Free and open to the public
Monday through Friday: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Saturday: 10:00 am - 2:00 pm

The Armstrong Browning Library prepares two or three major exhibitions each year, drawn from its own collections of letters, manuscripts, books from the Brownings' personal library, and other rare materials housed in the Library.

Current Exhibition

12 September 2014 through 12 January 2015

Second Floor

Beyond the Brownings-2

Scholars know the Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor University as a world-class research library devoted to the lives and works of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. In addition to housing the world’s largest collection of books, letters, manuscripts, and memorabilia related to the Brownings, the library houses a substantial collection of primary and secondary materials related to nineteenth-century literature and culture. The Victorian Letters and Manuscripts Collection includes almost 2,500 items from literary, political, ecclesiastical, scientific, and cultural figures in the nineteenth century. Letters, manuscripts, and books from numerous Victorian figures will be featured in the exhibit. A digital edition of the exhibit, Beyond the Brownings, will be available on the Armstrong Browning Library’s website beginning September 10, 2014.

Past Exhibitions

14 February through 12 May, 2014


from America
The cataracts and mountains you speak of have been, are, mighty dreams to me "and the great people which, proportionate to that scenery, is springing up in their midst to fill a yet vaster futurity, is dearer to me than a dream. America is our brother-land, and though a younger brother, sits already on the teacher's seat, and expounds the common rights of our humanity. It would be strange indeed if we in England did not love and exult in America--if English poets, of whom I am least if at all, did not receive with peculiar feeling of gratitude and satisfaction the kind welcoming word of American readers. Believe me grateful to America" . . . .

We have one Shakespeare between us--your land and ours--have we not? And one Milton, and now we are waiting for you to give us another. . . .

You would wonder a good deal--but would do so less if you were aware of the seclusion of my life, when I tell you that I never consciously stood face to face with an American in the whole course of it. I never had any sort of personal acquaintance with an American, man or woman. Therefore you are all dreamed dreams to me "Gentle dreams" I may well account you.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Cornelius Mathews 3 November 1842

In fact, Elizabeth and Robert Browning did meet many Americans face to face. Their American acquaintances included publishers, editors, journalists, poets, novelists, socialites, sculptors, painters, actresses, social activists, and politicians. Although Elizabeth and Robert never traveled to America, they corresponded with these American friends and met many of them socially in their home in Italy and during their stays in England and Europe.


Do give your ear to me—your heart to me
Do grant this confirmation of yr voice
To my voice, that it may not speak in vain...

This excerpt from a fragment of the poem, "My sisters! Daughters of this fatherland," by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, expresses the challenges Barrett Browning faced as she sought to assert her voice in a predominately male tradition of public poetry in the 1840s.

Women Poets The Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face exhibit in the Hankamer Treasure Room at the Armstrong Browning Library features texts and images of twenty-three nineteenth-century women. These women were mothers, daughters, wives, lovers, friends, poets, novelists, tract writers, storytellers, hymn writers, advocates for social reform, philanthropists, and more.

Women writers included in the exhibit are Hannah More, Maria Edgeworth, Felicia Hemans, Mary Shelley, Mary Russell Mitford, Anna Jameson, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Sarah Flower Adams, Elizabeth Gaskell, Geraldine Jewsbury, Eliza Cook, Julia Margaret Cameron, Isabella Blagden, Theodosia Trollope, George Eliot, Jean Ingelow, Anne Thackeray Ritchie, Lucy Larcom, Christina Rossetti, Frances Ridley Havergal, Julia Augusta Webster, Amy Levy, and Michael Field.

Because Victorian women were expected to find fulfillment in marriage and children, typical nineteenth-century women's writing included children's literature, flowery poetry, and religious poems. However, these works, important in themselves, also gave nineteenth-century women a platform for speaking to gender inequality and social reform.

Some women writers of the period broke from convention and also produced literature similar to their male counterparts, such as novels and dramatic works. Some were well liked by the public and respected by their fellow authors, both male and female.

Many of the items in the exhibit are drawn from the Armstrong Browning Library's large 19th Century Women Poets Collection, which embraces a range of styles, from simple statements to effusive eulogies. Topics covered include religious themes, ancient Greek and Roman myth, daily life, romance, motherhood, social issues, and local and national history. This collection has been digitized and can be viewed online at http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu.

In conjunction with the exhibit a blog will be posted detailing the many fascinating facts that were discovered about these amazing women during the research for the exhibit.

It is the Armstrong Browning Library's sincere hope that through the texts and images exhibited in this display we might be able to honor Elizabeth Barrett Browning's wish by giving nineteenth-century women writers a voice and a face.

