Main Library (University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign) Information (Geography)

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Library - University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
MainLibrary Urbana Illinois 4582.jpg
Main Library (University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign) is located in Illinois
Main Library (University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign)
Main Library (University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign) is located in the United States
Main Library (University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign)
Location1408 W. Gregory Dr., Urbana, Illinois
Coordinates 40°6′18″N 88°13′43″W / 40.10500°N 88.22861°W / 40.10500; -88.22861

40°6′18″N 88°13′43″W / 40.10500°N 88.22861°W / 40.10500; -88.22861
Area4 acres (1.6 ha)
Built1924 (1924)-1929
ArchitectPlatt, Charles Adams
Architectural styleGeorgian Revival
MPS University of Illinois Buildings designed by Charles A. Platt MPS
NRHP reference # 00000413 [1]
Added to NRHPAugust 11, 2000

The Main Library is a historic library on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in Urbana, Illinois. Built in 1924, the library was the third built for the school; it replaced Altgeld Hall, which had become too small for the university's collections. Architect Charles A. Platt designed the Georgian Revival building, one of several on the campus which he designed in the style. The red brick building features a three-bay main entrance with limestone archways and a green slate roof with a series of eleven dormers and four tall chimneys. The library's interior was decorated with 27 stained glass windows showing Renaissance printer's marks and four murals. [2] The library was purposely built away from the center of campus, a break from traditional campus planning, in order to allow the building to expand; this proved necessary, as three bookstack additions have been placed on the building. [3] The building houses several area libraries, as well as the University Archives and The Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

The library was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 11, 2000. [1]


In 1868, the University's first president, John Milton Gregory, personally acquired 644 volumes to establish the library. By 1880, the library housed 12,500 volumes, and by the turn of the century, some 70,000 volumes. Three decades later, Edmund Janes James—another bibliophilic president—could boast of a library of over one million volumes. At over thirteen million volumes today, the University of Illinois is the second largest university library collection in the United States. [4]

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library within the Main Library building is one of the largest special collections repositories in the United States. [5] [6] Its collections, consisting of over half a million volumes and three kilometers of manuscript material, encompass the broad areas of literature, history, art, theology, philosophy, technology and the natural sciences, and include large collections of emblem books, writings of and works about John Milton, and authors' personal papers. [7]


From the founding of the University Library into the twentieth century, rare materials were housed within the main stacks. Professor Harris F. Fletcher, a member of the English faculty from 1926 to 1962, advised the library on the purchase of books by and about John Milton, often assisting during his own visits to England. In 1937, the Library decided to designate a small space on the fourth floor ("The Seventeenth Century Room") to house Fletcher's collection of approximately 5,700 volumes. [8] In 1966, the Rare Book & Manuscript library acquired the large personal collection of Professor and Shakespeare scholar Thomas W. Baldwin, with strong holdings in Renaissance pedagogy, literature, drama, history, and politics in an attempt to collect books that Shakespeare and his contemporaries might have read in their lifetimes. As a result of these and other acquisitions, the library is a significant repository of English imprints from the 16th to 19th centuries [9] and incunabula, including numerous items from the New Haven firm of C. A. Stonehill. [10] The library also began collecting incunabula; by 1950, its collection of pre-1501 imprints numbered nearly 400.

The library developed some of its specialties following specific major acquisitions. An elephant folio of Audubon's Birds of America (1826–38) is the centerpiece of substantial ornithological holdings. The library acquired 82 cubic feet of H. G. Wells manuscripts in 1954 and has since added numerous related items and small collections to its Wells holdings. The RBML also holds a large collection of Marcel Proust correspondence, comprised in part of materials collected by professor-collector Philip Kolb; the current Proust collection includes over 1,100 holographic items, as well as additional resources for research on Proust and his contemporaries. [11]

