Rare Book Collections

When the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections opened in 1962, the Washington University Libraries owned a small rare book collection, the finest pieces of which had been donated by St. Louis collector William Keeney Bixby. Now, the rare book collections include over 60,000 printed pieces and represent all the disciplines the University Libraries collect. The collections’ primary strengths are in the areas of literature; the material culture of the book, including the history of printing, graphic design, and the book arts; and aspects of American and world history.

Spanning seven centuries of written and visual communication, these collections support teaching and discovery across the University and are freely accessible to students, scholars, and visiting researchers.

Additional collections of rare materials are housed in the Art and Architecture, Music, East Asian, School of Medicine, and School of Law libraries.

Please contact Cassie Brand, Curator of Rare Books, with any questions to arrange your visit.


Search the catalog for Rare Books


Alchemy Books

By Tobias Feldmann on October 29, 2019

The rare books vault of the Department of Special Collections hosts many old books on various top...

Stitching Coptic-Bound Books

By Alison Carrick on July 5, 2019

On Saturday, June 8, a group of library and book enthusiasts had the chance to learn about coptic...