Michigan State University

Special Collections Hours

Today (Sat.)Closed
Oct. 23rd (Sun.)1:00pm to 5:00pm
Oct. 24th (Mon.)9:00am to 5:00pm
Oct. 25th (Tue.)9:00am to 5:00pm
Oct. 26th (Wed.)9:00am to 5:00pm

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Special Collections
Main Library Building
Michigan State University
366 W. Circle Drive
East Lansing MI, 48824
Phone: (517) 884-6471


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the Special Collections reading room at the MSU Library

Special Collections was established in 1962 to hold, preserve, build, and make accessible rare materials and special collections in the MSU Libraries. All materials must be used in the Special Collections reading room to protect and preserve them for use today and in the future. Learn more about Special Collections

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Pre 1866 Books in Special Collections

MSU President Theophilus Abbot

When MSU Libraries formally created its Special Collections department in 1962, the initial collection of books was formed largely by transferring the oldest books from the circulating collection—anything published before 1800—into a protected area. Half a century later, we’re undertaking a similar transfer, only this time with a younger cut-off date. With few exceptions, all books published before 1866 are being moved into Special Collections. When completed, the library will have safeguarded roughly 15,000 books, many of which are fragile, valuable, and often both. Among the variety of reasons for settling on this particular cut-off date, perhaps most important was the balance struck between the desire to protect as many at-risk books as possible with the sheer volume of transfers that library staff time could accommodate. These 15,000 books will include everything published through the end of the American Civil War; a large swath of the library’s early collection, including some from the personal library of past MSU President Theophilus Abbot; and the remainder of the library’s circulating books that were published during the hand-press period—that is, from a time when books were still made entirely by hand.