Viewing items from special collections

About Rare Books and Special Collections

The University of Sydney Library holds one of Australia’s largest rare books and special collections. 

The items in these collections are available for research and teaching purposes.

  • Medieval manuscripts 
  • Medieval and early modern printed books (with strengths in literature, religion and science)
  • East Asian Collections (Japanese, Korean and Chinese language materials)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander resources 
  • Colonial Australian collections 
  • Authors’ manuscripts and personal correspondence
  • Science fiction collection
  • Detective fiction collection
  • Artists’ books  
  • Fine printing and bindings
  • Modern limited editions
  • High-quality facsimiles
  • Pre-2013 University of Sydney higher degree theses
  • University of Sydney authors collection
  • University of Sydney print publications and ephemera
  • Boxed collections of archival materials (personal papers, correspondence, manuscript material, clippings, pamphlets, illustrations, objects and photographs)

Browse the collections

Browse our Special Collections page to view:

  • a curated selection of our rare and special items and collections
  • finding aids for our boxed collections.

Visit our Digital Collections repository to search and view curated selections of digitised rare books, special collections, art, research outputs and historical collections.

View items in our Reading Room

The Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) Reading Room is located on Level 1 of Fisher Library

You can request to view items in the Reading Room during opening hours.

Request to view an item

Please read the Rare Books Terms of Use before placing a request.

  1. Submit your request:
  2. Log in to the Library catalogue using your UniKey. If you are a visitor to the University, you will need to register for a free Rare Books and Special Collections Community ID.
  3. Search for the item you would like to view.
  4. Select “more options” in the individual item record to send a hold request.  
  5. Your request will be processed by our team, and once approved you’ll get a confirmation email.

You must:

  • place your request a minimum of 2 days before visiting the Reading Room
  • visit the Reading Room within 7 business days of receiving your confirmation email 
  • bring your student or staff card. If you are a community member, bring photo ID when visiting the Reading Room for the first time, or you will not be able to view the item you have requested.

Restricted items

  • To view RBSC items listed as “restricted” in the Library catalogue, you must make a booking with a specific date and time. 
  • Follow the steps for submitting a request above and enter your chosen date and time after selecting “more options” in the individual item record.
  • Once your request is approved, you’ll get a confirmation email. You can then visit the Reading Room on your chosen date and time. 

Our Virtual Reading Room (VRR)

We offer a free online viewing service for most items in the Rare Books and Special Collections. 

This service allows anyone to view items from our collections over Zoom, without needing to visit the Library in person or hold a Library membership.

To book this service, see our Virtual Reading Room page.

Loaning Rare Books and Special Collections materials

Rare Books and Special Collections will sometimes loan items to other museums and libraries for exhibition or display.  

Loan requests by other institutions for exhibition are generally assessed against the following criteria:

  • the University’s own requirements for access to the item(s) for the purpose of research, display or other internal use
  • the significance of the item, and how it will be displayed or otherwise used
  • the condition of the item and its suitability for loan, as well as any transport considerations 
  • the requesting institution, its environmental conditions, and the security of the exhibition, display or event space 
  • the proposed loan period
  • any restrictions on accessing or viewing the item that must be adhered to
  • the period of notice given to the Library and whether sufficient staffing support is available to audit, prepare and administer the requested loan. 

The Library may decline to loan items for any reason.

To enquire about the loan of material from our Rare Books and Special Collections, contact us.