severe reclusiveness that began when she was in her 20s, Dickinson maintained warm and close relationships with family and friends through the medium of letters, frequently containing poems. Some of her most frequent correspondents outside of her family were childhood friends Abiah Root and Emily Fowler (Ford); her friend and later sister-in-law, Susan Huntington Gilbert (Dickinson); Samuel Bowles, editor of the Springfield Republican; Reverend Charles Wadsworth, a minister and poet; Thomas Wentworth Higginson, writer and liberal activist; Josiah Gilbert and Elizabeth Chapin Holland; and Adelaide Spencer (Mrs. Henry) Hills. A significant correspondent around 1858-1861 was a mysterious love interest who Dickinson referred to as "Master." It is not clear who this person may have been or what form any relationship between them took - only three draft letters by Dickinson to "Master" are known. Another important person Dickinson's life was Judge Otis Phillips Lord, with whom Dickinson had a romantic relationship starting in the late 1870s until his death in 1884.
Although Emily and Lavinia were very close, and Lavinia was aware that Emily wrote poetry, she was not aware of the extent of her sister's writing. Upon Emily's death, Lavinia discovered how prolific and talented her sister had been when she found 1,775 poems in Emily's bureau drawer. Emily wrote some 1,789 poems, some contained in letters to friends and family, some sewn together in little bundles called fascicles that Emily stored in her drawers, some written on scraps of paper like shopping lists or envelope flaps. Lavinia preserved the poems she found, distributing them between Mabel Loomis Todd and Susan Dickinson, but destroyed all of Emily's correspondence in accord with her sister's previously expressed wishes.
Within 10 years of Emily's death, three volumes of her poetry and two volumes of her letters were published by Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd, a woman with whom Austin had a long-term affair during his marriage to Susan. Emily Dickinson's niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi (Austin's daughter), also helped to publish her aunt's poetry beginning in 1914.
It was not until 1955, when Harvard published The Poems of Emily Dickinson edited by Thomas Johnson, that all of Dickinson's poetry was available in a single source. In 1960, Jay Leyda published The Years and Hours of Emily Dickinson, a chronological documentation of the events in the lives of Emily Dickinson and her family and friends. In 1998, Ralph W. Franklin, published The Poems of Emily Dickinson, which documents revisions and different versions of the poet's work.
Unknown during her lifetime, Emily Dickinson is known today as one of the world's most important and loved poets of all-time, in any language.
EMILY DICKINSON CHRONOLOGY
- Samuel Fowler Dickinson builds the "Homestead" on Main Street.
- Samuel Fowler Dickinson serves on the building committee and provides major financial support for the construction of the first Amherst College building, South College.
- 1828 May 6
- Edward Dickinson (AC 1823) and Emily Norcross marry.
- 1829 Apr 16
- (William) Austin Dickinson (AC 1850), Emily's brother, born in Amherst, Massachusetts.
- 1830 Dec 10
- Emily Elizabeth Dickinson born in Amherst, Massachusetts.
- 1833 Feb 28
- Lavinia Norcross Dickinson, Emily's sister, born in Amherst, Massachusetts.
- 1835 Aug 4
- Edward Dickinson appointed Treasurer of Amherst College.
- 1835 Sep 7
- Emily Dickinson begins studying at primary school.
- 1840 Apr
- Dickinson family moves from the Homestead to a house on West Street (later North Pleasant Street)
- 1840 Sep 7
- Emily Dickinson begins studies at Amherst Academy.
- 1844 May-Jun
- Emily Dickinson visits relatives in Boston following the death of her friend Sophia Holland.
- Emily Dickinson silhouette cut by Charles Temple (AC1845), her former French instructor at Amherst Academy.
- 1846 Aug-Sep
- Emily Dickinson travels to Boston for her health.
- 1846 Dec 10-ca. 1847 late Mar
- Emily Dickinson daguerreotype made by William C. North, "Daguerrian Artist," in Amherst.
- 1847 Aug
- Emily Dickinson graduates from Amherst Academy.
- 1847 Sep
- Emily Dickinson begins at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary.
- 1848 Aug
- Emily Dickinson withdraws from Mount Holyoke and returns home to Amherst.
- 1850 Feb
- "Magnum bonum" published for Valentines day in The Indicator, an Amherst College student publication.
- 1851 Sep 6-22
- Emily Dickinson and Lavinia Dickinson visit Boston.
- 1852 Feb 20
- "Sic transit gloria mundi" published by the Springfield Republican under the title "A Valentine."
- 1852 Dec 17
- Edward Dickinson elected Representative to Congress.
- 1855 [Feb-Mar]
- Emily Dickinson and Lavinia Dickinson travel to Washington, D.C.
- 1855 [Mar 4]
- Emily Dickinson meets the Reverend Charles Wadsworth in Philadelphia.
