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Special Collections can be ordered in specialist reading rooms within the University Library (the Anderson Room, the East Asian Reading Room, the Manuscripts Reading Room, the Map Room and the Munby Rare Books Room), where readers are asked to produce a valid University of Cambridge Card or Reader’s Card when requesting material. The Collections are characterised by the age, rarity, provenance and financial value of their contents, together with the need to protect and conserve them.

Special Collections include: manuscripts, archives and typewritten materials; University of Cambridge PhD theses; most books printed before 1900; most periodicals published before 1850; musical scores printed before 1900; maps and atlases printed before 1900; photographs and artefacts. A number of Special Collections contain later printed materials, to which the above access restrictions also apply.

You may find it helpful to consult LibrarySearch (the Library’s online catalogue) and the web pages of the specialist departments and reading rooms, to discover whether you are likely to need to consult Special Collections materials.

If you wish to access manuscripts and archives, you will be asked to specify which collections you want to see when you apply online for Library membership. Reader Registration staff will also be happy to offer guidance when you are validating, requesting or renewing your card.

Undergraduates of Cambridge University and of other UK Universities are not normally admitted to consult manuscripts. Special permission should be sought on their behalf by their Tutor, Supervisor or Director of Studies, writing in advance to the Keeper of Manuscripts and University Archives, Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR.