Digital Special Collections is pleased to announce the release of a new Themed Collection topic on Calisphere: The Letters of John Muir. The topic features 22 letters between Muir and notable contemporaries such as Asa Gray, Robert Underwood Johnson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Theodore Roosevelt. The correspondence reveals Muir’s evolving ideas about the natural world and his efforts to both understand and protect it. The topic also includes an accompanying essay, which provides context for specific letters and discusses Muir’s multifaceted life and career as a scientist, writer, and environmental activist.

A resource for undergraduates

This topic is particularly well suited to undergraduate education and research. The content of the letters will obviously appeal to students of American History, American Studies, Environmental Studies, and related disciplines. Additionally, the correspondence is notable for Muir’s use of language, which exemplifies the Romantic literary style throughout, but varies depending on the date, issue discussed, and addressee. For example, letters Muir wrote to his family and close friends show a more personal side of the public figure. English students and others interested in rhetoric will no doubt find many paper topics here.

The Letters of John Muir is also an excellent resource for librarians and faculty introducing primary sources—especially textual documents and/or first-person accounts—to undergraduate students.

A gateway to more content

The topic highlights just a few of the more than 6,000 Muir letters available—and fully searchable—on Calisphere and the Online Archive of California. The complete collection was contributed by The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley and the University of the Pacific Library Holt-Atherton Special Collections. Students, scholars, and teachers alike will find much to explore in the full collection—and The Letters of John Muir is a great place to dive in.

CDL thanks staff at the contributing institutions (Theresa Salazar, UC Berkeley, and Shan Sutton, University of the Pacific) and graduate student Bob Reinhardt (UC Davis) for collaborating with us on this topic.

Images, from top: Letter from John Muir to Jeanne C. Carr, 1868 Jul 26, courtesy of University of the Pacific Library Holt-Atherton Special Collections; Photograph [of John Muir] by Herbert W. Gleason, courtesy of The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.