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Collection Overview

Elizabeth Reed Rare Book and Manuscript Reading Room
Researchers at work in the Elizabeth Reed Rare Book and Manuscript Reading Room.

Cornell Library’s Rare and Manuscript Collection (RMC) preserves more than 500,000 rare books, and more than 80 million manuscripts, photographs, and other historical artifacts, spanning across thousands of archival collections. It is the University’s principal repository for rare and older books and other printed materials produced before 1875 (although it also includes thousands of rare books published after that date).

Reflecting Cornell University’s motto (“I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.”), RMC serves as a center for original research and scholarship in a wide variety of disciplines. Deep collections of rare books, manuscripts, photographs, media and other documents span topics reflecting human achievement within areas such as literature, art and music, the history of science, natural history and technology, the history of the book, photography and graphic design, the history of architecture, 19th and 20th century reform movements, African American history and culture, the history of gender and sexuality, food, wine and culinary history, postwar countercultural movements, along with the social, intellectual, and political history of Europe, the Americas, and Asia. RMC is also home to Cornell University’s archives.

While limited space and resources require that collecting is selective in all areas, RMC continues to build upon its collection strengths and continually evaluates opportunities to develop new ones, with a focus on materials in all formats that serve student learning, faculty research, and fuel opportunities for exploration, creativity and scholarly discovery. For more information, see Collection Highlights, Collection History, and Collecting Policies.