Early and rare printed works

Are you looking for early and rare printed material? On this page you will find information about searching for those at the Utreecht University Library.

The early and rare printed works of the Utrecht University Library collection are kept in several climate-controlled depositories. You can request these documents

Searching in Worldcat

The early and rare printed works held by Utrecht University Library are for the larger part included in WorldCat. Here you can also search for collections from other libraries. There are several ways to search WorldCat for early and rare printed works:

  • Enter search terms in the search bar of the start screen. A list with results (titles) appears. In the left hand column you can then select Book or Print Book at Format. For a digitised version you must choose 'Downloadable archival material', under 'Archival material' for the time being.
  •  Do you want to know what early and rare printed works Utrecht University Library holds? At Library select 'Utrecht University Library'. Please take care that you have unticked the box  'Group related editions' (under 'Search Tools'). Now the search results will be limited to only the material available in Utrecht University Library. Do you want to have more information about a title? Click on the title and next on 'Description'. 
  •  Do you want to know what is available in the Netherlands? At 'Library' select 'Libraries in The Netherlands'. If you want to know which particular library holds the publication, click on the title in question and next on 'Availability'. 
  • Or choose the option 'Advanced Search' and limit the search results in the same way.

Searching by special characteristics (printers, place of publication etc.)

In the Register van drukkers, uitgevers en boekverkopers 'Index of printers, publishers and booksellers' (in Dutch only) of Utrecht University Library you wiil find the names of printers, publishers and booksellers up to the year 1801 whose works are available in the university library. In this index you can limit your search to country, city and century for instance.

Searching by subcollections and subject

Catalogues of some (thematic) subcollections are availabe in the Special Collections reading room: with the help of these catalogues parts of the collection can be searched by subject. These subcollections are:

  • Pamphlets: search for pamphlets in the printed catalogue of Utrecht pamphlets and the annotated catalogues of other large collections (Knuttel etc.). There is also a card catalogue for Dutch, mainly 18th century pamphlets (the Kloosterboer catalogue) if they cannot be found in the printed pamphlet catalogues. A large part of the pamphlets is also full text available.
  • Brochures from the 19th and early 20th century: this is a collection of mainly political, historical and theological writings. A card catalogue is available. At this moment the titles are being entered into the catalogue.
  • Gregorius collection (in Dutch): this collection is described in a card catalogue indexing journals and catholic and protestant song books. For further information, please go to the desk of Special Collections.

Most other subcollections can be found in print format catalogues or on microfiche. These can also be found in the Special Collections reading room. For an overview of these subcollections go to the Digitaal Repertorium.

Digitised early and rare printed works

 An ever increasing part of the collection of early and rare printed works is digitised and so online available. In this way the documents are available 24/7 and great tools for teaching and reseach purposes. There are two ways to find out if a work is electronically available:

  • Via WorldCat. After entering search terms tick the boxes 'Utrecht University Library' (under 'Library') and 'Downloadable archival material' (under 'Format' and next 'Archival material') . If you want to continue your search for other digitsed early printed and rare material from Utrecht University Library, tick the box 'Keep selections for next search' (under 'Selected Filters'). Next you can enter more precise search terms or filter on  'Utrecht University Library' (under 'Library') and 'Downloadable archival material' (under 'Format' and next 'Archival material'). If you want to continue your search for other digitised manuscripts of Utrecht University Library you tick the box 'Keep selections for next search' (under 'Selected Filters'). Now you can enter the search terms of your choice, after which the search is limited to the digitised material held by Utrecht University Library. Next click on 'View eBook'. You come to a website where you can study the document. You can browse the books and manuscripts and go to specific pages. Often you will find scholarly notes as well. With the help of a viewer you can zoom in to the details. Please note: in WorldCat the description of the physical document also contains a link to the digitised version: click on 'View eBook'. The format for physical manuscripts is 'Print Book" at the moment. We are working on a solution.
  • Via the browser for digitised material of Special Collections. By using Ctrl F(ind) you can search on words from the title.

On the Special Collections website you will find a digital exhibition of incunables printed in Utrecht. It contains an overview of the earliest printed books held by Utrecht University Library. You will also find a link to a geographical interface (temporarily under construction) visualising various locations of Utrecht printers and publishers from that period.

How do I get hold of the material?

The early and rare printed works of Utrecht University Library can be consulted in the Special Collections reading room. These items can be requested in WorldCat. Requested material is kept ready for you at the desk of Special Collections for a period of seven days. Do you wish to extend this period? Please ask the desk staff. Not all early and rare printed works can be consulted just like that. Special permission from the curator is needed when you want to consult material that is very vulnerable or precious. It may also happen that special materials are on loan somewhere else or are being restored.​

Searching for pamphlets and brochures

Pamphlets and brochures can be found in the printed catalogue of Utrecht pamphlets and the annotated catalogues of other large collections (Knuttel etc.). There is also a card catalogue for Dutch, mainly 18th century pamphlets (the Kloosterboer catalogue) if they cannot be found in the printed pamphlet catalogues. A large part of the pamphlets is also full text available.

Overview of the subcollections

If you want to have an overview of the  many subcollections within the Utrecht Special Collections you can consult the website of the Digitaal Repertorium (in Dutch only). This Repertorium gives an overview of and insight into the thematic (sub)collections of Utrecht University Library, provided that they can clearly be traced as independent collections, because the items are placed together and/or because they have their own catalogue, inventory or list. They cover almost all scholarly fields. The items consist of manuscripts, printed works and maps, historical and recent material. Humanities form the largest part, the field in which manuscripts and printed works are the main sources.