Our Special Collections are distinctive because they are not confined to a particular time or subject. The selection presented here is merely a snapshot of what are extensive collections, definable as treasures due to their value, rarity or distinctiveness.
Images and further details on each of the items are available in our interactive tour.
15th and 16th century
The collections reflect the transition from manuscript to print culture. Manuscripts, magnificent or plainly practical, progressively give way to printed books, produced in many languages and countries.
17th and 18th century
Great works of literature and landmarks of scientific and social thought emerge. Beside the formal publications grows a mass of private and domestic writing.
The increasing mechanisation of printing and the growth of literacy led to an abundance and variety of books. From this period we see a higher survival rate of manuscripts and archives that were never intended for publication. A larger portion of the material is connected with Leeds and Yorkshire, but much continues to be of international origin and significance.