Special Collections at Brandeis University houses a broad range of rare and unique primary-source materials. The department acquires items in all formats, the bulk of which fall into several categories: rare books, manuscripts, archival collections, periodical collections, and visual collections.
In addition to incunabula, the rare books collection comprises first and critical editions, fine press publications, and early printings on subjects including American and European Christianity, bibliography and lexicography, classical studies, early exploration, English and American history and literature, Hebraica and Judaica, the history of science, Renaissance music, Shakespeare, and Leonardo da Vinci.
The department’s manuscripts—which date from the thirteenth through the twentieth centuries—are broad in their topical and geographical scopes. In addition to late-medieval Judaica and Hebraica, the collection includes books of hours, early European and Middle Eastern manuscripts, and original drafts of classic twentieth-century literary works such as Catch-22.
Special Collections houses a number of archival collections that document important areas of study, primarily in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: American and European political leaders and social reformers, including Louis Brandeis; the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, and Jewish resistance to persecution; conflicts in the United States and abroad; Jewish-American and émigré writers, composers, and performing artists, including Lenny Bruce; left- and right-wing movements in the United States and Europe; Jewish feminism; and Zionism.
Special Collections is also the repository of important artistic, photographic, and periodical collections. In addition to housing one of the world’s largest collections of Honoré Daumier lithographs, the department is home to the Carl Van Vechten photograph collection, the Spanish Civil War and World War I and World War II Propaganda Posters collections, and the Dime Novel collection.