- 1855 Nov
- Emily Norcross Dickinson, the poet's mother, becomes ill.
- 1855 Nov
- Dickinson family moves back to the Homestead.
- 1856 Jul 1
- William Austin Dickinson marries Susan Huntington Gilbert.
- Emily Dickinson begins recording poems in fascicles (sewn packets).
- 1858 Spring
- Emily Dickinson drafts the first surviving "Master" letter (AC no. 827).
- 1858 Aug 2
- "Nobody knows this little rose" published by the Springfield Republican under the title "To Mrs. ----, with a Rose. [Surreptitiously communicated to The Republican.]"
- 1860 [Mar]
- Reverend Charles Wadsworth visits Emily Dickinson in Amherst.
- 1861 Early
- Emily Dickinson drafts second surviving "Master" letter (AC no. 829).
- 1861 May 4
- "I taste a liquor never brewed" published by the Springfield Republican under the title "The May-Wine."
- 1861 June 19
- Austin and Susan Dickinson's first child, Edward Austin (Ned) (AC 1884), is born.
- 1861 Summer
- Emily Dickinson drafts third surviving "Master" letter (AC no. 828).
- 1862 Mar 1
- "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers" published by the Springfield Republican under the title "The Sleeping."
- 1862 Apr
- Emily Dickinson begins corresponding with writer and liberal activist Thomas Wentworth Higginson.
- 1864 Mar
- "Flowers - Well - if anybody" published by Drum Beat, Springfield Republican and Boston Post under the title "Flowers"
- 1864 Mar 11
- "These are the days when birds come back" published by Drum Beat under the title "October."
- 1864 Mar 12
- "Some keep the Sabbath Going to Church" published by the Round Table under the title "My Sabbath."
- 1864 Feb, Mar
- "Blazing in Gold, and Quenching in Purple" published by Drum Beat and the Springfield Republican under the title "Sunset."
- 1864 Apr 27
- "Success is counted sweetest" published by the Brooklyn Daily Union.
- 1864 Apr-Nov
- Emily Dickinson in Boston for eye treatment.
- 1864 May 13
- Austin Dickinson drafted to fight in the Civil War; he pays $500 for a substitute.
- 1865 [Apr]
- Emily Dickinson returns to Boston for eye treatment.
- 1866 Feb 14, 17
- "A narrow fellow in the grass" published by the Springfield Republican under the title "The Snake."
- 1866 Nov 29
- Susan and Austin Dickinson's second child, Martha Gilbert (Mattie), is born.
- 1870 Aug 16
- Thomas Wentworth Higginson visits Emily Dickinson in Amherst.
- 1872 Jul 10
- Edward Dickinson resigns as Treasurer of Amherst College, Austin Dickinson succeeds him as Treasurer in 1873.
- 1873 Dec 3
- Thomas Wentworth Higginson visits Emily Dickinson for a second time.
- 1874 Jun 16
- Edward Dickinson dies.
- 1875 Jun 15
- Emily Norcross Dickinson is paralyzed.
- 1875 Aug 1
- Susan and Austin Dickinson's third child, Thomas Gilbert (Gib), is born.
- 1877 June 28
- Samuel Bowles visits Emily Dickinson in Amherst.
- 1878 Nov 20
- "Success is counted sweetest" published in A Masque of Poets.
- 1880 [Aug]
- Reverend Charles Wadsworth visits Emily Dickinson in Amherst.
- 1880 Aug-Sep
- Judge Otis Lord and nieces visit Amherst.
- 1880 Dec 25
- Judge Otis Lord gives Emily Dickinson Complete Concordance to Shakspere.
- 1881 Apr
- Judge Otis Lord guest at The Evergreens.
- 1882 Apr 1
- Reverend Charles Wadsworth dies.
- 1882 Apr 16
- Judge Otis Lord visits Emily Dickinson in Amherst.
- 1882 May 1
- Judge Otis Lord critically ill.
- 1882 Nov 14
- Emily Norcross Dickinson dies.
- 1883 Oct 5
- Thomas Gilbert (Gib), Emily Dickinson's nephew, dies at the age of eight of typhoid fever.
- 1884 Mar 15
- Judge Otis Lord dies.
- 1886 May 15
- Emily Dickinson dies.
- 1886 May 19
- Emily Dickinson's funeral in The Homestead library.
- 1890 Nov 12
- Poems, the first published volume of Emily Dickinson's poetry, edited by Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd, is published by Roberts Brothers.
- 1891 Nov 19
- The second series of Poems, edited by Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd, is published by Roberts Brothers.
- 1894 Nov 21
- Letters of Emily Dickinson in 2 volumes, edited by Mabel Loomis Todd, is published by Roberts Brothers.
