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

Exhibitions are open to the public; no appointment or registration is necessary. Our collections are available to researchers during our open hours; registration is required. 


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.