Special Collections manages the rare book collections of the Jean and Alexander Heard Library System. The subject matter of this extensive collection covers a wide range of topics including the Fugitive and Agrarian literary groups, American Civil War, Southern literature and civilization, performing arts, Vanderbilt University history, George Peabody College history, Meso-American codices, and religion. Due to the size of some of the collections, many of them are stored off-site in the Library Annex.
Individual titles in these collections can be located by either searching Acorn, the Vanderbilt library catalog, or by searching the library's new discover tool, DiscoverLibrary. To request a title, click on the "Request Item" button in the catalog record. For more information on locating and requesting books, see Finding Material on the Research page.
Karl and Jill Brussel Collection
Donated in 2006 by Karl and Jill Brussel, the Brussel Collection contains published materials from Jacob (Jack) Brussel and his son Karl, publishers in New York City from the 1920’s to the late 1970’s. Prior to publishing Jack owned a bookstore in New York City from which he launched his publishing house, editing and publishing hundreds of books during his lifetime. He printed materials on eclectic topics or “curiosa” as he called them. He served time in prison for being the first American publisher to print Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. Later in life he published with his son Karl as Brussel & Brussel, printing books on the Civil War, medical treatises, and erotica. His collection also includes nineteen imprints of the Trianon Press about William Blake and dozens of titles on human sexuality.
Titles available in the collection include The Canterbury Tales : the New Ellesmere Chaucer Facsimile (1995), The Nuremberg Chronicle : A Facsimile of Hartmann Schedel's Buch der Chroniken, printed by Anton Koberger in 1493 (1979), and Illustrations of the Book of Job : In Twenty-One Plates, Invented and Engraved by William Blake (1977 facsimile of the 1826 edition).
Donald Davie Collection
The Donald Davie Collection represents published items either written or collected by Donald Davie through his years as an educator, writer, and literary critic. It consists of over 600 items, primarily monographs inscribed to Davie by the authors. A small number of off-prints by Davie’s friends and students can also be found in this collection. The collection was donated to Special Collections in 1988 at the end of Davie’s teaching career at Vanderbilt University. It contains a broad assemblage of English and American poetry and prose from the 20th century; such as Selected Poems, 1957-1981 by Ted Hughes, The Broken Ground: Poems by Wendell Berry, and Red Roses for Bronze by H. D. (Hilda Doolittle).
Joachim Dyck Collection
The Joachim Dyck Collection was acquired by the library in 2003 and consists of 269 works in Latin and German on the theory, practice, and art of rhetoric published from the 17th to the 19th centuries. A few items of note in the collection are Rhetorica Plena Ac Referta Exemplis Quae Succinctarum Declamationum Loco Essepossunt by Erasmus, 1539; De Arte Thetorica Libri Tres: Ex Aristotle, Cicerone and Quintiliano by Cipriano Suarez, 1620; and Anleitung Zur Geistlichen Beredtsamkeit: In Einem Auszuge by Ignaz Wurz, 1782.
Mary Margaret and John L. Farringer, Jr. Collection
The Mary Margaret and John L. Farringer Jr. Collection include books on the American Civil War and general American History. The collection was received in 2005 and contains approximately 350 items. One of the focuses of the collection is on Farringer’s interest in the American Civil War arms and armaments and the practice of medicine during the period.
Titles in this area include Our Army Nurses by Mary Gardner Holland, 1895, and Confederate Arms by William A. Albaugh, 1957.
Sam Fleming Southern Civilization Collection
The Sam Fleming Southern Civilization Collection was established to collect printed materials concerning the South from Reconstruction to the present. Presently numbering over 5,000 titles, this collection is a rapidly growing area of scholarship and aims to be a national source for studies of the American South. The focus of the collection is the social, intellectual, educational, and business history of the South.
It contains first editions of Southern writers such as William Faulkner, Thomas Dixon, George Washington Cable, Eudora Welty, and Walker Percy, among others. Reflections on civil rights, women’s, and labor movements are captured within this collection as well as recent scholarship on the South.
Stanley F. Horn Collection
The Stanley F. Horn Collection was donated to Vanderbilt University Special Collections after his death in 1980. Horn was a businessman, historian, and editor. He authored a number of books on the Civil War and the south, most famously The Army of Tennessee: A Military History, 1941, and The Decisive Battle of Nashville, 1956. This collection is comprised of his personal library and encompasses over 3,000 titles with topics ranging from Samuel Johnson to agriculture. The majority of his books are about the American Civil War on which he was an expert.
