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Introduction to Special Collections

Collection Focus

Ulysses book coverLiterature holdings in American, British, and Irish literature constitute one of the most important collections of its kind in the world. American literature concentrates on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. English literature are concentrated for the century 1750 to 1850 with strengths in Romantic poetry and prose. Irish literature from the 1700s to the present is collected with strong representation of the Irish Literary Renaissance and later twentieth century authors.


Decorative artistic book coverArt holdings encompasses all periods and styles of fine, decorative, and applied arts. It is particularly strong in works on painting technique and instruction, the decorative arts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, architecture, and the book arts. Additional strengths are the history of printing and graphic arts, history of papermaking and fine printing.


Delaware: A Guide to the First State book coverHistory and Delawareana   All aspects of English and American history are represented from the sixteenth century onward, and a significant collection on French political theory and statecraft. A number of works concern travel and exploration, and the history of Delaware from its settlement by the Swedes in 1638 to the present is the focus of the Delaware Collection.


Book cover with images of 6 treesScience and Technology collections are strongest in the history of chemistry, engineering and the natural sciences. The Unidel History of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Collection contains over five thousand publications covering every aspect of the field of horticulture.


Politics, Policy and Government collections document the politics, policy, and government of Delaware. Special Collections also collects papers of current and former members of Congress; Delaware individuals who represent leadership in diplomatic or political arenas at the local, state, and national levels; and papers of institutions, organizations, or groups concerned with public policy or civic affairs.


To read about the collection focus in more detail please see Special Collections' Collection Focus webpage.

Graphic Materials, Ephemera, and Other Collections

  1. Digital Collections
    1. The University of Delaware Library Digital Collections provides free and open access to digital versions of selected materials held by the University of Delaware Library.
  2. Graphic Materials
    1. Graphic and image-based materials are managed in collection call number series and are indicated by a "GRA" placed before the collection number. Additional finding aids and collection descriptions are added as they become available.
  3. Ephemera and Realia
    1. Ephemera refers to material, usually printed documents, created for a specific, limited purpose, and generally designed to be discarded after use, such as tickets, brochures, or posters. Realia refers to artifacts such as apparel, ceramics, awards, political buttons, or other three dimensional objects in a repository. Special Collections has many collections containing ephemera and realia, with an emphasis on Delaware history and political ephemera.
  4. Maps
    1. The Historic Map Collection comprises over 800 published maps dating from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. The majority of the maps depict North America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but the collection also holds early maps of the New World, maps of Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa, as well as world maps and atlases. Although this is a comprehensive collection, Delaware state maps, maps of the Middle Atlantic region, and charts of Delaware Bay make up the most extensive part of the collection.
  5. Seed Catalogs
    1. The majority of the seed catalogs are cataloged through an in-house card file; only limited titles can be accessed through DELCAT. This list supplements the in-house catalog and the limited DELCAT records, providing access to uncataloged holdings. Researchers should visit Special Collections, and consult both DELCAT and the PDF list linked below in order to see the Library’s entire holdings of seed catalogs.
  6. Trade Catalogs
    1. Special Collections Department houses an extensive collection of trade catalogs and advertising ephemera produced in the United States from the middle of the eighteenth century until the present day.

Mark Samuels Lasner collection

Mark Samuel Lasner white text on black backgroundThe Mark Samuels Lasner Collection  focuses on British literature and art of the period 1850 to 1900, with an emphasis on the Pre-Raphaelites and on the writers and illustrators of the 1890s. Its holdings comprise 7,000 first and other editions (including many signed and association copies), manuscripts, letters, works on paper, and ephemera.

Please note that not all materials in the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection are listed in DELCAT.

University Archives

Official records of the University of Delaware reside with the University Archives, which is charged with documenting the history of the institution. University Archives is not affiliated with the University of Delaware Library, Museums & Press. Some collections in Special Collections do however relate to the history of the University.

Located at 002 Pearson Hall, the University Archives is open to the public. For additional information please contact the Archives at (302) 831-2750 or visit their website.