Collections guide

The collections guide is an A-Z listing of the different collections held in the Rare Books Collection at the University of York

Please get in touch for more information on particular collections.

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Cooper Abbs Collection

The Cooper Abbs Collection was a bequest to the Friends of the National Libraries from Miss Kathleen Cooper Abbs of Mount Grace Priory, Northallerton, who died in 1974. The Friends subsequently decided to deposit the collection at York.

It is a family library started by the Revd Cooper Abbs of Monkwearmouth (1738-1800), and treasured and added to by his descendants. Many of the books have been annotated and decorated with sketches by his children and grandchildren. It is predominantly of the 18th century, and contains the kind of books one would expect in the library of a cultivated country gentleman: literature, history, some science, not too much theology.

Interesting items include first editions of the later volumes of Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, signed by the author; of Thomas Percy's Reliques of ancient English poetry (1765); and of Sir Walter Scott's Tales of a grandfather (1830). There is also a 16th century edition of Thucydides, once part of the Royal Library, sold by the British Museum as a duplicate in 1787.

Copland Collection

Comprises scores composed by Aaron Copland (1900-1990), and includes symphonies, ballet suites, chamber music, concertos, and film music. His connection with the University of York stems from a friendship with former professor of music, Wilfrid Mellers, through whose initiative Copland was awarded an honorary degree by the University in 1971. Under the terms of Copland's will, the Library received a copy of all of his works which were in print at the time of his death. Mellers's collection of books, scores, programmes and pamphlets is also in the Rare Books Collection.

Copley Collection

The Copley Collection is in King's Manor Library and can be borrowed.

It contains over 1100 items on the long 18th century relating to literature and history with some music and art.

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Dyson Collection

A collection of 17th to early 19th century English literature this was the Library's first special collection. It originally formed part of the library of H.V.D. Dyson, Emeritus Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, from whom it was bought in 1963. It consists of around 1,500 volumes, nearly all first editions, and many beautifully bound, containing poetry, with a little drama and critical prose, but no fiction. The principal authors are Dryden, Pope, and the Romantic poets.

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ECM Collection

This collection of commercial recordings presently includes over 800 compact discs, representing the full ECM catalogue. It is stored in the Harry Fairhust building.

Eliot Collection

Comprising editions of 20th century English literature, its nucleus was a small number of books by and about T.S. Eliot, given to the university library in 1972 by the library of King's College, Cambridge. They came from a bequest to King's College by Eliot's friend, John Hayward, and consisted of those books in the Hayward Collection of which King's College already owned copies. The collection has since been expanded, both through the acquisition of new books by gift and purchase, and through transferring to it books previously on the open shelves. It now covers such authors as W.B. Yeats, Robert Graves, D.H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, Seamus Heaney, Christopher Hill, and Paul Muldoon.

Elton Collection

The collection of Tudor historian Geoffrey Elton. The Rare Books Collection holds around 120 books and a large collection of pamphlets and off prints concerned with British constitutional history. The rest of the collection is on the open shelves in the Raymond Burton Reading Room.

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Feinstein Collection

Charles Feinstein was an economist and economic historian. Among his many academic appointments he was Professor of economic and social history at York. His collection comprises 683 books on economics and economic history.

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Garden History Society

The Garden History Society has placed its collection on long loan here. These form part of the lending stock, with the exception of some rare and special books. Borrowable books are at Kings Manor Library and the rare and special books are kept in the Rare Books Collection.

Garmonsway microfilms

Donated by George Norman Garmonsway (1898-1967), Professor of English Language in the University of London. They are shelved in the Raymond Burton Library.

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Halifax Collection

This library was founded by Robert Clay, vicar of Halifax from 1624 to 1628, who presented some of his own books, and solicited gifts from other people. Over the next two hundred years, many other books were added, notably a large collection belonging to Simon Sterne. This included some books which had belonged to his father, Richard Sterne, Archbishop of York, 1664-1683. Not all of the earlier books survived, and the Collection now contains about 239 works, all but one pre-1700, including four incunabula. Many are inscribed by the original owners.

Heath Collection

The collection was amassed by John Heath and focuses on the Heath family, engravers for 200 years. While at Oxford, he was given ‘Heath’s Book of Beauties’ published in 1813 which sparked a life long journey to collect as many James Heath engravings as possible. Heath, who was ambassador to Chile 1981-2 during the Falkland’s conflict, died in 2009 and in his will left his collection to the university. The books were collected for the engravings and for their fine bindings. The Heath collection complements the George Smith books also in the Rare Books Collection and together they form a considerable collection of books and prints illustrative of British engraving and painting in the 18th and 19th centuries.

History: Microform sources

We have a wide range of microforms which will be of use to historians.

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King's Manor slide collection

The slide collection at King's Manor is predominantly of interest to History of Art and Archaeology students. A project to digitise the slides and make them available via York Digital Library is underway.

King's Manor Rare Books Collection

Books on architecture and art formerly housed in King's Manor Library. Includes items from the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies, a former University department.

