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.

Access to the collection while we are closed

While the Yale Center for British Art is closed for conservation work, access to the rare books and manuscripts collection is limited. Effective August 1, 2024, the Study Room will be unavailable through the end of 2024. 

Please email ycba.studyroom@yale.edu to discuss availability. 

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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 museum's Prints and Drawings, Rare Books and Manuscripts, and Archives collections. The Study Room is also used for teaching from these collections, and staff members are available for advice on planning classes.

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Explore the YCBA’s Collections

Over 100,000 records from the Paintings and Sculpture, Prints and Drawings, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Reference Library, and Institutional Archives collections 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