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Rare Books, Special Collections, Hartley Library: About


General enquiries about the Rare Books contact:

Jenny Ruthven

email:  or tel. 023 80593335 

Search Room Bookings:

email: or tel. 023 80592721


Special Collections

Hartley Library

University of Southampton

Southampton SO17 1BJ

Special Collections Home Page

Printed Special Collections

A-Z List of Collections

From: Philip Gosse A History of British Sea Anemones and Corals (1860)

colured illustration of sea anemone

Rare Books QL 376.4

Rare Books

The Rare Books sequence consists of books from the general library collections published before 1801, and items of particular significance or rarity published after that date. A recataloguing project will extend the transfer date to include books published before 1850. 

The material covers a wide range of subjects, reflecting the interests of the University and its predecessors, there being an emphasis on theological, historical, philosophical and literary works.

Within the collection there are a number of smaller donated or deposited collections:

  • theological books from the library of John Bullar (1777-1864), a contemporary of Henry Robinson Hartley, the founder of the Hartley Institution;
  • books relating to Dante presented by Sir Samuel Gurney Dixon (1878-1970)
  • the parish libraries of Basingstoke (the Wheler Library) and Droxford
  • books from the Southampton Reading Society and the Southampton Theological Society
  • domestic sheet music compilations including those of Thomas and Louisa Gladstone and the Misses Shirreff, Sprot and Whitford

Extent: Approximately 4,000 books, ranging in date from the late 15th century to the 20th century.

Location and Access


The Rare Books are part of Special Collections on level 4 of the Hartley Library and items are fetched for use in the Archives, Manuscripts and Rare Books Search Room.


The Search Room is open Tuesday-Thursday 1000-1600. All visits are by prior appointment and all visitors will be required to book their visit and to order their material at least 1 working day in advance. 

Bookings are made by emailing providing details of name, University ID number (members of the University of Southampton only), permanent residential address and contact details, date of visit and list of items to be consulted.

If you do not have a University I.D. Card, you will need to show photographic I.D. and a form of I.D. which includes your permanent residential address when you enter the Hartley Library and also when you arrive at the Search Room.



The books are listed in the Hartley Library card catalogue, which is in the Film and Music Resources Room on level 5. Rare Books are indicated by the call number prefix x or xq.

WebCat includes records for a small proportion of the Rare Books (all pre-1700 British imprints and a growing number of nineteenth century imprints)

An imprints index is also available in the Special Collections Enquiry Office.

Reprographics Service

Bound volumes cannot be photocopied but you can request photographic or microfilm copies, subject to the age and condition of the item.

See Reprographics Service for a list of the types of copy available and charges.

From: John Harris The Description and Use of the Globes and the Orrery (1731)

engraving of globe

Rare Books QB 66


Search library collections worldwide in the following union catalogues: