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Cardiff Rare Books

The Cardiff Rare Books Collection is an exceptionally rich and varied collection of over 14,000 books ranging from 15th century incunabula to 20th century fine press books.

Cardiff Rare Books


Because of its aspirations to become home to a national library for Wales, from the late 19th century onward Cardiff City Council built up a remarkable collection of books at its Central Library. The Cardiff Rare Books Collection represents the core of the English and Continental rare books in that collection. It was acquired by Cardiff University from Cardiff City Council in 2010, with the support of the Welsh Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, who (like Cardiff University and Cardiff City Council) recognised its significance as a national collection and the need to preserve it and to promote its use by scholars and the general public.

The Cardiff Rare Books Collection is one of international significance and includes many items which are extremely rare, and some of which are unique. Among the strengths and highlights of the collection are its incunabula, its cross-section of Renaissance and Reformation literature, its rare Bibles and atlases, a world-class collection of English Restoration drama, a broad range of Shakespearian material, significant sections on natural history, topography and travel, and an extraordinary set of British private press books from the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to materials in English, it has many books in other European languages and by Continental authors. A rich strain of illustrative material is a major feature which runs through the whole collection.

Further details regarding the collection may be found here (coming soon).

Werner Rolewinck, Fasciculus Temporum, 1474

The collection is currently being catalogued, and as they are catalogued, details of items in the collection are added to Cardiff University Library’s electronic catalogue, LibrarySearch.

Items from the collection feature regularly on the blog of the Library’s Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR). Aspects of the collection are regularly showcased in the Cardiff Rare Books and Music Lecture Series, and digital selections from exhibitions are hosted at SCOLAR’s Exhibition Images Online.

Plans are also afoot to digitise key texts in the collection. Ten works, ranging from the 14th to the 20th century, have already been digitally scanned and have been placed on ‘Turning The Pages’ digital 3D books display touch screen, which is housed in the University Library, but which is also available for loan for use in exhibitions elsewhere by other organisations.

For further information regarding the collection, and for the loan of the ‘Turning The Pages’ portable touch screens, contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives, Mr Peter Keelan (; ++44 (0)29-2087-5678).


Other special collections at Cardiff University

Cardiff University has acquired and developed special collections and archives to support teaching and research ever since it was founded in 1883. Most of these collections are now housed in SCOLAR, the University Library’s Special Collections and Archives, in the Arts and Social Studies Library, which is located just inside the University’s Colum Drive campus, near the junction of Corbett Road, Park Place and Colum Road.


The major collections which complement the Cardiff Rare Books Collection are:


Salisbury Library

An internationally-renowned and wide-ranging repository of materials of Welsh and Celtic interest from the 16th to the 21st centuries, which also includes significant collections of items relating to the English border counties of the Welsh Marches.


Carmarthen Collection

Rare books and scientific equipment from the Carmarthen Academy, founded in the early 18th century. Among the 5,000 books are many rare theological, philosophical and scientific volumes.


Reece and Morse Collections

Around 3,000 volumes, ranging from the 16th to the 20th centuries, from the library of a former Mayor of Cardiff who was also an antiquarian book collector, and from a former University academic’s collection.


History of Medicine Collection

Nearly 3,000 volumes of medicine texts dating from the 16th to the 20th century, including works by all the key authors and covering all topics, from anatomy to surgery.


Other collections include:



  • B. J. Morse archive
  • Edward Thomas archive
  • Bernard Knight archive
  • Keith Waterhouse archive
  • Tennyson collection











  • Morfydd Owen archive
  • Grace Williams archive
  • David Wynne archive
  • BBC Music Library collection
  • Mackworth collection
  • Aylward collection


Business/Finance History

  • Sir Julian Hodge
  • Patrick Minford
  • National Docks Labour Board
  • Sir Bryan Hopkin