"Trade to me is an expression of the world's economy of living. Trade knows no borders, no kin, no breed, no loyalty or patriotism, or sentiment."
-- James Ford Bell, 1953
The collection consists of more than 30,000 items: books, maps, manuscripts, pamphlets, broadsides, and assorted printed documents. It ranges in scope from invoices for rope, ships' logs, and gilt-edged trade treaties between Western and Eastern monarchs to diaries, travel narratives, and missionary accounts. The items in the collection currently date between 400 C.E. and 1825 C.E.
The focus of the collection is international trade in the pre-modern era, roughly before 1800 C.E. However, international trade was closely intertwined with cross-cultural interaction, which led to the dispersion of religious ideas, changes in diet, dress and lifestyle, medical practices, and other societal changes around the world. Cross-cultural contact fostered interest not only in the people encountered, but in their habitat, and in the plants and animals to be found there. Consequently, the topics that could be researched in the Bell collection go well beyond international trade. The bulk of the collection falls chronologically between ca. 1500-ca. 1790, but there is a considerable amount of earlier material and we are adding to it regularly.
While the majority of the items in the collection present a Western European perspective, we have a few items, to which we hope to add in the coming years, that offer a non-Western perspective. At present, researchers can find material in English, Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Tarascan (a native Central American language).
Additional Digital Resources
Spanish American Political Texts Online
Historical Maps & Mapmakers
Visitors to earlier versions of our web site will find our Maps & Mapmakers pages on portolan charts, Ptolemy, and Martin Waldseemüller updated and re-imagined here. We have added new exhibitions and learning modules on some of our other historic maps, with more to come. You may view our entire map collection through our digital repository, UMedia Archive; we have some of our maps there already, with more to be added in the coming months.
- Early Atlases and How They Shaped the World
- Martin Waldseemüller & the Map that Named "America"
- Nagasaka Harbor, 1741: Navigating the Many Dimensions of A Map
- Olaus Magnus' 16th-Century Map of of Scandinavia
- Portolan Charts
- Ptolemy's World
Online Exhibitions & Instructional Materials
- Captain Cook's Voyages of Discovery"
- Celebrating Venice: On Land and Sea
- "A Long, Troublesome, and Dangerous Passage" from England to India
- Trade and Commerce in 17th-Century England: Proclamations
- The Correct Way to Sail from Lisbon to Calicut
Student & Other Exhibits