1748 plan of New Haven, via the Beinecke Library @ Yale

The Beinecke Library has an interesting web exhibition about the American history of the Utopian dream, from the establishment of New Haven in 1638 to modern sustainable communes like Twin Oaks.

The exhibit has a comprehensive list of the most important “utopian” communities in the US1, with manuscripts and documents from the library’s collections.

Also included are short lists of Utopian and Dystopian literature from the collection2.  It’s a neat set of images and facts, if you’re interested in the subject and haven’t seen an overview of it presented in such a way.

Two nitpicks that I have, though: 1) The sentence “the goal of removal from the heart of civilization to the wilderness” in the intro text is misleading as a blanket statement – More’s original Utopia was one of social and political perfection, rather than one based on any pastoral or nature-based ideals; and 2) it would be nice if all the manuscript/ephemera page images enlarged into higher-res versions.

  1. The most well-known being, arguably, the PA Germans and the New Harmony colony.
  2. I think two titles that should have been on the Dystopian list are Lewis’ “It Can’t Happen Here” (1935) and Heinlein’s “If This Goes On-” (1940). I have to believe their exclusion is only because Beinecke does not have 1st edition copies of these books in their collection.
posted 2/10/10 at 1:58pm to Books, History · 0 replies · permalink