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Rare Book Collections: Rare Books

Rare Books Collection

engraved frontispiece and title page, John Middleton, on Aristotle's PHYSICS (1670)

Housed in the William H. Cowles Rare Books Library and the 10,500 square-foot Special Collections vault, the Rare Book collection constitutes over 16,000 items. Over 3,000 volumes constitute The Gonzaga Collection, focused on theology, philosophy, and the classics, in works mainly from the 16th-18th centuries, but including some as old as 1475.

The history of the book can be studied through the rare books at Gonzaga. Moreover, fine printing is well represented. For instance, the vault holds nearly 500 volumes from Ye Galleon Press of Fairfield, Washington, and numerous works produced by the Benedictine nuns at Stanbrook Abbey.

Reference works are located in the Reading Room of the Cowles Rare Books Library. The circular bookcase that encloses the hub of that room was designed to house the complete National Union Catalog (NUC), both the pre-1956 set in 754 volumes and all supplemental series (through 1978). Valuable to researchers, the NUC contains bibliographic records on many titles held in U.S. institutions not yet entered into OCLC's WorldCat system.

Records of most rare books in the collection are searchable through the Library Search, and more volumes are continually being catalogued.

UASC Research Regulations

Due to their value, condition, and uniqueness, UASC materials do not circulate and must be used in the space provided. These collections require handling and security precautions to ensure their long-term preservation. Regulations include the following:

  • Patrons may take digital photographs of materials with a handheld device. Portable scanners are allowed with staff permission and accordance to departmental scanning guidelines.
  • Portable electronic devices and pencils are allowed for note taking. Pens may not be used.
  • Food or drink is not permitted
  • When gloves or book cradles are provided they must be used
  • Briefcases, backpacks, purses are stored on shelving above the work area.
  • Secure storage of valuables is available upon request.

Accessing the Collection

University Archives and Special Collections is open:

Monday - Friday. 9:00 am - 4:30 pm

Appointments are preferred but walk-ins are accommodated, when possible.  

Appointments can be made by emailing or by calling 509-313-3873