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Special Collections

UCL Special Collections is one of the foremost university collections of manuscripts, archives and rare books in the UK. Our holdings span the 4th century to the present day and cover a vaste range of subject areas and disciplines. The strengths of the collections include language, literature and poetry from the 15th to the 21st centuries, 20th and 21st century small-press publishing, politics and social policy, History of Science, Mathematics, Latin American history and economics, Hebraica and Judaica, Education, the history of London and the history of UCL.

Small Press Collections

Curtains magazineThe Small Press Collections consist of the Little Magazines (non-commercial literary periodicals), the Poetry Store (small edition pamphlets and ephemeral items featuring avant-garde writing and visual work), the Alternative Presses (underground newspapers with a political / countercultural emphasis), and a collection of reference material relating to the history of small press activity in the twentieth century.

The collections are international in scope and focus on experimental poetry and prose, with a particular interest in work engaged with the dynamic relationship between text and image: visual and concrete poetry, the documentation of performance and sound poetry, visual scores, text works by artists, Beat poetry, and artists' publications from the 1960s and 70s with many examples of the ‘Mimeograph Revolution’ and beyond.

Coverage is especially strong from the mid-1960s until the early 1980s but the collections also include publications dating from the middle of the 19th century to the present day.

Search for Small Press material in Explore using the term SMALLPRESS. All material can be consulted by appointment in the Special Collections Reading Room.

This reading list lists freely available digital versions of publications where original copies are held in the Small Press Collections.

Introduction to the Small Press Collections

Discover the Small Press Collections

Aggie Westons magazineLittle Magazines contain creative, experimental, or ‘avant-garde’ work in literature and visual art, which would be unlikely to be published in mainstream or commercial literary journals; they have little or no regard for commercial gain. The collection is made up of approximately 4,500 magazine titles, ranging from established independent, non-commercial literary periodicals to ephemeral, self printed art and poetry magazines.

The collection includes many magazines self published by artists and those which feature the work of visual artists alongside that of experimental visual and performance poets.  Magazines and distributed print material have played an important role in many Modern art movements and the collection includes numerous examples of this, such as late 19th century Symbolism and Aesthetics, Futurist and Dadaist titles from the early 20th Century, and mid century conceptual art publications.

Image: Aggie Weston's, no. 16, Winter 1979, edited by Stuart Mills, cover by Richard Long.

Seveso by Paula ClaireThe Poetry Store is a collection of over 20,000 small edition pamphlets and ephemeral items featuring experimental writing and visual work. It is closely linked to the Little Magazines in that many artists, writers, and publishers produce publications in both formats.

The collection includes many publications relating to visual and concrete poetry, sound poetry and visual performance scores as well as works in many different formats.

Also included is a collection of sound poetry on CD and vinyl, which can be used by appointment in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Image: Paula Claire, Seveso. London: Writers Forum, 1977.

Open City magazineThe Alternative Presses are underground newspapers with a political / counter-cultural emphasis. The collection was developed alongside the Little Magazines and Poetry Store because of the connections between the types of radical publishing activity, their exploration of alternative cultures or societies and contrast to mainstream publishing.

The collection consists of publications from the mid 1960s until the mid 1980s and includes newsletters and broadsheets produced by a variety of activist groups devoted to topics such as feminism, Black rights, LGBTQ equality, the peace movement and radical ecology, and as such provides a unique insight into mid-century counter culture and political activism..

Image: Open city: weekly review of the Los Angeles renaissance, no. 78, November 1968.

Visiting Special Collections

Anyone with a need to consult our collections is welcome to do so. UCL Special Collections is reference only. It is essential to book in advance to make sure of a reading room place and that the items requested are available. Please contact us at least two weeks before you intend to visit. Unfortunately, we are not able to accommodate drop-in visits.