Celebrating David McCullough: the Man who Inspired our Conservation Fund

In Conservation, Digitization, News

Historian, Pulitzer-Prize winner, and Champion of the BPL's Special Collections


David McCullough (1933-2022), historian and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author, was a true champion of documenting and preserving history. His time as a Boston Public Library Trustee from 1995 to 2000, along with being a patron of the Library's Special Collections while researching his books, 1776 and his definitive biography of John Adams, solidified his belief in the urgent need to focus on conserving the Library's many irreplaceable treasures. 

Answering his call to action in 2001, the Associates of the Boston Public Library established the David McCullough Conservation Fund. This initiative has since supported the preservation and digitization of thousands of items in the BPL's collections. While American history was McCullough’s primary field of expertise, the BPL's vast collections contain treasures spanning many ages. His crusade to preserve these historically significant items quickly became a central focus of the Associates’ mission. 

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David McCullough with his wife, Rosalee, at the BPL holding one of his favorite books from Special Collections, Little Cicero

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Former Chair of the Associates, Vivian Spiro, with David McCullough at Literary Lights


For over twenty years, David McCullough collaborated with the Associates to raise awareness about the wealth of riches in the BPL’s Collections and the special care these items require for their proper safeguarding for future generations. He inspired those who shared his belief in the importance of preserving our history to inform and shape our future. Whether delivering the keynote address at Literary Lights Dinner or engaging with a small group of book enthusiasts, McCullough formed lasting bonds with many leading figures at the Associates.

David's efforts, in partnership with the Associates, generated thousands of dollars in generous donations, significantly building the David McCullough Conservation Fund to its current standing. 


A Selection of Items Preserved Through the Support of the McCullough Fund 


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A True Copie of the Court Booke of the Governor and Society of Massachusetts Bay, 1628-47. Conserved by the Yale Class of 1955 in honor of David McCullough. 

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Book of Possessions of the Town of Boston, 1644-1652. Conserved by the Yale Class of ‘55. 

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1,210 Indentures executed by the Boston Overseers of the Poor, 1734-1805. Conserved by the Yale Class of 1955.  

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The life of George Washington (5 volumes) from the John Adams Library 

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Mary Wollstonecraft, Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution, heavily annotated by John Adams, John Adams Library 

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Mary Wollstonecraft, Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution, heavily annotated by John Adams, John Adams Library 

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John Parkinson, Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris. Or, a Garden of All Sorts of Pleasant Flowers which our English Ayre Will Permitt to be Noursed Up (London, 1629) 

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John Adams’s personal copy of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, 1776  

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Sebastian Virdung. Musica Getutscht. Basel , 1511. One of 17 extant copies of the first book on musical instruments in the vernacular. This volume is a unicum. The only copy which is a contemporary watercolor.  

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Jacques Offenbach. Voyage de la Lune. Vocal score containing the script and original costume designs. Also contains correspondence concerning the first performance of the opera.  

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Second edition of Machiavelli’s Il Prencipe, 1644-1652 

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Kelmscott Press edition of The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, 1896 

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Cataloged and digitization of 1,008 Charles Connick gouaches 

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Digitized Eadweard Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion 

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Gutenberg Catholicon (Gutenberg's Big Dictionary), published in 1460 and one of the eleven copies of this work known to exist in the United States. The BPL's copy is the only one printed on vellum. 

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A history of the administration of John Adams, Esq., late president of the United States 


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