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University Libraries
SA 5005

Telephone: +61 8 8313 5759
Facsimile: +61 8 8313 4369

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Rare Books & Special Collections

Rare Books & Special Collections houses the Library’s most valuable and vulnerable publications, including old and rare books, fine and limited editions, University of Adelaide publications and the specialist Pacific and Theatre collections. It also takes responsibility for the collection and preservation of manuscripts and personal papers of members of the University community, particularly academic staff, and acquires collections of personal and institutional papers relating to its specific research strengths.  These include Pacific and indigenous Australian history and language, British and Australian theatre and University of Adelaide history.

Special Collections is located on Level 1 South of the Barr Smith Library and is open from 1.00pm to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday.  Service outside of these hours must be arranged in advance with the Special Collections Librarian.

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Adopt a Book

Many of the items housed in Rare Books & Special Collections are in need of repair and restoration in order to ensure their ongoing availability for future generations of scholars.  In 2012, the Friends of the University of Adelaide Library established the Adopt a Book scheme, offering Library supporters the opportunity to contribute towards this valuable conservation treatment.


Current Exhibition

The Folio Society: Where its ok to judge a book by its cover

The Folio Society was founded in London in 1947. It was the brainchild of book-lover and collector, Charles Ede, whose desire to combine the typographical and artistic standards of the private presses with the latest industrial technology, resulted in some of the most beautiful and imaginative bindings ever seen.

This exhibition brings together 18 of the finest Folio Society publications, generously donated to the Barr Smith Library in 2014.

Among the books on display, are three titles which were not produced by the Folio Society.  Visit the exhibition during Library hours, until 28th February 2015, to see if you can identify which books they are!

One of our previous exhibitions, 140 Books, was very popular and prompted much discussion. A full list of books included in that display is available online.


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South Australia Illustrated by George French Angas, 1847

The Decorative Art of Leon Bakst by Leon Bakst, 1913

Orchid Paintings in 8 Volumes by Rosa Fiveash, ca 1906-1932