My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass, 1855, signed 1st ed. “My Bondage and My Freedom” by Frederick Douglass, 1855, signed 1st ed.

What is Special Collections?

 Our Special Collections feature rare, out-of-print monographs and multi-volume sets, limited editions of seminal works in the fields of art, design, and photography, signed works of historical and political significance, and a teaching collection of unique artist books. 

Around 500 titles and growing, our collection features books published from the 18th-20th century, with the exception of the artist books, which are more contemporary. The oldest book in the collection is from 1691.

What subjects are  primarily featured ?

There’s a wide range of subjects available for your exploration. As the de facto art school for the SUNY system, Purchase has an especially wide variety of art history books and a teaching collection of artists’ books. Subjects include painting, drawing, pottery, costume, architecture, music and theater.  We have primary source materials of historical interest, natural science books, and biographies. Many of our oversize books are rich with illustrations and curiosities that would delight any book lover.

The Archives include Purchase College yearbooks, student publications dating back to 1972, scholarship produced by Purchase College faculty and staff,  and Neuberger Museum of Art publications and catalogs. All materials in the Special Collections & Archives are included in the Library’s catalog. Both Special Collections and Archives materials are non-circulating, housed in closed stacks. Use of the collection is available on site by appointment only. 

Highlights from the Collection Plate 33 of Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America by John James Audubon, 1851 Plate 33 of “Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America” by John James Audubon, 1851

  • “My Bondage and My Freedom” by Frederick Douglass, signed 1 st edition, 1855 
  • “Harper’s Weekly”, 1862 and 1865
  • “Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America” by John James Audubon, 1851
  • “Münchener Bilderbogen”, 1849-1868
  • “Tulsa” by Larry Clark, 1983
  • “Six Crises” by Richard M. Nixon, signed, 1962
  • “Gems of Japanese Art and Handicraft” by George Ashdown Audsley, 1913
  • “A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English stage” by Jeremy Collier, 1698
  • “A Complete Body of Architecture”  by Isaac Ware, 1756
  • “The Sunlight Dialogues: Original Lithographs”, by John Napper 1972
  • “Li giardini di Roma” by Giovanni Battista Falda, 1670


Seeing our special collections…

Complete the request form for Special Collections use. Please note that all fields must be completed on the form, including your contact information. For all inquiries not addressed by the request form, please contact Special Collections and Archives Librarian Joe Swatski. To access the artists books held in Special Collections, please contact Art Librarian Kim Detterbeck.

Are there restrictions regarding use?

  1. Special Collections materials will be examined in a supervised area of the Library.
  2. Food and beverages are not permitted when using these materials.
  3. All notes must be taken in pencil. 
  4. The researcher is responsible for the protection of these materials while in use; care must be taken that items are in the same condition as they were found, when  returned. Items handled must not be marked, torn, stained, soiled, wet,  highlighted, or stolen.
  5. Photography is at the discretion of the Library staff present and no flash can be utilized. 
  6. ID cards will be held at the Reference Desk or by the Librarian supervising the use of the Special Collection items, and returned after the Special Collections appointment.