About The Kerlan Collection

Dr. Irvin Kerlan

Dr. Irvin Kerlan

The Kerlan Collection of Children’s Literature stands at the forefront of children’s literature archives worldwide. An internationally recognized children’s literature library and archive, The Kerlan holds more than 100,000 children’s books, original manuscripts, correspondence, artworks, galleys, color proofs, and other material for more than 1,700 authors and illustrators. Open to the public, The Kerlan is a rich resource for researchers, educators, families, and all who love children’s literature.

The Kerlan Collection was established in the 1940s by University of Minnesota alumnus Dr. Irvin Kerlan (1912-1963), medical research chief at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He collected rare books as a hobby and soon turned to children’s books. Dr. Kerlan chose what was best and representative of each current year and — when he could afford it — bought children’s classics and past Newbery winners.

It was not long before Dr. Kerlan took his collection one step further, pursuing the background material that went into making the books. He wrote letters to authors and illustrators, and they replied by forwarding their original manuscripts, artwork, and selected correspondence with editors and children.

From his collection, Dr. Kerlan organized exhibitions and shipped them to libraries and art galleries in North America, Europe, and the Far East. In 1949, he made arrangements with the University of Minnesota, his alma mater, to provide a permanent home for his collection. He died in a traffic accident in 1963.

The Kerlan Collection is a truly rich resource for researchers, educators, children’s literature creators, and all who love children’s literature. Today, The Kerlan continues to grow with materials from contemporary authors and illustrators.

“When I visited the Kerlan, seeing a school group of kids. They were giggling, there was chatter, there was discovery, there was excitement. I stood back for a moment and I watched these young people, and I thought these are the curators of tomorrow, the children’s book authors of tomorrow, the illustrators, the teachers, the lawmakers, the thought leaders of tomorrow, and right now, today, they are being informed about children’s literature, the creators of children’s books. ”

—Andrea Pinkney, award-winning author of books for children and young adults, including “Sit-in: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down.”

Selected collections within The Kerlan

John P. Borger Comic Book Collection

A life-long collector of comic books, John Borger donated more than 40,000 to the University of Minnesota, along with science-fiction and fantasy novels, comic anthologies, and comic-related magazines. In addition, the James E. and Deborah S. Nicholson Comic Book Collection has about 1,200 Marvel and DC Comics.

Denis R. Rogers — Edward S. Ellis Collection

About 1,100 hardcover books by Edward S. Ellis, giant of the American dime, pulp, and series novel genre, and a few contemporaries, along with European editions, 60 series, and 57 periodicals were collected by Denis R. Rogers.

George Hess Collection

About 100,000 examples of inexpensive popular literature from the 19th and 20th centuries, such as dime novels, series, Big Little Books, pulps, and comic books, make the Hess Collection one of the largest pulp collections in North America.

Laura J. Musser Oz Collection

The Laura J. Musser Oz collection includes books, fan fiction, and other L. Frank Baum-related materials.

The Paul Bunyan Collection

The Paul Bunyan Collection contains books, manuscripts, pamphlets, newspaper clippings, drawings, photos, phonograph records, and other memorabilia.

The Lionel Johnson Collections

The Lionel Johnson Collections include numerous editions of “Treasure Island” and “Alice in Wonderland,” as well as books related to pirates.

Search The Kerlan

To search the Kerlan, you can use:

  • Collection guides, which describe a collection of archival records, personal papers, or manuscripts to locate material for your research. The guide may be a brief summary or a detailed description and inventory.
  • Images and other digital materials, including photos, maps, films and videos, audio tapes, rare volumes and publications, and select items from archival collections.
  • The Libraries catalog, which includes information about rare and special books, periodicals, and other publications held by the Children’s Literature Research Collections.
Search the Kerlan