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Strong Room B, C and E Rare Books


Books on all subjects printed before 1640.


Over 4000 items

Woodcut illustration of a leg amputation from a 1520 edition of 'Feldtbuch der Wundartzney' by Hans Gersdorff. Shelfmark: STRONG ROOM C 1530 G2

Scope and content

The collection begins with English and other so-called ‘Western’ books printed between 1501 and 1640. The earliest English book in the Library is Andrew Chertsey's The crafte to lyve well and to dye well, printed in 1505 by Wynkyn de Worde and illustrated with woodcuts. The collection also includes medical texts, most notably two copies of Vesalius's illustrated De fabrica (1555) and Hans Gersdorff's Feldtbuch der Wundartzney (1530), the latter of which contains the first picture of an amputation in a printed work. Another principle strength is early Italian literature, for instance, many rare editions of Dante's Divina Commedia and works by authors such as Bembo, Petrarch, Ariosto, Boccaccio, Colonna, Giovio, Gelli and Michelangelo. Books printed after 1640 also feature, such as first editions of Newton's Principia (1687) and Darwin's Origin of Species (1859). An important modern work is the first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses, published in Paris in 1922.


These are the most valuable rare books drawn from all collections in the Library, which in turn were built up through donations from various sources.


This collection is fully catalogued. To browse the records, conduct a shelfmark search for STRONGROOM B, STRONGROOM C, or STRONG ROOM E on Explore.  

Image: Hans von Gersdorff, Feldtbuch der Wundartzney (STRONG ROOM C 1530 G2).