Rev. Dr. (and author) Charles Smith records in Special Collections

Within The Ames Library’s 4th floor department called Tate Archives & Special Collections are thousands of unique materials and all are available to benefit people in the IWU and surrounding communities.

Charles Merrill Smith

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The Reverend Dr. Charles Merrill Smith was a Methodist minister, a prolific mystery writer (whose detective was another Methodist minister), and a member of the IWU Board of Trustees from 1958-1968. Smith is best known for his Reverend Randolph mystery series, starring Reverend “Con” Randolph, a former professional football player turned clergyman and detective in Chicago.


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The display pictured here shows selections from his collection (6 linear feet, unprocessed) comprised of manuscript and typescript works, correspondence, photographs, and all of the works he published in English plus four of the same that were translated into Dutch, German and Japanese.

The items displayed in these posts about Special Collections holdings are just a small portion of the kinds of materials found in Tate Archives & Special Collections. These collections are in a variety of languages and formats (artifact, book, manuscript, and media) and creation dates range from the 11th-21st centuries. Some collections are completely described and identified and some have yet to be thoroughly organized or examined.

Although many holdings do have a direct connection to the University, many are distinct and unrelated to the others such as the supporting materials for research on the people who created and collected the pottery and basketry items displayed in the entry level rotunda.

Curious minds seeking inspiration for creative works and original research are welcome to stop by and explore the possibilities!



Archives finding aid

What is a finding aid? Basically, it’s our version of a catalog. It helps archivists and patrons find out what material we hold and where it lives.

For a number of years we’ve been trying to get an interactive, 2.0 type of finding aid online. We’re still trying to make that dream a reality, but in the interim we’ve got a pdf linked from the archives’ website and available for direct download.

Keep in mind that that we make frequent updates to this document in-house and will only update the posted version twice each semester (mid-term and after finals), so let me know if you can’t find something you expect us to have!

Conduct of Life

The collection we call “Conduct of Life” holds over 200 books from secular and religious perspectives dating from 1560. The topics include moral, social and practical considerations aimed at youth of both sexes and women. French, Latin and English seem to the the languages represented in this collection, but you can browse the entire list from our online catalog by following the directions on this guide.

Note: A few of the titles in the catalog are also held in the Main Stacks.

French texts

Special Collections holds a number of volumes in French. One part of these holdings was described at the time of donation as “French Socialist Literature,” but topics vary and include literature and politics with dates ranging from the early-1800s to mid-1900s. Selected titles follow:

Clerget, Pierre. La Suisse au XXe Siecle: Etude Economique et Sociale. Paris: Colin, 1908.

Duffeyte-Dilhan, J. Aux Femmes: De La Beaute Physique et Morale. Paris: Janet, 1857.

Francis, de Sales, Saint. Lettres de Saint Francois de Sales: Addressees a des Gens du Monde. Paris: Techener, 1865.

Gide, Charles. Les Societes Cooperatives de Consommation. Paris: Colin, 1910.

Janin, Jules Gabriel. Un Hiver a Paris. Paris: Curmer, 1843.

Kern, Alfred. Le Bonheur Fragile. Paris: Gallimard, 1960.

Lesseps, Ferdinand de. Souvenirs de Quarante Ans Dedies a Mes Enfants. 2 vols. Paris: Nouvelle Revue, 1887.


April is National Poetry Month, and I thought I’d mention a few places where poetry can be found in our vaults.

Special Collections

We have a growing collection of Beat Generation material. This is primarily poetry in book and magazine/journal review format but biographies and some criticism is held here, too. More of the primary and secondary source material is available in the main library stacks. A title list is available, but each title is also cataloged and so they’ll turn up if you search in our online holdings, too.

Individual titles in special collections are usually accompanied by an inscription or autograph of an author such as 39 Poems by John Ciardi; The Unicorn and Other Sonnets by Thomas S. Jones, jr.; For My People by Margaret Walker, Threads by Dorothy Quick.


We hold various incarnations of IWU student-compiled journals containing poetry from the literary societies of the late 19th century through to today’s Tributaries and material on the Tounge & Ink conferences.

