Special Collections, University of Birmingham

An image of knights fighting on horseback from an ancient manuscript
Food icon Shop icon Library icon Study area icon Wheelchair access icon

The Special Collections & Archives of the University of Birmingham have been built up over a period of 120 years and consist of approximately 120,000 pre-1850 books dating from 1471 and some 3 million archives and manuscripts, all of which provide a rich resource for teaching and research.

We welcome all interested researchers to use Special Collections at the University of Birmingham, whether you are a member of the University of Birmingham itself or an external user. For further details on how to access our collections please check our website at www.special-coll.bham.ac.uk

Venue Type:

Library, Archive

Opening hours

Mon 10.00-17.00
Tues, Wed & Fri 09.00-17.00
Thurs 09.00-19.00

Closed: Sat, Sun

Admission charges

Please phone for details.

Special Collections is responsible for directly supporting the University’s research, learning and teaching agenda by collecting and making fully accessible all collections and seeking to acquire material which ties into this agenda.

Highlights of our manuscript and archive collections include:

• The Mingana Collection of Middle Eastern Manuscripts: Designated as a collection of National and International importance;

• The Church Missionary Society: contains the earliest recorded documents from pioneering explorations into Africa or Asia;

• The Chamberlain Collection: the papers of Neville Chamberlain (Prime Minister 1937-1940), Joseph Chamberlain (Founder of the University), and Austen Chamberlain, including letters describing Neville Chamberlain’s meetings with Hitler;

• The Avon Papers: papers belonging to and about the life of Anthony Eden (Prime Minister 1955-1957), including material on the Suez Crisis;

• The Noel Coward Collection;

• The Soviet posters collection;

• The University’s own archive collection representing all aspects of the heritage of the University.

Highlights of our rare book collections include:

• Important first editions, such as De Humani Corporis (1543) by Vesalius, the Complete Works (1616) of Ben Jonson, two copies of The Temple of Flora (1799-1807) by Robert Thornton and comprehensive collections of the works of Joseph Priestley and D H Lawrence;

• The Hensleigh Wedgwood (1803–1891) collection, an important philologist, grandson of Josiah Wedgwood and cousin and brother-in-law of Charles Darwin. Includes Johann Schilter's monumental folio celebration of Germanic culture Thesaurus Antiquitatum (Ulm, 1728).

• A number of significant parish libraries dating from the 16th century;

• Major collections relating to the history of printing including publications from John Baskerville, the Kelmscott Press, the Birmingham School of Printing, and the Italian printer, Giambattista Bodoni of Parma.

Collection details

World Cultures, Weapons and War, Trade and Commerce, Sport, Social History, Religion, Personalities, Performing Arts, Music, Medicine, Literature, Industry, Archives

Key artists and exhibits

  • Designated Collection
  • Mingana Collections of Middle Eastern manuscripts
  • Neville Chamberlain
  • Austen Chamberlain
  • Joseph Chamberlain
  • Noel Coward
  • Church Missionary Society
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Anthony Eden
  • De Humani Corporis
  • Vesalius
  • Ben Jonson
  • Robert Thornton
  • Joseph Priestley
  • D H Lawrence
  • Hensleigh Wedgwood
  • Josiah Wedgwood
  • Charles Darwin
  • Johann Schilter
  • Thesaurus Antiquitatum
  • Cadbury
  • Alphonse Mingana
  • Edward Cadbury
  • John Baskerville
  • Kelmscott Press
  • Birmingham School of Printing
  • Giambattista Bodoni of Parma.

Special Collections, University of Birmingham
Academic Services
Main Library
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT






0121 414 5839


0121 471 4691

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.