Mission Statement

The Rare Books Collection in Mullen Library, part of Special Collections at the Catholic University of America, supports and enrich the instructional, research and service programs of the University and to provide service to the research community at large. Rare Books acquires, arranges, describes, preserves, interprets and makes available to researchers, materials, which, because of their uniqueness, value, provenance, content, form, or physical condition which require special treatment.

Introduction to the Collections

 The holdings of the Rare Books Collection, some 70,000 volumes, range from medieval documents to first editions of twentieth century authors. 

The collection consists primarily of printed books and pamphlets, dating from the 1470s on, including over 100 incunabula. The sixteenth century/STC collections number over 1,400 volumes and contain books printed in sixteenth century Europe or listed in Wing's Short-Title Catalogue of English books, 1475-1700. There are individual books which are rare, and groups of books and pamphlets whose importance lies in the fact that they form a collection of related materials. Rare books include those selected for significant provenance, the quality of the text, historical value, physical features such as printing, binding, maps, and illustrations, or date of publication.

Rare Books houses over 100 manuscripts, dating from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries. Included are medieval legal documents, papal bulls, books of hours, monumental choir books and philosophical and legal codices. A recent acquisition is a fourteenth century manuscript of the Quodlibeta of Godfrey of Fontaines, a detail of which is reproduced here.

A significant special collection is the Clementine Library, the remains of the library of the Albani family, whose most prestigious member was Pope Clement XI (1700-21). A large collection of Roman and canon law held both in the Clementine collection and elsewhere in the department includes early printings of Justinian and Gratian, together with records of councils and writings of jurists and canonists from the medieval and early modern periods.

Other collections include the Connolly Irish Collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century books and pamphlets; the Richard N. Foley Collection of modern literature; the Order of Malta collections; and the Michael Jenkins Collection on the history of Maryland. There is also a growing collection of works on the book arts and history of the book.