Libraries and archives

Rare books

Central Library has special collections that stand comparison with those of any public library in Britain – 15,000 rare books housed in a stunning Grade II listed building.

Rare archival volumes in class cabinets in Central Library's Oak Room

15,000 rare books

The most valuable items are housed in the secure, temperature controlled Repository, part of the new building opened in 2013. The Hornby Library and Oak Room though are freely open to the public during Central Library opening hours.

Hornby Library

The private collection of Hugh Frederick Hornby [1826-1899] is one of the finest ever assembled by a private collector and concentrates on fine printing and the book as an art form. There are many examples of fine bindings and more than 8,000 prints and engravings by leading artists.

In the Hornby Library and Picton Reading Room there are 15 display cases and there will always be a display of rare items or a themed exhibition, often linked to one of our partners such as National Museums Liverpool or the British Library.

Oak Room

Houses 4,000 rare volumes acquired by Liverpool Libraries. There is also a major collection of autographs and 75,000 bookplates, second in size and importance only to the collection in the British Library.

Permanently on display in the Oak Room is one of four volumes of John James Audubon’s magnificent double-elephant folio size ‘Birds of America’, the most famous and valuable of our natural history books. The page the volume is open at is turned every Wednesday.

Any materials from the special collections can be ordered through Enquire on floor one of Central Library to be viewed in the Archive Search Room.