General Library Special Collections

Image: Letter from President Thomas Woodrow Wilson to George Fowlds, 1914.  Fowlds, George, Sir, 1860-1934. Papers. MSS & Archives A-17, item FP 10/7. [Detail].

Special Collections is home to the University’s largest concentration of rare books, manuscripts and archives and other material which warrants preservation because of uniqueness, rarity, value or fragility. The repository has particularly strong holdings of material relating to New Zealand and the Pacific, and to the University.

Through its collections and services, Special Collections supports the University’s learning, teaching and research. We do this by selecting, preserving and digitising material, providing access in the Special Collections Reading Room, assisting with reference and research enquiries, encouraging use of these rich resources in teaching, including classes in the Reading Room, and more.

External researchers and members of the public are also welcome to access the collections, with the understanding that our research and consultation service is limited for these patrons.

An active collecting repository, Special Collections opened in 2002 although the material has been acquired through purchase, transfer and generous donations and bequests since the University was established in 1883. For full details of our collecting scope, see the LLS Collection Management Plan.

Find out how to access this material, which can be found by searching the Catalogue.

Manuscripts and Archives

Image: WPHC 4/IV 1693/1934. Western Pacific Archives. MSS & Archives 2003/1. [Detail].The repository holds more than 1000 collections of archives and manuscripts, covering more than 1.8 km. The foremost collection is the internationally-recognised Western Pacific Archives, which contains the official British colonial records for the region from 1877-1978.

We hold many University-related archives, including personal and research papers of academic staff, personal papers of alumni and records of clubs and societies and the wider social history of the University.

We also hold significant literary material such as the Robin Hyde papers, contemporary poets’ manuscripts, and the archives of the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre. The growth in this area reflects the strong research interest that our English Department, and especially Professor Michele Leggott, has shown in this field.

Trade unions, politics and activism are also well represented. We have the largest holding of trade union records in Auckland: these date back to 1873 and cover the Auckland branches with the records of national bodies going to the Alexander Turnbull Library. Among the political papers are those of local Labour Party branches while activist group material includes the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament records.

Note: The University's administrative archives are held by the Office of the Vice-Chancellor. Contact Elizabeth Nichol.

Published Collections

Tens of thousands of rare books and other published items are housed in the following general and named collections:


Image: Williams, W. (1844).  A dictionary of the New-Zealand language and a concise grammar... Paihia : Printed at the Press of the C.M. Society. [Detail.]New Zealand Glass Case

Spanning most disciplines and published between the 18th century and the present day, the New Zealand Glass Case has particular strengths in Māori and Pacific history, language and ethnology, New Zealand poetry, and University-related publications. It is complemented by a New Zealand Pamphlets collection.


Image: Great Britain. Court of King’s Bench & Hobart, Sir H. (1658). The reports of that reverend and learned judge, the Right Honourable Sr Henry Hobart knight and baronet... London : Leybourn. [Detail].Glass Case

The Glass Case contains rare and valuable books published between the 15th and 21st centuries, encompassing literature, languages, science, religions, travel and exploration, and much more. Highlights include extensive holdings of works by Thomas Hardy and William Butler Yeats.


Image: Bell, J. (1815). The principles of surgery, as they relate to wounds, ulcers and fistulas ... vol. 1. London : Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown. [Detail].Pre-1900 Philson Historical Collection

This collection of pre-1900 medical rare books covers numerous aspects of medical practice and science, including anatomy, gynaecology, physiology, psychology, pharmacology and surgery. The post-1900 Philson Historical Collection is managed by the Philson Library.


Image: Lucian. (1743-1746). Loukianou Samosateōs hapanta, vol. 1.  Amstelodami : Sumptibus Jacobi Wetstenii. [Detail].Paterson Collection

Formally called the "Paterson Library in Classics and Old Testament", the collection includes books and serials on biblical studies, classics and ancient history. It was bequeathed in 1933 by Professor Alfred Croom Paterson, who held the Chair in Classics from 1924-1932.


Image: Asian Languages Collection books. [Detail].Asian Languages Collection

The collection contains around 230 titles of mostly Chinese old and rare books. Most are printed using woodblocks and are thread-bound. Dating from the 17th-20th centuries, the collection includes works on philosophy, history, religions, literature and drama.


Image: Peacocke, I.M. (1916). Dicky Knight-Errant. London : Ward, Lock & Co. [Detail].Gilderdale Collection

Betty Gilderdale, prominent children's author and children's literature reviewer, donated this collection in 2000. It contains New Zealand children’s books, mostly published in the 1970s-1990s, which Mrs Gilderdale authored or acquired during her 26 years as a reviewer.


Image: New Zealand. School Publications Branch. (1971). The donkey’s egg. London : Methuen Educational. [Detail].Hugh Price Collection

These historic New Zealand school textbooks and school readers were donated by Hugh Price in 2001. Hugh Price (1929-2009) and Jim Milburn were co-founders of Price Milburn, a publishing company specialising in books for New Zealand schools.


Image: Forder Collection books. [Detail]. Forder Collection

Professor Henry G. Forder, who held the Chair in Mathematics from 1933-1955, donated this collection of mostly 19th and 20th century mathematical texts to the Science Library in 1974. It was transferred to Special Collections in 2001.


Image: Millar, J.H. (1956). The merchants paved the way : the first hundred years of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce. Wellington : A. H. & A. W. Reed. [Detail].New Zealand Illustrators Collection

Nearly 200 books and magazines from the 1890s-1990s with text and dust jacket illustrations by New Zealand artists and illustrators. The collection, formed by bookseller and collector Rowan Gibbs, was transferred from the Fine Arts Library in 2015.

Microtexts

Image: Microtexts machine. [Detail] Special Collections also assists with microtexts, which include newspapers, archival collections and other material on microfilm, microfiche and microcard. Key collections include Māori Land Court Minute Books and the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau series.