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Dechert Collection

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  • Engraving of Hurons, from Samuel Champlain, Voyages et decouvertes faites en la nouvelle France... (Paris 1619), opp. p. 87 [Dechert FC6 C3587 619v]
    Engraving of Hurons, from Samuel Champlain, Voyages et decouvertes faites en la nouvelle France... (Paris 1619), opp. p. 87 [Dechert FC6 C3587 619v]
  • Engraved frontispiece, Bartolome de Las Casas, The Tears of the Indians (London, 1656) [Dechert SC5 C2648 Eg656p]
    Engraved frontispiece, Bartolome de Las Casas, The Tears of the Indians (London, 1656) [Dechert SC5 C2648 Eg656p]

The Robert Dechert Collection includes over 1600 printed books focusing on American travel, exploration, and Native American relations with settlers. Materials date from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. French Americana and the writings of Las Casas are particular strengths of the collection. A Dechert fund supports ongoing acquisitions.

Collection description

 

The Dechert Collection contains primarily of printed materials, along with a few maps and manuscripts, relating to explorations of North and South America, across four centuries. The collection is particularly strong in the following areas:

Information for researchers

Holdings in the Dechert Collection are listed in the online catalog, Franklin.

About the collector and collection history

The origin of the Dechert Collection is actually the collection of Helen Godey Wilson (1879-1937), a devoted book collector (and the granddaughter of Lewis A. Godey, publisher of Godey's Lady's Book). Wilson collected intensively in American travel literature and in French Americana. She bequeathed the collection to the care of her son-in-law, Robert Dechert (1895-1975).

A life-long Philadelphian, Robert Dechert achieved prominence both locally and nationally as a lawyer and public servant. He expanded the collection significantly, continuing its focus on North America and French American, while also broadening it to include some Spanish holdings and, in particular, the works of Las Casas, along with popular nineteenth-century accounts. Dechert gave his collection to the University of Pennsylvania in 1962.

Related collections

Robert Dechert Family Papers, at the University Archives and Records Center

Robert Dechert collection of litigation papers regarding the ownership of the William Clark papers, 1953-1960 (Ms. Coll. 1092, 2 boxes)

Agnes Repplier papers (Ms. Coll. 18, 13 boxes)

Helen Godey Wilson catalog of books by William McFee, circa 1920-1937, Ms. Coll. 1299 (1 box)

 

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