The Nicholson Whaling Collection at Providence Public Library

The Nicholson Whaling Collection is one of the nation’s most important resources for whaling research. At the heart of the collection is the world’s second largest collection of whaling logbooks, recording more than 1,000 voyages. Within their pages, the logbooks hold records of whales captured and lost; accounts of shipwrecks, mutinies and other nautical misfortunes; poetry and paintings made by crew members in their spare time; and a wealth of data for researchers. The collection was donated to the Library in 1956 by Paul C. Nicholson, grandson of the founder of the Nicholson File Company, and it now includes more than 15,000 items, ranging from prints, photographs, scrimshaw and other artifacts to an extensive collection of manuscripts and account books. The earliest materials date from the 1700s and include a contract in which a Native American whaler agrees to be part of the crew of a 1723 whaling voyage. Hundreds of logbooks document the 19th-century high point of the whaling trade. This important collection continues to grow, thanks to an endowment provided by the Nicholson family.