- 1895 Aug 16
- William Austin Dickinson dies.
- 1896 Sep 1
- Mabel Loomis Todd edits the third series of Poems, published by Roberts Brothers.
- 1896 Nov 16
- Lavinia Dickinson files a suit against Mabel Loomis Todd over a piece of land she had earlier deeded to the Todds at Austin's request. The case is decided in Lavinia's favor.
- 1899 Aug 31
- Lavinia Dickinson dies.
- 1903 Jul 19
- Martha Dickinson marries Alexander Emmanuel Bianchi, known as "Count Bianchi," of Russia at the Church of the Russian Embassy in Dresden, Germany.
- 1913 May 12
- Susan Dickinson dies.
- The Single Hound, edited by Martha Dickinson Bianchi, is published by Little, Brown and Company.
- The Life and Letters of Emily Dickinson, edited by Martha Dickinson Bianchi, is published by Jonathan Cape.
- The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Martha Dickinson Bianchi and Alfred Leete Hampson, is published by Little, Brown and Company.
- Further Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Martha Dickinson Bianchi, is published by Little, Brown and Company.
- Letters of Emily Dickinson, edited by Mabel Loomis Todd, is published by Harper Brothers.
- Emily Dickinson Face to Face: Unpublished Letters with Notes and Reminiscences by Martha Dickinson Bianchi is published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
- 1932 Oct 14
- Mabel Loomis Todd dies.
- Unpublished Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Martha Dickinson Bianchi and Alfred Leete Hampson, is published by Little, Brown and Company.
- Poems by Emily Dickinson, edited by Martha Dickinson Bianchi and Alfred Leete Hampson, is published by Little, Brown and Company.
- 1943 Dec 21
- Martha Dickinson Bianchi dies. She bequeaths The Evergreens to Alfred Leete Hampson, it later passes into the hands of his widow, Mary Landis Hampson.
- Bolts of Melody: New Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Mabel Loomis Todd and Millicent Todd Bingham, is published by Harper and Brothers.
- Ancestors' Brocades by Millicent Todd Bingham is published by Harper and Brothers.
- Emily Dickinson's Letters to Dr. And Mrs. Josiah Gilbert Holland, edited by Theodora Van Wagenen Ward, is published by Harvard University Press.
- Emily Dickinson: A Revelation by Millicent Todd Bingham is published by Harper and Brothers.
- The Poems of Emily Dickinson in 3 volumes, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, is published by Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
- Emily Dickinson's Home by Millicent Todd Bingham is published by Harper and Brothers.
- 1956 Mar 23
- Millicent Todd Bingham donates the majority of the Emily Dickinson Collection material to Amherst College. The donation includes 850 poems and fragments, 350 letters, publication material, and objects, including the Dickinson daguerreotype and silhouette.
- The Letters of Emily Dickinson in 3 volumes, edited by Thomas H. Johnson and Theodora Ward, is published by Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
- The Years and Hours of Emily Dickinson by Jay Leyda is published by Yale University Press.
- 1965 Jan
- Amherst College purchases the Dickinson Homestead.
- 1965 Dec 1
- Millicent Todd Bingham dies.
- 1983 Apr 18
- A lock of Emily Dickinson's hair and letter to Emily Fowler (AC no. 72) are given to Amherst College by William R. Bailey in memory of his mother, Gillian Barr Bailey, and in the name of himself and his brothers and sisters.
- The Master Letters of Emily Dickinson, edited by R. W. Franklin, is published by Amherst College Press.
- 1988 Jan 3
- Mary Landis Hampson, the last owner of The Evergreens, dies.
- The ownership of The Evergreens passes to the Martha Dickinson Bianchi Trust. The trust was established by Mary Landis Hampson in her will to preserve The Evergreens as a cultural resource.
- The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Variorum Edition, edited by Ralph W. Franklin, is published by Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
- Emily Dickinson: A Letter is published by Amherst College Press. It is republished with a revised introduction in 2006.
- 2003 Jan
- The Martha Dickinson Bianchi Trust transfers ownership of The Evergreens to Amherst College. The Emily Dickinson Museum is created, composed of The Homestead and The Evergreens.
- 2006 Dec
- Three additional Dickinson manuscripts and an envelope (Ms. 53-56) are given to Amherst College by Thomas Michie.
This chronology was adapted from The Cambridge Companion to Emily Dickinson, edited by Wendy Martin; The Life of Emily Dickinson by Richard Sewall; and Archives and Special Collections files.
