Historical Books Collection

The College's collection of rare and historical books is known as Historical Collection 1. It is preserved primarily for historical reasons with old items still useful to our working library being classed as Historical Collection 2.

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Explore some of the museum's historical books

Bartisch's Ophthalmodouleia

The first vernacular work exclusively about eyes, from 1583

Galileo's Opere

The Opere di Galileo in 4 volumes from 1744

Newton's Opticks

A first edition from 1704

Pallucci on lachrymal fistula

Be warned. Reading this may make your eyes water!

Bibliographical Hand List

Although managed by the museum since 2010, the College's historical books were originally listed on the library catalogue and consequently there is not much information about them to assist researchers. This hand list is an attempt to redress that balance.


Detail from the Liber Chronicarum 1493

As well as important texts on optical, mathematical and astronomical subjects, the items in this collection are sometimes notable for their illustrations or bindings, some of which may be composed from recycled manuscripts of earlier date. Our earliest printed items are a single page from the Liber Chronicarum, 1493 and a single page from the Rudimentum Novitiorum printed by Lucas Brandis in 1475; our earliest complete work was printed in 1510. Items may feature in our museum exhibitions or be shown at our public events and may also be lent to other accredited museums for temporary display. Supervised access to these books is also available to bona fide researchers at our discretion.

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