The Special Collections Research Center acquires, cares for, interprets, and promotes the use of important collections of unique, rare, primary source, and other material in all formats and in a variety of subject areas, and is responsible for the majority of the U-M Library's Special Collections collection areas.
The Special Collections Children's Literature collection includes approximately 30,000 published volumes complemented by several archival and manuscript collections containing the artwork, correspondence, drafts, and other material created by a number of notable authors and illustrators. The collection is noted for pop-up and movable books, Newbery and Caldecott medal winners, works by Michigan authors and illustrators, and a great many limited and finely-bound editions illustrated by Arthur Rackham. The circulating Children's Literature collection supports University curriculum.
The political upheavals of 17th-century Europe are well documented in significant collections of political and other pamphlets from England, France, and the Netherlands. The Special Collections Research Center is also home to hundreds of pre-1800 books on European military history as well as thousand of pamphlets from the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany.
History of Astronomy
The History of Astronomy collection documents the early history of the field in hundreds of pre-1800 publications including works by Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and Johannes Kepler (1571-1630). Also included are the big four star atlases produced during Europe’s “Golden Age” of celestial cartography: Johann Bayer’s Uranometria (1603), Johannes Hevelius’ Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia (1690), John Flamsteed’s Atlas Coelestis (1729), and Johann Elert Bode’s Uranographia (1801). The highlight of the collection, and one of the treasures of the Library, is a manuscript in Galileo’s own hand that illustrates his discovery, sometime between 1609 and 1610, of the four moons of Jupiter.
History of Medicine
Consisting of approximately 8,500 works of historical and scholarly significance, the History of Medicine collection includes 52 magical amulets dating from 100-500 CE; medical “fugitive sheets” — the Renaissance version of a pop-up book, which allowed for the study of different layers of the body; early editions of medical classics, including several extremely rare early editions of the works of Galen in the original Greek, a first edition (1543) of Andreas Vesalius’ De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem, and a first edition (1628) of William Harvey’s Exercitatio anatomica de motv cordis et sangvinis in animalibvs; and one of the world’s most comprehensive collections on the history and development of homeopathy.
The Islamic Manuscripts collection consists of 1,095 volumes and a small number of single leaves dating from the 8th to the 20th century CE and carrying roughly 1,795 texts chiefly in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish. The collection offers a vast range of material for philologists and historians of various disciplines, including Islamic social history, knowledge transmission and acquisition, manuscript production and ownership, and the arts of the book, and it ranks among the largest and most significant such collections in North America. The subjects covered by the manuscripts include the Qur’an (texts and commentaries); commentaries and other works of criticism; Islamic traditions, theology, and jurisprudence; and philology, philosophy, geography, history, mathematics, astronomy, and astrology.
Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive
Established in 2005, the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive is widely recognized as a premier collection that both documents and defines the American culinary experience. Shaped by a rich assemblage gathered over many years by Janice Bluestein Longone and Daniel T. Longone, the collection features the first American cookbook (published in 1796), the earliest and only extant copy of an African-American authored cookbook (published in 1866), charity cookbooks from all fifty states, and a diverse assortment of restaurant menus and food-related advertising ephemera.
Jewish Heritage Collection
The Jewish Heritage Collection, a gift made jointly to the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies and the University Library, paints a vivid, lasting, and unique portrait of the Jewish experience. In addition to more than 1,500 books, the collection consists of about 1,000 works of art, 700 pieces of ephemera, and 200 objects.
About the image: Afikomen bag with an image of family at Seder printed on front from the Jewish Heritage Collection Digital Archive
Jewish Heritage Collection Digital Archive
Joseph A. Labadie Collection
The Joseph A. Labadie Collection, one of the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive collections of its kind in the United States, was named for Detroit labor organizer and anarchist Jo (Joseph Antoine) Labadie (1850-1933), who donated his collection of books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, and memorabilia to the University of Michigan in 1911.The collection includes material documenting the history of anarchism, anti-colonialist movements, anti-war and pacifist movements, atheism and free thought, civil liberties and civil rights, labor and workers’ rights, LGBTQ movements, prisons and prisoners, the New Left, the Spanish Civil War, and youth and student protest.
The University Library's Literature collection includes an impressive array of literary first editions, one of the world’s best collections of editions, translations, adaptations, and spin-offs of Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels, manuscripts by Algernon Swinburne and Anthony Trollope, hundreds of feet of material related to the University of Michigan's renowned Hopwood Awards program, the papers of authors and poets including Victor Bockris, Nicholas Delbanco, Judith Guest, Marge Piercy, Anne Waldman, and Nancy Willard, and the records of small publishers including The Alternative Press, Broadside Press, and Hanuman Books.
Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts
The University Library Manuscript collection from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance consists of over 250 volumes largely devoted to religious topics as well as single leaves, some of them of extraordinary historical relevance such as the collection of 20 parchment leaves containing works of the Coptic writer Shenoute of Atripe. Together these illustrate the art and craft of manuscript production in several parts of Europe and the Mediterranean region.
About the image: White Monastery Codex BZ 233/234 from the Shenute, a White Monastery Codex Digital Collection
The University of Michigan Library is home to the largest collection of ancient papyri in North America. The documents in the Papyrology Collection, which span roughly 2,000 years, contain not only important religious texts — including 60 pages of the oldest known copy of the Epistles of Paul — but also personal letters, school primers, sales contracts and other records that paint a unique portrait of everyday life.
About the image: P.Mich.inv. 620; Recto. Image digitally reproduced with the permission of the Papyrology Collection, Graduate Library, University of Michigan
In 1914, Dean Conant Worcester (1866-1924) donated his extensive assemblage of material related to Philippine history to the University of Michigan, where he had served as assistant professor of zoology and curator of the Zoological Museum. The collection now consists of published works, manuscript items, and photographs documenting many aspects of Philippine history, with particular emphasis on the period between 1899 and 1913.
The Worcester Philippine History Collection | Philippine History Photographs Digital Collection | The United States and its Territories, 1870-1925: The Age of Imperialism Digital Collection
Screen Arts Mavericks & Makers
With the acquisition of a significant collection of materials documenting the creative activities of Orson Welles during the last two decades of his life, the University of Michigan Library embarked on a collecting adventure that now distinguishes it as a major destination for research on maverick American filmmakers. Complementing a rich and extensive body of Welles material in Screen Arts Mavericks & Makers are the papers of several notable independent filmmakers including Robert Altman, Ira Deutchman, Alan Rudolph, Nancy Savoca, and John Sayles.
About the image: Orson Welles on the set of Citizen Kane
The Transportation History Collection provides in-depth coverage of various modes of transportation and the infrastructure that supports them. These include automobiles, balloons and dirigibles, bicycles, bridges, canals, carriages, railroads and rolling stock, and roads and highways. The collection contains over 70,000 items, including pamphlets, monographs, serials, prints, photographs, manuscripts, brochures, timetables, maps, and guidebooks.
Visit the Railroads Digital Collection | Visit the Lincoln Highway Digital Image Collection