Rare books guide

The Cadbury Research Library houses over 250,000 printed and rare books dating from 1471 to the present day.

Our collections cover a vast range of subjects including the sciences, humanities, fine arts, music, travel, and history. We also hold significant volumes of fiction, plays, and poetry, with a particular strength in those dating between the sixteenth century and twentieth century.

Search our book catalogue FindIt@Bham for details of the books the Cadbury Research Library holds. 

Shakespeare First Folio

Cadbury Research Library is extremely proud to act as the custodian of a Shakespeare First Folio (1623). The First Folio is hugely important as it marks the first time a collection of Shakespeare’s plays was published.  The First Folio contains 36 plays in total; 18 of those plays, including The Tempest, Macbeth, and The Taming of the Shrew, had not been published before their appearance in the First Folio.  Without the First Folio, which was published only seven years after Shakespeare’s death, the text for these plays may have been lost and may not exist today. 

This particular copy of the First Folio has the citation reference: West, A.J. Shakespeare first folio, 220. The library catalogue record for the First Folio at Cadbury Research Library can be viewed in full. The First Folio is available for all interested researchers to request and view at Cadbury Research Library, under the standard visiting and access conditions.

Key named collections:

Alongside our general sequences of books, there are a number of separately designated named collections. These named collections contain books previously owned by, curated by, or related to either an institution or an individual.

Several of our key named collections relate to parish library collections of religious and theological texts. These collections include:

Bengeworth Collection

This library was bequeathed by Reverend John Shaw to the parish of Bengeworth, Evesham, Worcestershire in 1854. It consists mainly of theological and classical works from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.

St Mary's Collection

The parochial library of St Mary's Church, Warwick, was established in 1701. It numbers about 1,400 volumes, mostly on theological subjects, including nearly 100 volumes published in the sixteenth century and over 600 in the seventeenth century.

Wigan Collection

This library of more than 3,000 printed items was the property of the Reverend Thomas Wigan (1743-1818), minister of Wribbenhall, Worcestershire. He bequeathed it to the nearby town of Bewdley, where it served as a public library. It contains volumes of theology, history, law, science and literature.

We have a rich selection of fine printing and private press books within separate named collections. These collections include:

Aston Bindings Collection

This is a 50-volume set of Sacred Books of the East. It was printed at the Clarendon Press between 1879-1910. The set is sumptuously bound by J. Aston.

Baskerville Collection

This collection of over 170 volumes includes books from the press of Birmingham letter-founder and printer, John Baskerville (1706-1775). Baskerville created one of the world's most famous typefaces.

Birmingham Printing Collection

This collection comprises approximately 500 books, pamphlets and ephemera, printed under the direction of Leonard Jay (1888-1963) at the Birmingham School of Printing, during the period 1926-1953.

Bodoni Collection

This collection of around 200 volumes offers insight into the work of Giambattista Bodoni (1740-1813), an Italian engraver, publisher, printer and typographer.

Foulis Collection

This collection, of around 200 titles, represents about one third of the total output of this celebrated eighteenth-century Glasgow press, founded by the brothers Robert Foulis (1707-1776) and Andrew Foulis (1712-1775).

Kelmscott Collection

This collection of around 60 books relates to one of the most famous private presses: the Kelmscott Press, founded at Hammersmith in 1891 by William Morris (1834-1896) and the engraver and printer, Emery Walker (1851-1933).

We additionally hold named collections relating to prominent individuals, these include;

Shakespeare Collection

Over 2,000 items, including early editions of the works of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and his contemporaries, as well as texts which relate to the Early Modern period.

The Boulton D. H. Lawrence Collection

Over 300 books acquired to support the work of Professor J T Boulton (1924-2013), in his role as editor of the letters of D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930) and as general editor of the D. H. Lawrence Project at the Cambridge University Press.

The Havelock Ellis Collection

Approximately 85 of the personal copies of books published by Henry Havelock Ellis (1859-1939), writer and sexologist. Many of the items are inscribed and some are annotated.

The Hensleigh Wedgwood Collection

Over 550 books from the library of Hensleigh Wedgwood (1803-1891), an important philologist, grandson of Josiah Wedgwood and cousin and brother-in-law of Charles Darwin.