Many languages and centuries (16th to 20th) are represented in this collection of old and valuable books (all cataloged in the library's online catalog). Some are signed first editions while others have outstanding characteristics such as unique subject matter, illustrations, or special construction.

A few representative examples of these volumes include Appianus of Alexandria's Romanarum Historiarum de Bellis Punicis Liber Basileae, Froben, (1554); Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language ... a History of the Language and an English Grammar, J. & P. Knapton, etc., two vols, (1755); and John Heckewelder's A Narrative of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Delaware and Mohegan Indians (1820).

Included within the Rare Books Collection is the Buchanan Collection. This collection consists largely of rare books donated by Charles Buchanan, professor of German at Alfred University from 1930 to 1964. Dr. Buchanan continued his interest in building the collection until the time of his death in 1983.

With writings generally within the fields of literature, theology and history, the collection has such diverse titles as: History of the Rulers of Venice by Petri Marcelli (1502); Concordia, (first edition, the official profession of faith of the Lutheran church, printed in Dresden by Stockel and Bergen (1580); Epistolarum Paulli, printed by Aldus Manutius in Venice (1590); and Essays on Physiognomy designed to promote the knowledge and love of mankind, a five-volume encyclopedia compiled by John Caspar Lavater with over 800 Holloway engravings, English translation (1792).