You Can See What Books Louisa May Alcott Checked Out at the Athenaeum

They'll be on display on Monday, November 2.

louisa may alcott

Louisa May Alcott’s charging book / Photo courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum

Your interactions with Louisa May Alcott have been limited, for the most part. You’re able to read her books and stroll by her Beacon Hill home, but that’s about it.

On Monday, you can go a step further and see the exact copies of books Alcott took out while she was a member at the Boston Athenaeum. Caroline D. Bain Archivist & Reference Librarian Carolle Morini recently shed light on the record of Alcott’s membership—her book borrowing privileges were given in 1871. Last year, Morini found the list of books Alcott checked out.

“Then I looked to see if we actually had these titles still,” explains Morini. “And we do.”

Most of these books are still on the Athenaeum’s time-honored shelves, and will be on display from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on November 2. Morini says that Alcott was living across the street at a hotel during the time she was a member, making it easy for her to peruse the stacks.

What kind of books was Alcott checking out? Ones we’ve never heard of.

“Many of these books aren’t popular today,” says Morini.

When she saw the name Melville on the list, Morini assumed it was Herman Melville. But it’s actually a guy named George John Whyte-Melville. So Alcott wasn’t exactly checking out any classics. 

Other books on Alcott’s charging record include Why Paul Ferroll Killed His Wife and Tom Pippins’ Wedding.

Author John Matteson will be present at Monday’s event, featuring The Annotated Little Women, his reimagining of Alcott’s Little Women, with more than 200 full-color illustrations and unique photographs.

Free and open to the public, Monday, November 2, 12 p.m.-1p.m., Boston Athenaeum, 10 ½ Beacon Street,