Searching the Bell Library collection

Learn the most effective ways to search for the unique materials in our archives.

Finding rare books and artifacts

Travel narratives, ship’s logs, histories and natural histories, geographies, atlases, and a wide variety of topics are covered by our rare book collection.  It also offers insight into the advent and evolution of printing during the early modern era.  While most books are printed, the Bell Library holds many manuscript books, some from the late medieval period.

How to search the collection

Search for items in our collection using the advanced search function in the University of Minnesota Libraries online catalog. 

Once on that page, select Catalog Only. 

In the drop down menu on the right, under Twin Cities Catalog, select James Ford Bell Library. 

Once you have narrowed the location, then enter your search terms into the search box.  You can search by author, title, and subject, as well as keyword.

Note: you can narrow your search by material type, date, and/or language, but many of the items in our collection were originally cataloged without these parameters so they may not appear in your search results. Please make a list of the items you wish to see, and contact us in advance of your visit.

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Finding documents, manuscripts, and archival collections

The Bell Library holds a variety of materials that are not bound in book (codex) form.  These range from individual printed documents (government proclamations or trade broadsides, for example), to handwritten letters, to the manuscript documents of large trading companies, and a wide range in between.  

Individual documents, whether print or manuscript, are often housed and cataloged singly, but could also be part of an archival collection--a collection of documents related by topic, place, author, or compiler.  Individual documents that are not part of a formal archive have been cataloged individually and can be found in the Libraries catalog.  In some instances, these individual documents, although cataloged separately, are housed in an archive and assigned a “collection” name in the online catalog -- for example, James Ford Bell Library Government Documents.

Archival collections can be found two ways:  through the online catalog and in our Finding Aid Database.  All of the Bell Library archival collections have been cataloged as collections in our online catalog.  Some of these collections have been itemized and included in our Finding Aid Database, where you can search for individual documents within the collection.  Below you will find a list of our archival collections, with links, that can be found in the Finding Aid Database.

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Finding aids to the Bell Library Archival Collections

Indexes, or finding aids, have been created for some of our archival collections and several of them are available online through the searchable Archives and Special Collections Finding Aids database. The list of collections below will be updated as new collections are added. Some of these collections have been digitized and can be found in UMedia.

  • Archive Collection Documenting Jesuit Activities in Mexico and South America
  • The Carver Land Grant Papers
  • Convento y Hospital de Santa Toribio de Refugio de la Ciudad de Lima Records
  • The De Mey van Streefkerk Papers
  • Izcue y Arias (Firm) Records and Related Documents
  • Jesuit Manuscripts Relating to China
  • Manuel Gallego y Valcarcel Papers
  • Swedish East India Company Records
  • Viceroyalty of Peru Records
  • Village of Horche, Spain Records and Papers 
  • John Smith Journals and Papers, 1758-1794

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