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Rare Books Collection

The principal collection of over 40,000 books includes those published before 1840 (1900 for Australian works), fine and limited editions, works vulnerable because of their size or format, and selected publications of anticipated long-term research and reference value.

Clarissimi Viri Hyginii Poeticon Astronomicon Opus Utilissimum Foeliciter Incipit... by Gaius Julius Hyginus, 1485Areas of particular strength and/or interest include:

  • Australiana
  • Australian Aboriginal languages and cultures
  • Early printing (including Incunabula)
  • English literature of the 18th and 19th centuries
  • Illustrated books
  • Medicine (including herbals and pharmacopoeias)
  • Natural history (notably birds and flora, including orchids)
  • Pacific voyages and exploration
  • Private press and fine editions, including The Folio Society
  • South Australian colonial history
  • Women

Many of the items housed in Rare Books contain bookplates and signatures. These often assist in determining a book's provenance by authenticating its previous owners and places of storage.  The Provenance Archive provides an alphabetical listing of scanned book plates and signatures which have been found, over the years, inside Special Collections items.  Where applicable, links to the book plate owner's biography and manuscript listing have also been included.

To learn more about Provenance in our collections, please visit our online exhibition: Have Book, Will Travel: Mapping Provenance in Rare Books & Special Collections

Works in the Rare Books collection are identified in the Library catalogue by the location type 'Rare Books & Manuscripts Rare Books Collection'.

University Library

Barr Smith Library
South Australia 5005


Phone: +61 8 8313 5224