Rare Books

Purdue University Archives and Special Collections holds several rare book collections. The rare book collections consist of 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. Rare books are documented in the Purdue Libraries catalog. 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.


Arvill Bitting World Expositions and Fairs Collection

This collection was put together by Dr. Arvill Wayne Bitting (1870-1940), who graduated from Purdue University in 1891 (B.S. Agriculture). During his travels and professional career, Dr. Bitting became fascinated by the various World Expositions and Fairs, and he began collecting books and materials documenting various Expositions. 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

Bruce Rogers (1870-1957) was born in Linnwood, Indiana (now part of Lafayette) in 1870, and later graduated from Purdue University (B.S. 1890). He and his fellow classmate, John T. McCutcheon, both worked on the student newspaper (The Purdue Exponent) and the yearbook (the Debris). 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

The novels of Charles Major (1856-1913) perpetuated the field of literature and brought him notoriety around the turn of the 20th century. Likewise, he made his mark at Purdue University through his services as a member of the the Board of Trustees (1902-1913). His private library is housed in Purdue University's Archives and Special Collections, and includes both books and manuscripts, many of which are his original writings. 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."

George Ade Collection

George Ade (1866-1944) was born in Kentland, Indiana, and graduated from Purdue University in 1887, where he displayed interest in the literary field. He did journalistic work in Lafayette, Indiana, until 1890, when he moved to Chicago and started work on the Chicago Daily News (later renamed The Chicago News Record, then The Chicago Record). He was a prolific writer and often collaborated with college classmate John T. McCutcheon, the renowned cartoonist. While working for The Chicago Record, his foible-laden character sketches on Artie (1896), Pink Marsh (1897), and Doc Horne (1899) began to appear, including sketches by McCutcheon. Ade wrote his first successful play, The Sultan of Sulu, in 1902; he later went on to write Peggy from Paris (1903), The Sho-Gun (1904), and The College Widow (1904). His summer home ("Hazelden") near Brook, Indiana, was built in 1903, and Ade's hospitality in the home brought him even more fame. Along with David Ross, he contributed to the building of Ross-Ade Stadium at Purdue University. He was the principal founder of the Sigma Chi Fraternity house at Purdue, as well. 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.'

Heritage Press Collection

Indiana Collection

This collection contains publications by Indiana authors, publications about Indiana, and rare items printed in Indiana before 1850. 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

The Krannert Collection contains approximately 8,000 items (books, pamphlets, and periodicals) pertaining to business, economic, and political topics. The collection was originally assembled by Herbert S. Foxwell in England. The Krannert book collection was “discovered” by Purdue Prof. Nathan Rosenberg in the Museum Book Store in London when he was on sabbatical in 1964. Prof. Rosenberg wrote to Emmanuel T. Weiler, Economics Department Head and Dean of the School of Industrial Administration, about the possibility of purchasing it for Purdue. Dean Weiler asked John Houkes, Krannert Librarian, to evaluate the titles in the collection to see if they were worth the $28,000 asking price. After review Houkes determined that the price “was a steal” as his research found the collection was worth about $70,650. The collection was purchased and sent to the Purdue Management & Economics Library in the fall of 1965. The collection came to the new Archives and Special Collections facility in 2009.

Laurentza Schantz-Hansen Children’s Books Collection

In August 1955, faculty member Laurentza Schantz-Hansen presented to Purdue University her collection of children’s books as a gift to the Purdue Nursery School in the Department of Child Development and Family Life of the School of Home Economics. Miss Schantz- Hansen began this collection in 1925; due to her interest in art, many of the books were chosen for the quality of their illustrations. Others were chosen because of their historical interest. Some of the many languages represented are: Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, German, Chinese, French, and Spanish, as well as English. Publication dates range from the 1800s to 1955, and more than 650 titles are included. In ensuing years, selected books were added to the collection.

Limited Editions Club Collection

One of the unique book collections in the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections is the Limited Editions Club books. These books have been presented to the Libraries since 1984 by Frederick W. Billerbeck (Purdue University, Ph.D. 1959) and his wife, Barbara J. Aust Billerbeck. 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

The family of William Goss, Purdue’s first dean of engineering, gave his personal library to Purdue in 1930. His career as an instructor, professor, and dean spanned 1879-1907. The Goss Library numbers on the order of 7,000 volumes in the history of science, engineering, and industry. It promotes a broader interest in progressive engineering sciences and preservation of its early history.