Literature and poetry are well represented in the Rare Books collections, with examples ranging from the 17th- to 20th-centuries and from drama to detective fiction.

Dyson Collection

A collection of around 800 titles of 17th- to early 19th-century English literature, this was the Library's first Rare Books collection. It originally formed part of the library of HVD 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.

Treasures include:

  • the first subscription edition of James Thomson's The Seasons (1730) with illustrations by the architect William Kent
  • the first and second editions of William Wordsworth's Lyrical ballads (1798 and 1800)
  • the first edition of John Keats' Endymion (1818)

Eliot Collection

Comprising editions of 20th-century English literature, its nucleus was a small number of books by and about TS 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 WB Yeats, Robert Graves, DH Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, Seamus Heaney, Christopher Hill, and Paul Muldoon.

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 HC 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).

Peggy Janiurek Collection

This collection of children's literature is kept on the first floor at the end of the education section of the JB Morrell Library (Shelf location K), and books from it can be borrowed. Books are arranged on the shelf alphabetically by the name of the author.

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

Of interest to anyone studying children's history and also students of language and linguistics.

Special Collections also holds a number of late 18th- and 19th-century children's literature including books illustrated by Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane among others.

Poetry Society Library

The 11,000 volumes are mainly 20th-century English poetry, but also include English poetry and drama of other periods, and foreign poetry.

The collection was transferred from its original home in London and placed here on permanent loan in 1986.

It is 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.