Teaching a Class?

We’re happy to work with TAs and other instructors to develop primary source projects or exercises for your undergraduate classes using items in the collection. Learn more.


No matter what your geographic focus during the late medieval and early modern periods, the Bell Library has something to offer. The perspective of most of our holdings is European, but we are currently working to expand our non-European materials. The bulk of the collection tells the story of cross-cultural interaction between Europeans and the rest of the world’s peoples during the early modern period—from China and Japan to Mexico and Canada; from India and Indonesia to Paraguay and the West Indies; from Siberia and Lapland to Africa and Persia.

Languages represented: Arabic, Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Tarascon ( a native Central American language).

Although most of the voices heard through the collection are European, they reflect a broad spectrum of backgrounds, interests, and motives. These voices, reflecting travel and experience through all parts of the medieval and early modern world, offer numerous opportunities for studies focused on a particular geographic locale or within specific chronological parameters, or for studies more wide-ranging and comparative in nature. Illustrations abound throughout the collection, which help to convey European attitudes and perceptions about the wider world and help us to understand how Europeans understood that world.

Bell staff members are happy to assist researchers in developing projects using Bell resources. Arrangements can be made to access the collection outside of regular hours; items from the collection can be placed on hold to facilitate frequent reference.

Links to Additional Resouces

Early Modern Hub
BIVIO. Texts and Images of Humanism and the Renaissance

Prizes & Awards

Student Writing Award
$100 prize! U of M students only
Society for the History of Discoveries Prize
Research papers only; international competition
Ristow Prize:
$1,000 and publication in The Portolan, the journal of the Washington Map Society. Research papers in the history of cartography; international competition.


Some Helpful Resources

How to Write a Book Review
Putting Sources into Historical Context
Understanding Roman Numerals


Those interested in the numerous illustrations to be found within the collection should contact the Bell Library staff for assistance. The collection includes a variety of examples of early typography, colophons, and other printer’s marks, as well as woodcuts and engravings. Also be sure to visit the U of M Libraries' UMedia Archive, for access to our digital collections.