The Collection

Kalamazoo College's miniature copy of the New Testament along with another miniature book called Bird Word sized beside a penny to show their size.

The Rare Book collection at Kalamazoo College began in the 1920’s with gifts from the library of Albert May Todd, a prominent Kalamazoo citizen and an internationally known book collector. Over the years, the collection gradually expanded through generous contributions of many donors, but it was not until the 1970’s that it attained its present scope and stature. Major bequests from A.M. Todd’s daughter, Ethel Todd Woodhams, and from Elizabeth Dewing Todd, the widow of Todd’s son Paul, brought together a major portion of the library originally collected by Mr. Todd. Today, the collection continues to be enhanced through the generosity of book lovers and friends of the library.

The most distinctive subject areas in the collection are:

American Literature

A select group of notable works, highlighted by a first edition of Thoreau’s Walden and first editions of Faulkner, Longfellow, and Henry James.


A solid and diverse assemblage which includes the 1481 Christopher Landino edition of Dante’s Divina Commedia, first editions of Pope’s translations of Homer, and numerous fine editions of the classics in Latin and Greek, several of which are first printings from the fifteenth and sixteen centuries.

Economic and Political Works

Including first editions of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Rousseau’s Contrat Social, and Hobbes’s Leviathan.

English Literature

A deep and wide-ranging collection, including first editions of Milton, Shelley, Byron, Dickens, and D.H. Lawrence.

History and Travel

Featuring first editions of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the complete set of official accounts of Cook’s historic voyages, and the massive twenty volume Description de l’Egypte, commissioned by Napoleon.

History of Printing and Book Production

Encompasses the major technical and artistic developments throughout the history of book printing and production from the early movable press books of the fifteenth century through the private press movement near the end of the nineteenth century. The collection is well represented by many of the finest printers, from Gutenberg, Aldus Mantius, and Nicholas Jenson to William Morris, Lucien Pissarro, and T.J. Cobden-Sanderson.


Perhaps the most striking element of the collection, containing many beautifully bound, hand-colored books, among them signed works by Audubon and numerous folio volumes by ninteenth-century ornithologists John Gould, Daniel Elliot, and R. Bowdler Sharpe.

Scientific Works

A major emphasis of the collection, containing the first publications of scientific advances, among them Boyle’s Law, Priestley’s discovery of oxygen, and Lavoisier’s chemical nomenclature.