Under the leadership of Robert B. Downs (1958-1974), the University Library began identifying rare titles throughout the general stacks and subject libraries, bringing them together in a new, larger space designated the Rare Book Room. Downs actively sought to enlarge the library's holdings in its areas of strength and to develop new areas of interest. During his tenure, the library acquired numerous major collections, including the Lloyd Francis Nickell collection of eighteenth-century English literature (2,000 volumes), [12] the Ewin Cannon Baskette collection on freedom of expression (10,000 items); [13] the Spanish Civil War collection; [14] the Marvin T. Herrick collection of Italian plays from 1500 to 1700 (500 items), [15] the Jacob Hollander collection of economic history (4,470 items); [16] the Franklin J. Meine collection of Mark Twain (2,100 items); [17] the Yamagiwa collection of Japanese illustrated books (1,800 items); [18] the Harwell collection of Confederate imprints and sheet music (2,500 items), [19] and a large group of Carl Sandburg papers. [20] By the end of Downs's career, the Rare Book Room had moved from its fourth-floor location to the library's west wing, where the RBML remains today.

Notable collections, books and manuscripts

  • Pre-1500: the collection of over twelve hundred Incunabula from the fifteenth century is one of the largest university collections in the United States and is especially strong in classical texts, theology, pedagogy, and science.
  • Collections of radical literature and Anarchist newspapers., [21]
  • 162 cubic feet of unpublished film and television scripts. [22]
  • The Richard Aron collection on German pedagogy (20,000 items), [23] acquired in 1913
  • The H. A. Rattermann collection of German-American literature (7,000 items), [24] acquired in 1915
  • The James Collins collection of Irish literature (over 7.000 items), [25] acquired in 1917
  • The Julius Doerner collection on theology, history, and literature (50,000 items), acquired in 1918
  • The Antonio Cavagna collection of Italian books and manuscripts (45,000 items), [26] acquired in 1921. [27]


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ "Campus Landmarks". University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Archived from the original on August 19, 2014. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  3. ^ Sullivan, Karen A.; Itle, Kenneth M. (December 15, 1999). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  4. ^ "The Nation's Largest Libraries: A Listing By Volumes Held | Professional Tools". Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-02-03. Retrieved 2014-12-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title ( link)
  8. ^ The John Milton collections at Illinois are now among the best in the world, with hundreds of different editions of his works, including first editions of each, as well as books from Milton's library, manuscript materials, and translations. Harris Fletcher described his part in creating the collection in H. F. FLETCHER, Collection of First Editions of Milton's Works: An Exhibition, Urbana, 1953.
  9. ^ For a description of the collection, see P. N.CRONENWETT, K. OSBORN, S.A. STREIT (eds.), Celebrating Research: Rare and Special Collections from the Membership of the Association of Research Libraries, Washington, DC, 2007, pp. 118-19.
  10. ^ These and other monuments of English printing from the Illinois collections are featured in V. HOTCHKISS AND F. C. ROBINSON. English in Print from Caxton to Shakespeare to Milton, Urbana and Chicago, 2008.
  11. ^ C. SZYLOWICZ, "Le fond Proust de la Rare Book and Special Collections Library de l'université d'Illinois," Bulletin d'informations proustiennes (Editions de l'ENS, Paris), 33, 2003, p. 111-19.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ M. T. Herrick, Italian Plays, 1500-1700, in the University of Illinois Library, Urbana and Chicago, 1966.
  16. ^ J. H. HOLLANDER AND E. MARSH, The Economic Library of Jacob H. Hollander. Baltimore, 1937.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Nancy Allen and Robert L. Carringer, "An Annotated Catalog of Unpublished Film and Television Scripts at the University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign", Urbana, University of Illinois, 1983.
  23. ^
  24. ^ Donna-Christine Sell and Dennis Francis Walle, "Guide to the Heinrich A. Rattermann Collection of German-American Manuscripts", Urbana, University of Illinois, 1979
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ M.M. SEXTON (comp.), Manuscripts and Printed Documents of the Archivio Cavagna Sangiuliani, Urbana, 1950.

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