21 Linear feet (24 archives boxes, 8 half archives boxes, 8 oversize boxes, 6 objects)
Language of Materials
The collection documents the creative work and personal life of Emily Dickinson, spanning her lifetime, from 1830 to 1886; her family and friends; and the early publication history of her work. It also includes material from Dickinson scholars Mabel Loomis Todd, Millicent Todd Bingham, Jay Leyda, and others. The collection includes original poems, manuscripts, and letters from Dickinson to family and friends; images of the poet, including the daguerreotype and silhouette; physical artifacts related to Dickinson; manuscript transcriptions; printers' copies and proofs; Mabel Loomis Todd's correspondence, research indices, and writings; and material from or about Dickinson's friends and family, including correspondence, photographs, objects, and scrapbooks.
This collection is organized into seven series:
- Series 1: Poems and Letters
- Series 2: Publications and Production Material
- Series 3: Objects, Artifacts, and Realia
- Series 4: Family and Friends
- Series 5: Biographical and Genealogical Material
- Series 6: Millicent Todd Bingham Material
- Series 7: Collection-Related Material
Since material in the Collection had been rearranged before it was received, there is no evidence of original order. The majority of the manuscripts were organized, listed and numbered by Jay Leyda prior to donation in 1956. After donation to Amherst, the manuscripts remained in the order given by Leyda and researchers used a card catalogue system created by him for access to the materials. Between 1999 and 2006, the Collection was reviewed and arranged and described following current archival standards, while maintaining the previous Leyda manuscript numbers. The result is more detailed access to information in all parts of the Collection. When possible, documentation about previous handling was maintained.
Emily Dickinson poems and transciptions in this collection are described by first line appearing on the item, even if the line has been identified as a portion from a larged Dickinson poem.
History of the Collection and its Organization
The majority of the materials in the Emily Dickinson Collection were given to the College on March 23, 1956, by Millicent Todd Bingham, the daughter of David Peck Todd (AC 1875) and Mabel Loomis Todd, and herself a Dickinson scholar and editor. The original collection consisted of 850 poems and fragments of poems; 350 letters, notes, and drafts to and from family and friends; the daguerreotype and silhouette of Emily Dickinson; and the extensive correspondence and publication material of Mabel Loomis Todd and Millicent Todd Bingham. The majority of the Dickinson manuscripts were given to Mabel Loomis Todd by Lavinia Dickinson after her sister's death. Others were gathered by Todd from Dickinson's correspondents through personal request and a number of well publicized efforts to gather Dickinson material. Millicent Todd Bingham inherited these from her mother. The remainder of the materials in the collection came to Amherst College from various sources beginning in 1936 and continuing to the present.
Information About Books Owned, Inscribed or Attributed to Ownership by Dickinson
Archives and Special Collections owns a number of books that were owned, inscribed by or attributed to the ownership of Emily Dickinson. The books are listed below; additional information is available through the Amherst College Library catalog.
These three books bear inscriptions by Emily Dickinson:
- Virgil, Publii Virgilii Maronis Opera, or, The Works of Virgil. New York: N. and J. White, 1838. (PS1541.Z9 V5)
- Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, Aurora Leigh. New York, Boston: C. S. Francis, 1859. (PR 4185 .A1 1859)
- Browning, Robert, Men and Women. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1866. (RBR D56Za Bro)
These seven books bear no mark of Dickinson's ownership but were found standing on the same shelf with two books bearing her inscription:
- Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, Essays on the Greek Christian Poets and the English Poets. New York: James Miller, 1863. (RBR D65Za Br Es)
- Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, Last Poems. New York: James Miller, 1864. (RBR D56Za Br L)
- Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. New York: E. S. Francis, 1861 (RBR D56Za Br Po)
- Jameson, Anna Brownell, Memoirs of the loves of the poets. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1857. (RBR D56Za Ja M)
- Jameson, Anna Brownell, Studies, stories, and memoirs. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1859. (RBR) D56Za Ja St)
- Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, Poems. Boston, Ticknor and Fields, 1861. (RBR D56Za Lo)
- Whittier, John Greenleaf, The Poetical Works. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1861. (RBR D56Za Wh)
- Daria D'Arienzo, Head of Archives and Special Collections
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Digitized collection available at Amherst College Digital Collections
- Consecrated Eminence. "The Sweetest Jurisprudence." 2012 February. Blog post.
- Consecrated Eminence. "Judge Otis P. Lord, Cartoonist." 2012 March. Blog post.
- Consecrated Eminence. "Digital Dickinson." 2013 January. Blog post.
- Consecrated Eminence. "CAUTION: Emily Dickinson Minutiae Ahead." 2013 May. Blog post
- Consecrated Eminence. "Manuscript fragments and organ recitals." 2013 August. Blog post.
- Consecrated Eminence. "Harbingers of Springtime". 2014 April. Blog post.
- Consecrated Eminence. "A Gorgeous Something". 2014 April. Blog post.
- Consecrated Eminence. "This is the day when birds come back…". 2017 June. Blog post.
- Consecrated Eminence. "Wild Nights". 2019 May. Blog post.