Rare books and various other printed or manuscript materials covering a wide variety of areas are held in Archives & Special Collections. The collection numbers approximately 30,000 volumes and is constantly expanding.
The most remarkable assembly of rare materials is in The Dysart Memorial Collection of Rare Books & Manuscripts. This collection includes nine manuscripts, sixteen incunabula, twenty-six 16th century imprints, and some outstanding examples of 19th and 20th century fine press printing. The majority of the incunabula are in Latin, the only two vernacular text are in Early Modern German. Until 1500, the country of Gutenberg's revolutionary invention held a monopoly of the young industry: the sixteen Dysart examples stem from Augsburg, Basel, Köln, Mainz, Nürnberg, and Straßburg presses, and even of the four from Venice, two are by German printers. The twenty-five 16th century imprints demonstrate the rapid geographic expansion of printing, as well as the advance of vernacular languages. London, Paris, Lyon, Florence & Como have joined the 15th century towns, with Frankfurt, Oppenheim & Hagenau being new German locations.
The St. John's College Rare Book Collection is housed in the Rare Book Vault and contains, among many fine bibles including a 1478 Koberger Biblia Latina, religious and missionary texts, one of only five known copies of Tudeschi's ca. 1438 manuscript Lectura in Decretales.
Within the Slavic Rare Book Collection are two unique Slavic manuscripts, the early 15th century Pomianyk of Horodyshche and the 18th century Psalterium Winnipegense Cyrillicum, were donated by Professor J.B. Rudnyckyj.
Further subject strengths of the Rare Book Collection are in Canadiana, particularly in Canadian Prairie literature, with, among others, the Ralph Connor, Frederick Philip Grove, and Dorothy Livesay collections. Works on the social history, immigration, and agricultural development of western Canada, early Arctic exploration, and the search for the North-West Passage, including first editions of John Palliser, Alexander Mackenzie, Henry Youle Hind, John Franklin, James Cook, John J. Bigsby, George Heriot and scores of other explorers, pioneers, and settlers, are also well represented in the collections.
Other major holdings include early native language syllabics, church history and philosophy, bibles (including the 1611 King James Bible), English literature (including a number of works by Victorian English authors) with extensive Jonathan Swift, Rudyard Kipling, and Ernest Hemmingway clusters, and some early 20th century children's literature.
Several private libraries of outstanding research value have been donated to the University of Manitoba Libraries in recent years and have been largely incorporated into the rare book collection. These include: