Rare Books and Special Collections


There are approximately 26,204 titles in the rare book collection. This includes all items stored in the vault, the original copies of all TCU theses and dissertations, the Erisman–Odom collection, and the James C. Wright library.

There are approximately 141 maps, 227 audio–visual items and 145 serial items.

Research guides

Named collections

A few very significant titles

  • Abraham Ortelius, Theatrvm orbis terrarvm, 1573
  • Thomas a Kempis, De Imitatione Christi, 1473
  • Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, 1849-1850, a novel in parts
  • William Shakespeare, The Pavier Quartos, 1619, the so-called False Folio, the first attempt to collect Shakespeare's work in a single volume

George T. Abell Map Collection

The George T. Abell Map Collection was the gift of the estate of the late Midland oilman. The collection contains over a hundred maps which range in date from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, holding works of many early influential cartographers including Abraham Ortelius, Willem Blaeu, and Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville.

Learn more about the George T. Abell Map Collection.

Map from collection titled <span lang='nl'>Nieuw Engeland in twee scheeptogten door Kapitein Johan Smith inde iaren 1614 en 1615 be stevend</span>.

William Luther Lewis Collection

Over three hundred of the principal authors of English and American literature are represented in the Lewis Collection. Composed of approximately fifteen hundred titles, it contains nearly nine hundred first editions as well as important manuscripts and autograph letters.

Learn more about the William Luther Lewis Collection.

Letter from Percy Blysshe Shelley to Thomas Hookham or bearer

Other highlights of the rare book collection

American and British literature
The core of this collection is the William Luther Lewis collection. Collected in the 1930s and 1940s, this collection contains the major highlights of literature in English. Particular areas of interest are drama of the 17th and 18th century, especially Shakespeare; 19th century literature, especially Dickens, Trollope, Eliot, and Thackeray; and poetry of 19th century Britain is represented by Tennyson, Shelley, Byron, and Clough to name a few. The collection also contains quite a number of 19th century works in original parts in excellent condition. A generous gift of a collection of Anthony Trollope works by the Friends of the TCU Library in the early 1980s led to this author being a major collecting interest. There is a small but interesting collection of 19th century manuscripts which includes works and letters of Shelley, Hogg, and Byron. There is also a typescript of "The Ideal Husband" corrected by the author, Oscar Wilde.
Texas and Southwest history
Being a Texas institution, the department has long collected rare and interesting books about Texas and the Southwest and books written by Texans and other Southwesterners. The collection is particularly strong in county and municipal histories. There are also a number of items about the ranching industry.
Mayfield collection
One of the named collections, Mayfield built his collection around Ramon F. Adams's bibliography Six-guns and saddle leather; a bibliography of books and pamphlets on western outlaws and gunmen. The collection contains approximately 1,200 items.
Nineteenth century British periodicals
A small but useful working collection of periodical issues and bound volumes.
The Erisman–Odom collection
A collection of children's serial fiction primarily published in the first half of the 20th century. The collection contains approximately 3,448 titles.
The Varley collection
A new collection which is the on-going gift of Mary Kay Varley. The focus is children's literature, with emphasis on the graphic arts. It contains a good selection of pop-up books and other examples of paper engineering. As of 23 November 2016, 596 titles had been catalogued.
Artists books
Special Collections holds a representative group of artists books including unique works by Donna and Peter Thomas, TCU alumna Candace Hicks, and Amanda May Maciuba.
Fine Printing and the Book Arts
There is a quite large collection of fine printing and works by small presses spanning all subject areas but especially literature and the book arts. This group of books contains works on all aspects of the book arts, including type, printing, papermaking, marbling, and binding.
The history of the Bible
This collection consists of both facsimiles and actual editions of important versions of the Bible. There are also two Torah scrolls.
Books and other material relating to the Campbell–Stone movement
Surprisingly this is a relatively small group of books considering TCU's history and its association with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). However, early works of important figures in the history of the denomination can be found here including one Alexander Campbell manuscript.
Latin American history
This is the newest of the department's collecting interests. Material centers on colonial Mexico and contains both printed sources and manuscripts. The intent of collecting in the area is to offer students, both undergraduate and graduate, primary source material so that they might appreciate the physicality of actual items from their period of study.
Vietnam war novels
A small collection, approximately 128 titles, with the Vietnam conflict as its setting. There are a hundred or so titles not catalogued.