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Archives and Special Collections

Welcome to the Rare Book and Maps Collections guide

This guide provides an overview of the rare book and map collections held by the University of Exeter.

The boxes below provide information about the collections and contain links to the catalogues, through which you can explore the collections further. 

Books and maps held by Special Collections are available for everyone - students, staff and members of the public - to access in our reading room for general interest or study. More information about accessing the collections can be found in our Visiting Heritage Collections LibGuide. Please note that there may be some restrictions on copying (including photography) of material held by Special Collections in line with current copyright legislation.

Searching for books and maps

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Rare books and reserve collections can be found by searching the University of Exeter Library catalogue https://www.exeter.ac.uk/library/

  • Narrow down the search by selecting the catalogue tab, then go into advanced search
  • Enter a keyword, title or author as usual
  • Restrict the date to a specific century if required by entering a date range (e.g. for 15th century works use a date range of 1400-1499)
  • Use the dropdown arrow beside “Collection:” to select Special Collections

Once you have your search results in the Library Catalogue, use the 'Publish Date' box from the options in the left hand column to refine results to a specific date range.

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You can also look for the options illustrated above at the top of your search results, click 'Date' to display your search results in date order.

Once you have your search results displayed in the Library catalogue click on a book title to view the full item record.

From here you can click on the item's Call No, seen below.

This allows you to browse a virtual bookshelf to see other similar titles shelved nearby. Click on the arrows to scroll through the shelves, click on a title to view the full item record. You can also select 'List browse' to see results as a straightforward list.

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You can browse titles from one of our book collections on the Library's classic catalogue by performing a 'local classmark' search. Select 'Local classmark' from the drop down list then enter the name of the collection in the search box.

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You can then choose to arrange the results by year by selecting this option from the dropdown list beside the search button.

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For the Brooks collection you can also search 'Brooks P' to view the periodicals in the collection.

For the Hypatia Collection enter 'Hypatia' into the search box for books and 'Hypatia Jou' for journals. To browse all titles within a subject add the first 3 letters of the subject eg ‘Hypatia Bio’ will find all the material in the Biography section. The books and pamphlets are arranged within these subjects: Archaeology and Anthropology; Art; Biographies; Crime; Diaries; Domestic Science; Education; Fiction; Folklore; Health; History; Literary Criticism; Marriage and the Family; Natural World; Nursing; Occupations; Performing Arts; Poetry; Politics; Religion; Science; Topography; Travel; The Cornish Woman; The American Woman; Women in War; The Woman; and Journals and Periodicals.

A-Z index of named book collections

This index gives brief details of the book collections held by the University of Exeter Special Collections and contains links to the catalogues, through which you can explore the collections further. 

Click the next tabs in this box to find out more about the book collections

Baker Collection of popular music scores The Baker Collection is an assortment of popular and film related music scores dating from the early to mid twentieth century. The scores have illustrated title pages, many of which are linked, where relevant, to film productions.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Baker'.

Baring-Gould Library A collection of approximately 3,000 books, the majority of which were collected by Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924), and include many of his own works. The Library includes books written in a variety of languages and on many different subjects, including literature, history, theology folklore, fairy tales, religion, music, art, architecture, geography and natural history. The earliest book dates to 1534 and the most recent to 1975, but the majority of books in the collection were printed in the 19th and early 20th century.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Baring Gould Library'.

Barnstaple Parish Library See Dodderidge Library

John Betjeman's Library The working library of the poet and architectural historian Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984) contains more than 4,000 printed books and pamphlets from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. The collection is arranged into the following subject categories: poetry, churches, architecture, topography, art, theology, Victorian bindings, biography, early twentieth-century schoolboy novels, and the English public school.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Betjeman Library'. Manuscript letters inserted in the books are catalogued and listed on the archives catalogue.

Mervyn Bennun collection of journals and pamphlets relating to Anti-Apartheid A collection of printed journals and pamphlets relating to Anti-Apartheid and South Africa, dating from 1950s-1990s, collected by by Mervyn Bennun, lecturer in law at the University of Exeter, African National Congress (ANC) activist, and Chairman and Secreatary of the Exeter and District Anti-Apartheid Group.

