James Ford Bell Library

The James Ford Bell Library makes history come alive through its premier collection of rare books, manuscripts, maps, archival collections, and other materials that document the history and impact of trade and cultural exchange prior to ca. 1800 CE.


Elaborate Christianity-centered engraving with numerous symbolic images

Rare books and artifacts

Our varied collection of rare books, both print and manuscript, represent more than six centuries of human interaction around the globe.  Our small but growing collection of artifacts include globes, paintings, and ephemera.

Illuminated medieval capital letter A in blue, gold, and red

Documents, manuscripts, and archival collections

Government documents, letters, passports, licenses, and other documents of practice, both print and manuscript, can be found within this part of the Bell collection.  These collections represent both individuals and corporate bodies, like the major trading companies of the early modern era.

Back to top

Featured content

Stylized wing dragon in green and red

Digitized materials

The James Ford Bell Library's growing collection of digitized materials can be found in the Libraries' digital archive, UMedia. New items are added frequently.  Most items can be freely downloaded; if you require images at a higher resolution, please contact a Bell staff member.

Back to top

Prepare for your visit

Materials from the James Ford Bell Library are available by appointment only. Initial consultations will be held remotely by phone or online during the phased reopening of the Libraries due to COVID-19. 

Material requests and appointments must be made at least one week in advance (this differs from detailed visit instructions linked below) and are dependent on staff availability. If you are not sure about what you would like to see, please request a consultation. 

Detailed visit instructions

Back to top


Note: Appointments are required to visit the reading room within these hours.
More Andersen Library hours

Teaching and learning

We support teaching and learning at all levels and welcome interaction with the collection. We work with instructors to craft a unique learning experience for students; we work with students to develop skills in handling, using, and comprehending primary sources.

Engagement and outreach


Student Prizes

Community Connections


Back to top

Give to the collection

Back to top