skip to content

Cambridge University Library


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. Information on particular rare book collections can be found in the Collections Directory.

The collections are read in the Munby Rare Books Reading 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. If you plan to visit within 5 days, it may be easier to order books online via iDiscover

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 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. 

Early periodicals

To make better use of storage space in the main Library building, some low-use material is being moved to the offsite Library Storage Facility. This includes some pre-1850 non-academic journals, and pre-1900 newspapers, which previously had classmarks beginning with Q, CP and NPR. Material in these classes will show in iDiscover with a new location of Library Storage Facility and can be requested online. Volumes 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 are happy to assist with identifying alternative ways to access this material, such as digitised copies where they exist. 

Restricted fetching: Please note that the Library will be unable to provide a Special Collections fetching service on Saturdays until further notice. The Manuscripts Reading Room will be open as usual from 9.30am to 4:30pm for readers to consult pre-ordered material.  Requests for items to be consulted on Saturday should be made by 1pm on the Friday preceding, either through iDiscover or by emailing with the classmarks of items required and your reader card 5-character code. We apologise for the inconvenience. 


Opening hours

Monday - Friday: 9:30am to 6.50pm (operating in the Manuscripts Room from 5.00pm)

Saturday: 9:30am to 4.30pm, operating in the Manuscripts Reading Room

Sunday: closed

Please note that the Rare Books Room itself closes at 5.00pm Monday to Thursday and at 4.45pm on Fridays; our services relocate to the Manuscripts Room after these times.




Contact us

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

Phone: 01223 764111