The Memorabilia Collection was transferred to Special Collections from the Divinity Library and contains over 700 rare religion books collected from the beginnings of the university until the late 20th century. The collection includes an extensive group of materials on the history of Methodism, especially in Tennessee, as well as 17th and 18th century books in Latin that were purchased by faculty during buying trips in Europe. The oldest title in this collection is Opera Varia by Robert Gaguin, 1498.
George Peabody College Collection
The George Peabody College Collection contains materials published by the George Peabody College prior to 1979. For materials published after the 1979 merger see the Vanderbilt Collection. This collection reaches far into the history of Tennessee education to the beginnings of Davidson Academy in 1785. The collection contains over 200 titles many of which are series or periodicals in production for decades. Of note are The Peabody Journal of Education, the Division of Surveys and Field Services Reports, and the Bulletins which list course descriptions for the University of Nashville and George Peabody College.
Peter Pauper Press Collection
This collection contains 213 titles from the Peter Pauper Press of Mount Vernon, New York. It was donated to Special Collections in 1978 by an admirer of the small press. The Peter Pauper Press was started in 1929 by Peter and Edna Beilenson and grew to be a staple of the small press market. Named numerous times to the 50 Books of the Year by the American Institute of Graphic Arts the press published over 500 books during its lifetime. The collection includes 60 deluxe editions such as Walton: Compleat Angler, Love Poems of Lord Byron, and The Tragedy of Hamlet.
Nettie Hale Rand Collection of Fine Binding and Printing
The Nettie Hale Rand Collection of Fine Binding and Printing was donated in 1941 at the opening of the Treasure Room in the Joint University Libraries. This collection of several hundred exemplars of the binders’ and printers’ arts were assembled by Nettie Hale Rand, an alumna of the university and wife of Frank C. Rand, President of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust. Among the world renowned binders represented in this 336 volume collection are Bayntun, Riviere, and Sangorski. It is particularly rich in the art of the great private presses of England in the late 19th and 20th centuries, such as Kelmscott, Doves, Chiswick, and Gregnog, whose fine printing and illustrations were inspired by the magnificent illumined manuscripts of earlier times.
Volumes of note include a first edition of Robert Burns’ Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect bound by Bayntun of Bath in full blue crushed levant, finished with leaf and thistle inlaid around a hand-painted miniature of Robert and Mary Burns, 1787; and Griswold’s The Republic Court: or American Society in the Days of Washington bound in scarlet levant with blue moiré linings and inlaid with an ivory miniature and pearls in the centers of the flowers on the front cover, 1854.
John Crowe Ransom Collection
The 363 titles in this collection represent the library of noted poet, educator, and literary critic John Crowe Ransom. The collection was acquired Special Collections after the death of John Crowe Ransom. Many of the books contain marginalia by Ransom and are useful in providing insight into his thoughts about topics such as philosophy, American poetry, and his literary contemporaries. A number of books are inscribed to Ransom by his protégés and students thanking him for his support and for editing their works.
Henry Grantland Rice Collection
This collection is comprised of the books collected by the late sportswriter, Grantland Rice. Over 275 titles on sports such as horseracing, boxing, football, baseball, golf, and the Olympics can be found in his collection. Many of the books are autographed and inscribed to “Granny” Rice as he was commonly known. The collection represents the heyday of American sports and is rife with autobiographies of the sports heroes of the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Fans of sport will be thrilled to see titles such as Pro Football, Its “Ups” and “Downs” by Harry A March, 1934; and Scotland’s Gift: Golf by Charles Blair MacDonald, 1928; as well as books by Red Smith, Paul Gallico, Ring Lardner, and Bobby Jones.
Harris D. Riley, Jr. Civil War Collection
The Harris D. Riley, Jr. Civil War Collection was donated to Vanderbilt University Special Collections in 2004 by Dr. Riley and his family. The collection contains over 1,000 titles on the Civil War and its aftermath. Included in this collection are biographies, first-hand accounts, and regimental histories of the men who fought in the War. Because of Dr. Riley’s interest in medical history the collection contains a number of books on the practice of medicine during the War and the advancements made during that period.
The creation of The Harris D. Riley, Jr. Civil War Heritage Endowment has allowed Special Collections to continue collecting materials on the history of the Civil War.
Highlights of the collection are Confederate imprints, an almost complete set of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (OR), and first editions of accounts of the war such as My Diary North and South by William Howard Russell, 1863.
