The Whipple Library has an impressive and historically significant special collection of approx. 8000 rare printed books, dating from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries, plus a further 5000 pamphlets. All these items are individually catalogued and can be found via LibrarySearch, with the classmark prefix STORE. Please fill in a request slip at the Library desk for any books you would like to see from the Store.
The collections span topics from astronomy to natural history, and microscopy to phrenology. You'll find lots more information about our special collections, with images, on our website.
All students are welcome to consult items from our special collections on request, and HPS students are particularly encouraged to consider dissertation and extended essay projects based on this material. Please speak to a member of staff if you would like to explore this further.
The origins of the Library's special collections lie in the gift of c.1200 rare scientific books given to the University by Mr Robert S. Whipple in 1944. Whipple succeeded Horace (son of Charles) Darwin as Managing Director of the Cambridge Scientific Instruments Company, a globally successful firm that designed and supplied scientific instruments and equipment to a variety of customers in the first half of the twentieth century. He also nurtured a keen interest in the history of science through his collecting of books and instruments, including a notable collection of early editions of the works of Robert Boyle, a comprehensive set of works by eighteenth-century instrument maker Benjamin Martin, and an important corpus of trade literature.