Rare Books and Special Collections

Welcome to the Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC), a unit of the Special Collections and Archives Department at the NIU Libraries. Our rare book holdings total over 10,300 volumes, in all subject areas, and is particularly strong in 18th and 19th century English and American literature and history, as well as religion and the history of the book. Items are placed in the Rare Books Collection for many reasons, including age, scarcity, condition, or source of acquisition. Please see our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for further details of what makes a book rare.

The oldest extant items in our collection are several leaves from medieval manuscripts. Facsimiles of important medieval books such as the Book of Kells, The Durham Gospels, The Lorsch Gospels, the Belles Heures of the Duke of Berry, and the Ellesmere Chaucer are part of our collection as well. Other holdings documenting early printing include incunabula (books printed with moveable type before 1501) and books from the 16th century.

The RBSC houses 46 special collections in addition to the Rare Books Collection. A special collection is focus area and generally constitutes a range of materials about one subject, such as collections of particular authors, book illustrators and artists, or topics. Holdings of published materials can be found using the online catalog. Archival materials may be located in ArchivesSpace.

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