Resources in Dunedin

Koberger’s Nuremburg Chronicle, 1493.

Koberger's Nuremburg Chronicle, 1493.
Image reproduced courtesy of Special Collections, University of Otago Library.

Dunedin is host to several significant collections of Medieval and Early Modern research material.

The Dunedin Public Libraries

The Reed Special Collections

The Reed Special Collections was gifted to the Dunedin Public Library by New Zealand publisher Sir Alfred Hamish Reed and other benefactors. It is located on the third floor of the City Library and is of international heritage significance.

There are books and manuscripts dating from the tenth century through to the present day. Many are rare and special because of their age, the craftsmanship of their printing and binding, or because of their history or former owners.

The Collection strengths are in illuminated medieval manuscripts; Bibles and liturgy; particular eighteenth and nineteenth century authors; autograph letters and ephemera; items associated with well-known people; and the history of writing and the book.

There are also the research notes and manuscript drafts for A. H. Reed's own books.

The Reed Special Collections includes:

Religious collections

  • Early and modern printed Bibles
  • Liturgy
  • Hymnology

History of the book collections

  • Examples of Medieval manuscripts
  • Examples of printing spanning five centuries
  • Reference collection on book history

Famous people collections

  • Autograph letters and ephemera
  • "Association" books
  • Portrait collection

Literary collections

  • Charles Dickens
  • Samuel Johnson
  • Benjamin and Eleanor Farjeon
  • Robert Burns
  • Sir Walter Scott
  • Walt Whitman

A display showcasing items from The Reed Special Collections is located in the Reed Gallery and changed regularly. The Rare Books Librarian is happy to make available or demonstrate any Reed collection items to Dunedin residents, visitors, clubs and societies, school classes and scholars.

For further information, please visit the following link:
Dunedin Public Libraries


Title page of The Spectator, Volume the First (1749) with what is believed to be Dr Johnson’s signature at top

Title page of The Spectator, Volume the First (1749) with what is believed to be Dr Johnson’s signature at top.

The Dunedin Public Art Gallery

The Dunedin Public Art Gallery's collection includes an excellent selection of British and European paintings and works on paper, gifted by generous benefactors or purchased by the Gallery's founding organisation, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Society. Many of the major figures in Western art since the 15th century are represented, with high points including paintings by Machiavelli, Claude Lorraine, Rosa, Monet, Pissarro, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Turner and Burne-Jones.

For further information, please visit the following link:
Dunedin Public Art Gallery


Resources at the University of Otago

At the University of Otago we are fortunate to have significant collections relevant to Medieval and Early Modern studies.

Special Collections at the Central Library

The 39 items include two Books of Hours, a Breviary, fragments of medieval manuscripts and assorted letters.


The de Beer Collection
The de Beer Collection, comprising nearly six thousand volumes, is the Library's principal repository for pre-1800 material and showcases aspects of European civilization and culture from the Renaissance to the end of the 18th century. It is named after Dr Esmond de Beer and his sisters, Dora and Mary, who donated and financed a large part of the collection.

The strengths of the collection are:

  • 18th-century English poetry including the Iolo A. Williams collection, and 18th- century play scripts.
  • Esmond de Beer's John Evelyn collection of books acquired while editing the definitive edition of the diary of John Evelyn.
  • European travel and guide books dating from 1499 to the 18th century, relating particularly to Italy and Rome.
  • Esmond de Beer's John Locke collection which de Beer acquired while editing the correspondence of John Locke.
  • European architecture in the classical tradition, particularly 17th- & 18th-century Rome.
  • Early Italian poetry.

For further information see:


Fox's Book of Martyrs (1583)

Fox’s Book of Martyrs (1583), reproduced courtesy of the Dunedin Public Libraries.


The Hocken Library

The Hocken collects widely in relation to the history and culture of New Zealand, the Pacific and Antarctica, with a special emphasis on the Otago and Southland regions of New Zealand.

The collections include books, ephemera, posters, newspapers, journals, music, maps, archives, manuscripts, photographs, paintings, drawings and film. In date, they range from the seventeenth century to the present day.

For further information see:


Medical and Dental Library Special Collections

A significant collection of medical monographs from the 17th to the 19th centuries, including major medical and surgical texts, anatomical atlases and contemporary material on diseases such as plague, yellow fever and malaria. Original works are supplemented by some facsimile editions, including Anatomical Studies by Leonardo da Vinci.

For further information see:


Otago University Central Library

The central library holds the essential primary and secondary literature in the fields, and subscribes to an extensive rage of relevant databases.

For further information see:


The Textbase of Early Tudor English

Based in the Department of English this project aims at the creation and publication of an encoded electronic text base of early Tudor English literature (1485-1550). At present the primary focus of the project is upon verse texts.

The formation of the verse database (some 260,000 lines) is substantially completed. Of the total number of works or poems in the verse corpus (currently estimated at around 950), all but a handful have undergone editing and structural mark-up. This involves the tagging of texts with XML flags conformant with the guidelines set out by the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), an international and interdisciplinary encoding standard that helps libraries, museums, publishers, and individual scholars represent all kinds of literary and linguistic texts for online research.

The texts consist for the most part of early imprints of verse works composed between 1485 and 1550, imprints of some earlier works, such as fifteenth century verse romances, released in print form after 1500, and the complete works of selected poets (both manuscript and print witnesses), including John Skelton, Alexander Barclay, and Stephen Hawes, Henry Howard and Luke Shepherd. Works by Wyatt and some other well-known poets are included so far as they have been edited, but some poems in manuscript copies await inclusion.