Special Collections

The Special Collections department contains rare books, pamphlets, photographs, and manuscripts. These unique collections of primary source materials allow students and scholars to study the history of Kentucky, the United States. The department is located on the upper level of the library.

Old books from the special collection

Rare Book Room

The Rare Book Room houses the Clara Peck Collection of books dealing primarily with the history of the horse and natural history. Highlights of this collection include the Book of St. Albans, 1486; Audubon’s Birds of America, 1826-38, and his Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, 1845-48; Orme’s Oriental Field Sports, 1805-1809; Bonaparte’s American Ornithology, 1833; and the first five editions of Izaak Walton’s Compleat Angler, 1653-1676.
Housed in the same room are the Horine Collection of pre-1800 medical books, the Marcia Owen Collection of children’s books, and original paintings by Audubon, Troye, and Peale. The Rare Book Room is furnished by a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Bennett Farris of Richmond, Kentucky, and opened in 1960.

Reading Room

The J. Winston Coleman Jr. Kentuckiana Reading Room was designed to house the local author and historians private collection of Kentuckiana. The collection includes over 5,000 books and pamphlets, thousands of photographs, as well as manuscripts and personal memorabilia. Of interest to students are the many county histories and Kentucky biographies.

Four photos by Doris Ulmann
Doris Ulmann photos in Transylvania’s collection. Also available with Ulmann photos from other collections on the Kentuckiana Digital Library.

Other Collections

Bullock Photograph Collection, a collection of photographs taken in and around Lexington and Fayette County, Kentucky. Included are images of local buildings, businesses, racetracks, banks, schools, churches, and homes. Bullock Collection photos are available online (explore under “Contents List”).

Doris Ulmann Photographs, a collection of twenty-three photographs of Appalachian subjects. Ulmann was famous for her portraits. Doris Ulmann photos are available online (explore under “Contents List”).

The old Academic Library of approximately 3,500 volumes and the old Medical Library of over 5,000 volumes that served Transylvania’s Medical Department until it closed in 1859.

The Medical Thesis Collection consists of more than 1,800 theses which were written by Transylvania medical students between 1819 and 1959. Upon finishing their medical degree at Transylvania University, these medical students hand wrote their theses in the approximate equivalent to the modern blue book. This collection has the potential to impact scholars’ understanding of medical history. The collection is scanned and available online.

The manuscript collection consists of letters, notebooks, memoirs, diaries, account books, and documents. Major collections of papers include those of Jefferson Davis, Henry Clay, Robert Peter, John Wesley Hunt, Daniel Drake, and Horace Holley.

The Transylvania University archives are the central repository for the permanent records of Transylvania University. Contained in the archives are the minute books of the board of trustees beginning in 1783, faculty minutes, early matriculation records and account books, manuscript theses of medical students, photographs, and many old files of manuscript notes and correspondence from the offices of the dean and president prior to 1900. The archives also contain files of the University catalog from 1821 to date, as well as The Crimson yearbook, The Rambler student newspaper, and The Transylvanian literary magazine.

Special Collections is open to researchers by appointment. Students who need Kentucky materials or other materials related to their course work are welcome. No materials may be checked out of the department, but some may be photocopied by library staff. Please call (859) 233-8411 or email library@transy.edu to schedule an appointment.

Some of our collections are cataloged in the Transylvania Library Catalog. We also recommend searching the Kentuckiana Digital Library where our Doris Ulmann collection of photographs is available, as well as the collections of many other special collections and archives in Kentucky. You can also browse through the Transylvania Treasures publication to learn more about our history and some of the unique items we own.