History of the Printed Word

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The Rare Book collection illustrates the history of the printed word.

It encompasses cuneiform tablets and papyrus, medieval manuscripts of Europe and the Near East, early printed books, first editions, limited editions, and presentation copies. The library has leaves from the Koran and Bibles from the 13th century to the present day. The earliest printed book is the 1482 edition of Cicero’s Offices printed in Venice. The library owns a collection of fine presses that contain the works of Kelmscott, Chiswick and Gregynog Presses. Our collection includes books by famous authors such as William Thackeray, Charles Dickens, and Lewis Carroll. The collection includes plays from the original printing of Shakespear’s Second Folio, a generous gift of Mr.& Mrs. John Martin, second Director of the Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Library and Dr. William Perry, first President of the College. The autograph collection includes poets, novelists, historical and political figures including George Washington, James Madison, and Lord Byron.

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