Lafayette’s rare book holdings of some 15,000 volumes include incunabula—among them the magnificent Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493—and other early imprints reflecting the development of printing during the hand-press period (ca. 1450-1800). The collection also includes important works from the last two centuries—first editions of Charles Dickens, productions from William Morris’s Kelmscott Press, and photogravures of Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian. The rare books are searchable by author, title, subject, and keyword in the library’s catalog.
Skillman Library maintains a growing collection of published works about the man for whom the College is named. Particular strengths include biographical sources, children’s literature, 18th century imprints concerning Lafayette in the French Revolution, works documenting Lafayette’s 1824-25 "Farewell Tour" of America, and works on Franco-American friendship, particularly the assistance rendered by France to America during the American Revolution and America to France in World War I.
A new collecting area for Skillman, this collection concentrates on the period from the late 18th century to 1850 and includes a variety of texts—abolitionist poetry, anti-slavery periodicals, colonization-related publications, and artists’ books and broadsides that provide contemporary reflections on slavery, as well on issues of race and civil rights.
The library's angling collections include the three named collections—the Tinsman, Conahay, and Fox Collections—as well as recently acquired holdings. Areas of emphasis include British and American angling classics, fine bindings, angling literature, women in angling, and fish-themed artists' books.
Skillman Library actively collects contemporary artists' books—books that reflect the creative vision of individual artists. Holdings include works by prominent book artists and private presses. Represented in the collection are a wide range of physical formats from flip books to book sculptures.
Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952) was an American artist and illustrator and one of the most popular artists in the American book and magazine market in the early 1900s up to the beginning of World War I. During this period, he created the famous “Christy Girl”—his interpretation of the ideal American woman.
Stephen Crane spent one semester at Lafayette College in the fall of 1890. In the early 1950s a collection was established, made up of first and variant editions of Crane's book works, first appearances of his stories in the original periodicals, printed ephemera, and secondary literature about Crane.
The nucleus of the collection was the gift from the Jane W. Conneen Estate in 2008, containing over 400 volumes of miniature books. The collection includes mostly works from 20th century American miniature book presses, including Conneen's Little Farm Press imprint.
The Modern Literary Collections began with several large book donations from Lafayette College alumnus Joseph E. Nechasek '62 that focused on first editions by American authors William Faulkner and Robert Stone. Additional donations expanded the collection to include works by international authors, the writings of African American women, and contemporary immigration literature.