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Special Collections Summary Collecting Profiles

Special Collections is a center for original, primary source materials that support research, teaching, and discovery. We acquire, catalog, digitize, make accessible, and preserve the rare book and medieval manuscript collections of Saint Louis University.

Materials are located in Special Collections for a variety of reasons—rarity, fragility, security, historical importance, or common subject matter and value as a research collection. They are texts or images whose original historical contexts enhance our understanding of the ideas they contain or represent. They are artifacts from the past or objects of the modern day that will become the historical sources of our future. How historical context informs meaning and understanding is a basic aspect of what Special Collections collects.

Rare Books

The Rare Book collection consists of 30,000 volumes and other printed materials (maps, images, ephemera, etc.) from the origins of printing in the fifteenth century to the current day. Its chief strengths are in theology, Church history, Jesuitica, Catholica, English recusant materials, philosophy, rhetoric, and emblems books. It includes concentrations of works by Peter Ramus and Athanasius Kircher. It also acquires broadly in the history of the book to illustrate modes of authorship, reading, publishing, and the dissemination of ideas.

For further information or questions about the collections, contact Jennifer J. Lowe, Rare Books Librarian.

Vatican Film Library and Medieval Manuscripts

The Vatican Film Library is a research collection for medieval and Renaissance manuscript studies. Its main collections consist of microfilmed manuscripts from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and other libraries from the fourth century AD through the seventeenth century, as well as printed manuscript facsimiles and actual medieval manuscripts. Its extensive reference collection supports the study of manuscripts and the texts and images they contain and includes manuscript catalogues and works on the history of script (paleography), the “archeology of the book” (codicology), illumination, library history, and the transmission history and editing of texts. It collects broadly in manuscripts, published manuscript facsimiles (highly detailed, photographic reproductions), and books about manuscripts and written culture from Antiquity through the Renaissance, principally in Europe, but also in Asia Minor, North Africa, and the Middle East. The library also maintains a significant collection of microfilmed historical manuscripts relating to Jesuit missionary activities in the New World.

For further information or questions about the collections, contact Gregory Pass, Director of the Vatican Film Library.