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Rare Books and Early Manuscripts at the University of Chicago Library

This guide contains resources, descriptions, and tutorials on how to use the rare book and early manuscript collections at the University of Chicago Library. There is also information and resources on book history, printing, and book collecting.

Guidelines for Using Rare Books

The Special Collections Research Center welcomes faculty, students, and staff of the University of Chicago and visiting researchers. The Reading Room is reserved for registered users of Special Collections. Since many of the materials are rare or unique, readers are expected to treat all materials with care to avoid loss or damage and to follow these guidelines:

  • Food and drink are not permitted in Special Collections.

  • Please silence your cell phone, pager, or other messaging device. 

  • Only materials needed for research may be taken into the Reading Room. Free lockers are available. Please check all briefcases, backpacks, handbags, computer cases, coats, and hats in the locker room. Keep your Chicago Card or day pass with you at all times.

  • Library materials and personal items (including notebooks, laptop computers, books, etc.) are subject to inspection prior to entering and upon leaving the Reading Room.

  • All written notes are to be taken in pencil. Marking, erasing, or altering Library materials is prohibited.

  • Laptop and computing devices for taking notes are permitted in the Reading Room.

  • We do allow non-flash, self-service digital photography in the reading room. Please see a Special Collections staff member before beginning your photography.  Scanners of any type are not allowed.

  • All materials must remain on the surface of the table. When appropriate, readers may be asked to place books and bound manuscripts on book rests or cradles, to use weights for holding books open, or to wear protective gloves. When in doubt about proper handling, please consult the Reading Room staff.

    Rare books should always be placed in a foam cradle. Book weights (or snakes) should be used to hold open pages and minimize damage from hands. 

Rare Book Digital Highlights from the Library's Collection

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Catherine Uecker