Collection Development Policy

The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
The University of Virginia
September, 2002

The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library acquires printed books, manuscripts, maps, broadsides, photographs, prints and drawings, sheet music, sound recordings, digital images, artifacts, and other formats in support of the Library’s mission to serve the undergraduate and graduate teaching and research programs of the University.

This is the Special Collections Library’s general policy that documents major collections and guides collecting in targeted areas. The current list of priorities covers areas in which we have fund support for purchases. Gifts in all areas are sought and considered.

Collecting Rationale

The Special Collections Library acquires materials that support teaching and research at the University and builds on existing strengths. In addition we actively seek new initiatives and acquire new collections in anticipation of or response to changing academic needs and interests. We are also committed to developing unique and distinctive collections in areas which have little coverage elsewhere.

Library Constituents

The Library’s primary responsibility is to the University of Virginia’s faculty and students. In addition, we provide service to scholars from other institutions, national and international, as well as to the general public, particularly the citizens of the state of Virginia.

Current Collecting Priorities

The Library’s current collecting activities focus on collecting to strength, purchasing according to fund parameters, responding to gift and purchase opportunities, supporting current academic needs, and developing new collecting initiatives to serve research needs, both current and future. All formats are collected as appropriate. Areas of active acquisition are:

American literature, antiquarian and contemporary

American history (Southeastern United States)


  • Political history and records
  • Family papers (emphasis on Central Virginia)
  • African American materials
  • Church records
  • Architectural papers
  • Maps
  • Sheet Music

British literature

  • 18th and 19th century

Sporting books and manuscripts

  • Horse racing
  • Fox hunting
  • Regional antiquarian stud broadsides
  • Carriage-making
  • Veterinary medicine
  • English illustrated sporting books
  • Equestrian fiction

World War I

  • Sheet music
  • Fiction
  • Posters

Bibliography, the book arts, history of the book and typography

  • Fine press and artist’s books
  • Pop-up books
  • Victorian publishers bindings
  • Typography

Description of Major Collections

American Literature

The American literature collections include over 80,000 printed works and approximately 275,000 manuscripts, representing fiction, poetry, drama, and essays. The collections include virtually all printed works and large manuscript holdings of major and minor American authors from 1775 through 1950, as well as selected authors up to the present. Included are modern authors, writers of the Harlem Renaissance, the Beats, popular fiction, and over one hundred contemporary American and Virginia authors.

Current collecting focus: Selected antiquarian and contemporary American and Virginia authors.

American History

The major emphasis of the American history collections is on primary materials relating to the history of the southeastern United States, including the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Works on or relating to all aspects of the history of Virginia and books owned by Thomas Jefferson comprise the areas of greatest interest. Subjects include all areas of the historical record, and cover the period prior to European contact with America in the 15th century, continuing through the Reconstruction following the Civil War, in the latter part of the 19th century.

Current collecting focus: Primary materials relating to the Southeastern United States.


Collecting interests for Virginiana overlap somewhat with those for American history and American literature, and are supported by designated funds. Virginiana collections include both antiquarian and contemporary printed and manuscript materials such as literature, maps and atlases, publishers’ imprints, cookbooks, and general and local histories. Also collected are books from the 1828 Catalogue of the University of Virginia Library, historic newspapers relating to Jefferson and other regional historical figures or subjects, postcards, authors’ papers, photographs of local interest, business records, architectural drawings and papers, church records, political histories and records, and family papers.

Current collecting focus: Political papers, architectural drawings and papers, central Virginia families, church records, literary papers, maps, general and local histories, African American non-literary authors, Civil War in Virginia, fiction by non-Virginia authors set in Virginia, natural history.

British Literature

The British literature collections include both printed and manuscript works by authors and illustrators of all periods. Among the most significant are collections of gothic novels, British periodicals, and Vanity Fair illustrations. Eighteenth-century holdings are well represented by Alexander Pope and Henry Fielding, and the nineteenth century has significant collections of Alfred Tennyson, Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling. Major women authors include Jane Austen and the Brontes. The twentieth century is most significantly represented by a collection of the works of Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell Sitwell.

Current collecting focus: Pope, Fielding, Victorian literature (especially women authors)

Sporting Collection

The sporting collection contains books, manuscripts, periodicals, broadsides, and ephemera relating to the history and practice of equestrian and related estate sports, including racing, coaching, fox hunting, and horse breeding. Also included are a variety of materials in allied fields of horseshoeing, veterinary medicine, hunting dogs, falconry, game fowls, cockfighting, animal art, equestrian fiction, and life on the old coach roads of England. Modern and antiquarian items are included and are of interest to historian and sportsman alike.

Current collecting focus: Carriage-making, fox hunting, regional antiquarian stud broadsides, veterinary
medicine, English illustrated sporting books, equestrian fiction, horse racing.

World War I

The World War I collection is a broad one containing printed works, manuscripts, literature, memoirs, military manuals, movies, posters, broadsides, sheet music, art and cartoons, camp newspapers, pamphlets, propaganda, photographs, and ephemera relating to the war years as fought abroad or endured at home.

Current collecting focus: Sheet music, fiction, posters

Bibliography, the book arts, history of the book, and typography

These collections contain materials in any format that support the study of bibliography and the history of the book and printing. Included are works on typography, binding, papermaking, preservation, book illustration, bibliography, biography, history of the book, fine printing, fine bindings, exemplars of the book arts, printing history, and various bookmaking techniques, book artist’s papers and artifacts, and medieval manuscripts.

Current collecting focus: artist’s books, pop-up books, Victorian publishers bindings, typography

French Books, 16th – 19th century

An important group of French books on philosophy, history, and literature, from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century, this collection contains many elaborate bindings by the finest French craftsmen of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as many seventeenth century books in original bindings of the period. The collection’s particular strength is the Renaissance, where such authors as Montaigne, Ronsard, Estienne, and Rabelais are well-represented. The thirty-six volume Encyclopaedie, ou Dictionnaire raisonne des Sciences, des Arts et des Metiers… (1751-1780), known as the Diderot Encyclopedia, is unquestionably the most important title in the collection.

Current collecting focus: Funds are currently unavailable for purchase in this area; however, appropriate gifts are accepted.

Archives of the University of Virginia

Holdings of the University Archives extend from the early 19th century to the present, with strongest holdings from the twentieth century forward. Materials include the non-current records of lasting value that are generated by or that document the activities of the students, faculty, and administrators of the University. Records consist of information in any of a variety of formats such as: correspondence on paper or in electronic form (email); office administrative files of information organized by subject; financial information on computer tape or microfiche; invoices; tape recordings of meetings; videotape or movie film of graduation; etc., which are arranged in thirty-one record groups.

Current collecting focus: The Rector and Visitors; Office of the President; Office of the Provost; Office of the Vice President for Administration; faculty; administrative staff and officers (personal papers); students and alumni papers; and facilities management.

Programs Supported by the Collections

Academic programs and institutes:

American studies
Rare Book School
Foreign language studies
British and American literature and history
Media studies
Art and architecture
History of Science
Women’s studies
African American studies
Sociology and anthropology
UVA history and life

Other Programs:

Library exhibition programs
Digital and electronic publications and resources
Public relations, development, and outreach of the Library and the University