Wit, Frederik de. Nova totius terrarum orbis tabula. 1668.

Image (above):
Wit, Frederik de. Nova totius terrarum orbis tabula. 1668.

Library, State University College of Long Island at Oyster Bay, circa 1958. Photograph from the University Archives.
Library, State University College of Long Island at Oyster Bay, circa 1958.
Photograph from the University Archives.

I. Welcome

Welcome to Special Collections and University Archives, the library division with a leading role in developing research collections at Stony Brook University. The department acquires, organizes, preserves, and provides access to the university’s most rare, historic, and unique books, maps, and collections.


Spy letters written by George Washington during the American Revolution. A history of the world published in 1493. One of the first maps depicting Long Island as an island. Photographs of Stony Brook’s original train station. These are just a few examples of the one-of-a-kind, library collections awaiting you in Special Collections and University Archives.


All are invited to explore the collections.

II. Mission

Special Collections and University Archives is committed to providing excellent research experiences and opportunities. Through the acquisition and preservation of diverse collections, and its comprehensive reference and outreach services, the department enriches the educational, scholarly, and entrepreneurial endeavors of Stony Brook University. Access and services are extended to neighboring communities, to the wider geographic region, and to remote users to advance the university’s leadership role in scholarship, economic growth, technology, and culture.

III. History

Special Collections was founded in 1969, when Roger H. Guedalla and George Quasha of the Stony Brook University’s Department of English purchased a modern literature collection comprised of books and manuscripts by the extraordinary group of authors and poets involved with the Black Mountain College in North Carolina. The manuscripts are now housed within the Historic and Literary Manuscripts Collection and include original materials by Robert Creeley, Charles Olson, and Fielding Dawson.

IV. Collection Overview

The depth of primary source materials housed in Special Collections and University Archives offer limitless opportunities for scholarship and document and support a wide range of disciplines. The rare book collection includes more than 50,000 scarce and unique titles dating from 1493 to the present. The department is particularly recognized for its expanding and extensive Long Island collections of maps, manuscripts, and ephemeral materials. The Senator Jacob K. Javits Collection contains nearly two million items on modern United States history and the career of New York’s longest serving state senator. The W.B. Yeats Collection is the most extensive collection of the famed Irish poet and author’s manuscripts housed outside of Ireland. In 2002, the department became the official repository for Environmental Defense Fund, whose efforts in 1967 led to the nationwide ban on DDT and the birth of modern environmental law.


In 2006 and 2009, two rare American Revolutionary War-era letters authored by George Washington, documenting spy activities in Setauket, NY during 1779 and 1780, were acquired. The purchase of these letters was made possible with a generous gift from Dr. Henry and Marsha Laufer and laid the foundation for the establishment of a Long Island Historic Documents Collection. The collection includes primary and secondary source material on the history of Long Island from the earliest settlers through the present, with a strong emphasis on the period of the American Revolution through the War of 1812 (1764-1812).


Special Collections was honored in 2009 by the New York Board of Regents and New York State Archives, when it was awarded the “Annual Archives Award for Program Excellence in a Historical Records Repository.” In August 2012, the department’s guide to digital Long Island documents and books was lauded by The Scout Report, a division of the National Science Foundation’s National Science Digital Library (NSDL) Project.

V. What are Special Collections?

Special Collections is the name of the department, but the term also refers to library and archival materials in any format (e.g., rare books, manuscripts, photographs, institutional archives) that are characterized by their artifactual or monetary value, physical format, uniqueness or rarity, and/or an institutional commitment to long-term preservation and access. They generally are housed in a separate unit with specialized security and user services (source: Taking Our Pulse: The OCLC Research Survey of Special Collections and Archives, OCLC, 2010).

VI. What are Archives?

• Materials created or received by a person, family, or organization, public or private, in the conduct of their affairs and preserved because of the enduring value contained in the information they contain or as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator, especially those materials maintained using the principles of provenance, original order, and collective control; permanent records.

• The division within an organization responsible for maintaining the organization’s records of enduring value.

• An organization that collects the records of individuals, families, or other organizations; a collecting archives.

• The professional discipline of administering such collections and organizations.

• The building (or portion thereof) housing archival collections.

• A published collection of scholarly papers, especially as a periodical.


A finding aid is: a tool that facilitates discovery of information within a collection of records; and a description of records that gives the repository physical and intellectual control over the materials and that assists users to gain access to and understand the materials. (Source: Society of American Archivists)