Special collections of Wroclaw University Library were stored in building of former Augustine's monastery on so called Sand Island on Św. Jadwigi 3/4 St. To 1945 in this place resided pre-war Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, and after reconstruction in years 1956-1959 this building was adopted by Wroclaw University Library for its special collections departments: Silesia-Lausitz Cabinet, Bibliological Department, Manuscripts Department, Old Prints Department, Graphic Collection Department, Maps Department and Music Collection Department. It is also site for two workshops, that – each in its own domain– provide conservation of antiques: Special Collections’ Conservation Workshop and Reprographic and Digitization Unit. Materials for readers are available in Special Collections’ Reading Room.
Mission of Library is not only proper storage, protection and circulation of valuable materials, but, above all others, also processing, that require detailed and specialist knowledge. For readers as well as librarians is available rich bibliological collection gathered in Special Collections’ Reading Room and in reference collections of other departments.
Special collections originated mostly from Wroclaw's collections of former City Library and former University Library. This collection has been enriched by: antiques from Piast's library from Brzeg, library of prince Georg Rudolf from Legnica, parts of Milich's library from Zgorzelec, collections from Sts Peter and Paul Church's library, library of Cisters from Trzebnica as well as regional materials secured in Silesia region after the Second World War. (see History).
Library is in possession of the largest in Poland collection of old prints printed in years 1456-1800 with 310.000 units (including 3.200 incunabula and 2.000 polonica from XVI century) and in the same way its collections are one of the largest in whole Europe, after Florence and Naples. These prints are very valuable ones and they reflect scientific and literature creation of past centuries and European and Silesia typographic production. Among most valuable items are: xylographic print of Aeliusa Donata's Ars Minor, first print with Polish text Statuta synodalia Wratislaviensia published in 1475 as well as Luther's thesis against indulgences printed by Melchior Lotter in Wittenberg in 1517.
On special attention deserves largest in Poland collection of middle-aged manuscripts – 3.000 codexes – mostly of classic authors and Church Fathers. Of most preciousness is also collection of Silesia antique illuminations. In Manuscripts Department are gathered circa 17.000 autographs of belles-lettres and scientific authors that were related to Silesia region from XVIII century to 40s of XX century. Oldest manuscriptic antique in Library possession originated from V century – it is part of Chronicle of Eusebius and oldest codex is herbarium with medical writings from IX century. Unique in whole collection is Topographia Silesiae from F.B. Werner due to over 1000 drawings of Lower Silesia region buildings from XVIII century placed in the text.
Pride of Library is music collection: 4.400 volumes of old prints and 2.500 units of manuscripts – among them first prints of Mozart's works, manuscript of Beethoven with sketches of his scores or unique print from XVII century with music scores of Mikolaj Zieliński, greatest Polish composer of Renaissance period.
Very rich is also collection of Silesian and Lausitz prints. Among over 90.000 prints there are over 50.000 volumes of periodicals and over 100.000 units of ephemera – all these materials serve for studies upon history, administration, sociology, culture, economy or geography of Silesia and Lausitz regions. Prints on Wroclaw, so called Wratislaviana, that even in former City Library were separated from main collection, are of utmost value.
In Library's collections are also precious cartographic and iconographic materials. Collection of atlases from XVI to XVIII century is one of largest and most unique in Poland. Oldest original of them is Ptolemy’s Geography in edition of Donnus Nicolaus Germanus from 1482. Second distinguished collection among cartographic materials, are so called artificial atlases, some of them really unique ones. Most valuable among them is seven-volumed collection of father and son - Zacharias and Amadeus Machnizky (1000 maps, plans and sights), with most precious fifth volume that holds almost complete collection about Silesia region.
In Graphic Collection Department are gathered following special collections: graphics, photographs, ex-librises, postcards and reproductions as well as specialist literature about listed above collections as well as about iconography and art history. Among most precious objects in collection are albums from XVII and XVIII century, lithographs of H. Daumier and W. Hogarth, portrait's graphic and collection of historical photographs related to the region.
Since 1946, the special collections’ departments and their collections counting over half of million units are scientific and didactical workshop for scientific employees and students of University of Wrocław, as well as for many foreign guests. Special and specialist collections are accessible in Special Collections’ Reading Room accordingly to Rules. Usage of this collection is made easier by: catalogs, card indexes, specialist literature and databases. Also librarians -specialists for every collection - provide help. Readers can use copies of restricted materials secured on microfilms, microfiches, CD-ROMs and in digital library. Library is conducting scientific, didactical and popularizing activities: realization of queries, preparation of objects for exhibitions, participation in scientific symposiums and lectures as well as presentation of collections to students and guests. Special collections are, accordingly to the profile of acquisition, enlarged by donations and antiques purchases.