The Rare Book Room houses around 6500 volumes of non-Australiana rare books.
Included amongst the collections are:
- Incunabula (pre-1500 printed books) and other early printed books.
- Original editions of the Greek and Roman classics and pre-1850 fine printing. Their significance is in the history of printing, publishing and illustration as well as in the history of editions of the Greek and Roman classics. Many of these books are in fine bindings and from outstanding
and famous libraries and will therefore also sustain research into bookbinding history, library history (especially of private libraries) and book collecting history and biography.
- Fine plate books. These are fine plate books (Ackermann etc.), also fine natural history books and editions of the Classics with fine illustrations. The collection is particularly rich in extra-illustrated books, that is, books which have had illustrations added from other sources (original
prints, manuscripts etc., even original works of art on occasion).
- Modern private press material. Private presses covered in depth are Golden Cockerel Press, Kelmscott Press, Ashendene Press, Doves Press, Eragny Press, St Dominics and Gregynog Press. Other private presses are covered selectively. The holdings of the Golden Cockerel Press and Kelmscott
Press are complete as far as titles are concerned. The collection of prospectuses and ephemera from the press is still not complete. Many titles are held in several copies with important individual features. An important collection of material relating to William Morris is held in the English Room.
- Fine bindings: This includes designer bindings, fine 18th- or 19th-century armorial bindings, bindings from the Guild of Women Binders, Zaehnsdorf, Charles Lewis and Riviera and Gregynog Press.
The Rare Book Room also contains a miscellany of other rare and significant material including a small number of medieval manuscripts. The Rare Book Room functions as a 'museum of the book' in that it has specimens of many of the important printers from the 15th to the 19th century and many of the important books from that period. The majority of the books have come from the collection of Dr Orde Poynton, through the Pendlebury bequest, from the collection of George McArthur and from purchases made by the Friends of the Baillieu Library.
Also available is the online resource Early English Books Online (University email login required).
Access and Availability
The Rare Books collection is fully catalogued online.
Material held in the Rare Books collections can be accessed through the Cultural Collections Reading Room in the Baillieu Library. Requests for material can be made online prior to visiting the reading room. To request material, please register and order here.