The Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History

The Othmer Library of Chemical History collects, preserves, and makes accessible materials relating to the history of science, technology, and medicine, with an emphasis on chemistry and chemical engineering from ancient to modern times. The Othmer Library currently houses approximately 160,000 print and microform volumes, rare books and manuscripts, significant archival materials, and historical photographs of great value to researchers and our cultural heritage. Together these collections, spanning nearly 6 miles of shelves, form an unrivaled resource for the history of chemistry and related sciences, technologies, and industries.

The Othmer Library is an independent research library. It is open by appointment to all users, but the collections and services are designed for scholars and experienced researchers who are working on specific topics, with a research strategy in place. To learn about using the collections for research please go to Research.  

Rare Books

The nucleus of the rare-book collection comes from both the library of the Chemists’ Club of New York and the Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library. The collection now consists of over 6,000 volumes of rare books dealing with all aspects of chemistry and related subjects from the 15th century on. Readers will find all of the landmark works of the history of chemistry, often in multiple editions. In addition, hundreds of other less well-known works of equal interest to researchers can be found.


CHF holds about 5,200 linear feet of historical manuscripts and photographs. CHF actively collects and preserves the papers of individuals and groups whose work has significantly advanced our scientific understanding and whose discoveries have helped shape our lives. The photograph collection of over 25,000 images provides visual documentation of chemists, laboratories, and instrumentation. Through archives CHF documents the history and heritage of chemistry and related sciences and illuminates the broad impact of these sciences on society.

Modern Monographs and Journals

The foundation of the modern library collection is the 30,000 volumes donated by the Chemists’ Club in 1988. Other assets include important materials from the Franklin Institute as well as donations from many other sources and continuing acquisitions. The collecting focus for CHF is to obtain modern printed materials that are appropriate primary and secondary historical sources as opposed to what would be found in a modern scientific library.


Subject Guides

Subject Guides

Research assistance, subject guides, and useful resources compiled by the Othmer library staff. Know what we know — find it in our Subject Guides!


Fellowships at CHF

CHF’s scholars, who spend anywhere from one to nine months in residence, form a vital part of CHF’s intellectual life.

Annual Report

Annual Report
Take a look back at a year of preservation, research, and outreach in CHF’s annual report to supporters.