Rare Books Information

Special Collections' Rare Books unit preserves approximately 50,000 titles dating from a leaf of the Gutenberg Bible (ca. 1456) to recent first editions. These include a wide range of formats, from miniatures no larger than one inch high, to volumes forty inches tall; from five-hundred year-old books in as fine a condition as the day they were printed to twentieth-century first editions crumbing from the acidity of their paper.

Noteworthy Holdings

  • Audubon Folio
    Audubon Folios

    The folios containing the beautiful prints for John James Audubon's The Birds of America have returned from their offsite housing to their home in Rare Books. The folios will be displayed in the main hallway of the 6th floor of the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library. Conservation of these volumes and display case were provided through the generous support of the Stuart Rose Family Foundation.

  • Book of Hours
    Book of Hours

    A full-page illumination from Rare Books's 15th-century book of hours, from the Linton-Surget Collection. Well-known relics of the Middle Ages, a book of hours is a Christian devotional book containing a selection of texts, prayers, and psalms. This particular example was likely created in the south of France, and was written in French and Latin by three unknown persons sometime between 1490 and 1495.

  • section of the Commentarium in Psalmos Davidicos by Peter Lombard
    Peter Lombard Leaves

    A fragment of a 13th-century manscript, once bound in a codex, containing a section of the Commentarium in Psalmos Davidicos by Peter Lombard. Lombard was a 12th-century theological scholar and the Bishop of Paris from 1159 to 1160. The fragment contains additional handwritten annotations from at least two 13th-century owners or readers.

  • copy of John Wycliffe's New Testament
    John Wycliffe's New Testament

    One of our newest acquisitions: a copy of John Wycliffe's New Testament. Wycliffe, an English philosoher and theologian and an advocate for a translation of the Bible into English, completed an English translation of the New Testament in 1382. While many manuscript copies of Wycliffe's translation circulated, this edition (published by John Lewis in 1731) was the earliest printed edition of the text to exist.

  • Portuguese Manuscript
    17th-century Portuguese Manuscript

    Compiled by a Portuguese friar in 1633, this handwritten text (still in its original binding) contains explanations of civil and ecclesiastical laws on matters such as marriages, guns and munitions, and clothing, with many records of actual petitions, arrests, and sentences.