Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888) was an American novelist best known for the novel Little Women, which she wrote in 1868. Alcott was born in Philadelphia but lived mostly in Concord, Massachusetts where her family briefly moved to the Utopian Fruitland Community. Her family was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller and Alcott was influenced by their Transcendentalist ideas. Alcott was both an abolitionist and a feminist and was the first woman to register to vote in Concord. Her first book, Flower Fables, was written in 1855, after which followed many works. Alcott never married although she took her sister’s May two-year-old daughter, Louisa May Nieriker, to live with her when May died in 1879.
BYU’s Louisa May Alcott Collection consists of primary and secondary works relating to the life and career of Louisa May Alcott. The collection started in the mid 1980s, when BYU acquired a significant portion of works from the rare book dealer Leona Rostenberg, and her associate and Alcott scholar, Madeleine Stern.
L. Tom Perry Special Collections actively seeks to acquire all editions of works by Louisa May Alcott (including foreign-language editions), building on a rich collection of first editions of her novels and stories. The Alcott Collection also contains published editions of Alcott’s journals and correspondence, as well as some original primary source material from rare book dealer Leona Rostenberg, and her associate and Alcott scholar, Madeleine Stern.
The Alcott Collection contains an extensive array of secondary works, including biographies and criticism of Alcott, her writings, and her influence, as well as works about her father, philosopher Amos Bronson Alcott. Special Collections also seeks to acquire first editions of his writings.
The Alcott Collection is a rich resource for the study of Louisa May Alcott’s influence on the arts and culture, and for the examination of Alcott’s place in the popular imagination for over a century. BYU has acquired examples of literary, stage, film, and musical adaptations of Little Women and other Alcott novels, and a variety of ephemera related to her life and works. These ephemeral pieces include postcards, calendars, and other printed works related to Orchard House, the Alcott family home, and diaries and toy books based on Alcott’s writings.