About the Library

bookstackThe Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the principal repository for early manuscripts, rare books, and literary manuscripts in the broad fields of literature, history, art, theology, technology, theater, and the natural sciences. Established in 1936 from the collections of two professors, Harris Fletcher and Thomas Baldwin, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library has grown to nearly half a million volumes and over three kilometers of manuscript material. Particular strengths lie in early printing and the Elizabethan and Stuart periods in England, with works by Shakespeare and other playwrights, various important editions of the Bible, and renaissance school books standing out as distinctive and deep collections.  The Library is renowned for its outstanding collections of incunabula, emblem books, and continental renaissance imprints. Also noteworthy are the collections in the history of science and technology, theater history, American wit and humor, the history of economics, free speech movements, and natural history. The literary papers of such notable figures as Benjamin Disraeli, Anthony Trollope, William Allingham, Marcel Proust, John Richardson, Carl Sandburg, H.G. Wells, William Maxwell, Shana Alexander, and W.S. Merwin are housed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

The mission of The Rare Book & Manuscript Library is to make its collections accessible to all who wish to consult them, while doing its best to preserve these collections for future users. The library is open to anyone wishing to use the collection and the staff will be happy to assist you.

To read a .pdf version of the library’s brochure, please click here. View our introduction video.