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Using rare books

Image - one of our rare books


The Library houses one of the most important collections in the world relating to the birth and development of Western printing and the history of the book.

The collections cover a vast range of subjects:

  • theology and philosophy
  • economic, social, political and military history
  • French Revolutionary works
  • travel and exploration
  • literature, drama and music
  • art and archaeology
  • travel and exploration
  • science and medicine

They are a major resource for the study of book history, illustrating the origin and development of Western printing from the 15th century to the present day.

Whether you are seeking source material for an undergraduate essay, a PhD thesis, or an academic publication, you will find an extraordinary range of rare books, journals, broadsides and other material within the Special Collections.

Find out more

The provides an overview of our printed collections. For each collection there is a brief summary of contents and references to online catalogues and other sources of information.

The majority of Special Collections rare books are recorded in Library Search.

You can limit a search to Special Collections material in one of two ways. Either enter a search term in the Simple Search box, then refine your search by selecting Special Collections from the list of options on the left-hand side of the screen. Or use the Advanced Search option and select Special Collections from the drop-down list of options.

Images from many of our printed collections are available online via our Image Collection.

Contact us

Some collections are not yet fully catalogued. 

For advice on material not covered by the online catalogue, or any other enquiries relating to the printed book collections, please contact us.