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William M. Darlington was an inveterate collector of books. American history, with an emphasis on the history of Western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley, especially interested him. He collected works that related to the settlement of colonial America, local history, and the manners and customs of American Indians. As one might expect, the history of Pittsburgh was a subject dear to him, and he collected books about Pittsburgh and by Pittsburgh authors.
Books associated with the trans-Allegheny discovery and settlement, beginning with the period surrounding the French and Indian War, amply appear in his collection. They include subjects associated with George Washington’s expedition, General Braddock’s defeat, frontier defense, and settlements along the Ohio Valley.
As part of his purchases, Mr. Darlington acquired the five-volume set of John James Audubon's Ornithological Biography, published in 1831. He in all likelihood referred to these lively narratives when consulting his personal set of Audubon's Birds of America.
Mr. Darlington also acquired books that documented the discovery, settlement, and development of the Far West. There are numerous overland narratives, accounts of expeditions, and guidebooks. Included is a cornerstone of American exploration, namely, A Journal of the Voyages and Travels of a Corps of Discovery, under the command of Capt. Lewis and Capt. Clarke of the army of the United States, from the mouth of the river Missouri through the interior parts of North America to the Pacific Ocean, during the years 1804, 1805, and 1806. Written by Patrick Gass, and published in Pittsburgh in 1807, the volume is the first account that was published by a member of the expedition.
When Mr. Darlington died in 1889, his wife Mary and their children O’Hara, Mary, and Edith, added to the collection. By the time of Mrs. Darlington’s death in 1915, the collection was one of the finest private libraries west of the Alleghenies.
As a member of the Open Content Alliance, the University Library System is partnering with PALINET's Digital Services to digitize the Darlington books by the Internet Archive. To search and view the books contributed to date, please visit Internet Archive: University of Pittsburgh Library System.