About Rare Books and Special Collections

Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC), at the University of British Columbia Library, houses significant collections of rare books, archival materials, historic maps, photographs, broadsides and pamphlets. RBSC supports primary research by scholars from UBC and around the world and our resources are used extensively by members of the general public in British Columbia.

Rare Books and Special Collections vaultThe principal focus of the collections is British Columbia: history, exploration, settlement, business, politics, ethnicity, and labour. These subjects are covered in considerable depth. Other collections cover Canadian history, Canadian literature, English literature, early children’s books, and books on the history of cartography.

Rare Books and Special Collections’ holdings of cartographic archives and historical maps are especially strong in pre-1800 world/hemispheres, pre-1900 North America and Pacific Rim, fire insurance plans of B.C. towns and cities, and Edo-period Japan. Also acquired as parts of larger archival collections and fonds are collections of maps (both printed and hand-drawn), architectural drawings, and plans and blueprints.

The manuscript collections include materials documenting the economic, political, cultural, labour, and literary history of British Columbia. Prominent among these holdings are the records of the MacMillan Bloedel forestry company, the British Columbia Electric Railway and the Malcolm Lowry collection.

The Rare Books and Special Collections reading room provides immediate access to; bound volumes of the Ubyssey student newspaper, the UBC Calendar, The Totem student yearbook, copies of the British Columbia Directories dating from 1882 to 1994, public access computer terminals, and inventories for personal papers and private records.

Collection Policy

For a more complete version of the┬áRare Books and Special Collection’s collection policy see the UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections General Guidelines for Collecting and List of Major Collections Print and Archival, available in PDF format.