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Rare Books


Special Collections houses a substantial collection of noncirculating printed works reflecting over 500 years of printing and print culture, primarily in the West. Our earliest printed item is a leaf from the Gutenberg Catholicon of 1460. Our earliest complete volume is a 1498 Strassbourg-printed edition of the Roman poet Horace. The department also maintains a collection of leaves from incunabula, books printed in the fifteenth century. The collection is particularly strong in Americana from the 18th and 19th centuries and in 19th century British culture, including social reform, crime, and the British in India. Diverse examples of presses, locations, typography, and binding styles can generally be found throughout the collection. Other strengths include: early printed editions of Greek and Roman authors; African-American lives and biography from the 18th century to the present; a large collection of courtesy books, conduct manuals, and etiquette books, both British and American, from late 18th century to the present; French fairy tales from the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly the works of Madame d'Aulnoy; works of Voltaire and his circle; growing collections of 1960s/70s counterculture and radical materials, including Black Power, Black Pride, materials on utopian communities, and first and second wave feminist publications, underground newspapers, and ephemera. The department maintains a broad general interest in collecting LGBTQ+ materials and has broad holdings from the 19th century to the present. 

Highlights from the collection include a 1561 edition of Chaucer, the 1651 first edition of Hobbes's Leviathan, a first edition of Thoreau's Walden, several works of Dickens in parts, a growing collection of British and American literary annuals, and periodical runs including Mathew Carey's American Museum, one of the first American magazines, and a complete 18th and 19th century run of the London-based Gentleman's Magazine. Contemporary book arts are represented in a growing collection that includes the works of Julie Chen, Clarissa Sligh, Michael Kuch, Barry Moser, and others. The department is currently building an LGBTQ+ Zine and Small Press collection, currently with over 500 examples, one of the largest in the Southeast. Our Baptist Historical Collection, the department's first special collection and begun in the 1890s, has over 5,000 volumes of Baptist theology, biography, and church history from the 18th century to the present. Our Microtonal Music Collection includes a substantial collection of books on music theory related to microtonality and alternative tuning systems, including many reprints of European works from the 17th and 18th centuries, and a large collection of printed scores to microtonal works. 

The collection is continually being developed to augment faculty teaching and classroom needs. In addition, it is growing in its depth of materials so it can serve as an excellent teaching collection in the history of the book. Our catalog records often contain considerable copy-specific information about volumes in the collection. Please search for information about holdings. All volumes can be viewed in the Simms Research Room whenever the department is open.