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Special Collections & Archives - About: Special Collections & Archives

What we do

The Special Collections department of the Transylvania University Library provides secure housing and specialized care for the unique and valuable research materials of the library.

The department contains rare books, pamphlets, photographs, manuscripts, and the University archives. These collections provide a unique opportunity for students to use primary source materials and to study Kentucky history and the important books of Western culture. The librarian aids local, national and international researchers with locating and using the materials in the collections

What we have

Rare Books

The Rare Book Room, furnished by a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Bennett Farris of Richmond, Kentucky, was opened in 1960. This room houses the Clara Peck Collection of books dealing primarily with the history of the horse and natural history. Highlights of this collection include the Book of St. Albans, 1486; Audubon's Elephant Folio Birds of America, 1826-38, and his Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, 1845-48; Orme's Oriental Field Sports, 1805-1809; Bonaparte's American Ornithology, 1833; and the first five editions of Izaak Walton's Compleat Angler, 1653-1826. Housed in the same room are the Horine Collection of pre-1800 medical books, the Marcia Owen Collection of children's books, and original paintings by Audubon, Troye, and Peale.

Other rare books, located in the closed-stacks area of the department, consist of the old Academic Library of approximately 3,500 volumes and the old Medical Library of over 5,000 volumes that served Transylvania's Medical Department from the 1810s until it closed in 1859.  Included in the Medical Collection are titles by Avicenna, Tulp, Bell, Vesalius, Caldwell and many more.

Manuscript Collections

The manuscript collection consists of letters, notebooks, memoirs, diaries, account books, and documents. Major collections of papers include those of Henry Clay, Jefferson Davis, Daniel Drake, Horace Holley, John Wesley Hunt, and Robert Peter,.


The University archives are the central repository for the permanent records of Transylvania University. Contained in the archives are the minute books of the board of trustees beginning in 1783, faculty minutes, early matriculation records and account books, manuscript theses of medical students, photographs, and many old files of manuscript notes and correspondence from the offices of the dean and president prior to 1900. The archives also contain files of the University catalog from 1821 to date, as well as the Crimson (yearbook), The Rambler (student newspaper), and the Transylvanian (literary magazine).

Reading Room

The J. Winston Coleman Jr. Kentuckiana Reading Room was designed to house the well-known local author and historian's private collection of Kentuckiana. The collection includes over 5,000 books and pamphlets, thousands of photographs, as well as manuscripts and personal memorabilia. Of interest to students are the many county histories and Kentucky biographies.

Using the Collections

TU students who need materials related to their course work are welcome. Please contact the special collections librarian for an appointment - You will be required to leave a photo ID at the information desk downstairs before your appointment.

The Special Collections Librarian helps scholars from all over the world.  Because we are a one-person department, and so you do not waste a trip, please contact us for an appointment.  We can often send you copies of what you need.

No materials may be checked out of the department, but some of the materials may be scanned by the library staff depending on their condition.


Special Collections is available by appointment.

Monday-Friday, 1pm - 4:30pm.

Call 859-233-8225 or email