The Marvin & Sybil Weiner Spirit of America Collection
The Marvin & Sybil Weiner Spirit of America Collection is comparable in scope and content to the collections of the American Antiquarian Society and the Library Company of Philadelphia. Originally inspired to emulate the personal libraries of men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, Marvin Weiner spent a lifetime collecting the books and pamphlets that a colonial gentleman would have owned. Taking great care to purchase the same editions that were available in 18th century America, Mr. Weiner eventually amassed a collection of more than 13,000 books, pamphlets, government publications, newspapers and serials, including rare works from as early as the 16th century.
In addition to recreating a well-stocked colonial library, Mr. Weiner’s collection was also guided by his interest in the changing concepts of freedom and liberty as they developed from Ancient Greece to the mid-20th century. As such, the collection also includes a great number of works on a wide range of topics from Constitutional issues in the United States to philosophical treatises from Europe. Through this interest, the collection grew into one of the top ten such collections in the United States, and items from the collection have been exhibited at the University of Pennsylvania, the Rosenbach Museum and Library, and the National Constitution Center.
Marvin and Sybil Weiner donated the Spirit of America Collection to Florida Atlantic University in 2006 at which time the collection was transferred from their Cherry Hill, New Jersey home to Boca Raton, Florida. Since that time, the staff in FAU Special Collections & Archives have carefully unpacked 29 pallets of historical materials. Most items have been preliminarily inventoried and the collection is housed in its own suite on the fifth floor of the S. E. Wimberly Library. Throughout the processing period, the library staff continues preservation efforts to ensure that the collection will be available to future scholars. More information on the collection can be found here.
We coordinate several events and exhibitions each year with the FAU Libraries to bring the treasures of the Spirit of America collection to FAU’s students and the wider community in South Florida and beyond. See here for events:
To support our efforts, visit the Associates of the Spirit of America Collection.
The Florida Atlantic University Libraries has partnered with the Huntington Library, one of the world’s premier research institutions, to offer three joint short-term research fellowships for advanced graduate students. For more information on these fellowships, visit FAU Libraries - Huntington Library Short-Term Fellowship/
"Ranging from excitement and shock to heartbreak and grief, never has an artifact or collection stirred up so many emotions for me. Beyond the official documents of process of the formation of the US government, I witnessed the emotions and daily life of everyday people. From deaths from duels to the loss of children, letters in the collection outlined in great detail the thoughts and feelings of people from the past, as if I was going through the same situation myself. .... My experience in the Weiner Collection motivated me to take the newfound passion and techniques that I found within myself and go on to law school and hopefully further contribute to society." - Carly McAllister, FAU B.A. '18, Law Student at St. Thomas University
"I had my first glimpse of the Weiner collection in 2007, when Mr. Weiner first brought it to FAU. .... We went to the event and I had the chance to see original copies of the most foundational American documents, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, as well as documents like Thomas Paine's Common Sense. All of the attendees were in awe of these documents, but I was the most taken aback by an early edition of the Protestant theologian John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. Most of the people in attendance did not understand why this document was being displayed alongside the things like the Common Sense and the Federalist Papers. At first I was confused as well. .... On that day, I decided that I wanted to pursue history as a career, in order to solve mysteries such as this.
Ten years later, in one of my graduate seminars at FAU, I found an answer to this mystery in a course on the legacy of the Protestant Reformation. In this course, we read portions of Calvin's Institutes, with a special focus on his attitudes toward secular authority. Calvin held that Christians ought to obey secular authority when it did not forestall them from living a moral life, but that when secular authorities violated the rights of the people, namely the right to live a virtuous life, it was the obligation of the people and their magistrates to rise up against the secular government, violently if necessary. To Calvin, governments existed to serve the people, and when they failed in this task, the people had the right, even the obligation, to rise up and create a new and better government for themselves. Calvin's Institutes would inspire the writings of political theorists like Locke and Montesquieu, which in turn would inspire the founding fathers, making Calvin's Institutes an intellectual antecedent of their thought, as well as a sort of intellectual grandfather. It was fascinating to see how Calvin's ideas about secular authority changed over time, and how over two centuries, they spread throughout Europe and across the Atlantic, and would inspire the American Revolution.
When I think back to that day over a decade ago, I wonder to myself if my path as a historian would be different, had the Weiner Collection never come to FAU. Would I even have chosen to make a career in History? However, I do know that I would not have had the opportunity to consider the mystery of why a sixteenth century religious text would occupy such a prominent intellectual position alongside foundational American documents like the Federalist Papers and Common Sense. Thanks to FAU's Weiner Spirit of America Collection, I now know why." - James Turner, FAU M.A. *17, Ph.D. Candidate at The Ohio State University
-"I realized that I was working with incredibly unique materials [in the Weiner Spirit of America Collection] when I discovered that there was almost no other record of this particular person and family in the world, except for in one other archive, [the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan]. I found that the Clements Library had the other side of the letters – those FROM the individual! .... I was granted the opportunity to travel to Michigan and evaluate those letters as well. ..... I am in the process of publishing my discoveries that originated from the Weiner Spirit of America collection." - Carly McAllister, FAU B.A. '18, recipient of the Marvin and Sybil Weiner Spirit of America Travel-Study Award