Special Collections is Carnegie Mellon University’s repository for rare books, manuscripts, and early scientific instruments and calculating machines. Housed in the Fine & Rare Book Rooms (Hunt Library, 4th floor) and the Posner Center, Special Collections originated with the 1964 donation of Rachel McMasters Miller Hunt’s non-botanical books and has grown through the addition of important gifts, including the bequest of Charles J. Rosenbloom, the deposit of the Posner Memorial Collection, and the gift of the Traub-McCorduck collection in 2018.
Areas of collections strength include the history of science, cryptology, and computing; early Shakespeare editions (including the Rosenbloom First Folio); the history of the book; and graphic arts and fine printing.
Special Collections is open to the CMU community and to the public. Curator of Special Collections, Sam Lemley, administers access, interpretation, acquisitions, and research. Contact Special Collections to schedule a research appointment or class visit.
What We Collect
CMU Special Collections acquires books, manuscripts, and artifacts that document the history of science and technology; mechanical, symbolic, and digital computing; cryptology; book history and design; and early English literature. Our collection development strategy is keyed to these collecting priorities and themes, but we consider gifts in other fields on a case-by-case basis.
Learn more about our collection development strategy.
Reproduction & Digitization
Special Collections can arrange for the digitization of most of its materials and regularly undertakes strategic digitization projects to make more materials accessible online and in new forms of media. Digitized materials are made accessible to researchers via Carnegie Mellon University Libraries’ Digital Collections portal, unless restricted by copyright or donor request. Visit our Digital Collections.
Learn more about our Digitization Services.
Special Collections hosts courses, research seminars, and workshops. These might involve instruction in designing and producing short-form digital exhibitions, research seminars on book history or basic bibliographical analysis and terminology, or in-person workshops or pop-up exhibitions tailored to a course subject or theme.
Contact Sam Lemley to schedule a class visit.
Special Collections is open to all for research and instruction. Special Collections materials do not circulate and are only accessible on site in the Fine & Rare Book Rooms (Hunt Library, 4th floor). All researchers must make an appointment and request materials at least two business days in advance of each visit.
Learn more about using Special Collections.
Temporary Policy for Research & Instruction in Special Collections (Academic Year 2021/2022)
The Special Collections reading room (Hunt Library, 4th floor) is undergoing renovations and remains closed to researchers and class visits. In some cases, alternative arrangements can be made. Please email Sam Lemley to plan a visit for research or instruction. Additionally, in keeping with the University’s current COVID-19 protocols and the Libraries’ COVID-19 protocols we are limiting the number of researchers in Special Collections to allow for safe distancing. Priority will be given to current CMU faculty, staff, and students. Requests from non-affiliates will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. If you are not a CMU affiliate, please contact Sam Lemley at least two weeks in advance of your intended visit.
Please note, these guidelines are based on current University COVID-19 protocols and are subject to change at any time.
Support Special Collections
Support the acquisition of rare books and artifacts, including the items listed in this pamphlet.
Fellowships & Research Grants
Contribute to a program of grants and fellowships that supports the research of CMU students and scholars using Special Collections.
Exhibitions & Facilities
Support immersive, groundbreaking exhibitions and improvements to facilities in Special Collections.
Preservation & Conservation
Support professional conservation work on Carnegie Mellon’s rare artifacts and books, ensuring their accessibility for future generations of students and scholars.
A recent prospectus describes how to contribute to Special Collections.