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Special Collections at University of Otago Library preserves and provides access to some of the Library's special, rare, and unique collections. This includes books and manuscripts which range from the earliest examples of European printing (1473) through to modern first editions and publications from the 20th and 21st centuries.

All aspects of the book, its history, and production are highlighted: print, paper, typography, bindings, illustrations, design, publishing history, provenance, and book collecting.

Named collections

Special Collections holds several named collections - personal collections that came to the Library usually by donation or bequest but sometimes through long-term loan or purchase.

De Beer

Named for Esmond de Beer who began donating to the University of Otago Library in 1950s, the de Beer Collection comprises over 7,000 pre- and post-1800 books and manuscripts that showcase aspects of European civilization and culture from the Renaissance to the end of the 20th century.

This collection enjoys international importance as a research resource with major strengths in works by and about John Evelyn and John Locke. It has international standing in areas of 17th century English history, politics and philosophy, 18th century poetry, travel and guidebooks, the history of horticulture, European architecture, Rome, and Roman antiquities.

The collection includes titles in Latin, Italian, French and German as well as English.

We continue to add to this collection.

More information

Esmond Samuel de BeerDictionary of New Zealand Biography (Te Ara website)

Portrait of a Gentleman scholar: celebrating the life & legacy of Esmond de Beer
Special Collections Exhibition (2003)


Charles Brasch's personal library of 7,500 books was donated to the University in 1973.

As a New Zealand poet, editor, and patron, his library reflects his diverse interests, with an emphasis on literature, art, history, and religion.

Brasch's Library is particularly rich in 20th century poetry and New Zealand literature, with many of the latter presentation or signed copies by well-known New Zealand writers: Janet Frame, Frank Sargeson, James K Baxter.

Overseas strengths include works by Robert Graves, W. B. Yeats, Eric Gill, Rainer Maria Rilke, and modern 20th century artists. Brasch also contains a sizeable collection of ephemeral pamphlets.

This collection is a static one.

More information

Charles Orwell Brasch
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (Te Ara website)

Kerr, Donald, ed. Enduring Legacy: Charles Brasch, Patron, Poet & Collector. Dunedin, N.Z.: University of Otago Press, 2003.
PR9640.B67 Z5 KD2


In 1965, Canon William Arderne Shoults' private library came to the University of Otago Library on permanent loan from Selwyn College, Dunedin.

The collection of about 4,500 volumes, mostly pre-1800 imprints, is rich in history and theology and includes fine examples of Greek and Roman classics by early printers such as Aldus Manutius, Robert Estienne, and Christopher Plantin. Science, travel, philology, and Middle Eastern languages are also well represented.

One particular strength is the 27 incunables (pre-1501 printings), with a unique English Rood and Hunt binding covering de Lyra's Commentaries (1471), with fragments bound in printed by William Caxton, England's first printer.

Shoults also includes a small manuscript collection. One (MS 13: Book of Morals, in three parts) quite possibly contains the oldest paper in New Zealand, with watermarks identified as used at fifteen different places between 1353 and 1391 AD.

Shoults is a static collection that complements the strengths in de Beer.

Medical Rare Books – Monro Collection and Melrose Library

The Monro Collection was deposited on loan from the Otago Medical School in 2011 and comprises manuscripts and books amassed by the Monro family: Alexander (father; primus), Alexander (son; secundus); and Alexander (grandson; tertius).

The Monro dynasty held the Chair of Anatomy at Edinburgh University from 1720 to 1846.

In addition to this collection, there is also Truby King's Melrose Library.

More information

In the Flesh: The Monro Dynasty 1720–1846
Special Collections Exhibition 2006

Douglass W. Taylor. The Monro Collection in the Medical Library of the University of Otago: A Descriptive Catalogue with Annotations and Introduction. Dunedin: McIndoe for University of Otago Press, 1979.
WZ 250 .ZO8

James Hogg

Some 100 volumes associated with James Hogg, (1770–1835), the Scottish poet known as the Ettrick Poet.

