Quick Navigation

Saturday, May 23, 2015
Founders' Building Hours: 1 pm - 5 pm
Founders' Reference Desk: Closed
All Locations Hours

Special Collections at Northern Illinois University

Special Collections by Subject

A special collection is created to keep together material in one subject area which would be scattered in the Library of Congress classification system or might otherwise not meet the usual rare book criteria. Some of these collections may not show their "specialness" for years to come, but we are in the process of conserving them for future generations of researchers.

While most of these materials are made available through our Online Catalog and finding aids, there are portions of our collections which are not fully processed. If you haven't quite found what you are looking for, please ask!

Subject Collections

African-American: A collection of books and other materials in all subject areas by and about African Americans and other people of African descent throughout the world. Special emphases are placed on African-American history, civil rights movements in the United States, literature by African-American authors and pamphlets by African-American authors on slavery, emancipation and the African-American experience in the United States. The Willard Motley papers complement this collection.

Art and History of the Book: (Book Arts and Private Press Collections): these collections help to illustrate the art and science of fine printing and bookmaking. The Book Arts Collection brings together the work of famous printers, type designers, book designers, book artists, and illustrators. The Private Press Collection is a growing collection of material issued by private presses, particularly in the Midwest.

Autographed Books: A heterogeneous autographed collection of authors, writers and artists which has no existing special collection of its own. These authors, writers and artists are either famous or have received special achievement or literary awards in their respective fields. Limited editions with authors' autographs are also included in this collection. Since September 1993, the University Press of Northern Illinois University has deposited a copy of all of its publications to expand this collection. These materials are searchable in our Online Catalog.

Chess Magazines:The Rare Books & Special Collections Department is a depository for the U.S. Chess Federation and its Midwestern regional chapters. We receive a variety of newspapers and magazines from these chapters on a sporadic basis.

Historic Scenic Collection Archives: This collection contains the scenes, costumes, maquettes and archival material of the Chicago Civic Opera, reflecting the productions of the Opera for the period 1910-1931. It consists of production notebooks, programs, photographs, touring information, drawings, inventory records and funding lists, correspondence, expense records, design plates, pictorial source material, and miscellaneous. One-hundred and seventy-nine especially noteworthy production notebooks that reflect the productions of seventy-seven operas in great detail are part of this collection. This collection is the archival supplement to the Historic Scenic Collection held by the College of Visual and Performing Arts at NIU. Much of this material is unprocessed; please ask for assistance in using this collection.

Colorado-Henkle: A comprehensive collection of Colorado-related materials, dealing with all aspects of the state of Colorado, including early travel narratives, history, literature, ecology, geology, maps, and bibliography.

Drama collections: The Nisbet-Snyder and University Drama collections combine to provide a collection of some 2,000 late 18th Century and 19th Century English and American plays, many of them acting copies or annotated prompt books. Included in this collection are also programs from the St. James Theatre in London from 1879-1888. These collections are in the process of being cataloged electronically; a paper finding aid is available; please ask for assistance in using this collection.

Fine Arts: A collection of catalog raisonnées of various artists, as well as other art books containing porfolios of loose plates that are not suitable for circulation. These materials are searchable in our Online Catalog.

Gender Studies: A growing collection of books, manuscripts, and other materials pertaining to gender studies, including gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual, and women’s studies. Special emphases is placed on gender studies materials as they relate to religious organizations, winners and nominees of the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Lammie Awards, and winners and nominees of the American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Round Table (GLBTRT) Awards, now called the Stonewall Award. Emphases will also include periodicals of the Midwest not already held in microfilm. Also includes first editions, limited editions and signed copies whenever possible. Materials include and supplement items in the In All Things Charity Collection on homosexuality and religion, and other items already held in Rare Books and Special Collections.

Radical Pamphlets Collection: American publications, ca. 1880-1980, by or about the radical labor movement, socialists, communists, and the radical right (including American Nazis). Some of the writings of Jack London are included. A few materials on India's nonviolent struggle for independence; revolutions in China, Cuba, and Spain; Sacco and Vanzetti; sharecroppers; publications of the National Jewish Welfare Board; free speech; civil liberties; Industrial Workers of the World; ACLU; J. Edgar Hoover; the Paris Commune; war resistance; and the Haymarket Riots are also represented in the collection. This collection is in the process of being cataloged electronically; a card file is available; please ask for assistance in using this collection.

Southeast Asia: An extension of our circulating Southeast Asia Collection, this is the non-circulating portion of the collection. It includes original palm leaf manuscripts, field notes, materials with controversial religious or political content, old or scarce books, large and expensive illustrated folios and the like.

Format-based collections

These collections are not always specifically subject-based, but are often a combination of subjects in a particular format.

Japanese Woodblock Prints: Tobin and Van Zelst Collections. A collection of materials on Japanese woodblock prints collected by James D. Tobin, specializing in prints of the late Meiji, Taisho, and Showa periods (from about 1890). Included in this collection are books on prints, photographs and negatives, extensive notes, rare brochures and catalogs, correspondence, and some tapes and films made at conferences. The Van Zelst Collection complements the collection by documenting the lives and works of Japanese woodblock printers Un-ichi Hiratsuka and his daughter Keiko Moore,including personal letters between the two families, exhibition materials, materials on printmaking, and catalogs of Hiratsuka's works. An inventory of the Van Zelst Collection is available.

Manuscripts: Rare Books and Special Collections currently has little material that would fall into this classification without being assigned to the Archives. Nonetheless, we have provided for a collection of individual pieces or small groups of letters, ledger books, and other manuscript documents which are judged to be worth preserving but do not form a large enough body of material to form their own Special Collection. This includes manuscript materials found in our books, as well as an archive of The Review, a British "little magazine" from the 1960s. A finding aid is not yet available for the Manuscripts collection as a whole, but individual finding aids may be available.

Maps: A collection of rare and historical maps from all over the world from the 16th through 19th centuries. There is a special emphasis on maps from Southeast Asia. Many of our maps have been digitized.

Music Manuscript Collections: A collection of cello music previously held by Raya Garbousova, original manuscripts by Frank Skinner, and other sheet music. Materials in the Garbousova collection of music for cello performance along with some exercises for the cello. There is a particular emphasis on works for solo cello and cello with piano accompaniment. Many items have Ms. Garbousova's annotations and cello bowings. There are a small number of ephemeral materials related to the Cello Congress. The Frank Skinner Collection consists of musical scores from motion pictures. With one exception, they are all original pencil manuscripts in Skinner's hand. The exception is Magnificent Obsession, which is an ozalid copy of a studio copyist's manuscript. Excepting My Man Godfrey and Written on the Wind, which are fragments, the scores are believed to be complete representations of all the music Skinner wrote for the respective films.