  • The collection is partially catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Bennun'. For a full list of contents of this collection, email Special Collections.

Blackmore Collection A set of 21 printed pamphlets of editions and transcriptions of R D (Richard Dodderidge) Blackmore's works, donated to the University of Exeter Library by R D Blackmore's relative, David Blackmore in 2018.

  • The collection is catalogued and an entry appears on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Blackmore Collection'

Chris Brooks Collection A collection formed by Professor Chris Brooks (1949-2002), one of Britain's leading cultural historians of the Victorian period. His library was donated to the University Library in 2002. The collection supports a wide range within the field of Victorian culture and adult and juvenile fiction of the Victorian and Edwardian period forms a major emphasis in the collection. The Periodical collection contains a complete set of Punch, indexed by Brooks and as such provides an insight into his research topics. Other titles include All the Year Round,The Boy's Own PaperCornhill MagazineFireside, and Good Words.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Brooks'.

Charles Causley Book Collection The personal library of Charles Causley (1917-2003), poet, teacher and broadcaster.

  • The collection is partially catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Causley'.

Jack Clemo Collection The working library of Jack Clemo (1916-1994), poet and novelist, comprises 64 items. When he first wrote to the University Library to propose a deposit of selected books from his ‘small working library’, Jack Clemo described the collection as ‘the books that influenced me and shaped my ideas and art before I went blind’. The collection includes a number of works by D. H. Lawrence, A.L. Rowse, and by Thomas Hardy, as well as a selection of religious, sexual and biographical titles. The range of subjects and authors in this collection indicate the influence of other writers on Jack Clemo’s writing. They are also valuable as individual objects, as a number of titles are signed and dated by Clemo, or have annotations in his hand, or have cuttings and pictures pasted in to accompany the text. For their range and archival content, the books complement the Library’s collection of Jack Clemo literary papers.

  • The collection is partially catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Clemo'.
  • A full list of contents of the library, which includes Clemo's personal editions of his own works, is available on request.

Common Ground book collection Small collection comprising editions of published books owned by the arts and environmental charity Common Ground (1982-). The majority of these have been written, published or contributed to by people who worked at Common Ground.

  • Find out more about the book collection on the archives catalogue, where the books are catalogued individually under the reference number EUL MS 416/PUB/1

Crediton Parish Library The Crediton Parish Library is the largest of the four parish libraries housed at the University of Exeter Library. The library contains a great number of theological works, but there is also a good cross-section of other subjects, such as history, politics, science, geography and literature. The majority of books are published in England, though there is a selection of titles published on the continent, mainly amongst the older titles.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Crediton Library'.

Lois Deacon Collection A collection of 224 books and pamphlets collected by Lois Deacon, author and writer on Thomas Hardy. The strengths of the Lois Deacon collection lie in her lifelong interest in Thomas Hardy and his home county of Dorset.  The collection is rich in archival content with a number of books having been heavily annotated by Deacon and it includes correspondence with publishers and fellow Hardy critics. Of particular research value is a collection of Pocket editions of Hardy’s works which were published by Macmillan in the 1920s. These have been heavily annotated by Deacon and contain a number of letters, postcards and memos.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Lois Deacon'.

The Dodderidge Library (Parish Library of Barnstaple, Devon) The Dodderidge Library was founded by John Dodderidge of Barnstaple, Devon (1610-1666), who donated his book collection to the town of Barnstaple in 1664. The Dodderidge Library consists mainly of pre-1700 books, including a few incunabula. There are many books on theology, British, foreign and classical literatures and on geography, history and the sciences.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Dodderidge'.

Ronald Duncan book collection This collection is made up of editions owned by Ronald Duncan (1914-1982; author, poet and librettist), his family and the Ronald Duncan Literary Foundation, who actively sought out and purchased copies of Duncan's works. It contains runs of a number of periodicals such as Agenda, Baconiana, Opera, Tempo and the Henry Williamson Society Journal. Several different editions of most of Ronald Duncan's published works are present, including editions translated into other languages, and many bear manuscript dedications in the front. Some of the books contain minor marginalia. This collection continued to be actively added to by the Ronald Duncan Literary Foundation after Duncan's death.

