Rare Books and Manuscripts

The Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts holds approximately 35,000 volumes. The collection represents a broad range of material relating to the visual arts and cultural life in the United Kingdom and the former British Empire, dating from the fifteenth century to the present.

Particular strengths include illustrated “color-plate” books from the renowned J. R. Abbey collection, drawing manuals, sporting books and manuscripts, early maps and atlases, early printed books, private press and contemporary artists’ books, as well as archival and manuscript material relating to British artists, writers, and travelers of all periods. Recent collecting areas include textiles, cartes de visite, photographic albums, printed ephemera, children’s games, and viewing devices.

Information about collections in the Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts is accessible using a variety of systems. The Center’s online collection provides access to material from all of its departments. The holdings of Rare Books and Manuscripts are also described in the Yale Libraries’ online catalogue and Archives at Yale, allowing researchers to explore these holdings in combination with other special collections on campus. Rare Books and Manuscripts staff are also available to provide assistance.

James Bolton, One of twenty drawings depicting specimens from the natural history cabinet of Anna Blackburne (detail), ca. 1768

Study Room

The Study Room provides access to works in the Center’s Prints and Drawings, Rare Books and Manuscripts, and Institutional Archives collections. The Study Room is also used for teaching from these collections, and staff members are available for advice on planning classes.

The Study Room is open to the public, Tuesday–Friday, 10 am–4:30 pm. Appointments are recommended but not required. To request materials, first-time visitors are encouraged to preregister online. Please note: The Study Room is closed on Mondays, Good Friday, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and the days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.

Learn more

Search the Collections

Explore the Center’s collections of Paintings and Sculpture, Prints and Drawings, Rare Books and Manuscripts, as well as the Reference Library and Institutional Archives, which are searchable online, along with nearly all of the Center’s historic frames.

Begin your search

Philippe Mercier, The Sense of Sight (detail), 1744 to 1747

Contact the Rare Books and Manuscripts department at ycba.rarebooks@yale.edu | ycba.studyroom@yale.edu |
+1 203 432 2815 | +1 203 432 9613 fax