Rare Books Division has accumulated about 160 000 items. Chronological limits of collections – XV–XXI c. It is the largest depository of old books in Lithuania, by its holdings and significance it rivals the most famous libraries of Eastern Europe.
The collection contains:
books printed prior to 1500, the first booksusing a printing press (327 items).
XVI–XVIII century Books
- XVI c. books – publications published in 1551–1600 (5337 items). The collection contains books that belonged to different state and religious institutions and private persons. Postincunabula – books printed between 1501 and 1550.
- XVII c. books – publications published in 1601–1700 (about 20 000 items). The collection contains many books of scientific and cultural significance.
- XVIII c. books – publications published in 1701–1800 (about 45 000 items). This collection embraces the largest part of the Department holdings. It includes books from Lithuanian manors, cloisters, and personal libraries of eminent bibliophiles of that period.
- Aldines – XV-XVI c. books printed by Venetian publisher Aldo Manutius and his descendants, which are considered a model of printing art (45 items).
- Elzeviers – end of XVI c. – beginning of XVIII c. books of Dutch publishers Elzeviers, that were famous for their fine polygraphic exterior and scientific background (418 items).
- Plantins – XVI c. books of excellent polygraphic quality published by Antwerp printer Christophe Plantin and his descendants (675 printed items).
- Old Latvian books – XVII–XX c. books in the Latvian language (70 printed items).
- Old Estonian books – XVII–XIX c. books in the Estonian language (6 items).
- Old Slavic books – XVI–XIX c. books, printed in old Slavic alphabet - Cyrillic (372 items).
- XVIII c. Russian books – Grazhdanka – books printed 1708–1800 in a new alphabet introduced by the Tzar Peter I – (about 870 items).
- Bibliotheca Academiae Vilnensis – Books of old Vilnius University XVI–XIX c. (about 18 000 printed items). After the closure of the University in 1832 the bulk of the collection has been taken out to Russia and returned from there only in the sixth decade of XX c. They are ranged according to their old historic pressmarks. It is one of the most valuable collections in the Library.
Old Lithuanian book collection
Old Lithuanian book collection (about 10 000 items) is the national pride.
It contains publications in the Lithuanian language from 1545 up to 1917. It is the largest full-scale collection of old Lithuanian books in the world. The collection includes one of the two known exemplars of the first Lithuanian book Catechismus by M. Mažvydas, such uniques as the first (extant) book in Lithuanian published in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania - Katekizmas by M. Daukša (Vilnius, 1595), B. Vilentas’ Enchiridion and Evangelias bei epistolas (Karaliaučius, 1579), etc.
Cartography collection – XV–XX c. maps (about 10 000 items) and atlases (up to 1900 – about 700 items).
It is one of the most significant collections of Vilnius University Library. It is based on the personal collection of Vilnius University professor J. Lelewel (1786-1861). Separate collections of maps were donated by Vaclovas Dargužas (Andreas Hofer) (136 items) and Vincas Mincevičius (332 items).
Libraries of societies
- Medical Society Library – XVI–XX c. books related to medicine that belonged to the Medical Society that functioned in Vilnius in1805–1914 and 1920–1939 (about 18 000 items).
- Vilnius-Versailles Library – a collection of documents compiled by emigrants in Versailles – participants of the 1830-1831 uprising. The major part of the collection – books on Polish history and uprising materials in different languages (about 1 000 items).
- J. Lelewel’s collection – Vilnius University Professor Joachim Lelewel’s (1786–1861) personal library, bequeathed to the University Library (5 638 items).
- J. Pabrėža’s collection – library of the representative of Lithuanian writing, scientist, Franciscan Jurgis Ambraziejus Pabrėža (1771–1849) (90 items).
- P. Jakštas’ collection – part of personal library donated by a bibliophile, ethnographer, cultural figure of Lithuania Minor Petras Jakštas (1896–1988) (150 items).
Bibliophylic and other publications
- Minimalia – XIX–XX c. small books not more than100 mm inheight (378 items).
- Cimelia – XIX–XXI c. publications of specific museal value, outstanding for its way of printing, illustrations, form or typography (230 items).
- Orientalistics – XIX–XX c. publications in languages of Asian nations (about 50 items).
- Rubricelia – XVIII–XX c. liturgical-informational calendars for clergymen (96 items).
- Proclamations – XIX–XX c. printings of one or two pages, related to political, economic and cultural events of this period (about 1415 items).