Special collections

The College Library's special collections consist of approximately 10,000 volumes, and include manuscripts, early printed books, and the libraries of some of our most distiguished alumni.

Items in the collection include:

  • Western medieval manuscripts, many of which were described by M.R. James in his Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the library of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, published in 1925.
  • A small number of Oriental manuscripts.
  • 15th and 16th century printed books, the earliest of which are listed in J.B. Bilderbeck's Early Printed Books in the Library of St Catharine's College Cambridge, published in 1911.
  • A collection of books by, or about, Charles Darwin, given by Sydney Smith (Fellow, 1939-1988).
  • A collection of bibles, grammars, dictionaries, and some works of literature collected by Thomas Jarrett (1805-1882), who at different periods of his career was the University's Professor of Arabic and Regius Professor of Hebrew.
  • Hispanic works of literature from the 16th to the 20th centuries collected by Henry John Chaytor (1871-1954).
  • The bequests of Thomas Neale (1705), John Addenbrooke (1718), and Thomas Sherlock (1761).
  • A complete collection of early-printed works by James Shirley. For details on how our Shirley collection is being used by researchers, and images of the texts, click here.

Many of our rare books are listed in the standard catalogues, such as Pollard and Redgrave, and Adams. The Smith collection of Darwinalia, the Addenbrooke bequest, and the Chaytor bequest, are fully catalogued, and can be searched online, though only a minority of our other rare books are discoverable in this way. A project to create catalogue records for the books described by Bilderbeck is ongoing.

St Catharine's contributes to the Cambridge University Digital Library (CUDL). We are currently collaborating with the CUDL on the digization of our medieval and early modern manuscripts. Digital surrogates of these manuscripts can be found on our CUDL pages. Links to these manuscripts, and to other digitized items in our collection, can also be found on our own Digital Library page.

Access to the College's unique and distinctive collections is by appointment only. Please contact the Librarian at least two weeks before you plan to visit.