The holdings of the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library range from ancient papyri to social media. They number more than 300,000 printed volumes and more than 20 million items in manuscript and archival collections. Principal collecting areas include:

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Advertising, Sales and Marketing

The John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History holds an extensive collection that documents the history of sales, advertising and marketing during the past two centuries. In addition to the J. Walter Thompson Company Archives, the most comprehensive historical record of any advertising agency, the Hartman Center contains the collections of other key companies, trade associations and individuals in the dynamic fields of sales, advertising and marketing.

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African and African American History and Culture

The John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture collects materials documenting the history and culture of Africa and people of African descent in the Americas. The Franklin Research Center’s collections include biographical and autobiographical rare books, manuscripts and oral histories capturing African American life from the slavery era to the 21st century. The Franklin Research Center also holds books, manuscripts, periodicals and photographs bearing on the history and culture Africa.

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The Rubenstein Library has a large collection of comics and graphic novels spanning many decades, publishers and styles. With more than 67,000 comic books from the 1930s to the 2000s, The Edwin and Terry Murray Comic Book Collection is our largest collection. The Comic Book and Graphic Novel Collection contains thousands of additional comics and graphic novels with rich materials in international comics, especially Argentina and France, and comics created by women. Other titles are cataloged individually, and you can find them by searching our catalog. The Library's American Newspaper Repository collection also contains some of the earliest comic strips.

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Documentary Film and Photography

The Archive of Documentary Arts collects and preserves photography and moving images that document the human condition. The Archive’s holdings examine topics including  African-American history and culture, the American South, gender, human rights, migration, occupational culture, race and ethnicity and social change. Collection formats cover the history of photography from daguerreotypes to contemporary digital prints; small gauge motion picture film to 35mm film, video and digital moving image formats; ¼” reel-to-reel audio to mp3 files.

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Duke University History

The Duke University Archives is the official repository for records of Duke University and has a charge to make them available for use in accordance with policies approved by Duke University's Board of Trustees, administration and faculty. In addition to the official records of the university, the University Archives holds campus publications; audiovisual materials by and about Duke University; papers and selected publications of Duke University faculty members; records of Duke University student and employee organizations and dissertations, theses, final projects and senior honors papers produced by Duke University students.


Early Manuscripts

The earliest records of human history held by the Rubenstein Library can be found in our collections of early manuscripts. We hold close to 1800 Egyptian papyri texts, dating from the early 3rd century B.C.E. to the 8th century, many of which have been digitized and are available in the Duke Papyrus Archive. Our collections also include Greek manuscripts in both roll and codex form created between the ninth and seventeenth centuries, many of which have been digitized. Other languages represented in the Rubenstein Library’s holdings of early manuscripts include Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopic, French, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Persian and Spanish. For more information about our early manuscripts, get in touch with a librarian.

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The Rubenstein Library holds the personal papers of more than 50 significant economists including Kenneth Arrow, Carl Menger, Franco Modigliani, Oskar Morgenstern and Paul Samuelson, as well as the records of several organizations and journals such as the American Economic Association. These collections offer a valuable resource to researchers in the history of economic thought, particularly for those interested in the 20th century. See the Economists’ Papers Project for a full inventory of individuals and organizations whose papers and records are held at the Rubenstein Library.

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German Studies

The Rubenstein Library’s German collections are broad in scope and range from medieval to modern materials. Significant areas of strength include materials produced between 1600 and 1800 and 1900 and 1945. The German Baroque period is highlighted by the Harold Jantz Collection which contains more than 7,500 German titles and circa 5,000 titles published between 1600 and 1800. Twentieth-century materials include German-Jewish culture, illustrated serials, newspapers, NSDAP materials, political propaganda and science fiction.

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Human Rights

The Human Rights Archive partners with the human rights community to preserve the history and legacy of human rights around the world. Its archival partners include artists, grassroots organizations and transnational NGOs, human rights advocates and religious and political leaders. The Human Rights Archive’s collections document the impact that organizations and individuals have had on government policy in support of human rights, the important role that these organizations and individuals have played in the development and transformation of the international human rights movement and the articulation of U.S. social justice movements with the international human rights community.


