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About the Library

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library is home to early manuscripts, rare books, and literary papers in the broad fields of literature, history, art, technology, religion, pedagogy, theater, and the natural sciences.

Established in 1936, The Rare Book & Manuscript Library has grown to over half a million volumes and several kilometers of manuscript material. Particular strengths lie in early printing and English literature, with works by Shakespeare and other playwrights, various important editions of the Bible, renaissance school books, and the works of John Milton standing out as distinctive and deep collections. The Library is renowned for its outstanding collections of incunabula, emblem books, and early modern imprints. Also noteworthy are collections in the history of science and technology, theater history, mathematics, geology, Italian 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, Gwendolyn Brooks, Shana Alexander, and W.S. Merwin are housed in The Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library is a vibrant center for historical materials, embracing its role as a cultural destination for the campus and the region, while remaining a place of serious research for Illinois students and faculty and for scholars from around the world. The library is open to anyone wishing to use the collection.

View the library’s brochure (pdf)

View the Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s Introduction Video