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Cambridge University Library's Special Collections include the oldest and most valuable materials in the Library, in manuscript, printed and artefact form, as well as modern maps and music. The oldest inscribed item in the collection is a Sumerian clay tablet with lines of text in cuneiform script, dated to ca 2200 BCE.

The Library is committed to using its Special Collections to support research and teaching, and to developing digital services to make the collections accessible to the widest possible audience in new and innovative ways. At the same time, it recognises the enduring importance of the physical collections, and the need to preserve this unique cultural heritage for future generations.

Items from the Special Collections can be viewed by all as part of the Library's exhibitions programme or online as part of the Cambridge Digital Library. Talks and visits are frequently arranged by the Friends of Cambridge University Library and the Cambridge Bibliographical Society, and as part of the University's Science Festival and Festival of Ideas.

See our Special Collections blog for the latest news and events.


Image credit: Crested white bird on snow-laden camellia branch. From Shi zhu zhai shu hua pu (FH.910.83–98, p. 11), the earliest Chinese book printed by the technique of polychrome xylography known as douban.