The Rare Book Collection covers a wide range of materials, from medieval manuscripts to modern artists’ books. The collection includes the Libraries’ books printed before 1800, books that exist only in very small numbers or that have significant monetary value, collections of particular presses or publishers that we have designated as collectible, and collections that serve particular teaching or research needs.
You can search the library catalog to find titles in the Rare Book collection.
Medieval Manuscripts and Early Printed Books
Manuscripts include several dozen individual leaves as well as complete codices from the twelfth to the seventeenth centuries, on theology, classical literature, and other topics. Early printed books include more than three dozen incunabula (books printed before 1501) and thousands of seventeenth-century imprints. Digital versions of our medieval and renaissance manuscripts are available online.
Nearly 300 editions of the Roman poet’s works printed from 1480 to the twenty-first century. The collection, begun in 1963 with books from UVM Classics professor Lester Prindle, consists most notably of illustrated editions of Metamorphoses.
The collection includes an illustrated manuscript herbal in Italian, produced around 1500, and many important printed herbals from the sixteenth century (and later), including works by Johannes de Cuba, Leonhart Fuchs, Otto Brunfels, Petro Mattioli, Rembert Dodoens, and John Gerarde.
Travel and Exploration of the Americas
This collection includes notable works by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century explorers and travelers such as Jean de Léry, Joseph François Lafitau, Samuel de Champlain, Francisco López de Gómarra, and André Thevet. Also included are accounts of travelers in the early decades of the United States.
Book History and Book Arts
The Rare Book Collection provides many resources for the study of historical and contemporary book production, including papermaking, printing, illustration, and binding. British and American fine and private presses are well represented. A large collection of North American and British artists’ books includes works by Vermont book artists and UVM faculty and students.
George Perkins Marsh Library
Frederick Billings purchased the library of George Perkins Marsh and donated it to UVM shortly after Marsh’s death in 1882. Marsh, a linguist, diplomat, and author of the seminal environmental treatise Man and Nature, collected Scandinavian literature, history, nature, and many other topics. His library of 12,000 volumes includes some of the rarest books in Special Collections.
Focusing on selected American, British, and Irish writers of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this category includes a comprehensive collection of books by and about the British poet laureate John Masefield, works by William Butler Yeats and other writers of the Irish literary renaissance, and assorted inscribed first editions.
Wolfgang Mieder International Proverb Library
The proverb library, housed in the North Lounge of Billings Library, includes 8,000 volumes in twenty languages. The titles are not yet included in the library catalog. To use the collection, contact Special Collections at firstname.lastname@example.org, 802-656-2138 or in person. Advance notice is appreciated.