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Research Guides@Tufts

Tisch Library Special Collections

What We Have

Tisch Special Collections holds medieval manuscripts, incunabula, early printed books from many of the most important figures in printing history - including a collection of books from the press of Aldus Manutius - works of early modern science and medicine, travel and exploration, philosophy, religion, history, politics, art, theater, and music; a large collection of 19th century American pamphlets; facsimiles of Japanese and Islamic manuscripts; and personal libraries (e.g. Hosea Ballou 2d, founding president of Tufts, the Ritter music history collection, the English history collection of Professor Edwin C. Bolles, and Tufts poet John Holmes's poetry book collection).  

Students study medieval manuscript fragments  Penwork initial, Tufts Univ. MS 15, 1398.  Book bound in a leaf from a medieval manuscript

Access to Special Collections

Special Collections is open in Room 103 on Tisch Level 1, Tuesdays & Thursdays, 1-4 P.M., and other days by appointment. Email us at

Most books in Special Collections may be called to the TARC reading room on Level G by selecting a link in the catalog record, "Request to view this item in the Archives Reading Room." The exceptions are medieval manuscripts and manuscript fragments, which are available for study by making an appointment by email

You also can make an appointment to study books  in Special Collections on Tisch Level 1 at a time of your convenience, or during Tuesday and Thursday afternoon open hours.

 It is possible to limit one's search to Special Collections when using Jumbosearch. Choose Advanced Search and add this line: “ Any fieldcontains ­– tufts special collections ”. Add author, title, or subject words on a one or more other lines.

To arrange a class visit or research consultation, please contact Christopher Barbour, Head of Special Collections


What We Collect

Current collecting emphases include:

  • Premodern manuscripts and manuscript facsimiles
  • Early printed books in science, medicine, religion, exploration & travel, political philosophy, Classical philosophy, literature in Latin, French, English, and Italian
  • Examples of early printing noteworthy in the evolution of reading and printing practices, and for innovations in typography, book design, and illustration; women printers; influential printers such as Aldus, Scoto, the Giunti family, the Estiennes, Baskerville, and the Didot family.
  • Art and architecture
  • Slavery and abolition
  • American history - colonial, early republic, and 19th century
  • 19th century French, English, and American literature
  • Black authors
  • Women authors
  • Books noteworthy for illustration, and books marking the revival of hand-printing, especially to support instruction at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts

Other special collections at Tufts

Other Tufts's special collections include those of the W. Van Alan Clark, Jr. Library at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA), the Hirsch Health Sciences Library, the Lilly Music Library, and the Webster Family Library at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. 

Tisch Special Collections are exclusively rare books. Tufts's publications, University records, and archival collections (mainly non-book) can be found at the Tufts Archival Research Center.