The Rare Books unit of Special Collections holds about 30,000 volumes, over half of which are from the hand press period of book production, spanning from the mid-fifteenth century to the early nineteenth century. The collection was formed around a core of books belonging to the founders and early faculty of Saint Louis University and has absorbed many subsequent additions. The strengths of the collections are in theology, philosophy, Church history, and works written by or about members of the Society of Jesus. Items of note include incunabula (books printed before 1501), including a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, many works by the seventeenth-century Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher, works by Peter Ramus, and the 1662 Atlas maior of Joan Blaue in eleven hand-colored volumes.
Representative subjects within the collections or named collections include:
- Moore Carpenter Recusant History Collection
This collection contains approximately 1,600 books, pamphlets, and manuscripts on the history of English Catholics and Catholicism between 1534 and 1829. Browse the library's catalog for individual titles.
- Emblem Books
A genre of book, usually illustrated, produced in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries containing texts of a moral nature and typically accompanied by corresponding emblematic images. Browse the library's catalog for individual titles.
- Follansbee Collection
Collection formed by George Follansbee on the history of polar exploration. Browse the library's catalog for individual titles.
In addition to our leaf from the Gutenberg Bible , the library has eleven other books printed before 1501. Browse the library’s catalog for individual titles.
The collections contain numerous works on Jesuit history, spirituality, biography, and missionary activity published by or about the Society of Jesus (1534–1773, 1814–present) and its members from its earliest period. Consult the library’s catalog for individual titles. See also the exhibit Spiritual Journeys: Books Illustrating the First Two Centuries of Contemplation and Action by the Society of Jesus.
- Saint Louis Literary Award Collection
This collection holds signed examples of the works of recipients of the Saint Louis Literary Award, which was established in 1967 by the Saint Louis University Library Associates to honor writers of outstanding literary merit. Browse the library’s catalog for individual titles.
- Saint Louis University Faculty Publications
Archived copies of publications by faculty members. Browse the library’s catalog for individual titles.
- Works of Athanasius Kircher
The library holds fourteen books by the seventeenth-century Jesuit scientist and polymath Athanasius Kircher. Browse the library's catalog for individual titles.
- Works of Peter Ramus
The collection contains numerous copies of the works of Peter Ramus (1515–1572), among which is included a copy of Ramus’s Arithmetices (1569) annotated by Ramus himself. Many of these volumes were acquired by the Saint Louis University faculty member Walter J. Ong, whose work on literacy and orality originated with studies of Peter Ramus and the rhetorical tradition. Walter Ong’s personal annotated copy of his Ramus and Talon Inventory is part of the collections.
Department of Special Collections, Pius XII Memorial Library, Saint Louis University 3650 Lindell Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63108