Welcome to the James Ford Bell Library

NOTICE: Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, the James Ford Bell Library closed, and effective March 18, 2020, the entire University of Minnesota Libraries system closed in its continuing effort to respond effectively to the COVID-19 crisis.    Staff will be working off-site, but checking e-mail regularly. We will keep you updated as the situation evolves.  Thank you for your patience.  Stay safe and healthy.  -- Marguerite Ragnow, Curator

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.



Digital Resources

During our temporary closure, we will be revamping our web site to highlight digital resources from our collection that you can view online, as well as useful links to digital resources around the world.  Stay tuned.

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



Welcome to A New Year at the Bell Library!

Our wealth of research materials is waiting for you. Just contact Curator Marguerite Ragnow for an appointment.



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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Search selected digitized photographs, media, and collections from the James Ford Bell Library

Browse all James Ford Bell Library Collections

Search for cataloged books, journals, and records from the James Ford Bell Library.