Our history 

The University’s acquisition of rare books and manuscripts goes back to 1909 when Rochester received its first major manuscript collection. After Rush Rhees Library opened in 1930, rare collections were held in a variety of spaces and departments including a “treasure room”; Local History and Archives; Rare Books, Manuscripts and Archives; and its current name, Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. While our name has changed over the past 100+ years, our mission to collect, preserve, and promote the use of our collections remains the same. 

Our oldest printed book is Summa Theologicae by Thomas Aquinas, printed in Esslingen (Germany) in 1472. A description of this book and some of the highlights of the collection can be found in 150 Years, 150 Treasures on our online exhibition page.

Past exhibitions

RBSCP has a robust and rotating exhibition program. Physical exhibitions are on display in the main gallery space in the department on the second floor, the Great Hall, and Friedlander Lobby on the first floor of the library. Here is a list of past exhibits dating back to 2005.  

Visiting us

Although it is not required, we suggest that researchers make an appointment and complete an online registration form prior to their visit. You can use see our exhibitions whenever we're open, without making an appointment or registering as a researcher. RBSCP will be closed on: May 30, June 13, June 20, and July 4th this summer. 

Researchers may bring laptops, phones, cameras, chargers, pencils, and loose paper into the Reading Room. All other personal items must be left in one of our lockers.

We are not a circulating library; all of our material must be consulted in our Reading Room.  Researchers are allowed to use personal cameras and RBSCP's document scanner while in the Reading Room. Most of our collection material can be imaged. Researchers can also request RBSCP staff provide reproductions. For more information about digitization and reproductions, please go to our Services page. 


The closest parking lot to the Rush Rhees Library is Library Lot. Use the Elmwood Avenue entrance to enter the River Campus. Stop at the parking kiosk just past this entrance to pay a parking fee. See the River Campus Visitor Guide for more information and a map of campus.   

Walking directions to RBSCP 

  • To access RBSCP via stairs:  Enter through the ground floor entrance of the Rush Rhees Library across from Library Lot, go straight down the hallway to the end, going past the elevator, restrooms, and the Art & Music Library. When you get to the end of the hallway, go up the stairs by the vending machines which will take you to the Eastman Quad entrance of the Library. Enter through the doors to your left, go through the Friedlander lobby, up the left marble stairs to the second floor, left through the glass doors to the Great Hall study area, and through the "Administration" doorway to the left. Rare Books is to the right at the end of that hall.
  • To access RBSCP via elevators: Take the elevators just inside the library lot entrance to floor 1.  Exit the elevator to your right and take an immediate right, going through the security gates, down the hall and into Lam Square.  Take the single car elevator to floor 2.  Upon exiting the single car elevator, go straight ahead to enter the department.
  • For further assistance in getting to the department: If you need additional assistance in getting to the department, please let us know and we can make arrangements prior to your visit.

Appraisal of old books

We are happy to answer email or telephone inquiries about the materials in our collections or regarding making donations to our collections. For general information about rare books and book values, please visit the "Your Old Books" section of the American Library Association's Rare Books and Manuscripts. To find/contact a bookseller who might be of assistance, please visit the membership directory of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America. In the Rochester area, visit the website of the Rochester Area Booksellers Association.

Contact Us

755 Library Road
Rochester NY 14627