Skip to Main Content

Rare Materials Overview

Selection and Types of Materials

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.

Early Imprints and Limited Editions

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:

  • Il Codice Atlantico di Leonardo da Vinci nella Biblioteca Ambrosiana di Milano.
    Published in Milan, 1894-1904, in a limited edition of 280 copies. The collection, known as the Codex Atlanticus, consists of unbound notebooks, sketches, drawings and other manuscripts written by Leonardo between 1483 and 1518. The 1,384 plates show his remarkable versatility and gifts as an artist, inventor, engineer, and mathematician. In two oversize slipcases.
  • The Madrid Codices.
    A facsimile edition, limited to 1000 numbered sets, of the Codex Madrid I and II (two long-lost notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci). Popularly known as the Madrid Codices because they were discovered in 1965 in the National Library in Madrid. These manuscripts reveal his wide-ranging impact on the Renaissance, with varied sketches and designs ranging from mechanical inventions and cartography to proposals for new musical instruments, and lessons for painters.

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)

Poetry Collection

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:

  • Turret Press (1965-1975), a small London press which specialized in publishing a limited edition series of booklets of contemporary poets. Examples: Ishmael (Peter Straub); He will be greatly missed, a poem (Alan Bold); Last year, this year now (Jane Deverson); Six more beasts (Edward Lucie-Smith); Points (Anthony Thwaite).
  • Enitharmon Press, one of Britain's leading literary publishers. Founded in 1967, Enitharmon is the name William Blake gave to a character representing spiritual beauty and the inspiration of a poet. The Press specializes in high-quality artists' books and original poems in small-format volumes. Example: Walking with Trees (Leonard Clark).
  • Arion Press, an American press known for its printing tradition and unique integration of art illustrations with texts. Only two to three limited edition books are designed and produced, mainly by hand, each year. Andrew Hoyem founded the Press in 1974 and is also a poet with five books of published poetry. Example: Picture / Poems (Andrew Hoyem).
  • Black Sparrow Press / Unicorn Press - two California presses notable for their fine printing of limited editions of the works of twentieth century poets. Black Sparrow operated in Santa Rosa from 1967 to 2002 and was known for publishing avant-garde work. The Unicorn Press in Santa Barbara, founded in 1966, publishes contemporary U. S. and foreign poetry. Examples: (Black Sparrow Press): Primitive (George Oppen); The Leaves (Ron Loewinsohn); A Selection of 65 drawings from one drawing book, 1952-1956 (Robert Duncan). Unicorn Press: Japanese Figures (W. S. Merwin); Atlantic Avenue (Robert Hershon); Twenty Poems (John Haines).

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. 

Local History Materials

The Library is actively and systematically developing a local history collection relating to Northeast Florida, with special emphasis on Jacksonville and its immediate geographical vicinity (Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau, and St. Johns counties). The collection contains varied and interesting materials: general histories of the region, early guide books to Florida and Jacksonville, souvenir albums, historical calendars, rare maps and pamphlets, Jacksonville Historical Society papers, books by an early local printer, H. & W. B. Drew Company, and postcards depicting historic buildings, facilities and scenes. A representative selection of our local materials have been digitized and are available online through the Florida Heritage Collection. We have also created bibliographies listing our resources on a subject, such as African American Life in Jacksonville, Florida; Our St. Johns River: Words and Images; The Civil War in Northeast Florida; Women's History in Northeast Florida.

Organization and Finding Aids

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:

  • author search: leonardo da vinci
  • title search: madrid codices
  • subject search: jacksonville history
  • keywords: architecture jacksonville wood

Gifts and Donations

This guide describes the types of materials that the UNF library is interested in adding to Special Collections. It is hoped that gifts of special materials within our collecting guidelines, a memorial endowment, or financial contributions to the Friends of the Library will reach the library through the generosity of alumni and other interested parties. Offers of such gifts will be carefully reviewed and accepted in accordance with the library's gift policy. For more information on gifts and donations, please call the section at (904) 620-1533 or e-mail 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.