The Charvat Collection of American Literature is nationally recognized for its outstanding holdings of American fiction published from the eighteenth century to the present. Ohio State's holdings of American fiction published through 1900 are among the strongest in the nation, and are particularly strong for the period 1876-1900. The collection's holdings for the years 1901 - 1925 are rivaled only by those of the Library of Congress, and the holdings for 1926-1950 are being actively developed.

Prior to his death on 5 June 1966, William Charvat, professor of American literature at The Ohio State University, had been a guiding force in the development of the University Libraries' American fiction collection, an endeavor that paralleled his own research in nineteenth-century American culture.  Professor Charvat, the proleptic "new historian," studied the production of literary works, from manuscripts to finished, printed books, as creations dependent upon larger social, economic, and historical forces.  In recognition of his contribution to the conceptual development of the American fiction collection at the Ohio State University Libraries, library officials, in 1966, designated rare American fiction titles as the William Charvat American Literature Collection.

As a special collection, the Charvat collection, which, because of its comprehensiveness, differs in purpose from the Libraries' general collection, defines its importance as a research resource for the Ohio State community and a wider scholarly audience.

In August 1986, the OSU Libraries began to purchase current American fiction for the Charvat Collection. This is being done to ensure that the collection retains its status into the next century as a major resource for the study of American literary and cultural history. In particular, securing contemporary works of fiction in their original state (with dust jackets for example) in atmospherically controlled stacks ensures that the works will retain their bibliographic integrity for scholarly use in the decades ahead.

Understandably, some of today's library users will question the "non-circulating" status of recently published and very often popular works that public libraries acquire routinely. The mission of the Charvat collection, as a special collection in a research library, however, is profoundly different from that of a public library. Such special collections, by designation, are intended to meet the needs of scholars, now and in the future. Thus, the OSU Libraries, in placing a new novel in the Charvat collection, is attempting to guarantee to scholars that a given work as it was published (that is, unmarked and unmarred) will be available for research.

Please note: A search of the Libraries catalog may be limited to only special collections holdings on the Search page by selecting “Special Collections and Archives” in place of “Search Full Catalog”.