Special Collections

The Library's rare books and special collections include some of the Library’s oldest materials, more than 43,000 books, 23,000 photographs and numerous maps, blueprints, broadsides and prints.

To provide greater access to our rare print materials, especially those of local significance, the Library is continually digitizing items and adding them to our Digital Library, thus making them more accessible to the community and to researchers worldwide.

Rare Print and Digital Collections

Explore over 1 million images from the Cincinnati Enquirer donated to be permanently preserved in CHPL's Digital Library to form this photographic archive of local history.

The Inland Rivers Library offers a wealth of material documenting more than 200 years of river history.

Funds from Cincinnati native Eda K. Loeb were used to purchase livres d’artiste—rare, signed, limited editions of books illustrated by late 19th and early 20th century artists.

This is one of the major collections of English language dictionaries in the United States, as the Library continues to pursue Louis Kahn’s ambition to acquire one copy of every edition of every English language dictionary published through 1876.

On September 24, 1848, Charles Fontayne and William S. Porter set up their camera on a rooftop in Newport, Kentucky and panned across the Ohio River capturing on eight separate daguerreotype plates a panorama of the nation's sixth largest city, Cincinnati.

Birds of America consists of 435 plates, bound in four volumes. Each plate was hand colored and is one of the largest and heaviest books in our collection.

Lafcadio Hearn, the noted journalist, author, educator, translator, and interpreter of Japanese life and culture was closely associated with Cincinnati for a number of years.

The collection includes over 140 volumes, most of which are hardback first editions. Although the emphasis is on the Tarzan titles, the collection also contains other lesser-known series.

Langstroth, a local businessman and avid student of Cincinnati prints and printmaking techniques, donated a large collection of lithographs and scrapbooks to the Library.

The foundation of the Library’s Bible Collection was laid in 1925, when gift funds were used to purchase the private collection of Rees C. Vidler of Denver, Colorado. Today the collection includes over 250 printings of the whole and various parts of the Bible, in over 15 different languages.

We’re proud to be the custodian of the Cincinnati Opera Archives, which extend from 1883 to 1994 and include a wealth of material chronicling the history of the Company.

Our collection of artists’ books grew out of Alice S. Plaut’s interest in livres d’artiste. In the late 1950s, Mrs. Plaut (who, at the time, was the Head of the Art and Music Department) recognized the importance of this fascinating new contemporary art form. Today, our collection includes the work of international, national, and local artists.

Meet With Library Experts

Get free, one-on-one help from library staff. View materials to research your home's history at the Joseph S. Stern, Jr. Cincinnati Room at the Downtown Main Library. Make an appointment today.

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