illuminated manuscript choir sheet

Special Collections

About Special Collections

Access to the different collections is readily granted to all the members of the University community and visiting researchers by appointment.

Requests for interlibrary loans are not accepted. We welcome correspondence regarding holdings or limited research from available sources. Printed material is fully catalogued and searchable on the Library's Catalog.

Our Collections

Baxter Collection

John E. Baxter, a trustee of St. John's University from 1937-1959, and recipient of an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University in 1939, donated over 300 volumes representing almost all the published works of four American authors: Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907), William Dean Howells (1837-1920), Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933), and Edith Wharton (1862-1937). There are approximately a dozen inscribed or presentation copies among these volumes bearing the author's signature.

The books in this collection, many of which are first editions in their original binding, provide support for comprehensive research in late 19th- and early 20th-century American fiction and literary criticism.

Search the Baxter Collection books in the library’s catalog.

Carofano Collection

In 1969 Mrs. Edward (Lucy) Carofano donated two 16th-century Venetian majolica jars to St. John's University. Several years later 49 books followed on apothecary pottery and on history of pharmacology, works that reflect the Carofanos' special collecting interests. The oldest European book in the group is the 1557 Greek and Latin edition of Theriaca and Alexipharmaca. Americana in this field is represented by a hand-colored copy of Samuel Henry's A New and Complete American Medical Family Herbal, 1814. The entire collection of some 400 majolica jars and pharmacy-related artifacts came to SJU in March 1987.

View the digital collection.

Search the Carofano books in the library's catalog.

Children's Historical Collection

The primary emphasis of this collection donated by Anne Thaxter Eaton is children's books of the 19th century. There are some 18th as well as a few 20th-century items among the 500 volumes in the collection. Judging by the very poor condition of the books they must have been uniformly well used and abused regardless of their age.

There are examples of original Caldecott picturebooks, McGuffey's readers, as well as first editions of fables and stories illustrated by Arthur Rackham. In its entirety the collection reflects a good cross-section of the variety and types of educational and recreational periodicals, storybooks, primers and novels available to the children of the past century.

Search for Children's Historical Collection books in the library's catalog.

Fischer Lawn Tennis Collection

William M. Fischer, an accountant by profession, was an avid tennis enthusiast. Starting in 1897 he built a varied collection of over 2,000 items including books, scrap books, periodicals, yearbooks, newspaper clippings, photographs, souvenir programs and memorabilia. In addition to the printed materials available, he kept accounts in large bookkeeping ledgers on players' personal data and game performance. Two of the earliest monographs on the game of tennis date back to C.F. Peile's Lawn Tennis as a Game of Skill, 1884, and Lawn Tennis by James Dwight, 1886. The collection's emphasis is on material through the early part of the century up to 1955. Several of the early books are signed by one or more tennis players. The archival aspect and the scope of this collection makes it a particularly valuable working collection for historical and sociological studies of the game.

The collection since Mr. Fischer's death has had a few temporary stops. In 1947 through a trust indenture the title to the library went from Mr. Fischer to a board of trustees. In 1964 the trustees gave the collection to New York University (Bronx campus) with the understanding that it would be kept intact and made available for reference to serious students of the game. Ten years later NYU disposed of the collection to The New York Public Library where no separate facilities could be provided for it, nor did they guarantee keeping the collection intact. In 1976 the trustees initiated procedures to remove the books from NYPL, and finally in April 1978 the William M. Fischer Lawn Tennis Collection was officially opened in St. John's University Library, its permanent home.

Since its opening, the splendid collection of over 1000 photographs has generated the most research interest. They have been used to illustrate encyclopedias and tennis history books currently being published.

In addition to scholars interested in this popular sport, fiction writers have also visited the collection in search of historical settings and interesting characters from the pages of periodicals. The several drawers of vertical file folders hold invaluable treasures for students in search of original documents: letters, score cards, minutes of meetings and an unpublished novel. Fifty years of newspaper clippings carefully pasted into notebooks make it possible to follow a player's career with a minimum of research. Some of the memorabilia, a silver cup, several medals and a few of Bill Fischer's personal effects, bring a personal touch to the collection.

View the Introduction to the William M. Fischer Lawn Tennis Collection on YouTube.

Search the Fischer Lawn Tennis Collection books in the library's catalog.

Heller Collection of Stenography and Shorthand

Saul Heller collection of nearly 200 volumes consists of 18th-and 19th-century English and American textbooks and workbooks representing both the practical and theoretical aspects of stenography and shorthand.

Search the Heller Collection books in the library's catalog.

Limited Editions

Some of the more unusual items in the Limited Editions collection are art exhibit catalogues and folders containing original lithographs and etchings. The Colophon (1932-1938) and the New Colophon (1948-1950) are examples of limited editions periodicals.

Search the Limited Edition books in the library’s catalog.

Myer Collection of Accounting

The Joseph C. Myer Collection consists of over 300 monographs, journals and ledgers on the theory, history and practice of accounting. Publication dates span four centuries. The strength of this collection is primarily 17th-and 18th-century Continental and 19th-century American books on methods of bookkeeping and business procedures.

Search the Myer Collection books in the library's catalog.


Although not catalogued for, nor housed in Special Collections, a few 18th-and 19th-century periodicals fall within its administration.

History, social customs, short fiction, scientific observations and children's stories as they appeared on the pages of Atlantic MonthlyBadminton MagazineCornhillDouglas Jerrold's Shilling MagazineEdinburgh ReviewGentleman's MagazineScribner's Monthly and St. Nicholas Magazine, document the changing literary tastes, commercial interests and educational values of over a century.

Rare Books

The St. John's University Libraries own one of the ten extant copies of the third edition of the first German Bible printed in America. In 1776, all but a few copies of the Saur Bible were destroyed when the British invaded Germantown and converted the freshly printed leaves into litter for their horses and paper for their cartridges; hence its name--Gunwad Bible. Christoph Saur's daughter Catherine rescued a handful of copies which she had bound for members of the family.

Among the Rare Books the Libraries also count an Ethiopian Psalter. This Amharic manuscript on vellum is attached to wooden boards and housed in its own goat-hide carrying case. Our holdings of three incunabula, a Bible printed in Venice 1492 and two different editions of St. Augustine's works (1486 and 1497), represent the earliest Western printed book production efforts.

Much of the collection (over 800 volumes) consists of transfers from the general circulating collection and donations from parish, seminary and private clerical libraries. As a result there are several 16th- and 17th-century editions of works of the Church Fathers and 18th- and 19th-century writings of missionaries.

Search the Rare Books collection in the library's catalog.

Reference Art File

This collection consists of nearly 2,000 art exhibition catalogs, primarily from Europe and America, dating from the 1960's to the 1980's. Many of these volumes feature unique designs, from binding to paper and typography. Most of the volumes were transferred from the circulating collection, with additional donations to Special Collections.

Search the Reference Art File in the library's catalog.

Special Collection

In 'Special Collection' within Special Collections we collect volumes of no specific designation but of special interest. In this group are autographed copies of John F. Kennedy's The Strategy of Peace; William White's biography of Lyndon B. Johnson The Professional; a complete run of The Yellow Book, as well as expensive facsimile volumes, original color-plate, fragile or unusual publications, and some gift books.

Search the Special Collection books in the library's catalog.