This is a specialist collection, aimed at research in the field of manuscripts, illuminated manuscripts, old, rare and precious books.

The collection provides access to a range of documents on:

  • manuscripts
  • the history of writing
  • illumination
  • the history of the book by era and country (printing, trade and distribution)
  • aesthetics of the book (artists’ books and illustrations)
  • technical aspects of books
  • bibliophily

It also houses works on the historical anthropology of reading and the cultural history of books (uses and annotations).

You will also find catalogues of incanabula and modern books (16th and 17th centuries) for your research on old books.

The Bibliothéconomie collection is also available to support your research on the history of libraries.

We also have our own collection of old and precious books.

Over 800 catalogues are accessible directly from the open shelves on the Unithèque site as a reference and working tool. They are classified by country.

You can also use a range of online tools (non-exhaustive list):

There are a number of relevant tools we can recommend:

On the history of the book

  •, the portal for digitised printed materials in Swiss libraries from the 15th to the 20th centuries
  • Plume, a selection of documents from the 15th to the 18th centuries, digitised and stored in the library at EPFL
  • BP16, the database of Parisian publications from the 16th century

On the history of paper

On the history of typography

  • Bibliothèques virtuelles humanistes: a digital library and portal for resources on the book in the Renaissance and the 17th century
  • Esprit des livres: an inventory of catalogues of book sales under the French Ancien Régime
  • Fleuron: a tool for recognising typographical ornaments developed by BCUL
  • Maguelonne: a database of typographical ornaments for identifying clandestine printing
  • Marques d’impressors: a database of typographical ornaments from Spanish printers
  • BEL16: a database project on printing in Lyon in the 16th century

On old bindings

On the history of reading


Books are classified by subject in the open shelves. Use the documents opposite to orient yourself more quickly!