The collection contains high cost items and older imprints, limited / signed editions, rare books on special subjects, books by local authors, and other significant local history materials. The Library's oldest work, Epistolae sancti Hieronymi, is an incunabula (a book printed before 1501) dated 1496. Rare books on special subjects include a translation of an essay on the medicinal nature of hemlock dated 1760 and a unique pictorial German family bible dated 1889. There are also books by distinguished authors, autographed and dedicated to the UNF Library.
Selections from Rare Materials provides an overview of unique items in the Collection.
Criteria for inclusion of items in the Rare Books Collection:
In its collection of early imprints, the Library owns a representative example (dated 1645) by the famous Dutch bookselling/printing house, Elzevier. This firm flourished between 1581 and 1712 and was noted for its fine craftsmanship and high quality of typography and design.
Unique among Special Collections items are two facsimile limited editions of the manuscripts of Leonardo da Vinci:
These two special Leonardo editions have particular historical relevance for our University. They complemented the University's early Venture Studies program, an innovative component of interdisciplinary studies offered by the College of Arts and Sciences during the University's first decade. Venture courses were designed to provide the student with a broader perspective and background in both the humanities and sciences than ordinarily available through traditional coursework in one major. Leonardo's accomplishments were chosen as the motivating inspiration for the Venture program, because "no one in the history of mankind exemplifies to a higher degree the achievement of being both generalist and specialist...While transmission of core proficiencies is certainly the prime responsibility of the college, it is not the college's sole responsibility, for it must also provide a liberal education which involves exposure to new ideas, new ways of thinking about old ideas, and above all, a place where student and professor have the common right to think uncommon thoughts, believe uncommon beliefs, and have the equal right to become unequal - all in the spirit of Leonardo da Vinci." (UNF college catalog, 1973-74)
The majority of the limited/signed editions pertain to literature, notably poetry by twentieth century poets and printed by small literary presses. Since the 1950s, a significant amount of poetry has been published by presses specializing in fine printing. An example is The Patriotic Suite, by the Irish poet John Montague. This work was published by the highly respected Dolmen Press (1951-1987), a small Irish firm known for its fine printing. Other small presses represented in our collection:
Two unique smaller poetry collections include the works of American poet Kenneth Rexroth and English poet Roy Fuller. Also held are volumes by other preeminent poets, including Sylvia Plath, E. E. Cummings, Denise Levertov, James Weldon Johnson, Allen Ginsberg, Maya Angelou, William Everson, and Robert Frost.
The publications of local and Northeast Florida poets are also well represented with the works of B. J. Sessions, Nola Perez, Mary Sue Koeppel, Orville Tyler and the Tyler-Palmer family, Columbus Drew, Laura Gradick, amongst others. Ye Heroes of Ye Epidemic is a rare volume of verse immortalizing the "Heroes" of the Jacksonville Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1888.
The contingent of UNF poets is strong, with the published works of both current and former faculty members Mary Baron, Martin Camps, Clark Lunberry, and William Slaughter. The poems of two UNF graduates, Louise Rhoads and Valerie Anthony, are also included, as is the first UNF poetry magazine, unbuttoned, published in April 2004. Poems are also included in Fiction Fix, the online literary journal of the University.
Rare materials are classified according to the Library of Congress system and are cataloged in the UNF Library Catalog. The catalog records note the rare qualities of the material, e.g., the number of the copy of a limited edition, etc.
Examples of Catalog searches for Rare materials in Special Collections:
Hours & Access:
Due to the unique nature of our non-circulating materials and in order to best utilize the collections, access is by appointment. Please contact (904) 620-1533 or e-mail
From Rare Materials: Beautiful St. John's River... steamboat brochure, 1897?
From Rare Materials: Florida tourism brochure, 1930
From Rare Materials: Jacksonville, Florida tourism brochure, 1925?
From Rare Materials: Motoring in the Mohawk through Florida, 192-?
From Rare Materials: Our Story, by Horace Rainsford Drew, Jr.
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