Rare Book Collections

The major emphases of Special Collections’ rare book holdings are American history and literature. The collections number approximately 325,000 volumes. Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the University of Virginia, was also the creator of its library, selecting all of the nearly 7,000 books for it. Some of these books survived the disastrous 1895 fire in the Rotunda, and are in Special Collections today where they form a collection of particular interest because of their reflection of Jefferson’s reading habits and his thoughts concerning education. After the Library moved from its original home in the Jefferson-designed Rotunda to Alderman Library in 1938, extensive collecting of rare books and manuscripts began, and the papers and books of many Virginia authors were acquired. The gifts of the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History and the  Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature brought the University of Virginia to the forefront of institutions holding American literature collections.