  • Find out more about the book collection on the archives catalogue, where the books are catalogued individually under the reference number EUL MS 397/9

Edmund Collection of Local History The majority of the items (which includes books, pamphlets, periodicals and maps) covers various aspects of the west country, notably the history of towns and villages and their residents. Social history is well-represented with material on religion, transport (particularly railways), education and local myths and legends.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Edmund'.

Exeter Law Society Collection The collection formed part of the Exeter Law Library, founded 1833, and was deposited in the University Library by the Exeter Law Library Society in 1990. The collection comprises 122 books dating from 1588 to 1906.The collection is strongest in its support of study into the history of English law. It contains books, statutes, and law reports, including Ashby and White’s The Great Question (1705), Sir Matthew Hale’s The History of Common Law (1779), 4th Ed., and F. Const’s The Laws Relating to the Poor (1800, 1807).

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Exeter Law Society'.

Fox Collection The Fox Collection is a small collection of 54 17th to 20th century books mostly on topics relating to Quaker history. The Quakers, or Society of Friends, have their origins in the period of English revolution in the seventeenth century. Quakerism, which was founded by George Fox (1624-1691) and which grew out of movements of religious dissent in opposition to the Church of England, was originally perceived as radical Protestant sect. During the eighteenth century, the Quakers developed their style of primarily silent worship and plain living, and in the nineteenth century the movement became socially active, for instance through engagement with anti-slavery and prison reform. The collection was created by Mr Hubert Fox, who lived in Devon and who published a few books on naval and Quaker history, including his own autobiographical volume, Letters from Sea (1996), which is held in the collection.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Fox'.

Hughan Collection A small collection of approximately 150 books dating from 1549 to 1913, focusing mainly on religious themes, including a number of different versions of English Bibles.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Hughan'.

Hypatia Collection The Hypatia collection exclusively contains books and journals by or about women. Part of its richness stems from the inclusive collecting habits of its creator, Dr Melissa Hardie, who acquired many ephemeral titles and books on subjects and by writers traditionally excluded from the academic canon in her aim 'to make available published documentation about women in every aspect of their lives'. The collection is strongest on biography, social life, occupations and history, as well as on literature (especially fiction) and the arts. In addition there is also the Cheris Kramerae Gift of books on second-wave feminism and related topics. 

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Hypatia'.

Lloyd Collection A collection of rare books with fine bindings created by John Lloyd, the University Librarian at Exeter from 1946 to 1972.  It comprises a collection of European fine bindings, illustrated and rare books, including, for example, a first issue of the first edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula (Westminster: Constable, 1897), a five volume edition, with engraved illustrations, of Bocccaccio's Il Decamerone (London: [n.p.], 1757), and an illustrated two volume set of Edmund Spenser's The Fairy Queen (London: for J.R. Tonson, 1788).

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Lloyd'

Nursing Ethics Heritage Collection The collection comprises almost 500 books, periodicals and articles, including works dating from 1888 to editions of ‘Nursing Ethics: An International Journal for Health Care Professionals’ published as recently as 2017. Many of the books contain the names of former owners inscribed within, as well as annotations and underlined words in the text, highlighting their importance in shaping the study and work of nurses. Though predominantly consisting of English-language works, the collection also includes texts in Italian, Dutch, Hungarian, Russian and Japanese.

