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Special Collections

Leonard N. Simons Collection of Rare Michigan History Texts

Mr. Simons was a native Detroiter and attended “Old Main” in the 1920s when it was called the Detroit Central High School. His career was in advertising and he was a founding member of the Detroit-based Simons Michelson Zieve advertising agency. He served in the governance of many organizations, including the Board of Advisors for the Wayne State University Press and as the President and a Commissioner for the Detroit Historical Museum. Mr. Simons was instrumental in the creation of the “Streets of Old Detroit” exhibit in the museum. He was also a prolific fund-raiser and very much believed in giving back to society.

Black and white photograph of Leonard Simons

The Simons Collection started as a collection of books about the Northwest Territories, but the sheer volume of material available forced Mr. Simons to eventually limit the collection to Michigan-related books. Mr. Simons had most of these books rebound in beautiful full leather bindings with gold tooled lettering. 

Informational Plaque on Simons Collection

Mr. Simons died in 1995 at the age of 91. There is a plaque dedicated to his generosity hanging in the room housing his collection in the Purdy/Kresge Library.

Using the Simons Collection

Search the catalog for a full list of items in the Leonard N. Simons Collection.

Highlights from the Simons Collection

Leather-bound books on a shelf

Books from the Simons Collection

Leather-bound books on a shelf

Books from the Simons Collection

Leather-bound books on a shelf

Books from the Simons Collection

Map from the Simons Collection

This map of Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana from 1839 also includes the "settled" part of Michigan.

Map from the Simons Collection

This map of Detroit comes from Bellin's "Petit Atlas Maritime." It was published in Paris in 1764.

Map from the Simons Collection

Map from the Simons Collection

An early "pocket map" of Michigan.

Map from the Simons Collection

This map from Amsterdam shows an early understanding of the continent.

Map from the Simons Collection

Map from the Simons Collection

Map from the Simons Collection

This surveyor's map from 1829 shows the claims in the Mackinac area, including the names of the claimants. It was based on a survey done in 1828 by John Mullett.