Rare Books & Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame

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The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections houses over 175,000 print and manuscript materials from medieval Europe to 20th Century America.




102 Hesburgh Library

Notre Dame, IN 46556



Telephone and Email

Rare Books & Special Collections Department: 574.631.0290

Library Information: 574.631.6679

Research and Technology Help: 574.631.6258

General email address (for non-specific queries): rarebook@nd.edu

For the telephone numbers and email addresses of specialists within the Rare Book & Special Collections department, see here: http://rarebooks.library.nd.edu/directory.shtml



Schedule & hours

The Rare Books & Special Collections department is open from 9am - 5pm Monday-Friday, and closed Saturday and Sunday. Rare Books and Special Collections is also closed during the Christmas holiday break, but is otherwise open when classes are not in session.

Only hours for the current school semester are posted at any given time, so it is best to check the website for up-to-date listings.

Materials may not be requested from Rare Books and Special Collections after 4:30pm.

Working language(s)

Depending on the collection being used, material in the following languages may be encountered: English, Irish, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Hebrew, Greek, French, and Russian. Most, if not all of the material in the US History & Culture, Joyce Sports Research, American Catholic Studies, and Numismatics Collections will be in English. However, knowledge of at least one other language may be necessary when using the other collections (e. g. knowledge of Spanish and Portuguese will be necessary for research in the Latin American and Iberian Studies Collection, and knowledge of Italian will be needed for research in the Italian Literature Collection).

Directions to the archive

The Rare Books & Special Collections department is located on the first floor of the Hesburgh Library at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

For directions to campus by air, bus, train, and car, see here: https://www.nd.edu/visitors/directions/


The Department of Rare Books & Special Collections houses over 175,000 print and manuscript materials from a wide range of topics and locations.

The US History & Culture Collection includes manuscripts broken up into the following time periods: Colonial America, Antebellum America, Civil War Era, and Modern America. It also includes the Joyce Sports Collection, maps of the Great Lakes region, early American coins, and British and American newspapers.

The Irish Studies Collection contains mainly print materials (some in the Irish language) of Irish literature, theatre, song, maps, and history.

A strength of the Latin American & Iberian Studies Collection is its holdings regarding early to mid-twentieth century Latin American literature. This collection also contains manuscript materials from the early modern Hispanic world.

The Natural Science, Natural History, & Medicine Collection holds early printed books in physics, astronomy, medicine, and botany. Several of the books are classics by Copernicus, Galileo, and Isaac Newton.

The Theology and Church History Collection is one of the largest collections owned by the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. It contains materials relating to church history, moral and systematic theology, and liturgical studies.

The American Catholic Studies Collection includes print and manuscript materials from the earliest publications of the American Catholic community up to the present day.

The Italian Literature Collection holds one of the most extensive collections of materials relating to Dante Alighieri in North America: the Zahm Dante Collection. It also contains the works of prominent Italian authors such as Petrarch and Boccaccio.

The Fine Printing and Book Arts Collection features an extensive collection of works from various presses specializing in fine printing such as Kelmscott Press, Cuala Press, and Stanbrook Abbey Press.

The Medieval and Renaissance Collection contains print and manuscript materials spanning from the eleventh to the sixteenth century. Most are in Latin, but some are in English, French, and Italian. (This collection was unavailable for a short time in 2015 for conservation treatment and reorganization, but has since become available to researchers again.)

The Modern European Cultures Collection mainly contains print and manuscript collections from Britain, Ireland, and Italy dating from 1500 to present day. The collection is also home to material relating to early print culture in Europe. This material contains works in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, German, and Italian.

The Russian and East European Studies Collection includes papers regarding Soviet theatre, film, and culture. This collection is actively growing and collecting materials relating to human rights and unofficial non-conformist groups from Soviet Russia.

To learn more about each of the above collections, see here for further descriptions: http://rarebooks.library.nd.edu/collections/

See here for finding aids: http://rarebooks.library.nd.edu/finding/

Research procedures

Access and Document Delivery

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is open to Notre Dame students and faculty as well as visiting researchers and members of the community. Upon arrival outside researchers must present a photo identification and fill out form stating the nature of their research. A readers' card will then be issued. This process takes approximately fifteen minutes. Researchers must present this card on all subsequent visits. It is suggested for visiting researchers to call at least one day ahead of their visit to make sure their desired materials will be available for use.

Requesting documents is best done prior to a research visit via email or telephone. (See above for contact info) Be sure to state the collection name and specific items you are interested in. The items will be set aside for your use, and will be delivered to and removed from the reading room for you as needed. Only one document may be viewed at a time.

For more information see here: http://rarebooks.library.nd.edu/using/access.shtml

Permitted and prohibited items

  • Permitted: Laptops, cell phones (the official Reading Room Policies states that cell phones are prohibited, but this is not enforced), pencils, notebook
  • Prohibited: Loose clothing items, pens, food and drink, cameras, backpacks and purses, umbrellas

Duplication and Imaging Services

Photocopying is not available at Rare Books & Special Collections. However, patrons using materials on-site may make low resolution scans at no charge using the RBSC book scanner. All such scanning is subject to the physical condition of the materials, approval by the appropriate curator, and the copyright laws of the United States.

Patrons may also request images from staff. High resolution, publication quality images can be requested for $10 each. Low resolution, study quality images are available for 50 cents each. Discounts are available for Notre Dame faculty, staff, and students. Images are normally available 2-4 weeks after the request is sent.

For more information on the duplication policy see here: http://rarebooks.library.nd.edu/using/duplication.shtml


Food & Coffee: Many meal options can be found in the LaFortune Student Center a short walk (less than five minutes) away from the Hesburgh Library. There is a Subway, Pizza Hut, Smash Burger, Taco Bell, and Starbucks there. If you prefer to remain inside the library to dine, there is an Au Bon Pain café with coffee, soup, sandwiches, and various baked goods just down the hall from the reading room.

Lockers: The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections has many lockers available for researchers in its coat room. They are big enough to store a backpack comfortably.

Restrooms: There is one single-stall restroom immediately outside of the reading room. However, if you wish for a larger restroom, they are available near the circulation desk inside the library.

Parking: For parking and shuttle services, see here: https://library.nd.edu/help/visitors.shtml#simple2

Work Environment: The Rare Book and Special Collection's reading room has both pros and cons in regards to its work environment. On the one hand, large windows allow for lots of natural light. Also, the presence of only four work stations means that the reading room in never crowded. On the other hand, students are almost constantly walking past the windows, which may make it hard to focus. Also, the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections often hosts exhibits and displays that attract lots of people, making for a noisy environment at times.

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