  • Find out more about this collection on the archives catalogue, where the books are catalogued individually under the reference number EUL MS 472/NEHC

Ottery St Mary Parish Library The Ottery St Mary parish library is the smallest of the four such libraries held at the University of Exeter Library. The books are mainly on theological topics dating from the 16th to the 19th century, but also include five 15th-century incunabula.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Ottery St Mary'

Patridge Collection The collection is small, amounting to 163 books pertaining to the career of Eric Partridge (1894-1979, New Zealand–British lexicographer of the English language, particularly of slang). Approximately one third of the collection are books written by Eric Partridge and the remainder are divided fairly equally between published works of the Scholartis Press (mainly fiction in both poetry and prose) and the books used by Eric Partridge as reference in his research of non-standard language of different communities. The collector of the books was Paul Beale (d.1999), the editor of A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English who then continued to work closely with Eric Partridge.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Partridge'

Manuscripts and Book Collections relating to members of the Powys family The core of the Collection is based around the works of John Cowper Powys (1872-1963), Theodore Francis Powys (1875-1953) and Llewelyn Powys (1884-1939) and their immediate circle of family and friends.

  • Find out more about this collection on the archives catalogue, where the books are catalogued individually under the reference number EUL MS 433

 

Rare Books Collection The collection is the main run of pre-1700 books which are owned by the Library and which have been collected over time. The collection covers a range of subject areas, from theology to architecture, from antiquities to history of science.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Rare Books'

Philip Ernest Rattenbury A small collection of nine books owned by Philip Ernest Rattenbury are contained within the Rattenbury Archive, which forms part of the University Archive. Four of the books were awarded to Philip Ernest Rattenury for 'diligent attendance of his duties as a choir boy' at Exeter Diocesan Traning College Chapel Choir, signed by Dr J Dangar, the Principal of the College. Exeter Diocesan Traning College officially changed its name to St Luke's College in 1930 and merged with the University of Exeter in 1978.

  • The books in this collection are catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Rattenbury Archive'

The Reid Book Collection This collection contains 45 print-items relating to Forrest Reid, including first editions of each of Reid's books. The collection includes all books published by Forrest Reid, from the first in 1904 to the last in 1944, as well as a few later books written about Reid. Amongst the titles are a number of presentation copies bearing Reid's autographs inscriptions, including a first edition of 'The Bracknels' (1911) inscribed by Reid to Henry James. Reid was an ardent admirer of James and fostered an epistolary friendship with the older writer, but James was displeased when Reid dedicated to him 'Garden of God' (1905), a novel with a gay romance as its subject. An account of this incident is given by Reid in his autobiographies.The collection was bequeathed to the University Library by a private collector, along with a collection relating to Denton Welch. There are a few items (letters, book catalogues) relating to the provenance of the collection retained alongside the books.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Reid Coll'. Manuscript letters inserted in the books are catalogued on the archives catalogue under the reference number EUL MS 122.

Reserve Collection of post-1700 rare books The books in the Reserve Collection include individual volumes transferred from the Library's main sequence of loan books, as well as gifts and purchases. The historical aspect of all academic subjects taught at the University are represented, from art history to literature, from the history of science to the history of law.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Reserve'

A L (Alfred Leslie) Rowse Collection The collection was bequeathed to the University of Exeter by A. L. Rowse together with Rowse’s personal archive of manuscripts, diaries, and correspondence (EUL MS 113). The collection comprises books from Rowse’s own working library and a complete set of his published books, many of which are annotated by him. The books taken from his working library are chiefly historical volumes used in his research, including titles on the history of Britain and the history of Devon and Cornwall, with a few literary books interspersed. The collection includes a second edition of Girolamo Pollini’s L’historia ecclesiastica della rivolvzion d’Inghilterra (The ecclesiastical history of the rebellion of England, 1594), which was once owned by Richard Topcliffe - interrogator and torturer in service of Queen Elizabeth I - and contains Topcliffe's annotations  and signature in the margins.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Rowse'

Society of Friends Collection The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) have been active in Exeter since the late 1650s, with a Meeting House first constructed in 1691. The collection comprises 129 items and represents what is believed to be part of a monthly meeting library and was transferred from the Quaker Meeting House in Exeter. The collection is focused upon Quaker history, and contains a number of biographies, memoirs, journals alongside a small number of Christian commentaries and books relating to personal religion. Included within the collection is the Friends Library. These 14 volumes were published in Philadelphia between 1837-50 and contain articles on Quaker life, memoirs and scholarly thought.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Soc of Friends'

Seymour Collection This collection consists of works of history concentrated on the Mediterranean countries which were formerly part of the Victorian empire in the Mediterranean (Malta, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Greek Islands, but not Mandate Palestine or Egypt). There are also significant sections on the British Empire, maritime and military history, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Britain and general European history mainly 18-early 20th centuty.

