Marsh Print & Book Collection Purchased




Date: September 11, 1849


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The Smithsonian purchases a collection of prints and fine books on art from George Perkins Marsh, a member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents. This is the first purchase made for the art department. There are thirteen hundred European engravings and three hundred reference works in the collection, which is placed on display in the library and attracts interest "not from undiscriminating idlers, but from men of taste and particularly from artists." It is the first collection purchased for the Smithsonian and among the earliest exhibits at the Institution.


  • Marsh, George Perkins 1801-1882
  • National Collections
  • National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.) Division of Graphic Arts
  • Board of Regents


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Portrait of Geoge Perkins Marsh, c. 1860. Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative number 2002-32243.
  • Quotation is from Charles Coffin Jewett, Smithsonian Annual Report for 1850, p. 29.
  • Rathbun, Richard. National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1916, p. 54.
  • Wright, Helena E. The Smithsonian in Cincinnati: Exhibiting Prints at the Ohio Valley Centennial Exposition, 1888. In Art as Image: Prints and Promotion in Cincinnati, Ohio, edited by Alice M. Cornell. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2001, pp. 131-165, 214-222.
  • Joseph Henry to Edward Foreman, September 10, 1849, in The Papers of Joseph Henry, vol. 7, The Smithsonian Years: January 1847-December 1849, Marc Rothenberg, et al, eds., Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1996, pp. 602-604.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


September 11, 1849


  • Acquisitions
  • Graphic arts
  • Art
  • Firsts
  • Accessions
  • Collectors and collecting
  • Museums
  • History
  • Regents
  • Art--History
  • Art objects
  • Museums--Acquisitions
  • Prints

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