Many of the titles were part of Hogg's own library, presented to the University by Hogg's descendants, the Gilkison family of Dunedin.

There are also some original manuscript materials.

We continue to add to this collection.

More information

Inventory of the James Hogg Collection. Special Collections, University of Otago (PDF)

Joseph William Mellor

The Mellor Collection contains articles, manuscripts, and books from the library of Joseph Mellor (1869–1938), an eminent chemist, clay technologist, and graduate of Otago University.

Present is his 1912 edition of Modern Inorganic Chemistry, numerous family photographs, autographs and documents from famous late 19th and 20th century scientists, clay and ceramic publications, and samples of his work as a cartoonist.

This is a static collection.

More information

The Archives of Joseph William Mellor (1869–1938): Chemist, Ceramicist & Cartoonist (PDF)

John McGlashan

This collection contains 88 titles (100 volumes) from the library of John McGlashan (1802–1864), an early Otago politician, lawyer and educationalist.

McGlashan's pre-1800 imprints are kept in the de Beer Collection.

Fastier-Salive Science Fiction

This collection consists of over 3500 science fiction and fantasy items donated by Professor Fred Fastier and the family of the late Dr Hal Salive.

This collection comprises mainly paperback titles featuring Robert Heinlein, Philip K Dick, Samuel Delany, Ursula Le Guin, AE Van Vogt, Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov, CJ Cherryh, Poul Anderson, and Piers Anthony, and a large run of science fiction journals, including Astounding Stories, Analog and Nebula.

More information

Collection Listing on Library Search | Ketu

Other collections


Special Collections holds a small number of unpublished materials.

This collection includes medieval manuscripts and fragments; manuscripts in Arabic and Turkish including a copy of Euclid's Elements of Geometry in Arabic; autograph letters by Humboldt, Darwin, and Zweig; Wittgenstein typescripts; and ship's logs.

We continue to add to this collection.

More information

Manuscripts in Special Collections, University of Otago Library (PDF)

Pulp Fiction

The Pulp Fiction Collection comprises 850 titles, mainly published in Australia by Sydney-based publishers as a result of a publishing embargo on the US based 'pulps' before and during the Second World War.

Representative authors in this field of popular culture include 'Larry Kent,' Marc Brody, and Carter Brown.

The collection was purchased from a collector in Australia in 2005, and we continue to add to it.

Special Collections Stack (Post–1800)

This collection comprises over 3,500 books which are rare, valuable, or fragile. They include works transferred from general stack as well as books that complement the older materials in de Beer and Shoults Collections.

Special Collections Stack includes modern commentaries and works on or about John Evelyn and John Locke, costly facsimiles, guidebooks, and limited edition and private press publications, such as New Zealand's Caxton Press. Among the 20th century literary works there is a large collection of works by poet Robert Graves.

There are also works by Graves's contemporaries such as W.H. Auden, E. M. Forster, D.H. Lawrence, Siegfried Sassoon, and Stephen Spender. New publications from the 21st century also feature.

Illustrative works (engravings, woodcuts) include works by New Zealander John Buckland Wright, Eric Gill, and Robert Gibbings.

We continue to add to this collection.

Bibliography Room Archive

The printing presses (a Columbian, an Albion, and a Vandercook) have been operating in the University Library since 1961. There is also an etching press.

Thanks to the efforts of the late Dr Keith Maslen, two samples of every item – books, posters, ephemeral works – that was hand-printed are kept in the Bibliography Room Archive.

The Archive also includes sample printings from Dr Shef Roger's English course and works from the Printer in Residence programme that commenced in 2003.

In 2005, the Bibliography Room imprint was changed to Ōtākou Press.

We continue to add to this collection.


This collection contains a small number of prints, broadsheets, maps, and photographs. Many have been donated to Special Collections, and we continue to add to this collection.

Purchases for the collections

Academic staff are invited to make suggestions about purchases.

Antiquarian booksellers' catalogues are available for consultation. Please contact:

Special Collections Librarian

Collection inventories


Need help? Talk to one of our friendly Library staff.

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