Rare Book Collection

Ref: Special Collection

Title: Rare Book Collection

Printed volumes of mainly pre-1851 origin, with some others of later date of special interest or value

Dates: 1501 to the present day (mainly pre-1851)
Extent: c. 26,000 vols.
Name of creator: The University of Sheffield Library

An image of The Dromedary from Edward Topsell

Administrative / biographical history:

The Rare Book Collection consists of printed volumes which are either pre-1851 in origin, or of a later date but are of some especial interest or rarity. Many of these volumes have been presented to the Library throughout its life as donations, most notable being the several thousand volumes presented by Sir Charles Harding Firth in the early days of the University Library. Firth had been Lecturer in Modern History in Firth College (an institution which developed into University College, Sheffield (1897), which in turn became the University of Sheffield (1905)) before becoming Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, and was a generous benefactor of the fledgling institution. Apart from the general Collection, which includes for example a copy of the original edition of Newton's Principia and an edition of Galen which bears the signature of Fran├žois Rabelais, areas of particular note, with approximate no. of volumes, are:

  • The Pamphlet Book Collection: 16th to 19th centuries, which includes many Civil War and other 17th century tracts (393 vols. - 3000 items)
  • The Periodicals Collection: mainly 18th and 19th century journals (2250)
  • Parliamentary Papers: pre-1851 material (482)
  • The Sheffield Newspaper Collection: late 18th to early 19th centuries (50 vols)
  • The Royal Infirmary Donation: a collection of medical works from the 16th to 19th centuries (500)

The collection also includes other notable material such as a late 17th century (Restoration) drama collection, and volumes of Rowlandson and Cruikshank caricatures.

Although a growing proportion of the books is now listed in the Library's StarPlus online catalogue many other volumes are still represented only in the old card catalogue, although the intention is eventually to complete the listing of the whole collection on the OPAC.

Guide to the 19th Century Pamphlets projects is available from RLUK (Research Libraries UK) - formerly CURL - and includes information about this collection and collections held at other institutions in the U.K.

  • Related collections: Incunabula and Medieval Mss.; Firth Ballads; Hewins Ballads; Parish Libraries Collection
  • Source: Various
  • System of arrangement: Classified
  • Subjects: General
  • Names: Firth, Sir Charles Harding
  • Conditions of access: Available to all researchers, by appointment
  • Restrictions: Access may be restricted at the discretion of the Librarian
  • Copyright: Some later items remain in copyright
  • Finding aids: Listed on StarPlus or in the card catalogue