Cornell University Library’s Rare Books, Manuscripts and Archives

Cornell University Library offers rich special collections resources in several library units on the central Cornell campus in Ithaca, New York, as well as the Medical Center Archives at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, located in New York City. Below is a description of the primary units within Cornell University Library that contain rare books, archives, manuscripts, and other special collections.

Cornell University’s rare book and manuscript collections date from the founding of the University in 1865. Andrew Dickson White, Cornell’s co-founder and first president, was a life-long book collector who believed that deep collections of primary research materials are central to scholarship and teaching. This founding principle continues to guide Cornell’s collecting policies to this day.

The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, located in the Carl A. Kroch Library, is Cornell’s principal repository of rare books, manuscripts and archival materials in the fields of history, literature, music, the arts, science, natural history, and technology. With more than 500,000 volumes and 70 million manuscripts, photographs, and other artifacts, the Rare and Manuscript Division features collections spanning 4,000 years, from cuneiform tablets to comic books. The Division is also home to Cornell University's Archives. Areas of significant collection strengths are described on the Division’s Collections Overview page.


Also located in the Carl A. Kroch Library is the Division of Asia Collections, one of the richest gatherings of its kind in the United States. Featuring the Charles W. Wason Collection on East Asia, the John M. Echols Collection on Southeast Asia, and a strong collection on South Asia, most books in the Asia Collections are housed in open stacks and circulate to Cornell students and faculty. Associated rare books and archival materials are located in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.


The Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation & Archives is located in the Martin P. Catherwood Library, part of Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR). The Kheel Center offers 19,000 cubic feet of archival materials, along with photographs, oral histories, rare pamphlets, and related materials documenting the history of the workplace and labor relations.


The Albert R. Mann Library includes a rare book collection of approximately 10,000 volumes. Special strengths of note are the Phillips Beekeeping Collection, the Rice Poultry Collection, a significant collection of rare books on entomology, and a collection of 147 volumes on the language of flowers.


The Law Library contains a collection of rare and older books, along with special collections on Liberian law, several hundred trial pamphlets, 150 bound volumes of Nuremberg trial transcripts and documents on the Scottsboro trial. Other materials on the history of law are located in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.


The Sidney Cox Library of Music and Dance features 18th- and 19th-century scores, score/parts sets, and related source materials. Highlights include first and early editions of operas, late 18th- and early 19th-century chamber music, librettos, and facsimile editions of 12th- through 20th-century sources. Other rare books and archival collections on the history of music are located in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.


Located in New York City, The Medical Archives of The NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center contains nearly 6000 linear feet of papers and records dating back to 1771. In addition to institutional records, the Medical Center Archives holds approximately 150 collections of papers and manuscripts from noted individuals associated with the institutions of the medical center.