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Special Collections catalogue search help

Searching the Special Collections catalogue

Special Collections has its own online catalogue containing records of its hundreds of thousands of rare books, manuscripts, archives and art. This is distinct from the main Library Search; you can find books from Special Collections using Library Search, but for the other types of material, you must use the Special Collections catalogue.

Searching the catalogue

Summary of basic search tips:

  • Enter one or more words into the search box
  • Letter case does not matter, eg First Aid is the same as first aid
  • Word order does not matter, eg aid first will match the same records as first aid
  • If the word order does matter, enter a phrase within double quotes, eg "first aid"
  • Records are returned that contain all of the entered words, eg aid first will return only those records that contain both aid and first. If you would like to be a bit more sophisticated, please read the Boolean search section below.
  • If you are not sure of spelling, use * to match any characters, eg brown* matches brown, browne, browning...

Boolean search (and, or, not)

Using Boolean search terms gives you different ways to control your search results.


A basic search returns records that contain all of the entered words, eg ‘aid first’ will return only those records that contain both 'aid' and 'first'.

OR (must be in capital letters)

If you want to find records that contain 'first' or records that contain 'aid', then enter:
first OR aid

AND (must be in capital letters)

If you want to search for records that contain 'first' but do not include 'aid', then enter:
first NOT aid

You can use brackets to make more sophisticated searches when using more than one Boolean term. For example:
first NOT (aid OR medicine)
will find records containing 'first' that do not contain 'aid' and do not contain 'medicine'.

Advanced searching

Summary of advanced search tips

There are additional options available if Advanced search is selected:

  • Media – choose to search all records, or only those with images, or with other media (eg PDFs)
  • Type of record – choose to search for all records, or just archival records, books and printed matter, or index records
  • Field – choose the field to search, eg title, description
  • Level – restrict the search to a particular level of an archive hierarchy
  • Collection group – restrict the search to a particular group of collections
  • Earliest/Latest dates – restrict the search to those records of materials created in a particular century. Note that many of our collections span long time periods, and many records only have approximate dates, so please use these date options with care.