Introduction to the University of Sussex Rare Book collections

By Rose Lock

We are lucky at the University of Sussex Special Collections to have a number of fabulous and varied rare book collections, which are now part of the wonderful collections held at The Keep. As well as individual researchers ordering in our reading room, academics from Sussex and other universities use the books to teach their courses, running seminars in our education rooms where the students can get first-hand experience of handling rare volumes.

Our largest collection is the University of Sussex Rare Books, formed in 2003 from our library’s stock and including donations from Harold Foster Hallett, Sir Henry D’Avigdor-Goldsmid and Bishop George Bell. The range of dates and subjects in the collection is wide, and with nearly 2000 volumes it is our largest collection of published material. A highlight of this collection is The works of that famous chirurgeon Ambrose Parey (SxUniversityRareBooks/784 ) from 1678 was at its time a revolutionary book of surgery, not just for the skills and techniques developed by the man considered the father of modern surgery, but also because he did not publish in Latin.

The Travers Collection was donated to the University by Joy Travers and represents a selection of the collection of Michael Travers, a book collector with wide ranging tastes. It showcases a range of different printing and binding techniques from the 15th to 19th centuries. The themes of the development of modern culture and of the impact of the printing press run through this collection. It includes the first book printed in England in the English language, The Polychronicon (SxTravers/7) printed in 1482 by Caxton, and first editions of The workes of Benjamin Jonson, (SxTravers/226) 1616 and Hobbes Leviathan, (SxTravers/250) 1651. Demonstrating its variety, the collection also includes the largest book in our collections, a reprint of the second volume of Audubon’s Birds of America, (SxTravers/335) printed in Double Elephant and has pages 23×28 inches. Known as ‘the most expensive book in the world’, our 1970’s reprint allows researchers to see the rich, full size illustrations close up. Continue reading