Established 1882 by Elder Otis Sawyer
Research: Shaker Library
The Shaker Library welcomes anyone interested in learning more about the Shakers. This invitation includes scholars, writers, students of all ages, teachers, genealogists, and the Shaker enthusiast.
Due to renovations, the Library is currently closed to visitors. Please contact our Director at firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries.
The Library is open year round, Monday through Thursday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM (Closed for lunch 12 Noon to 1 PM)
Appointments are required.
About the Shaker Library
Established in 1882 by Elder Otis Sawyer, the Shaker Library is located at the only active Shaker Community in the world. It is housed in the original 1880 Shaker Schoolhouse with the collections enclosed in a two-level temperature and humidity controlled vault.
The Library is both the archive for the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community, as well as a nationally known center of primary and secondary materials by and about the Shakers, from their origins to the present day. Subjects covered include history, religious philosophy, herbal medicine, architecture, furniture, crafts, music, and education. The Library’s Radical Collection of materials on other communal and radical religious sects in America in addition to other special collections, provides context for the experience of the Shakers.
The Shaker Collection
The Shaker Library’s collection of original and published materials includes books, archival manuscripts, ephemera, periodicals, scrapbooks, photographs, drawings, maps, oral histories, video and sound recordings, and microfilm of Shaker materials held in other libraries.
Books–over 3,000 volumes written by and about the United Society of Shakers. This aspect of the Library has been built from the foundation of Elder Otis’ original library of 191 items. Many of these books are not listed in available bibliographies. Books are cataloged according to The Library of Congress cataloging system.
Photographs and other images–Thousands of images from the late nineteenth century to the present representing all of the Shaker Communities. Collection includes photographs, slides, postcards, and stereoviews.
Manuscripts–8,000 items including diaries and journals, autograph books, covenants, financial records, membership records, correspondence, testimonies, sermons, inspired writings, music, poetry, recipes and prescriptions, and school books. This part of the collection represents most of the Shaker Communities but is strongest in Sabbathday Lake and Alfred, Maine materials.
Ephemera–2,200 plus items including pamphlets, broadsides, almanacs, catalogues, and stationery produced by Shakers and the world’s people; 1,380 labels printed by Shakers for their own products; 2000 postcards; posters of 20th century Shaker exhibits. This collection grows weekly with the addition of 20th century items.
Periodicals–Over 5,000 clippings; complete runs of The Shaker, The Daystar, The Shaker and Shakeress, The Shaker Manifesto, The Manifesto, and the Shaker Quarterly; runs of several social reform and spiritualist journals to which Shakers contributed (Banner of Light, World’s Advanced Thought); complete run of The Manchester Mercury, the 18th century newspaper from the hometown of founder Ann Lee.
Clipping file–Over 5,000 clippings arranged by community and subject; includes 18th, 19th, and 20th century articles on the Shakers and related topics.
Scrapbooks–64 kept by Sabbathday Lake or Alfred Shakers, including several kept by friends of the Communities. The scrapbooks document the interests of individual Shakers and include clippings, brochures, poetry, correspondence, photographs, postcards, and greeting cards.
Microfilm–227 reels including the Shaker manuscript collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society, New York State Library, New York Public Library, Library of Congress, University of Kentucky. Also included are cathedral records from Manchester, England, the birthplace of Anne Lee.
Maps–210 maps, views and cemetery charts. Many of the maps are 19th century county and state maps showing locations of Shaker communities in various states. Other examples include plans of The Shaker Village of Alfred, Maine, and maps of Shaker land in New Gloucester, Maine.
Oral histories and other sound recordings–19 unique interviews (with typescripts) with Maine Shakers and individuals closely associated with them during this century; numerous taped lectures including ones given at Shaker conferences at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community in the 1980s; sermons given by Brother Theodore Johnson in the 1980s.
Music–Numerous recordings of Shakers from the Sabbathday Lake and other Shaker Communities singing traditional Shaker spirituals; recordings of Shakers singing with other musicians; and recordings by non-Shakers performing Shaker songs.
Video cassettes–Contemporary documentaries and broadcasts about the Shakers.
Selected items from our Shaker Collection are cataloged online. Visit:
Special collections on radical religious groups, on herbal medicine, and on Maine agriculture are maintained in an effort to provide an opportunity for researchers to view the Shakers in context spiritually and socially.
The Radical Collection
This important sub collection of the Shaker Library contains printed material about radical religious sects and communal groups all over the world. The Library has catalogued this material using the Library of Congress subject headings and classification.
Included are materials on the following groups:
FREEWILL BAPTISTS–One of the strongest collections anywhere of books and periodicals on the history of Freewill Baptists. The most complete run available of the Maine Free Will Baptist Repository.
KORESHAN–545 items including periodicals, books, postcards, and membership lists. This is the largest collection of its type outside the Koreshan Community Library at Estero, Florida.
SOUTHCOTTIAN–Followers of Joanna Southcott, “messenger and prophet.” Includes Christian Israelites, Ashton-Under-Lyne, England; Christian Israelites, Sydney, Australia; New and Latter Day House of Israel, London, England and other splinter groups. The strongest portion of this collection reflects Christian Israelite activity in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Manuscripts and published material are included.
JERUSALEM COMMUNITY–Founded by Jemima Wilkinson in New York State. Includes many issues of the Publick Universal Friend; copies of 90% of the manuscript holdings of Cornell University; many imprints.
ONEIDA–20 books, several issues of the Oneida Circular; manuscripts.
RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS–QUAKERS; 250 volumes written by and about Quakers in Great Britain and the United States.
BISHOP HILL, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE, SWEDENBORG, FRUITLANDS, MUGGLETONIANS, HARMONY, EPHRATA, NEW LLANO, OWENITES, HUTTERITES, ZOAR, PANACEA SOCIETY, ETC.–Numerous imprints and some manuscript references. In addition, there are nearly one hundred volumes which serve as encyclopedias describing many other efforts in both spiritual and communal realms.
Herbal Medicine & Maine Agriculture
To view in context the Shaker interest in herbal medicine, the Library holds 19th century volumes reflecting Thomsonian medicinal practices and other medical advice of the period. Rare books on Maine and agriculture provide additional context for the experience of the Maine Shakers.