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Rare Books & Special Collections: Home

Welcome to the Rare Books & Special Collections Guide

The University of Canterbury Library Special Collections consists of the Rare Books Collection, Modern Fine Print Collection and Unique Published Collections which consists of thirteen other special permanent collections that highlight a specific collector, field or author. The Special Collections were established, and continue to, preserve significant material in a number of specialised areas and to highlight collections that support local and international students, research, academic endeavour  and to enhance the University’s overall reputation as a centre for scholarship.

The Special Collections material originated from Canterbury’s early European emigrants, libraries established by colonists societies and the Canterbury Association, which was the body incorporated by Royal Charter in England 1849 with the object of ‘founding the settlement of Canterbury, New Zealand’.  The Special Collections have been significantly enhanced by institutional and individual donations, bequests and Library purchasing.  Today public donation and transfer from within the library network is the prominent collecting method with selected purchases of desirable items that support current teaching or add significant value to current collections being made from library appropriations. Items related to Canterbury, be it by provenance or production are the most desirable additions to the collections.

Collection Locations

All material held in the Special Collections can be requested via the catalogue. Requests can also be made by contacting the Macmillan Brown Library or Research Services Librarian.

The Special Collections will be permanently retained and kept in closed access stacks at the Macmillan Brown Library due to the unique and rare nature of the material. See the 'Accessing the Collections' tab for further details.

Featured Work

Early Encyclopaedia Britannica holdings at UC

-Facsimile of the first edition published 1771. This edition, although a facsimile is justifiable held in the Rare Books collection as a representation of the first edition of this work. 

-1797, 3rd edition, 20 volumes in total. The 3rd edition is a great expansion on the work of the first two editions and is regarded as the first ‘true’ edition of this work. It had a greatly increased print-run and achieved significant sales. It is a highly desirable edition for collectors. The UC set, although suffering damage to 2/3 of the binding has a textblock in very good condition (better than the 5th ed) and has very significant provenance. The set has the signature of W.A. Neave. The Neave family were associated with the Canterbury Association and were early settlers in the province. It is likely this set was one, if not the first set in Canterbury.

-1815, 5th edition, 20 vols. plus 5 vols. of supplements published to 1824. This is a reprint of the 4th edition but is enhanced by the supplements that are contained in this set. It is a very handsome set and is finely bound, although the textblock has suffered some ‘foxing’. It was gifted to the ‘Cathedral Library’ (Christ Church Cathedral) by a Mrs Hudson.