Italian Studies

The Rubenstein Library holds strong Renaissance collections including materials related to architecture, editions of the classics, literature, medicine and religion. The collections include humanist manuscripts and many Aldine press imprints. The Italian 19th and 20th centuries are documented in the extensive Guido Mazzoni Pamphlet Collection, which is the Rubenstein Library’s primary collection in Italian Studies. This collection comprises more than 49,000 broadsides, clippings, librettos, newspapers, pamphlets, small volumes and wedding poetry. The largest and most developed subject areas are Dante studies, Italian history and politics and Italian poetry and other literature — but smaller subject groupings also contain valuable resources for researchers interested in art history, drama, European popular culture, Fascist literature, music and utopian thought.

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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History

The Rubenstein Library collects rare print and manuscript material documenting LGBTQ history and culture, primarily in the American South in the 20th century, with a particular emphasis on literature, political activism and publishing. These materials are a part of each major collecting initiative, and collections include the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Archives and Periodicals Collection, the Dorothy Allison Papers, the Front Page Records,  the International Center for Transitional Justice Records, the Jim Sears Papers, the Milo Guthrie Papers, the North Carolina Lesbian and Gay Health Project Records, the papers of notable Durham and North Carolina-based activists and organizations, the William Gedney Photographs and Writings, extensive periodical holdings and collections of lesbian and gay male pulp fiction.



The Rubenstein Library’s literature collections include both rare print and archival resources related to American, British and Utopian literature. Some highlights from our American Literature holdings include one of the most important collections of Walt Whitman materials in the world, manuscript collections of some of the best-known writers of the American South and an extensive collection of published Southern literature, including a large collection of Palaemon Press imprints. Our British Literary materials are also extensive and range from early editions of John Dryden and John Milton to works produced by the Hogarth Press under the leadership of Leonard and Virginia Woolf. The Glenn R. Negley Collection of Utopian Literature includes more than 1,000 volumes of both dystopias and utopias dating from the 16th-20th centuries, mostly from the countries of Western Europe and the Americas.

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The History of Medicine Collections hold more than 20,000 monographs and 4,000 manuscripts, as well as illustrations, medical instruments, photographs and a variety of medical artifacts that document the history of medicine, biomedical science, health and disease in the global context of the Western medical tradition ranging from the 12th-20th centuries. Collection strengths include anesthesia, human sexuality, materia medica, pediatrics, psychiatry, vivisection and yellow fever. The Collections seek to bring historical perspectives to bear on contemporary health issues and to facilitate an interdisciplinary understanding of the history of medicine.



The Rubenstein library holds music collections from the middle ages to the 20th century. Notable collections include hymnology, 18th century music, popular American sheet music, and Jazz. The Jazz Archive documents jazz music’s historical and ongoing significance with musical scores, correspondence, concert playbills, photography, moving image materials, musical recordings, interviews and oral histories. Digital access is available to a variety of music collections including, Historic American Sheet Music Project, American Song Sheets and String Quartets

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The Rubenstein Library’s diverse holdings of religious material represent many genres, periods and traditions. Christianity and Judaism have the broadest coverage, though other religions  including Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam are also represented. Early Christianity is documented in collections of papyri and Byzantine Greek liturgical manuscripts. The medieval church is documented in Latin manuscripts and early printed texts. Reformation and Counter-Reformation texts document the 16th century. British and American Methodism are extensively documented in the Frank Baker collections and in related collections. Anglican, Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Moravian, Presbyterian, Quaker and other denominations are documented in more modern collections. Jewish faith and life is documented in theological and liturgical printed works, including an impressive collection of Haggadot, as well as in manuscripts that range from Southern Jewish historical collections to the papers of the distinguished Jewish rabbis Marshall T. Meyer and Abraham Heschel.

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Southern History and Culture

The Rubenstein Library has exceptionally strong holdings relating to the history and culture of the American South. There are extensive collections of Confederate imprints, Civil War regimental histories and southern broadsides. Personal papers, including letters and diaries, and organizational records document business, education, labor, politics, race relations, religion and social change and activism, among other aspects of life in the South from the antebellum period through the 21st century. The breadth of these collections are more extensive than can be summarized here. Search our collection guides and catalog by keyword.

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Women’s History and Culture

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History & Culture acquires and preserves published and unpublished materials that reflect the public and private lives of women throughout history. The Bingham Center, housed at the Rubenstein Library, makes these materials available to a large number of researchers from around the world. Notable collection strengths include domestic culture, girl culture, the history of feminist theory and activism, lay and ordained church women, Southern women, women artists, women authors and publishers, women of color and women’s sexuality and gender expression.