Special Collections

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The Special Collections of the University Library comprise a rich and diverse range of printed books and journals, archival resources and artefacts in support of the academic work of the University and the wider scholarly community. To view some examples from the Special Collections visit the 100 Treasures from Special Collections page, made possible by a University of Bristol Alumni Fund grant.


The Graduate School of Education has made a video about the history of teacher training at the University of Bristol which used materials from its archive in Special Collections.


Access to Special Collections

Special Collections is located in the Arts and Social Sciences Library, Tyndall Avenue (see the location on the University google map).

Our normal opening times are:

  • Mon : 9.30 am - 4.45 pm
  • Tue : 9.30 am - 4.45 pm
  • Wed : 9.30 am - 4.45 pm
  • Thu : 9.30 am - 4.45 pm
  • Fri : 12 noon - 4.45 pm
  • Weekends and Bank Holidays : closed

Special Collections will be closed on the following University closure dates.

Please check the individual libraries for details of their holdings and opening times.

Arranging Your Visit

Please contact Special Collections to make an appointment to use the collections:


Researchers need to bring with them a recognised form of identification, such as a university library card, a driving licence or passport.

There is no charge for using Special Collections, but researchers are asked to abide by the Reading Room rules.

Laptops may be used in the Reading Room, but due to the limited number of power sockets available researchers are advised to ensure that their laptop batteries are fully charged.

Collections and archives

Further details of our archives and special collections can be found on the following pages:

Other special collections held around the University:


Book catalogues

All of the book collections are included in the following two search tools:

  • All acquisitions made since 1979 are included in Library Search, together with an increasing proportion of materials acquired at an earlier date.
  • Substantial numbers of older holdings are in the Card Catalogue Online.

Broad descriptions of the main collections are available on the Rare book collections page. Some also have additional catalogues or handlists of their own, and this is indicated in the collection descriptions when appropriate.

Archive catalogues

The Special Collections Online Archive Catalogue is newly available. Please note that this is at a pilot stage of development, and we welcome your comments.  This contains descriptions of many of our archive collections, both at collection level and down to a detailed file level; also images of the Brunel Collection, some of our medieval manuscripts, and University-related archives. There are also detailed lists of the Penguin Archive. Please note that the most up to date Penguin lists are on the Online Archive Catalogue.

Catalogues and indexes to the archival collections are available in Special Collections, Arts & Social Sciences Library, and collection level descriptions of the principal collections can be found on the Archival collections page. Collection level descriptions and a number of detailed catalogues can also be found on the following websites: Archives Hub, the A2A: Access to Archives, the National Register of Archives (NRA) and The National Archive (TNA).

Making copies

Staff can photocopy and scan materials from the collections for personal research use only. Researchers will be asked to complete a form to agree with these conditions and a fee will be charged. However, documents that are too large or fragile cannot be photocopied or scanned, but may be photographed. The use of digital cameras by researchers is permitted on request.

Images intended for use in publications must first be cleared with Special Collections. Please ask Special Collections staff for further information and current charges.

Acquisitions policy

Acquisitions are mainly by donation or deposit, to strengthen existing specialisations and to support the University's academic mission. Items are occasionally purchased to enhance a collection or to fill gaps.

Contacting Special Collections

For enquiries about the collections, please contact:

  • Special Collections
    Arts and Social Sciences Library
    University of Bristol
    Tyndall Avenue
    BS8 1TJ

  • Telephone: (0117) 928 8014 (internal 88014)
  • Email: special-collections@bristol.ac.uk

Staff Contact Details

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