Rare Books and Special Collections

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visitors are kindly advised that this website includes images, sounds and names of people who have passed.

All users should be aware that some topics or historical content may be culturally sensitive, offensive or distressing, and that some images may contain nudity or are of people not yet identified. Certain words, terms or descriptions may reflect the author's/creator's attitude or that of the period in which they were written, but are now considered inappropriate in today's context.

Key to library resources

Access anywhere with a library card In the Library (or anywhere with a Library card for NSW residents)
Available to access in the library Only in the Library
Publicly available online Publicly available

Collection highlights

Highlights from our collection




Oldest printed book

Rarest printed book

Oldest manuscript

The unexpected and unusual

Andy Warhol

These two limited first editions are part of the Donald MacPherson Collection of Art and Literature:

Clay tablet


What's the oldest item in the collection?

Bringing a rare herbal back to life

Herbarum vivae eicones with damaged headbands pre treatment

Learn about how we brought Herbarum vivae eicones back to life.

The Herbarum vivae eicones or “Living portraits of Plants”, describes plants, their appearance, medicinal properties and has information on how to prepare and use them

Herbarum Vivae Eicones Ad Naturae Imitationem : per Oth. Brunf. Recens Editae M.D.XXXII ; Quibus Adiecta Ad Calcem. Apud Ioannem Schottu[m] ..., 1532.

State Library of NSW: MRB/Q615/B

Did you know?

The Library has a collection of globes including Cary's Pocket Globe which measures 77 mm in diameter and thought to have been made in 1771 and Bett's new portable terrestrial globe measuring at 123 cm in diameter.

Cary's new terrestrial globe drawn from the most recent geographical works

State Library of NSW: GLOBE 7