The LSU Libraries’ Special Collections houses more than 120,000 books. These materials support study and teaching in many fields, from ancient history to modern-day Louisiana. Explore our broad collecting areas below.
For detailed guides to published materials in selected subject areas, see Tips for Finding Books.
Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections (LLMVC)
In addition to its manuscript collections, LLMVC includes more than 50,000 volumes of books, periodicals, maps, publications from Louisiana state agencies, Louisiana newspapers, and other published materials dating from the 17th century to the present that document the social, economic, political, cultural, literary, and environmental history of Louisiana and its people.
Rare Book Collection
Dating back to the dawn of printing in the fifteenth century, this collection contains more than 27,000 books that require special handling and protection because of their age, rarity, value, or historical significance. Particular strengths include eighteenth-century British literature, religion, European exploration and travel, agriculture and gardening, the history of slavery, early English translations of classical literature, and fine printing and book design. The collection is frequently used as a source of materials for class presentations on the history of books and printing.
Highlights of the collection include first editions of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590) and John Donne’s Poems (1633), the second folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays (1632), and William Morris’ edition of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, known as the Kelmscott Chaucer (1896). The Description de l'Égypte (1809-21), an illustrated chronicle of the antiquities and natural history of Egypt produced by French scholars accompanying Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt, is another one of the collection’s most notable items. Also included in the collection are high-quality reproductions of more than 100 manuscripts dating from the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
For detailed holdings in selected subject areas, see Tips for Finding Books.
E. A. McIlhenny Natural History Collection
In 1971, John Stauffer McIlhenny donated to LSU the natural history portion of the library of his uncle, Edward Avery McIlhenny, member of the prominent Louisiana family which since 1868 has produced the world-famous Tabasco hot pepper sauce. McIlhenny was also a well-known conservationist who established a bird sanctuary and botanical garden on the family properties at Avery Island, Louisiana. His collection was combined with existing holdings and has since been further developed.
Particularly strong in botanical and ornithological illustration, highlights include the elephant folio edition of John James Audubon's Birds of America; an archive of original pencil drawings, some in Audubon's own hand; important works by Mark Catesby, John Gould, Edward Lear, and Sir Joseph Banks; and the original watercolors of the Flora of Louisiana by Australian botanical artist Margaret Stones. For more information, see the printed library catalogs Nature Classics (1987) and Aves: A Survey of the Literature of Neotropical Ornithology (2011).
For more information about the McIlhenny collection, see the E. A. McIlhenny Natural History Collection page.
In 1986, LSU purchased the library of New Orleans photographer Clarence John Laughlin, the “father” of American surrealist photography. Comprising more than 30,000 volumes, the collection’s focus is on science fiction, fantasy, and mystery writing. Other subjects represented include 20th-century art and design, photography, Victoriana, humor, sex, psychology, spiritualism, and the occult.
Andrei Codrescu Collection of Outsider Literature
Codrescu, a Romanian émigré, was a professor of English at Louisiana State University from 1984 until his retirement in 2009. The author of more than 30 books, Codrescu was the founding editor of the literary journal Exquisite Corpse. The collection contains approximately 5,000 volumes of late 20th-century fiction and poetry, many of which are ephemeral in nature or were published by small presses. Codrescu's personal papers are also held in Special Collections.
Several smaller book collections are available. You may limit your search to any of these collections in the LSU Libraries’ online catalog.
Bowlus Comic Book Collection
The William Morton Bowlus Collection includes more than 7,000 comic books, many from the “Silver Age” (late 1950s and 1960s), and related materials. Bowlus, an LSU alumnus, began collecting comic books in grade school and continued until his untimely death in his late 20’s. The collection was donated to the LSU Libraries by his mother, Mrs. Martha Bowlus, to honor his memory and preserve a collection he loved. The Bowlus Collection offers a wealth of graphic art and storytelling from a formative period in American cultural history.
Gladney Chess Collection
Representing a portion of the personal collection of the late Frank Gladney, this collection contains nineteenth- and twentieth-century books and periodicals, as well as some memorabilia, related to the history of the game of chess. Instruction books, biographies of famous chess players, and issues of American and European chess magazines and newsletters are complemented by a small quantity of ephemeral publications, such as Chess Pie, an international chess tournament souvenir.
Carriere Collection of Poker and Hoyle
Judge Oliver P. Carriere was a New Orleans jurist whose hobby—the study and play of the game of poker—was translated into one of the largest and most comprehensive collections on that subject in existence. It includes most of the early editions of the works of Edmond Hoyle (1672-1769), an eighteenth-century English writer on fashionable card games and, later, board games such as chess and backgammon. Carriere also collected virtually all of the vast literature on poker. This unusual assemblage of material documents not only the history of the development of games of chance and other leisure pursuits, but also the complex social and legal questions associated with them.
Judge Warren Jones Lincoln Collection
A native of Nebraska, Warren L. Jones enjoyed a distinguished career on the federal bench in Florida. Early in his life he developed a deep and abiding interest in Abraham Lincoln, an interest that generated an extensive collection of books, pamphlets, and printed ephemera on the Great Emancipator. Attracted to LSU by the prominence of Civil War historian T. Harry Williams, Judge Jones donated his collection to the university in 1970. At the time of the donation it was widely regarded as one of the most outstanding collections of Lincolniana in private hands.
Rhoades Crayfish Collection
The Rhoades Collection is an exhaustive accumulation of scientific literature, spanning four centuries, on the taxonomy and culture of the crayfish (the scientific, as opposed to culinary, spelling of crawfish). It was the working collection of noted Ohio zoologist and aquaculture pioneer Rendell Rhoades. Rhoades collected books that made any reference to crayfish, and the geographic focus of the collection is not restricted to Louisiana. Several rare and important early works on natural history are included, from the sixteenth century onward. The collection also contains a large number of offprints of scholarly articles on crayfish and other crustaceans.
David Madden Collection of Civil War Fiction
Established in 2002, The David Madden Collection of Civil War Fiction focuses on Civil War fiction published after 1950, complementing the Richard H. Wilmer, Jr. Collection of Civil War novels housed at the University of North Carolina, which consist primarily of Civil War novels published before 1950. While researching his Civil War novel Sharpshooter (1996), Professor David Madden assembled a large collection of works of fiction on the war. These novels, which he donated to the LSU Libraries through the auspices of the United States Civil War Center, form the core of the Madden Collection.
Born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1933, David Madden graduated from the University of Tennessee, served in the Army, earned an M. A. at San Francisco State, and attended Yale Drama School on a John Golden Fellowship. Madden served as Director of the Creative Writing Program at LSU, 1992-1994, and was the Founding Director of the U. S. Civil War Center, 1993-1999.
Michael Lehman Williamson Collection of Civil War Books for Young People
Established in 1994 by the Lehman Williamson family in memory of their son, Michael, the Michael Lehman Williamson Collection of Civil War Books for Young People features books published from 1862 to the present. Other major donors include Bell South and Mrs. George Ann Brown who contributed in memory of her husband, Felton. Book donations are welcome.
Unique in the nation, the collection features more than 900 books about the Civil War written for children, including biographies of famous people, such as Harriet Tubman, Robert E. Lee, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Matthew Brady, fiction about children's experiences during the war, factual works about the history of the war, and reference works designed for children to use. In 2002, a selection of books from the collection was exhibited in Hill Memorial Library. Blue and Gray for Boys and Girls: An Exhibition of Children's Civil War Literature is an online version of that exhibition.