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Student Libraries

Outstanding cultural collections

Our cultural and special collections are amongst the richest held by a UK university, with a broad range of subjects and themes.

The collections include unique archives and manuscripts, rare and extensive print holdings, the University’s art collection (which is particularly strong in 20th century British art), the International Textile Collection, the coin collection, and the University’s own corporate archive.

The Arts Council have designated five collections as nationally and internationally significant:

  • English Literature
  • Gypsy Roma Traveller
  • Cookery Collection
  • Liddle Collections of WW1 and WW2 material
  • Leeds Russian Archive.

Other major strengths in the collections include theatre and performance, activism, campaigning and social thought, antiques and furniture trade, manuscripts and incunabula, and regional history.

Theatre and performance

We hold the archives of key cultural institutions based in Leeds, such as Opera North, Leeds Playhouse and Northern Ballet, as well as innovative radical theatre and dance groups.

Activism, campaigning and social thought

We are home to the Feminist Archive North, the archive of the Women’s Aid Federation of England, and the papers of leading 20th century thinkers such as Zygmunt Bauman and Ralph Milliband.

Antiques and furniture trade

We have unique archives of traders such as Phillips of Hitchin and the John Evan Bedford Library of Furniture History.

Manuscripts and incunabula

There is a small, but significant, collection of medieval manuscripts, and 300 incunabula (books printed before 1501).

Regional history

We are custodian of the collections of the Yorkshire Archaeological & Historical Society, one of the most significant regional history collections.

Within other collections of rare and historic print material are subjects such as Icelandic studies, Yorkshire, Geography, Early Science, and Travel.

Books from Special Collections open on a table with someone reading them.