Guide to Collections

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign is one of the largest repositories for rare books and manuscripts in the United States.  The collections—nearly half a million volumes and three kilometers of manuscript material—are strong in the broad areas of literature, history, art, theology, philosophy, technology, and the natural sciences. Particular strengths lie in early printing (over 1100 incunabula) and imprints from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with English literature, works by Shakespeare, various important editions of the Bible, and renaissance school books standing out as distinctive and deep collections. Also noteworthy are collections in the history of science and technology and the history of economics.  The Library is renowned for its collection of emblem books and for its extensive holdings of works by and about John Milton.  A special emphasis of the Library’s collections is drama, from neo-Latin plays to Italian baroque drama, to Elizabethan and Jacobean playbooks, to twentieth-century set and costume design.  Significant resources for northern Italian history can be found in the Cavagna Collection, which includes material from the twelfth to the twentieth century.  The Spanish Golden Age collection includes more than 1,200 volumes dating from 1472 to 1700 and represents not only Spanish literature, but also religion, law, politics, medicine, and astronomy. Finally, modern literary archival material housed in The Rare Book & Manuscript Library include the papers of H.G. Wells, Carl Sandburg, and W.S. Merwin, letters of Marcel Proust, and various archival collections associated with such figures as Anthony Trollope, John Ruskin, Grant Richards, William Allingham, Richard Bentley, Benjamin Disraeli, Lewis Carroll, and John Richardson, among others.

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