The Special Collections and Archives Research Center stewards a fine collection of thousands of rare books and artifacts, spanning from cuneiform tablets circa 3000 BC to modern scientific texts. Four primary collections are supplemented by numerous smaller collections focused by topic or donor. Subject strengths within the rare books collections include the history of botany, horticulture, and gardening, the history of travels and exploration, literature, French history, the history of the book, the history of the Pacific Northwest, natural history, and general science. Please see this list for full descriptions of our rare book collections (coming soon).
The McDonald Rare Book Collection is the university’s primary collection of rare books. The collection spans the whole history of text and book production, from ancient cuneiform tablets (circa 3000 BCE), to illuminated manuscripts, to incunabula, to modern artists' books. The original emphasis of the McDonald Collection was fine illustrated books, fine press and fine bindings, but over time the collection has expanded to serve as the general rare book collection.
The History of Science Rare Book Collection is the largest rare book collection in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center. Significant strengths include the history of chemistry, the history of physics, quantum mechanics, nuclear history, natural history, the history of botany, husbandry, cultivation and agricultural science, the history of technology, the history of mathematics, art and science, and the history of medicine, especially alternative health and nutrition. Other concentrations include the history of scientific modeling, history of engineering, history of scientific instruction, the history of fuel cell technology, and textile history.
The History of the Pacific Northwest Collection is actively added to for the instructional purposes of OSU and to develop existing subject strengths of the Special Collections and Archives Research Center (Natural Resources, Multiculturalism in Oregon, History of Science, and University History) as they overlap and intersect with the History of the Pacific Northwest. Broad subject areas emphasized include books about Oregon, samples of Oregon literature, and selected books produced or published in Oregon, especially on the Willamette Valley. Rare materials printed in the Northwest or detailing Northwest history or western expansion are included, as are materials produced at OSU and by the OSU Press.
The History of Atomic Energy Collection is our largest collection related to nuclear history. Comprised of thousands of books, serials, photographs, and cultural artifacts, this collection is a major resource for research on the political, scientific, economic, technological, and social issues that have characterized the nuclear age. Dating from the late 19th century to the present day, the collection contains sixteen series, including topics such as: early scientific discoveries, the Manhattan Project and World War II, military aspects of atomic energy, civil defense, nuclear testing, modern nuclear engineering, the effect of the atomic age on society and culture, biographies of key figures in nuclear history, and fiction, poetry, drama, and music related to the atomic age. It even has two Geiger counters! Board games, movie posters, and sound recordings round out this fascinating collection.
The The Pauling Library numbers over 4750 titles, and reflects Linus Pauling’s mastery of and interest in numerous related scientific disciplines. Physical chemistry, quantum chemistry, physics, quantum mechanics, orthomolecular medicine, and nuclear history are all significant portions of the collection; literature, religion, peace studies, and many other areas are also included. Even Pauling’s science fiction pulps and crossword puzzle books are kept in the Pauling Library.