Rare Books

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that University of Melbourne Collections may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons, or culturally sensitive content (more information).

The Rare Books Collection holds around 250,000 items spanning the 14th and 21st centuries. It comprises historic and unique volumes, journals, ephemera and realia. Works are included in the collection due to their age and rarity, and include books of special provenance or ownership, limited editions and important or beautiful bindings. The great richness and depth of the collection has been built upon the generosity of several major benefactors – George McArthur, J. Orde Poynton, Frederick Morgan, Joyce Thorpe Nicholson, John Willis and Ian McLaren amongst others – reflecting their vision and diverse interests.

The strengths of the collection include Greek and Roman classics, English literature; book arts and history; children’s books; Australiana; early scientific and medical works; social and political thought and materials related to the University of Melbourne and its history. Other highlights include a nationally significant collection of early Middle Eastern manuscripts; a world-class holding of literary editions by Sir Walter Scott; the fine printings of notable private presses such as Kelmscott and Ashendene; and an excellent teaching collection of medieval manuscripts in facsimile.

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The collections are accessible via the Baillieu Library Reading Room.