In conjunction with the other libraries at Baylor University, the ABL 2013 spring exhibit complemented the theme Middle East Patterns: Places, Peoples, and Politics.

The Middle East Patterns exhibit extended beyond the ABL and included Moody Memorial Library, The Texas Collection, and the W. R. Poage Legislative Library. The entire exhibit featured over 300 original photographs from Dr. Colbert Held, a 1938 alumnus of Baylor, former Foreign Service Officer with the State Department, and retired diplomat-in-residence at Baylor University. Held took more than 19,000 photographs that portray the people and culture of this area.

Colbert C. Held and A. J. Armstrong
Book and letter On display was the textbook used by Colbert Held when a student in Dr. A. J. Armstrong's Browning class. They kept in touch regularly until Dr. A's death in 1954, made evident by Dr. Held's letter written in 1949.

The textbook was displayed open to a section of Ferishtah's Fancies, a poem that inspired a series of stained glass windows on the third floor of the Armstrong Browning Library. Two of the windows portray scenes from "Mihrab Shah" and "The Melon Seller," which are sections of Ferishtah's Fancies.

The Brownings and the Middle East
On several occasions Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning expressed a desire to visit the Middle East, in particular Egypt and the Holy Lands. The couple made tentative plans to travel to Egypt in the winter of 1858, but never made this trip.

Though unable to travel to the Orient, Robert Browning met the Shah of Persia, Jasir al-Din Shah Qajar, on two different occasions, in the summer of 1873 and the summer of 1889. On the first occasion, Browning was invited to a gala dinner at the Duke of Sutherland's in honor of the Shah. They were seated by rank; and Robert Browning, who had no title, was far down at the end of the table. The Shah noticed Browning in his bright red robes from Balliol College and inquired as to his identity. When told Browning was one of England's great poets, the Shah announced that in Iran poets were honored and demanded that Browning sit next to him. The Duke acquiesced, moving Browning next to the Persian monarch and the Prince of Wales, while he moved to the end of the table.

Dukeaf Sutherland volumes Browning was distressed about this social faux pas and went to his publisher where he had two volumes of his Selections specially bound and stamped with the Sutherland crest. Browning sent the volumes to the Duke as an apology. In 1927 the volumes were presented to Dr. Armstrong by the Duchess of Sutherland.

Browning's Middle Eastern influences can also be seen in his furniture selections. An example is the Persian table in the Hankamer Treasure Room.


In April of 2011 over 100 rare and ancient Bibles from one of the world's largest collections of Bibles and related documents of the Judeo-Christian tradition were on display to enhance the international conference, The King James Bible and the World It Made, 1611-2011.

Sponsored by the Green Collection.

Her Diminutive Presence

George Stillman Hillard, a Boston travel author visiting in Florence, made these comments after meeting Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 1847:

Mrs. Browning is in many respects the correlative of her husband. As he is full of manly power, so she is a type of the most sensitive and delicate womanhood. She has been a great sufferer from ill health, and the marks of pain are stamped upon her person and manner. Her figure is slight, her countenance expressive of genius and sensibility, shaded by a veil of long brown locks, and her tremulous voice often flutters over her words, like the flame of a dying candle over the wick. I have never seen a human frame which seemed so nearly a transparent veil for a celestial and immortal spirit. . . . A union so complete as theirs--in which the mind has nothing to crave nor the heart to sign for--is cordial to behold and soothing to remember.

Study the items in this exhibit and become aware of the petite size of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. See the bronze sculpture of her frail hand clasped in the palm of her husband's, the tiny mitts she wore, her personal teapot, the miniature books she cherished, her fragile handwriting illustrated by her famous "How Do I Love Thee?" (Sonnet 43, Sonnets from the Portuguese)--along with the pencil and ink well she used to produce her poetry--all these things give emphasis to her diminutive presence.

Continuing Exhibitions

A sampling of memorabilia concerning the Brownings, their families, and closest friends is exhibited in the John Leddy-Jones Research Hall and the Hankamer Treasure Room. The display of these personal items adds a third dimension to the study of the Brownings' lives and works.

Memorable events in the life of the great founder of the Armstong Browning Library, A. J. Armstrong, are featured in this exhibit of photographs and memorabilia.

The third-floor hallway is lined with 31 reproductions of paintings and photographs of Robert Browning from his early manhood through later likenesses of 1889.

A selection of current, non-rare books recently added to the collection indicates the depth of research materials available in the Armstrong Browning Library.