Special collections and rare books

We maintain a number of special collections in various subject areas. Included in the collections are manuscripts, old and rare printed books, artists' books, facsimiles, and pamphlets. The special collections of the Library of the University of Ottawa have been formed over time by donations, purchases and transfers from the general collection.

Livres anciens

Manuscript Collection

The Manuscript Collection includes dozens of manuscripts including two book of hours from the late 15th century.

Rare Book Collection

The Rare Book Collection includes about 14,000 printed books from the 15th to the 20th century. The oldest are called incunabula, and were published between 1455 and the end of 1501. The Archives and Special Collections contains 5 incunabula some of which are extremely rare as well as nearly 60 post-incunabula which consist of books published between 1501 and the end of the 1550s. The Rare Books Collection also comprises thousands of books from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The books were published in Europe, America and Canada on subjects such as medicine, law, literature, philosophy, natural science, geography and travels, sciences, architecture, history and arts. The Collection is mostly monographs but it also contains early European and Canadian periodicals.

Collection of Artist books and Art books

If the definition of the artist book has evolved over time, objects that are part of the Artist Book Collection also have many faces. The artist's book is here defined first as a work of art designed by an artist. We also find several classic books illustrated by artists, illustrators and painters, who meet more the definition of the illustrated book. Finally, the collection also includes some art books, often published by private publishers.


Collection of facsimiles

The Facsimiles collection contains reproductions of manuscripts and printed material, mostly of rare or old manuscripts and printed books that are often inaccessible.  There are also reproductions of manuscripts of 19th and 20th century writers, as well as reproductions of archival documents. Facsimiles are useful resources for researchers who otherwise would not have access to the material.  


Collection of pamphlets

The Pamphlet Collection contains nearly 4000 printed documents. The oldest brochure dates from 1774 and the most recent from the 1990s. Due to their smaller size and lower quality binding, pamphlets were typically ephemeral and tended to disappear quickly from circulation. The collection at the Archives and Special Collections is thus of particular importance and contains several very rare items.


Bernard and Sylvia Ostry Collection

The Bernard and Sylvia Ostry Collection was an important recent donation for the Archives and Special Collections. It consists of the personal library of Bernard and Sylvia Ostry who were both influential in Canadian history. Sylvia Ostry, a renowned economist, trade negotiator and policy expert and Bernard Ostry, an influential senior civil servant in the area of culture and broadcasting, both had key positions within the federal government. The book collection reflects their multiple interests and focuses on international studies and economy, the arts and history.

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