Rare Books

Service Description

Woodson Research Center contains more than 35,000 volumes including a number of named book collections. These rare books are available for use only in the Woodson Research Center reading room and do not circulate except by special faculty arrangement for classes. Please email Woodson staff at woodson@rice.edu for information on photocopies and scans of this material. 

Below are a few of our rare book & manuscript collections. To browse all the rare book collections, visit the Collection Discovery page in our catalog.



History of Science

History of Science Collection

Crowned by four rare astronomy books: Nicolaus Copernicus' masterpiece, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (1566), which marks the dawn of modern science; Alessandro Piccolomini's La Sfera del Mondo (1579), considered the first handbook for stargazers; Cornelius Gemma's De Naturae Divinis Characterismis (1575) relating to the nova of 1572 and a comet in 1556; and Johannes Kepler's Tabulae Rudolpinae (1675), the first English text of Kepler's tables based on the laws of planetary motion. Many other important volumes of physics, mathematics, and astronomy are present. Some related images are available for online viewing in our digital collection.


Woodring Collection of Ricketts and Shannon Books

Versatile British artists Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon were long-time partners in life and art. Both were members of the Royal Academy. They pursued independent careers as artists and often collaborated on creative projects. Shannon is best known for his painting and lithography, Ricketts for his contributions as book designer and illustrator and for designing costumes and sets for the theater. Together they founded the Vale Press in 1896, so they could have complete artistic and production control.


Benjamin Monroe Anderson Collection on the History of Aeronautics

The Anderson Collection was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Ben Anderson in 1986. The collection contains books and memorabilia that document the history of aeronautics. The major emphasis of the collection is on airplanes and the type of material ranges from pilots' manuals to aircraft company histories. Some related images are available for online viewing in our digital collection. A companion manuscript collection is located online at MS 069, the Benjamin M. Anderson Aeronautical History collection, 1784-1988.


Stockton Axson Collection of 18th Century British Drama

Started as a memorial to Stockton Axson, an English professor at Rice, the Axson collection contains restoration and 18th century British drama, representing major and minor literary figures in the fields of dramatic poetry, comedies, tragedies, and operas from 1650 to 1800. The plays represented often have more than one edition, and sometimes more than one variant of an edition is included in the collection. Some related images are available for online viewing in our digital collection.


George Cruikshank Collection

These books and printed materials relate to the life of times of George Cruikshank (1792-1878). A renowned political caricaturist of the Regency period, Cruikshank's illustrations from the 1830s focused primarily on the works of Dickens and Harrison Ainsworth. The extensive collection includes books about the artist, biographies, exhibition catalogues, dealers' sales catalogues of his works, prints and drawings.


Shirley B. Greene and Waldo W. Greene Wilder Collection

The Greene Collection was donated in 1987 by Mr. and Mrs. Greene and represents his interest in the playwright Thorton Wilder. The collection contains plays and books written by Thorton Wilder as well as materials written about Thorton Wilder and his work.


General and Mrs. Maurice Hirsch Limited Editions Club Collection

The Hirsch Collection was donated in 1982 and contains books printed by the Limited Editions Club from 1929 to 1984. The Limited Editions Club reissued classic literature with fine bindings and illustrations to a small group of subscribers.


Carroll and Harris Masterson Texana Collection

The Masterson Collection was started with a large donation of materials from Mr. and Mrs. Masterson in 1966. The collection documents Texas history ranging from laws printed in Spanish from the days when Texas was part of Mexico to contemporary histories of Texas corporations. Included in the collection are early issues of the Telegraph and Texas Register and examples of fine modern Texas presses such as Carl Hertzog.


Allan H. Stevenson Collection

The Stevenson Collection was donated by Mrs. Allan H. Stevenson in 1986 and consists of her husband's collection of books on the history of paper and watermarks. Mr. Stevenson was a graduate of Rice University and an international authority on the use of watermarks and handmade paper to date early books and manuscripts.


James Wade Rockwell Collection of William Watson Poetry

The Watson Collection is a small group of books of poetry written by Sir William Watson, an English Poet who lived from 1858-1935. His most famous poem was "Wordsworth's Grave" published in 1890. A companion manuscript collection is located online at MS 385, the William Watson papers, 1892-1935.

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Gilbert Morris Cuthbertson Collection of Rare Books and Manuscripts

This donation from the estate of Rice University Professor Gilbert Cuthbertson contains rare/antiquarian books and manuscripts, limited and signed editions, and 41 cartons of manuscript materials covering subject areas such as Texas and Central American history, Rice University history, and political science. This book collection is a work in progress as items are added to the online collection. A companion archival collection is located online at UA 426, the Gilbert Morris Cuthbertson Collection of Rare Books and Manuscripts.