Materials in Special Collections total over 90,000 items. The collections are diverse and range from a substantial Rare Book Collection with material dating to the eighth century to the Comic Art Collection, focused on underground comics, classic comic strips, and graphic novels. The collections include books, periodicals, manuscripts, maps, posters, printed ephemera, and artifacts.
How to Use the Collections
Materials in Special Collections are not browsable, and most cannot be checked out. In order to use materials, patrons must come to the Special Collections Reading Room (room 401) during regular operating hours, and staff will retrieve materials from the closed stacks. Librarians can help patrons identify materials of interest.
Patrons may also need to show a photo identification card, which may be either an MU ID card or another official identification card such as a driver’s license. For more information on using the book collections, please see Reading Room Rules.
Medieval Manuscripts and Early Printing
Teachers and faculty are encouraged to use the collections of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and incunables in classes and student projects; they are an excellent resource for teaching the history of the book.
Comic Books, Graphic Novels, and Popular Fiction
Literature, Religion, and Politics
Highlights include thousands of early editions of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fiction, serials, and pamphlets in the Rare Book Collection, as well as political cartoons and underground publications from the early and mid-twentieth century.
Artists’ Books and Fine Press Imprints
Over a thousand posters document war and anti-war efforts in the United States, France, and Germany during World Wars I and II.
Theater and the Performing Arts
Holdings in this area include the personal and professional papers of Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson, a collection of twentieth-century theatre programs, and hundreds of published plays, librettos, and technical manuals from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the Rare Book Collection.
History of Science
In support of MU’s recognized strengths in the life sciences, the Rare Book Collection contains landmarks of early scientific thought, including early herbals, natural history treatises, and groundbreaking works on medicine, biology, and anatomy.
The textbooks date from 1770-1929. Most were published in the centers of textbook production–New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Cincinnati–but cities across the country are also represented.
Guides and Indexes
Published guides to the collections are available in electronic format from the Digital Library.