Special Collections Rare Books

Our rare book collection spans from medieval manuscript volumes to fine press books from the 20th century, and diverse topics from science and technology to culture and literature. A variety of materials are represented including a cuneiform tablet, fragments of papyri, medieval manuscripts, and incunabula and books from such early printing houses as Aldus Manutius, Elzevier and Plantin. Two fine examples of a manuscript and an early printed book are an illuminated Book of Hours and the Nuremberg Chronicle. Medieval music manuscripts and early printed works such as Musica TransalpinaL’Art du Facteur d’OrguesHistoire de la Notation Musicale, and Orpheus Britannicus are also represented in our collections. Books from private and fine press publishers such as Strawberry Hill, Kelmscott, Doves, Roycrofters, Nonesuch, Hogarth, Cuala, Black Sun and Bits are also to be found in the collection.

Collections of local interest include first editions by Hart Crane, black writers Charles Chesnutt, and Langston Hughes, as well as over 80% of the original library of Western Reserve College dating from the mid-19th century. Subject strengths of our rare book collection include the history of science and technology (including books donated by Thomas F. Peterson, Jr.), Renaissance humanism, wine and gastronomy, religion and theology, English and German literature, housing and urban development, and books about books.  

Make a request to view Special Collections materials by appointment or make a photoduplication request by logging in or creating an Aeon account.

View digitized rare books from Kelvin Smith Library's Special Collections in Digital Case.

Introduce special collections, archives, primary sources, and their handling and use with modules available through KSL’s Instruction Hub.