Rare Books Reading Room

Manuscripts and rare books reading room

Location: second floor, beside the Circulation counter, room no 296
Phone: +372 737 5746
e-mail: kho@ut.ee

Mon–Fri 10–19,
Sat  12–18

Collection of rare books contains early prints pulled out from the main collection for better preservation, more detailed description and research, as well as other rare and valuable books. The collection follows the general shelving system used in the library. Rarities can be found in relevant general catalogues, special catalogues of the department and in printed catalogues. Call number of the collection begins with 'R', the marking for rarities collection.

Early prints collection includes 48 incunabula, more than 2 000 books printed in Western Europe in the 16th century, 50 prints in Cyrillic script from the 16th-18th centuries, and about 800 Russian secular printed books from the 18th century. It holds more than 500 titles of Estonian-language early prints (published up to 1860).  The collection of rarities contains ca 300 foreign-language books published in Estonia and Livonia in the 16th -17th centuries, including more than 60 titles of publications printed at the Tartu University printing shop in the 17th century, as well as printing and publication production of the first printer of Tartu University (reopened in 1802), M. G. Grenzius. The collection also has more than 100 Finnish early prints and early prints of other peoples. 

Among other rare and valuable publications there are the first editions of works written by scientific and literary classics, pioneering works of history and cultural history, outstanding examples of book art and binding art, titles published or preserved in very small numbers, as well as books owned by prominent figures, albums of portrait prints, etc. The department also houses  Gustav Bergmann memorial collection and Pavel Aleksandrov memorial collection and five special collections:

1) Elsevier collection contains 241 well-preserved prints from 1590-1710, made at the printing shops of Dutch printers and publishers the Elzeviers in Leiden and Amsterdam. 

2) Book donation from Livonian countess Maria Aurora von Lestocq, given in 1800, formed the basis of the new library of Tartu University. The donation of more than 350 volumes, (about two dozens of which have still not been identified), mostly consisted of the 18th-century German-language publications on geography, history and religion and of Enlightenment literary fiction. 

3) Books from the library of German writer and enlightener Johann Gottfried Herder. Of the 500 books from Herder's library, bought at an auction in 1805, only 170 volumes reached Tartu University Library due to the sinking of the ship that was transporting them. Of these volumes, about one hundred have been identified up to now - historical, literary and philosophical works from the 16th-18th centuries, including a number of Italian publications.

4) Collection of copies of  prints made at the Tartu University printing shop (active in 1632-1710). The collection contains xerox copies (more than 1200 titles) of early academic (speeches, disputations, programmes, etc.), occasional and other prints. Due to the lack of original works, copies have been acquired from many libraries and archives in Estonia and in abroad.

5) Books from the library of Livonian enlightener, Põltsamaa Pastor August Wilhelm Hupel. In 1804-1822, Tartu University Library bought 59 titles of different publications from Hupel and his inheritors; most of these books were identified by purchase documents and other characteristics. See also Hupel online.

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