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The Lafayette Collection consists of manuscripts, documents, and correspondence. Facsimiles are noted as such in the folder listing.

Series I, manuscripts, comprises unpublished written or printed material except for documents and original correspondence.

Series II, documents, comprises written and printed material that has official or legal import.

Series I and II are each divided into two sections: the first, material not written by Lafayette, is arranged alphabetically by name, place, or issuing institution. Manuscripts written by Lafayette come last and are arranged chronologically.

Series III, Lafayette's correspondence, has been divided into outgoing and incoming correspondence Outgoing is arranged chronologically except for the large Beauchet correspondence which is grouped together and comes last (Boxes 34-41). Incoming correspondence is divided into three subsections: in the first, correspondence is arranged alphabetically by name of sender; in the second, Boxes 87-89, general correspondence Lafayette received in 1830-1831 is arranged alphabetically by sender, but individual headings are not listed in the folder guide; in the third, Boxes 90-94, incoming American correspondence is arranged chronologically by year only, and alphabetically by sender within each year. Box 95 contains facsimiles of correspondence and letters from unknown senders from 1831-1834.

Series IV contains Lafayette family papers and is arranged as follows: manuscripts and documents and letters related to Madame Lafayette; manuscripts and documents related to George Washington Lafayette; letters from George Washington Lafayette arranged chronologically; letters to him arranged alphabetically; petitions received arranged alphabetically; papers associated with the Lafayette family in general.

In the folder listing, folder titles include dates and places, most derived from the item itself; some are supplied. Information supplied by the editor appears in brackets. Some dates refer to the French Revolutionary calendar; these are followed by the Gregorian equivalent in brackets. The folder listing is indexed, using headings derived from folder titles or supplied as necessary. When a page reference in the index does not adequately identify an item, it is followed by a specific citation (name and date) in brackets.