Information and Reference

Special Collections

The Special Collections held at Exeter Library are kept in The Cage, a specially designed secure room within Exeter Stack constructed in the late 1970s. The Special Collections consist of early printed books ranging in date from an Incunable of 1480 to c.1900. Keeping these collections adds depth and breadth to Devon Libraries’ existing stock and preserves these rare and unique items for future generations, as well as assisting readers of all ages with their learning and information needs.

Access to the Collections

Items from the Special Collections may be viewed by appointment only. For any enquiries, or to make an appointment, please email or telephone 01392 384218. Library staff reserve the right to supervise viewings if deemed appropriate.

Photocopying and Photography

Library staff must be consulted before any photocopies are made of material from the Special Collections and may refuse to copy any item they deem too fragile, too tightly bound or where they would infringe copyright.

Photography is allowed for personal use only, with the permission of Library staff.

Carnegie Library Lab - logoComing soon!

Help support vital conservation work in Exeter Library's Special Collections Archive, protecting Exeter's heritage for future generations, supported by Carnegie Library Lab.

Exeter Library's Special Collections Archive consists of around 6000 items, many of which are rare or even unique. The oldest item in the Archive is an Incunable dating from 1480 adn is one of only 80 copies in existence. The other items range in date from 1490 - c.1900 and offer an exceptional record of the printed word through time.

Due to age and normal wear and tear through constant use, some important books in the Archive are becoming difficult to view and enjoy without increased conservation support - from simple repairs to full-scale restoration, amny of the items are in need of care and attention from a professional book restorer.

It is vital that our unique Archive is kept in good condition to ensure that people can continue to access it for years to come.

Adopt a Book will be launching in December 2016.

It will offer the opportunity to donate directly towards the conservation and restoration of books from the Archives that have been identified as particularly in need of care.

Your donation will go directly toward the restoration work, and in return you or the recipient will receive an exclusive gift certificate, email updates on the Special Collections Archives and recognition in Exeter library's annual Adopt a Book exhibition.

A great gift idea - the Adopt a Book webpage will be launching shortly with more information about how to adopt and the books you can choose from.

The Funny Book 

Devon Collection of Children's Books

This collection of children’s books contains about 2,000 items, mainly dating from before 1940. They were built up over a period of time by bequest, donation and purchase and, as such, do not represent any significant individual collection. The titles to 1850 have a detailed listing by the noted children’s book historian Marjorie Moon (1908-1996) which is available to view in the library.


Rare and Early Printed books

This collection has been built up by Exeter City Library since the 1870s by donation, bequest and purchase. Much material was destroyed in the 1942 Blitz but many donations were received immediately after the war. The collection has not been added to significantly since the 1960s when special collections were normally acquired by the University of Exeter Library. There are about 1,500 items with good coverage of English topography, biography, political history, law, numismatics and herbals.

Edward Pocknell. "Shorthand celebrities of the past..." Portraits drawn by A. Frederick. - London, 1887. P20 

Pocknell Collection

A collection of shorthand books bequeathed to Exeter Library by Edward Pocknell, a professional shorthand writer and deviser of the Legible Shorthand System.



Exeter Library holds long runs of many famous eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century periodicals including: The Gentleman’s Magazine, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Country Life and Curtis’s Botanical Magazine. In addition, the collection is particularly strong in the areas of art and architecture, with considerable holdings of titles such as Graphic, The Art Journal, Art Union and The Architectural Review.

Collected Works 

Collected works

Exeter Library holds a considerable collection of Collected Works including: The Life and Works of Charles Lamb, the Kirriemuir Edition of The Works of J.M. Barrie and The Works of John Ruskin.



Exeter Library
Castle Street

Telephone: 01392 384218