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Milner-White Collection

The Very Revd Eric Milner-White, Dean of York from 1941 until his death in 1963, was a member of the University Promotion Committee, which was responsible for the original planning of the University of York. One of his many interests was book collecting, and he formed a fine collection of English detective fiction, which came to the Library after his death. It contains about 740 volumes, mainly first editions of works published in the first half of the 20th century. There are virtually complete sets of the works of authors such as H.C. Bailey, Nicholas Blake (the pseudonym of Cecil Day-Lewis), and Dorothy Sayers, with a few earlier books of interest, such as Fergus Hume's The mystery of a hansom cab (1888).

Milnes Walker Collection

This collection consists of around 200 early medical books, Most of which were associated with Wakefield in Yorkshire. Bookplates represent Wakefield medical circulating library and the Wakefield medical library which belonged to the Clayton Hospital and was probably housed in the Wakefield dispensatory. A catalogue for the Wakefield medical library exists. They were the gift of Robert Milnes Walker, Professor Emeritus of Surgery in the University of Bristol and cover a period of almost 450 years.

A few items date from the 16th century being mainly commentaries on Hippocrates, Galen and Dioscorides; the greatest number are by 17th and 18th century writers such as

  • Thomas Sydenham, one of the most innovative physicians of the 17th century
  • John Huxham, notable for his studies of fevers
  • Richard Morton who studied tuberculosis
  • John Floyer, best known for introducing the practice of pulse rate measurement
  • Richard Mead , who helped towards a better understanding of transmissible diseases

Many of the books are illustrated.

Mirfield Collection

The Library's largest special collection is the Mirfield Collection. The books are mainly pre-1800, and formed part of the library of the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield, West Yorkshire. This Anglican religious community for men was founded in Oxford in 1892, and moved to Mirfield in 1898. The library was built up mainly by gifts from members and friends, and contains much valuable early material. All the pre-1800 books, plus a few sets of the publications of historical record societies, such as the Royal Historical Society, and the Surtees Society, were deposited here on permanent loan in 1973.

There are several incunabula, including an edition of St. Augustine's De civitate Dei, printed by Nicolas Jenson in Venice, 1475. Although the books are predominantly theological, there are many interesting works in other subjects: for example, the first collected edition of the works of Sir Philip Sidney (1598); the second edition of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan (1651); and the first edition of 1775 of A journey to the western islands of Scotland, by Samuel Johnson.

Music: Microform sources

We have a wide range of microforms which will be of use to music students.

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Newbold Collection

The Newbold Collection is housed with the Wormald Collection in King's Manor Library and can be consulted without prior notice but not borrowed.

Bequeathed by Dr Peter Newbold (1938-1996), for many years consultant dermatologist at Worcester Royal Infirmary. Dr Newbold was a lover of the fine arts and built up a very strong collection of material in this area with special emphasis on stained glass. It contains an extensive set of the Corpus Vitrearum series and, together with books from the Newton and Wormald Collections, forms an exceptional resource for the study of stained glass.

Newton Collection

The Newton Collection of books is housed with the Wormald Collection in King's Manor Library and can be consulted without prior notice but not borrowed. Newton’s notes on stained glass and heraldry are kept in the Rare Books Collection on the Heslington campus.

Dr Peter Newton, lecturer in British mediaeval art at York from 1965 to 1986, left his extensive library and collection of slides to the University. The collection is particularly strong in works on stained glass.

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Pearl and Bel Canto Collections

The finest producers of re-mastered archival sound material, this collection is important for anyone studying the history of recording or the history of performance practice. The Bel Canto collection is slightly more focused on vocal recordings. The collections are housed in the Harry Fairhurst building.

Those using the Pearl and Bel Canto recordings may also be interested in the holdings of the University of York Sound Archives (UYSA).

Peggy Janiurek Collection

This collection is kept on the open shelves on the first floor of the JB Morrell Library, at the end of the education section (Shelf location K), and books from it can be borrowed.

Assembled originally in collaboration with the University's Department of Educational Studies, and named in memory of a former student, it is a collection of children's literature. A few volumes are added to it every year. Books are arranged on the shelf alphabetically by the name of the author.

Pickford Collection

The Pickford Collection is in the King's Manor Library and can be borrowed.

The library of Professor Cedric Pickford of Hull University, which was given to the British branch of the International Arthurian Society, and deposited here. The main subject areas in the collection are:

  • Arthurian legend, literature and romance
  • British history
  • History and grammar of the French language – old and modern
  • Medieval drama
  • Medieval French history and culture
  • Medieval and modern French literature
  • Old English language and grammar
  • Printing – history and development

Pickford Collection leaflet: The Pickford Collection (PDF  , 51kb)

Poetry Society Library

The collection consists of about 11,000 volumes which are housed on the second floor at the end of the literature section of the JB Morrell Library. Books can be borrowed by any member of the University Library and also by members of the Poetry Society.

It was transferred from its original home in London and placed here on permanent loan in 1986. It is mainly 20th century English poetry, but also includes a substantial amount of English poetry and drama of other periods, and foreign poetry.

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Rare Books Collection

The Rare Books Collection contains miscellaneous rare or old books which do not fit into any particular collection. It includes books published before 1850, books with special bindings or illustrations, a book with a fore-edge painting (An historical essay on the Magna Charta by Richard Thomson, 1829) and books specially connected with York and the University.

