Purdue University Archives and Special Collections possess several rare book collections. The rare book collections consist of books including: books of a specialized topic, construction, or importance; books no longer widely available; books published in a limited edition; or, books one-of-a-kind in nature. A majority of the rare books found within Archives and Special Collections are related to the history of Purdue University, and include materials from distinguished alumni and faculty, as well as texts related to the history of the university and State of Indiana.
Using the Purdue Libraries catalog, one can locate books within our rare book collections. After completing a catalog search, refine the results by Library (choose Archives and Special Collections) among the left panel options within results page. Due to the fragile nature of many of the books, please consult with the Archives prior to visiting to ensure the title is available and ready for use.
The Indiana Collection includes works published in Indiana, such as 1879's McGuffey's Eclectic Spelling Book. There are several books published in 1840 about William Henry Harrison, the 9th President of the United States. Also included in the collection is a book containing marvelous photographs on the Lafayette Street Railway, written and compiled by David Ware Chambers.
Among some of the many Indiana authors represented in the collection are:
- Evaleen Stein. She was born in Lafayette, Indiana in 1863. Her father was a member of the Indiana Senate in 1869, where he introduced the act that established Purdue University; he also served as Secretary to the Board of Trustees. Evaleen was an artist, poet, and writer of stories for children. Her first book of verse appeared in 1897 and was entitled One Way to the Woods.
- John B. Dillon. Dillon's The history of Indiana, from its earliest exploration by Europeans, to the close of the territorial government in 1816 was first published in 1843.
- Booth Tarkington. (1869-1946). Born in Indianapolis, Booth Tarkington entered Purdue University in 1890, but left after several years to attend Princeton University. He received an honorary Doctor of Human Letters from Purdue in 1940. His Penrod series was once as familiar to people as Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. As an Indiana native author, many of his books are in the Special Collection's Indiana Collection.
- George Barr McCutcheon. (1866-1928). Born in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, George McCutcheon was the elder brother of John T. McCutcheon. His interests ranged from literature to agriculture, the latter avocation resulting in his being asked to manage the first farm owned by Purdue University. He attended Purdue University, but left to take a position with the Lafayette Journal. He later left that newspaper and began writing for the Lafayette Daily-Courier, where he was the city editor until 1901. After establishing himself as a novelist, he moved to New York. His first success was Graustark (1901), followed by Brewster's Millions (1902), Castle Craneycrow (1902), and The Day of the Dog (1905).
Krannert Management and Economics Collection
Laurentza Schantz-Hansen Children’s Books Collection
Limited Editions Club Collection
Based on the premise that distinguished literary works were worthy of the best typographic treatment possible, George Macy founded the Limited Editions Club (LEC) in 1929. By capturing the beauty and integrity of the literary classics, the LEC books appeal to bibliophiles and book collectors. LEC memberships provide deluxe editions issued in numbered series, beginning with the First Series, which was issued from October 1929 through September 1930. The Libraries' LEC holdings include some books in the early series, but for the most part begin with the Twenty-eighth Series, which were issued when the Billerbecks started collecting the books in 1959. As new series became available, a copy was added to the original collection.
In mint condition, each title is in its original slipcase and has been identified with a specially designed book plate; the book plates use the Centaur type face, one of the two type faces of remarkable distinction that Bruce Rogers designed. An appealing art form in their own right, book plates are also of interest to book collectors as evidence for establishing the provenance of particular copies of books.
William Goss Collection
Arvill Bitting World Expositions and Fairs Collection
The books in this collection include contemporary accounts and official reports, as well as guides published for the Expositions themselves.
The collection includes texts covering: Paris Universal Exposition (1867), World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago, 1893), Paris Universal Exposition (1900), Louisiana Purchase Exposition (St. Louis, 1904), Panama-Pacific International Exposition (San Francisco, 1915), Sesquicentennial International Exposition (Philadelphia, 1926), and New York World's Fair, 1939-1940.
Bruce Rogers Collection
Rogers achieved international prominence early in his career in the field of typography. Garnering a considerable reputation, especially among book collectors, he was a respected spokesman and commentator on book design. Purdue University later awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1932.
Although Bruce Rogers designed over 500 books in his lifetime, he did not particularly enjoy the process of actual production. "The real pleasure of making a new book is over when the plan is decided and the actual work begins. From that time on there is merely the drudgery of manufacturing it." In his book Centaur Types, published in 1949, he described the procedures used in developing modern typefaces, particularly those he based upon characters found in Nicolas Jenson's Eusebius (1470).
The Bruce Rogers Collection contains books which designed by Rogers, or books by other authors using Rogers' designs.
Charles Major Collection
Major was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on July 25, 1856. His family later moved to nearby Shelbyville, Indiana, when he was thirteen years old. He attended the University of Michigan law school, and was admitted to the bar in 1877. His chief interest, surpassing even his interest in the study of law, was in the Tudor period of English history. Later he became equally interested in local Indiana history. He married Alice Shaw of Shelbyville, Indiana, on September 27, 1885.
His first novel, When Knighthood was in Flower (1898), brought him instant fame. Some of his other works in the Collection include: The Bears of Blue River (1901), Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1902), Forest Hearth: A Romance of Indiana in the Thirties (1903), and Little King: a Story of the Childhood of Louis XIV, King of France (1910).
Charles Major died at age 57, after less than twenty years as a writer. He was once asked how a novel was written and he replied, "I believe [novels] grow out of what I read more than from any other sources."
General Books Collection
George Ade Collection
The George Ade Collection comprises authored books and manuscripts of his fables, such as 'Anything is Good to Eat,' 'When Indiana Was Really Hoosier,' and 'My Opinion - As An Expert.'