Rare books

Overstone books


Our rare book collections include early printed books from the handpress era (pre-1851), private press books, modern literary first editions and other printed material. Subject strengths include the history of science, children's literature, publishing and printing history as well as literature, classics and history.

Our collections can be used to support teaching and learning at undergraduate and postgraduate levels as well as providing a mine of information and primary sources for researchers. They can be consulted in the Special Collections Services reading room.

The University of Reading's Early Modern Research Centre has produced a photo story, Bringing old books to life, to display some of the work undertaken by researchers at the University and to highlight some of the rare book resources held at the Special Collections Service.

 The library of the Museum of English Rural Life also contains a number of rare books, and a selection of rare agricultural books were the focus of an exhibition at the Special Collections Services.

Principal rare book collections 

Other printed collections

Using our rare books

Our printed collections are available to all researchers to consult at in the Special Collections Services reading room.

We recommend that you contact us in advance of your visit with details of the documents and items that you wish to see as most material is on closed access.  Items found on the Enterprise catalogue can be requested online via the catalogue record.


Most of the books and other printed materials are catalogued, either on the Enterprise catalogue or in the Online Card Catalogue. Access to the Online Card Catalogue is available on request - please contact us if you would like to search it.

More detailed information about the individual collections is available from the links above.

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