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Special Collections & Archives: About: Special Collections & Archives

What we do

The Special Collections department of the Transylvania University Library contains rare books, pamphlets, photographs, manuscripts, and the University archives. These collections provide a unique opportunity for students to incorporate primary source and rare materials into their research and coursework, deepening intellectual engagement and excitement.  As time allows, we can also aid 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, hawking, hunting, 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.

Other rare book collections held by TU include the Emmet Horine Collection, which consists of 675 pre-1800 medical books including approximately a dozen inculabula; the Marcia Owen Collection of children's books; the Thomas Collection of natural philosophy including first editions of Darwin, Huxley, Wallace and others; the Kaufmann Collection of a dozen books decorated with hidden fore edge paintings; and more.

The college also holds 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 rare titles by Avicenna, Tulp, Bell, Vesalius, Caldwell and many more.

Manuscript Collections

The manuscript collections consist of more than 60 collections of letters, notebooks, memoirs, diaries, account books, and documents. Collections include those of Henry Clay, Henrietta Clay, Jefferson Davis, Daniel Drake, Mary Austin Holley, Horace Holley, John Wesley Hunt, Robert Peter, Constantine Rafinesque, and more.


The University archives are the central repository for the permanent records of Transylvania University. Contained in the archives are the minutes 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 most copies of the annual University catalog, 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

If you are a TU student who needs access to materials in Special Collections and Archives, please contact a librarian to discuss your research needs-

TU does not have a Special Collections librarian or Archivist, so we may not be able to help outside researchers during certain times of the year due to other obligations. Please contact us so that you don't waste a trip.

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 and staff time available. 

Recent budget cuts meant the loss of the two positions that supported the work of Special Collections and Archives at TU, our Archivist/Special Collections Librarian and our Digitization & Metadata expert.  If you would like make a gift  to support the salary of a Archival or Digitization position to support student and scholar access to our historic collections, we would love to talk with you!

Scanned materials are available here.

Call 859-233-8225 or email with questions.

Citing Archival Material

Reading Cursive