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Cardiff Rare Books

Spine detail from the Early English Folios.

An exceptionally rich and varied collection of over 14,000 books ranging from 15th century incunabula to 20th century fine press books.

Because of its aspirations to become home to a national library for Wales, from the late 19th century onward Cardiff City Council built up a remarkable collection of books at its Central Library. The Cardiff Rare Books represent the core of the English and Continental rare books in that collection. It was acquired by Cardiff University from Cardiff City Council in 2010, with the support of the Welsh Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, who (like Cardiff University and Cardiff City Council) recognised its significance as a national collection and the need to preserve it and to promote its use by scholars and the general public.

Among its strengths are:

  • 180 incunabula
  • early modern English and Continental works from the Renaissance and Reformation
  • around 500 Bibles
  • a world-class collection of Restoration drama, including a major set of late 17th-century editions of Shakespeare which is extremely rare
  • a notable atlases collection
  • significant holdings on natural history, topography and travel
  • a collection of international significance of books from British private presses operating in the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as limited editions and fine bindings.

A rich strand of illustrated material runs through the entire collection.

The collection is currently being catalogued and made accessible via LibrarySearch. Many books feature bookplates and inscriptions from previous owners, including John Dee, Isaac Newton, and William Morris, plus marginalia of historic significance - all of which is recorded in the catalogue records.

About this collection

Collection type: Print

Dates: Pre 1600, 17 century, 18 century, 19 century, Early 20 century

Size: c. 14,000 items

Formats: Books

Subjects: Religion, Literature and journalism, Art and music, Medicine and science, Travel, History, Society and law

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