The Sevier Collection was started in 1941 with a gift of rare books from the descendents of John Sevier, the first governor of Tennessee. As the largest book collection in Special Collections, it contains the widest variety of books in the library. Items collected by faculty, gifts, and selected signed and association copies are all part of this interesting collection. Within the Sevier Collection can be found the Marc H. Hollender Mark Twain first edition books, the Robert West Demonology and Witchcraft books, Meso-American codices, books by and about the Vanderbilt family, and a collection of 18th and 19th century accounts by travelers to Latin America. Publication dates for the Sevier Collection range from the 15th through 21st centuries.
Items of note are a first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses signed by the author, 1922, and The Matrix: A Review for Printers and Bibliophiles, a periodical about fine binding and printing.
Vernon Sharp Collection
The Vernon Sharp Collection contains over 250 items on the history of fox hunting, raising hounds, and horse breeding. The focus is primarily on English sports although the later publications do include American information.
Examples of this fine collection are Cynegetica; or, Essays on Sporting: Consisting of Observations on Hare Hunting, by William Bane, 1788, and The American Foxhound, 1747-1967, by Alexander Mackay-Smith, 1972.
Robert Stempfel John Updike Collection
The Robert Stempfel John Updike Collection contains first editions, reprints, broadsides, proofs, and limited editions of Updike’s writings and poems. Included in this collection is an extensive massing of periodicals which contain articles by John Updike. The collection continues to grow as Robert Stempfel continues to collect his works. Presently the collection consists of approximately 300 titles spanning the long and still productive career this award-winning writer.
Frances Newman Thomson Collection of Southern Literature
Frances Newman Thomson Collection of Southern Literature was created in 2009 by the Robert Polk Thomson family in memory of Frances Newman Thomson. Presently at almost 300 titles this collection is continuously expanding as more southern novels are published. The collection consists of primarily 20th century works but is now focusing on more recent titles by southern authors. Twenty to fifty novels are added every year to the collection.
Examples of items in the collection are signed first editions of Madison Smartt Bell and Ann Patchett novels as well as first editions of lesser known Tennessee authors.
The Vanderbilt Collection consists of works published under the auspices of Vanderbilt University. It contains historic and current publications of the university including a complete catalog of the Vanderbilt University Press; bulletins of the university from 1875 to the present; student yearbooks, the Comet and the Commodore, 1887 to the present; theses and dissertations accepted by the university; and the student newspaper, The Hustler, 1891 to the present.
The Vanderbilt Collection also contains materials about George Peabody College created after the merger in 1979.
Jesse Ely Wills Fugitive and Agrarian Collection
The Jesse Ely Wills Fugitive and Agrarian Collection was established to collect materials about the 20th century writers of the Fugitive Group, centered at Vanderbilt, and the later group of Agrarian essayists who published I’ll Take My Stand in 1930. This collection is an important research tool for scholarship on these two groups and contains first editions of the 24 members’ works; secondary scholarly material; and writings of their disciples and associates. Currently the collection stands at nearly 2,000 titles and continues to expand as new material is produced.
Jesse Ely Wills Native American Collection
This collection reflects Jesse Ely Wills’ interest in the history and culture of Native American and Central American peoples. The collection contains 235 titles collected over Wills lifetime demonstrating his long preoccupation with the history of Native American cultures. The cultures of a large number of indigenous populations are found in the collection. Among them; the Cherokees, Inca, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Mayan appear to be of particular interest. Titles include Codex Nuttall, Indian Boyhood by Charles Alexander Eastman, and History of the Shawnee Indians by Henry Harvey.
Frank C. Wilson Thomas Wolfe Collection
The Frank C. Wilson Thomas Wolfe Collection consists of over 100 titles by and about Thomas Wolfe, famed writer from North Carolina. This collection is the result of Dr. Wilson’s years of studying Wolfe, his life and writings. It contains monographs, serials and ephemera about Wolfe’s life as well as criticisms of his works. Items of note are first editions of Look Homeward Angel and You Can’t Go Home Again.
Parkhurst and Jane Wood Bridge Book and Periodical Collection
The Parkhurst and Jane Wood Bridge Book and Periodical Collection consists of approximately 400 titles about the creation, history, and playing of the game of bridge and its antecedents. The collection was created over many years by bridge enthusiasts Parkhurst and Jane Wood and was donated to Special Collections in 2000.
Items of note in the collection are A Short Treatise on the Game of Back-gammon by Edmund Hoyle, 1745, and Contract Bridge; Bidding and the Club Convention by Harold S. Vanderbilt, 1929.