There are also a number of books belonging to, or inscribed by, notable people. Among them are books presented to Lord Attlee by Nehru, Benes, and Beatrice and Sidney Webb; a copy of the philosophical works of Leibniz with notes by Bertrand Russell; and several books signed by Henry Moore, and given by him to the Library.

Raymond Burton Yorkshire Collection

In addition to a generous benefaction which enabled the building of the Raymond Burton Library for Humanities Research, Dr Burton also deposited his collection of books on Yorkshire at the university. It ranges from Edwards of Halifax bindings with fore-edge paintings to early writings about Dick Turpin; and from a fine presentation copy of J. Tickell's, The history of the town and county of Kingston upon Hull (1796) to chapbooks of James Kendrew, an early 19th century York printer.

Robbins Collection

20th century books on linguistics from the collection of Robert H Robbins, president of the Henry Sweet Society for the History of Linguistic Ideas.

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Sessions Book Trust

A collection of books from Sessions, a York bookbinding and publishing company, which went into receivership in 2010. It includes most publications issued by Sessions and a good selection of books on book and printing history.

Slaithwaite Collection

A parish library from the church of Slaithwaite, near Huddersfield. It was founded by the Rev. Robert Meeke, vicar from 1685 until his death in 1724, who, in his will, provided that part of his own library should be kept for the use of his successors. It was placed here on permanent loan in 1967. It consists mainly of 17th and 18th century theology, with a few rather surprising exceptions, such as a 17th century edition of the Gesta Romanorum, considered to be a source text for writers such as Chaucer and Shakespeare. There are also some manuscripts of local interest.

Smith Collection

George W. Smith amassed a considerable collection of books and prints illustrative of British engraving and painting in the 18th and 19th centuries, which he used in writing James Heath: engraver to kings and tutor to many (1989). After his death in 1995, the collection was donated to the university by his family. The prints and associated materials in the Smith Collection are housed in the Borthwick Institute for Archives.

Special Collection Journals

A collection of 18th and 19th century journals including the Cornhill Magazine, Penny magazine, National Review and Punch from 1841-1956.

Sweet Collection

Ofprints and pamphlets from the Henry Sweet Society for the History of Linguistic Ideas which was founded in February 1984. Its aims are to promote and encourage the study of the history of all branches of linguistic thought, theoretical and applied, and including non-European traditions. Its fields of interest include the history both of the major subject areas of linguistics and also of more specialised topics, such as writing systems, literacy, rhetoric, and the application of linguistic ideas within professional and technical fields.

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Texts and calendars in York

There are collections of texts and calendars in a number of York libraries.

Texts and calendars (compiled by Dr David Griffiths) gives locations in five York libraries for material listed in E.L.C. Mullins, Texts and calendars: an analytical guide to serial publications (London: Royal Historical Society, 1958-1983), with locations for record society publications and other material published since.

Toynbee Collection

The library of Arnold Toynbee, historian and Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, was bought by the University following his death in 1975. Most of the books have been dispersed among the Library's general collection, but his own copies of his works have been kept together, including translations into at least twelve languages.

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Vickers Collection

The firm of Vickers Instruments was the successor to the York firm of Cooke, Troughton and Simms, scientific instrument makers since the early 19th century. In 1989 they decided to deposit their archives and their collection of scientific instruments in the University. The instruments are now on display in the Department of Physics, and the archives are in the Borthwick Institute for Archives. The collection also included a small number of printed books, which are kept in the Library. They include histories of the firm, an index to the archives, and books which belonged to members of the firm, including some 17th and 18th century works on scientific instruments.

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Primary Sources for Women's History in the University Library

A guide to the Library's specialist primary resources for women's history in microform and online formats.

Wormald Collection

The collection is housed in the Wormald Room in King's Manor Library and can be consulted without prior notice but not borrowed.

The Wormald Collection was formerly the library of the late Francis Wormald, President of the Society of Antiquaries of London and Director of the Institute of Historical Research, and was given to the University of York by his widow in 1972. It consists mainly of books on the history of art, mediaeval history, and mediaeval English literature.

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York City Art Gallery

Sale catalogues Art sale catalogues from Sothebys and Christies from 1947 to 2003.

York Medical Society Library

The library of the York Medical Society, which was formed in 1832 with the object of promoting and diffusing medical knowledge, was deposited at the university in 2004. There are 3,000 or so volumes, including William Hunter's Anatomia uteri humani gravida tabulis illustrate (1774), one of the finest anatomical atlases ever produced; a two-volume edition of the works of Hippocrates from 1554; and an almost complete run of the British medical journal from 1855 to 1950.

York Retreat Collection

The York Retreat book collection was received by the University Library in 2006. The books, which originally formed the Retreat's working library, have been collected from the institution's earliest days up to the 20th century, and cover a wide range of material particularly relating to psychiatry and mental illness. In addition there are works on theories of insanity, institutions, care of the insane, the brain, criminal lunacy and legal issues. The collection includes a large number of important contemporary texts and significant authors. The Borthwick Institute for Archives holds the Retreat archive.

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