COVID-19 Response: Special Collections reading rooms are open by appointment only to students, faculty, and staff of Saint Louis University. We are sorry that visiting researchers are not permitted until further notice. Please email us (email@example.com) at least one day in advance for arrangements to use the collections. All patrons must wear face masks and observe social distancing at all times.
The Rare Books unit of Special Collections contains more than 30,000 volumes, with strengths in theology, philosophy, Church history, English recusant history, and works written by or about members of the Society of Jesus. Items of note include incunabula (books printed before 1501), including a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, many works by the seventeenth-century Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher, works by Peter Ramus, and the 1662 Atlas maior of Joan Blaeu in eleven hand-colored volumes.
Rare Book Image Bank (Digital)
A growing repository of illustrations, decorative elements, and full text works from the Rare Book Collection, freely available for download.
Charles Guenther Collection
Books from the library of American poet, critic, and translator Charles Guenther (1920-2008), including his own work as well as works signed or inscribed to him by others.
Faculty Book Collection
Monographs written by SLU faculty members while employed by the university.
Collection formed by George Follansbee on exploration and travel.
Medical Center Library Rare Book Collection
Now housed in Pius Library, these rare medical books were transferred to Special Collections from the Medical Center Library.
Moore Carpenter Recusant History Collection
Contains approximately 1,600 books, pamphlets, and manuscripts on the history of English Catholics and Catholicism between 1534 and 1829.
Saint Louis Literary Award Collection
A collection of signed examples of the works of recipients of the Saint Louis Literary Award, established in 1967 by the Saint Louis University Library Associates to honor writers of outstanding literary merit.
Works related to the early history of the Sodality of Our Lady or to ascetical and religious training that forms the background, historical or otherwise, of Sodality work. Selected by Walter J. Ong, S.J. with the support of the Sodalities of Our Lady, National Service Center, in honor of Edward F. Garesché, S.J.
Walter J. Ong's Library
The scholarly and personal library of Walter J. Ong, S.J. (1912-2003). Includes his own copies of the books he authored (many wrapped for preservation by Ong himself), translations of his books into various languages, reference works, scholarly monographs, and books given and inscribed to him by students and colleagues. Descriptions include the presence of annotations, inscriptions, and inserts. Please request by item number.
White House Retreat Collection
Books concerned with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, or books at least loosely related to retreats or to spiritual and devotional life; the collection extends to the intellectual and cultural milieu in which the Spiritual Exercises and the retreat movement took shape. Selected by Walter J. Ong, S.J. with the support of the White House Jesuit Retreat.
A genre of book popular in Europe during the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries containing texts of a moral nature and typically accompanied by corresponding emblematic images.
In addition to our leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, the library has twelve books printed before 1501.
Jesuit College Catalogs
A collection of annually published catalogs representing 51 Jesuit high schools and colleges from the period 1853-1914, typically listing their institution's officers, students, courses, and programs.
Works on Jesuit history, spirituality, biography, and missionary activity published by or about the Society of Jesus (1534–1773, 1814–present) and its members from its earliest period.
Walter J. Ong Acquisitions
A tracing showing all books identified to date as having been selected for the Rare Book Collection by Walter J. Ong, S.J.
Works of Athanasius Kircher
Fourteen books by the seventeenth-century Jesuit scientist and polymath Athanasius Kircher.
Works of Peter Ramus
Numerous works by Peter Ramus (1515–1572), including a copy of Ramus’s Arithmetices (1569) annotated by Ramus himself. Many of these volumes were acquired by the Saint Louis University faculty member Walter J. Ong, whose work on literacy and orality originated with studies of Peter Ramus and the rhetorical tradition. Walter Ong’s personal annotated copy of his Ramus and Talon Inventory is part of the collections.
Use the following broad profiles to browse by subject:
- Art and architecture in the pre-1820 printed book collection
- Bibles in the pre-1820 printed book collection
- Classical authors in the pre-1820 printed book collection
- Economics in the pre-1820 printed book collection
- Education-related works in the pre-1820 printed book collection
- Emblem books in the pre-1820 printed book collection
- Geography, exploration & travel in the pre-1820 printed book collection
- Jesuitica in the pre-1820 printed book collection
- Law in the pre-1820 printed book collection
- Medicine in the pre-1820 printed book collection
- Music in the pre-1820 printed book collection
- Philosophy in the pre-1820 printed book collection
- Science and technology in the pre-1820 printed book collection
- Rare Books FAQ
- The Pre-1820 Rare Book Collection: Overview and Access
- Philosophy Highlights in the Pre-1820 Rare Book Collection
- Composition, Elocution, and Rhetoric in the Pre-1820 Rare Book Collection
- Works on the Suppression and Restoration of the Jesuits in the Pre-1820 Rare Book Collection
- Blog Posts from the Rare Books Division