  • The collection is partially catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Seymour'

Syon Abbey Library The Syon Abbey Library comprises more than 1,000 printed books dating from the early sixteenth century to the late twentieth century, including hagiographic, devotional, polemical, and historical works. As well as containing numerous individual titles of interest, the collection as a whole is a rich source of study for ecclesiastical history and religious women's reading habits. Numerous books in the collection bear manuscript annotations by the nuns.

  •  Find out more about the collection on the Syon Abbey Collection LibGuide
  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Syon Abbey'
  • 'The Poor Souls' Friend and St Joseph's Monitor', a monthly magazine published by the community of Syon Abbey between 1893 and 1974, is also available on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Syon Abbey Poor'

Totnes Parish Library The Totnes Library dates back to the early years of the seventeenth century. The collection is strongest in its representation of seventeenth-century titles on divinity.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Totnes'

University Collection This collection charts the history of the University of Exeter through official publications, such as the University Calendar, and more ephemeral student publications, such as student magazines and newspapers. Amongst the earliest items in the collection is the first volume of The Students' Magazine, The Social Organ of the Exeter Technical and University Extension College (September 1888). The collection also holds long runs of the student newspaper, The South Westerner, which is an excellent source of social and educational history in Exeter from 1938 to 1979.

Welch Collection A collection of approximately 50 items relating to Devon Welche, including copies of Denton Welch’s published works, as well as critical and biographical books about the author. Amongst the titles are second hand book catalogues, first editions, copies of biographies and editions of the journals, poems and paperback editions.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Welch Coll'

Baring-Gould Library

John Betjeman Library

Chris Brooks Collection

Jack Clemo Book Collection

Common Ground book collection

Crediton Parish Library

Dodderidge Parish Library

Ronald Duncan Book Collection

Hypatia Collection

Lloyd Collection

Nursing Ethics Heritage Collection

Rare Books Collection

Forrest Reid Collection

Reserve Collection of post 1700 books

Syon Abbey Library

Totnes Parish Library

Named map collections

The Cartography Collection consists of a selection of the maps and atlases deposited by the Geography Department Map Library into Special Collections in 2005. The selection was made on the basis of age, value and interest, and includes first edition of the Ordnance Survey 1" to the mile maps of Devon, Cornwall and Dorset made in 1809-1811, four of Ogilby's linear road maps of the Westcountry of c 1675, and a collection of "escape maps" printed on silk and given to military personnel (mostly airmen) who were shot down or captured during the Second World War to help them escape back to the United Kingdom. There is also a large collection of the 1" and 25" OS maps of the British Isles, mostly from the earlier part of the 20th century.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Cartography Coll'.

Kenneth Maxwell Constable, MA, was born in 1888 and died in 1937. In 1925 he came to Exeter to be the first Warden of Reed Hall; shortly after this he was appointed Warden of Mardon Hall. He also took up the post of Lecturer in Mathematics at the then University College of the South West. Among many interests listed in his obituary was the collecting of old maps: the 94 maps of the Constable Collection are the results of his efforts in this field. Most of the Constable maps (77 out of 94) cover the British Isles (general, regional, county). These include eighteen maps of Devon, twenty-nine maps of Wales and its counties, and, perhaps surprisingly, five maps of England's smallest county Rutland. The earliest map in the Constable Collection is an edition of Ptolemy's Hibernia et Albion, published between 1510 and 1530.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Constable Maps'.

R.W.Townsend was a member of an old Exeter family who had been publishers and booksellers in the city for many years. He had an interest in the development of Exeter and formed a small collection of old maps to illustrate this. All of the Townsend maps cover the British Isles (general, regional, county). The strength of the Townsend Collection is the nine maps of Exeter tracing the development of the city from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries.

  • The collection is catalogued and entries appear on the University Library's online catalogue under the local classmark 'Townsend Maps'.

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