Religion collections

As can be expected, given IWU’s origins, special collections holds an array of books related to Methodist Church governance, history and liturgy. Sermons and insights into the religious and philosophical leanings of IWU presidents, many of whom were also Methodist ministers, are available in the archives. Samplings of other religions represented in special collections are below.

Additionally, we hold one manuscript collection of former Bloomington Wesley Methodist Church minister and mystery writer Charles Merrill Smith. Our collection holds photographs, book manuscripts, publicity material, correspondence and more. Smith was also an IWU Board of Trustee’s member from 1958-1968.

A selection of more traditional religious texts in the collection follows. Many are in languages students on campus are studying, and the varying publication dates offer opportunities for exposure to different type-faces. These books could be great for developing reading skills in languages over time!

[al-Qurơān]. Manuscript of undetermined date, written in Naskh letters within gold leave border and occasional floral illumination. (Call no.: BP100 1000z)

Lombardica hystoria. An incomplete incunable also known as Legenda aurea regarding the lives of saints. (Call no. BX4654 .J3 1496)

The life of Mahomet : together with The Alcoran at large / translated out of Arabick into French, by the Sieur De Ryer, Lord of Malezair, and Resident for the French King at Alexandria : now faithfully English’d. (Call no.: BP75 .L57 1718)

Directorio para informaciones de los pretendientes de el santo habito de N. seraphico P.S. Francisco. (Call no: F1381 .C37 1737)

Evangelische Deutsche Original-Bibel : das ist, die gantze heilige Schrift. Polyglot Bible in German fractur, Hebrew and Greek. (Call no.: BS701 1740)

Biblia Hebraica. (BS715 1753)

Vollständiges marburger Gesang-Buch. (Call no: BV410 .V65 1774)

The whole book of Psalms collected into English metre. “This Sternhold and Hopkins version of the psalter was given a first class treatment, with its green morocco binding with gilt decoration, marbled endpapers, gilt edges, and, most important, a fore-edge painting. Such paintings were expensive additions to books printed between the 1780s and the 1830s. A watercolor, applied to the edges of the pages as they were fanned, was evident only when the book was open. This scene shows an English cathedral.” (Call no.: BX5145 .S74 1787)

Codex sinaiticus petropolitanus. Two facsimile volumes of the Greek New Testamaent held at the Imperial Library of St. Petersburg. (Call nos.: BS64 .S32 1911 and BS64 .S3 1922)

Codex juris Canonici (Call no.: BX1935 .C31917)

And some texts mentioned in the last blog post. Click on the images for a larger picture and available descriptions:

1220 Bible created in England

1220 Bible created in England


Leaf from a two-column Medieval manuscript Bible. IWU has 10 matted Medieval manuscript leaves

pali mss Untitled Buddhist manuscript in Pali

This is a Burmese text with gilded edges, decorated front cover; written in ink on hand-made paper; accordion folded. The physical description is [247] p. ; 1072 cm., folded to 16 x 39 cm. And that’s everything we know about it!

Buddhist manuscript of unknown date

Buddhist manuscript

Selected collection teasers

Much of what is housed in Special Collections hasn’t been fully explored or described. We have manuscript collections for art, environmental studies, history (local and national interest), nursing, political science. There are book collections related to drama, literature, the sciences, women’s studies and more — research opportunities await!

You are welcome to come by and explore more.

Powell and the American West

Special Collections has four collections of material for researchers interested in John Wesley Powell and the western U.S. 

  • a manuscript collection of correspondence and articles written by researchers who have contacted IWU for information on Powell over the years,
  •  a collection of books by and about Powell and the American West,
  • a wide range of material collected by Marcia Thomas during two years of research for the award-winning volume John Wesley Powell: An Annotated Bibliography, and
  • a web-based collection of images providing access to the John Wesley Powell Collection of Pueblo Pottery.  The physical collection is located on the first floor of the library.

Anyone interested in using these collections is welcome to contact me or visit the archives.