Archives and Special Collections are open by appointment only, limited to UMN affiliates. Appointments must be made one week in advance of your visit. Contact or the curator of the collecting area you wish to use for assistance. We continue to provide scans of requested research materials when possible, especially for our non-campus clientele.

Welcome to the James Ford Bell Library

Although our physical location is closed due to COVID-19 (Message from Kris Kiesling, Director of Archives & Special Collections), Bell Library staff are available to help you by answering questions and directing you to digital resources.  Contact the curator, Marguerite Ragnow, for assistance.

Section_1696 World Map

Advancing Knowledge : Enriching Lives

The Bell Library makes history come alive through its collection of rare books, maps and manuscripts that focus on the history and impact of trade and cultural exchange before ca. 1800 CE. Our premier collection illustrates the ways in which cultural influences expanded worldwide, with a special emphasis on European interactions. The James Ford Bell Library, its collection, and its innovative programs support scholarship and education at all levels, and enrich our community by advancing understanding of this global heritage, making the world we live in more meaningful.

 Visit Our Digital Resources Page

You'll find links to online exhibitions, including K-12 content, maps, manuscripts, and other primary sources.  For additional resources, contact the curator and check back as more content is being added regularly.

The 1602 Ricci Map Now a Permanent Part of the Bell Collection

On June 16, 2020, the trustees of the James Ford Bell Trust, Dr. Ford and Amy Bell, gifted this amazing 6-panel world map, a testament to the collaboration among European Jesuits and Ming Chinese scholars, to the James Ford Bell Library and the University of Minnesota Libraries in memory of former trustee Diane Brutout Neimann (1943-2019).  Ms. Neimann and Dr. Bell acquired the map in late 2009 and after loans for short-term exhibits to the Library of Congress and the Minneapolis Institute of Art loaned the map to the University of Minnesota for the benefit of the James Ford Bell Library in 2010.  Over the next 10 years, the map served as inspiration and resource for U of MN students and faculty, as well as scholars from around the world.   With this gift the Ricci map, one of only six copies extant and the only one available to the public, becomes part of our permanent collection. This continuum article provides additional information.

The Bell Gallery in the Wallin Research Center, housed on the ground floor of the Elmer L. Andersen Library building on our west bank campus, is being reconfigured to showcase this new acquisition, which is anticipated to be on display in the new gallery by Summer 2021.  Resource guides, additional web content, and teaching tools are being developed, as well.  Until the map is available for in-person viewing, we invite you to visit our Ricci Map web page, which includes a digital copy of the map enabled for pan and zoom.  The map has also been made a part of our digital repository, UMedia

Announcing our new publication:  Tulips, Chocolate & Silk.  Celebrating 65 Years of the James Ford Bell Library

$75.00  Available on Amazon and direct from Itasca Books.


Finalist for the 2020 Minnesota Book Award, Minnesota Non-Fiction Category

Author Interviews | Finalist Video Interview

It was an honor to be included among the wonderful books chosen as finalists in this annual Minnesota book event.  Our congratulations to Christopher P. Lehman who won the Minnesota Non-Ficiton Category for his book Slavery's Reach:  Southern Slaveolders in the North Star State, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

Finalist for the 30th Annual Midwest Book Award, Arts/Photography/Coffee Table Book Category

June 27 at 7 PM (Central Time)  Midwest Book Awards‘ facebook live watch party

Hear what faculty and students have to say about the Bell Library



Early printed globe with movable parts

Although paper dials had been used for centuries to illustrate complex ideas, the first known use of them in early printed books was by German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Müller von Königsberg (1436 – 1476).  Also known as Regiomontanus, he included four paper dials in his works on astronomical calendars ca. 1476. 

Moveable dials called vovelles first appeared as woodcuts in the late 15th century.  They were made popular by German mathematician and geographer Peter Apian (1495 – 1552) in his work Cosmographia (1524), which included volvelles by Dutch instrument-maker Gemma Frisius (1508 – 1555).  This is just one of many examples of vovelles in the Bell Library collection, from a 1551 edition of Apian's Cosmographia.  Bell shelf mark 1551 Ap.


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