The Museum Library has been the recipient of several generous donations and loans over the years.
Some collections are finite and remain the same as when they were passed to the Museum, others are added to as part of the Library's collecting policy.
For example, the Library purchases books with fine bindings and those with illustrations by artists closely associated with the .
Willoughby Gardner Library
This collection of early natural history books was bequeathed to the Museum in 1953.
Included in the collection are the only two incunables [pre-1501] in the Library, being copies of editions of Pliny's Natural History, as well as a number of writings of Conrad Gesner, and other 16th- and 17th- century writers.
The Tomlin Library
The fine collection of books and journals on Mollusca published from the late 17th century onwards, given over several years during the 1940s and 1950s by , is generally recognized as being the finest collection of its subject outside London.
The Gregynog Collection
The sisters were great benefactors of the Museum.
Gwendoline was the leading light in the foundation of the Gregynog Press, and her personal collection of the Press's books, all in special bindings, is currently on loan to the Museum, and is housed in the Main Library (see D.A. Harrop, A History of the Gregynog Press, Private Libraries Association, 1980).
The Vaynor Collection
The Vaynor Collection consists of a number of 16th- and 17th- century astronomical works, including several of the writings of Galileo, as well as later treatises.
The collection was formed by John Herbert James of The Cottage, Vaynor, just north of Merthyr Tydfil. See W. Williams, 'The John Herbert James Bequest', National Library of Wales Journal vol. 1 (1940) pp. 157-158.
Welsh Topographical Books
The Library has a strong collection of Welsh topographical books that were published in the later 18th century and first half of the 19th century.
Many are accounts of Wales written by well-to-do early tourists, mainly from England, and together with the illustrations provide an invaluable picture of the country at this time. The collection also includes some unpublished diaries of tours in Wales and the Marches.
Information on some of the special collections can be found in the following publications:
- B.C. Bloomfield (ed.), A Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, 2nd edition (Library Association Publishing, 1997), p.679.
- G.D.R. Bridson, V.C. Phillips and A.P. Harvey, Natural History Manuscript Resources in the British Isles (Mansell, 1980), pp.53-56.
- J.R. Kenyon, The Willoughby Gardner Library: a collection of early printed books on natural history (National Museum of Wales, 1982).
- J.R. Kenyon, A Catalogue of the Library of the National Museum of Wales: volume 1. Books printed before 1701 (National Museum of Wales, 1992).
- J.R. Kenyon, 'Recent additions to the special collections of the Library of the National Museum of Wales', National Library of Wales Journal 25.4 (1988), pp.470-473.