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Archives and Special Collections: Neil W. Gerdes Rare Book Collection

About the Collection

Meadville Lombard’s rare book collection is named for the Rev. Dr. Neil Wayne Gerdes, Dean of the Library and Associate Professor of Bibliography from 1973 to 2013. During his years as Librarian, Gerdes ensured that the Wiggin Library played a vital role in forming ministers and serving the wider Unitarian Universalist community. He adapted the library to serve a new educational model and shaped it to take full advantage of a new, state-of-the-art facility. Because of this stewardship, the library will be able to continue to adapt and serve Meadville Lombard for years to come.

The mission of the Neil W. Gerdes Rare Book Collection is to preserve and make accessible its broad array of rare books pertaining to the heritage of Unitarian Universalism. The collection emphasizes early U.S. and British Unitarianism, early Universalism, American free/radical thought, European Unitarianism, and signed copies of significant works from U.S. and British authors. Many of these volumes are listed in the catalog, and may be consulted with assistance from a librarian.

Circulation and Rules for Use

Books in the Neil W. Gerdes Rare Book Collection do not circulate and must be accessed in person at the Wiggin Library. Researchers from all patron groups (Student, Faculty/Staff, Community, Alum) have reading privileges from the Collection. 

  • Patrons can request access to rare books by visiting the circulation desk at the Wiggin Library or emailing with the details of the item(s) of interest. Patrons can request to view up to three rare books from the collection at a time. If a requested item is in poor condition such that use by a researcher may cause further irreversible damage, it is at the discretion of the librarian whether it may be accessed.
  • Patrons are asked to leave coats, bags, and other personal property not essential to their work with the librarian at the circulation desk before accessing items. The use of pens or indelible pencils is not permitted while handling rare books. Only pencils are allowed for note taking and can be borrowed from the circulation desk.
  • No food or drink is allowed while accessing rare books. Patrons should have clean hands to handle material.
  • Rare books should not to be left unattended anywhere in the library for any length of time. When temporarily away for short periods of time such as lunch, restroom, break, or telephone call, etc., the patron should return books to the librarian present.
  • Please confirm with the librarian if photographs are permitted for a particular item. Patrons must not make tracings, rubbings, or marks of any kind in or on rare books.

Meadville Lombard Wiggin Library
180 N. Wabash Ave.
Suite 625 
Chicago, IL 60601

Library and Archives Phone: 312-546-6488        Library Email:        Archives Email: