Skip to Main Content
Harry Ransom Center homepage

Early Books and Manuscripts

In 1918, The University of Texas acquired its first collection of early printed books. Now, more than 100 years later, those books are at the Ransom Center with tens of thousands of other printed objects and manuscripts that capture what it meant to live and think in the premodern world. They showcase the intellectual and creative contributions of authors both famous and obscure, and they document the labor and ingenuity of those responsible for the physical forms writing has taken: scribes, artists, parchment- and papermakers, binders, printers, publishers, booksellers, and generations of readers and collectors.

Early materials at the Ransom Center range from cuneiform tablets to ancient papyri, tenth-century Quran fragments, a glossed manuscript of Dante's Divine Comedy, a complete copy of the Gutenberg Bible, Mercator's 1541 terrestrial globe, first editions of Copernicus, Persian codices, and early quartos and folios by Shakespeare. The latter arrived as part of a library assembled by Carl H. Pforzheimer, which joined two other rich collections of English literature already at the Center, the libraries of John H. Wrenn and George A. Aitken. Other early highlights include manuscripts owned the Ranuzzi family of Bologna, imprints by Aldus Manutius, and a rich collection of books and manuscripts by and about English Catholics.

Explore the University's Library Catalog, finding aids, research guides, digital collections, and the selections on view in our galleries. Visit our Reading Room to work with our collections in person, and consider applying for a fellowship.


Aaron T. Pratt
Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Curator
of Early Books and Manuscripts

Research and Access Search the Collections Your Research Account
From the Blog