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New:  Guidelines for using iDiscover to find Special Collections items (PDF)

  • Working with Rare Books on Saturdays:
  • Restricted fetching of Q-3-figures and CP-3figures classes.
  • New digital resources: access to Irish newspapers back to the eighteenth century. Read more...

The Rare Book collections of Cambridge University Library cover all subjects of study and include material from the first European printing presses in the fifteenth century up to the present day, and publications from all parts of the world. The Department is responsible for most of the older printed material in the Library, as well as more recent publications which require special care or which have interesting provenances. Information on particular rare book collections can be found in the Collections Directory.

The collections are read in the Munby Rare Books Room, on the north west corner of the first floor. For a brief guide to using the room, see our Reader Guidelines. Readers intending to use the Library for the first time should contact Reader Registration for further information and to obtain a Reader's card.

Select other collections within the Library are also consulted in the Munby Rare Books Room:

Making the most of your visit

If you are planning to visit to the Rare Books Department, and particularly if you have limited time here, we recommend contacting us in advance to ensure the items you wish to see are available. You are welcome to submit book requests in advance by emailing including your 5-character reader’s card number (where applicable, e.g. VA123) and the classmarks for the books required. Please give one working day’s notice for advance requests.

You are welcome to bring a camera to photograph the items you are working on, subject to condition and copyright and these rules. If you have any enquiries ahead of your visit then please get in touch.

Working with groups

We welcome enquiries from school, college and university teachers wishing to use our collections with their student groups. There is teaching space available next to the reading room where groups can work, with capacity for up to 15. Members of the curatorial team are happy to assist if required with handling advice or technical information. If you are interested, please email giving at least a week's notice before your preferred date. 

Restricted fetching

Periodicals in classes beginning with Q. and CP., in the pattern Q123.a.1.1, are being moved to the Library Storage Facility. These are primarily non-academic journals. Material in these classes will show in iDiscover with a new location of Library Storage Facility and can be requested online. Volumes dated up to 1899 will be available for consultation in the Rare Books Room, usually the day after being requested; the electronic fetching system will inform you when material is ready to be seen. Please ask staff for further information. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. 

Opening hours

Monday-Friday: 9.00-18.50
Saturday: 9.00-16.30 in Manuscripts Reading Room**

Books are fetched from 9.00 to 18.15 on weekdays. Requests may be emailed to with one working day's notice. 

**Rare Books fetching, reading and enquiry services relocate to the Manuscripts Reading Room on Saturdays. Specialist staff are available to answer enquiries and enable access to card catalogues and reference materials.


Contact us

Rare Books Department
Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR

Phone: 01223 333117 (Reading Room)
Phone: 01223 333122 (Curatorial Staff)