Skip to main content

Special Collections

Information for Researchers

General enquiries about former Cambridge students may be addressed to the University Archive at You may also find the online Venn Catalogue of Alumni Cantabrigiensis useful. Enquiries about recent Pembroke students (1940-present) may be addressed to the College Tutorial Office at Enquiries about Pembroke-specific archives should be directed to the Archivist in the first instance.

Pembroke has around 30,000 incunabula, rare books, and early modern manuscripts in closed storage on-site. There is no complete online catalogue at present; we rely on our card catalogue, which is arranged by the author's name. Readers are requested to write to the Librarian to check whether we have a particular book if it is not on iDiscover or ESTC .

Our medieval manuscripts are housed at Cambridge University Library. For appointments to see the Pembroke manuscripts, please contact the staff in the Manuscripts Reading Room at the University Library, giving as much notice as possible. Information about the manuscripts and permission to publish images will need to be obtained from the Librarian at Pembroke College. A reproduction fee may be charged.

More information on Pembroke's holdings can be found in our list of collections.


Scholars wishing to consult Pembroke’s rare book collection may do so by appointment only and upon presentation of a letter of introduction from their academic institution and, in the case of PhD students, from the supervisor of their thesis. Please write at least two weeks in advance to the Librarian stating the reason for your request, including a full list of material you wish to consult. If the material is fragile, the Library reserves the right to ask readers to work from digital surrogates or microfilm, such as our microfilm reels of the Ronald Storrs papers. Where no surrogate exists, the Librarian reserves the right to make fragile material unavailable until it has undergone conservation treatment.

On the day of your reading appointment, please report to the Porter's Lodge at the College gate on Trumpington Street; they will direct you to the Library, where you will be met by a member of staff. Please avoid bringing any large bags or cases with you to the Library. There is a cloakroom where you may leave your coat. No food or drink is permitted in the special collections reading room. You may bring in a laptop or use pencils only. Please be aware that there is very poor WiFi signal in the reading room, so you are unlikely to be able to work online.

Self-service photography for personal research is permitted under certain conditions. Scholars wishing to to publish images must request permission from the Librarian in writing.

Appointments may be made on weekdays only, subject to staff availability, and between the following times: 9:30 am – 12 pm, and 1 pm –  4:30 pm.

Digital Images

Pembroke's digitised manuscripts are available on the Cambridge Digital Library.

Ortelius’ Album Amicorum comprises contributions (signatures, inscriptions, poems, drawings, engravings, coats of arms) to the renowned Flemish cartographer, geographer and antiquary Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) from a distinguished and international group of his friends.  The contributions were gathered over a number of years and more than 130 of his contemporaries are represented.  The list of friends includes William Camden, Gerhard Mercator, Christopher Plantin, Justus Lipsius, John Dee, Jean Bodin and many others.  Some of the contributions appear to have been written into the album (on pages prepared by an illustrator with elaborate and handsome decorative borders), others were separately prepared or sent and subsequently laid down.  Some are on paper, others on vellum. The book was digitised in 2003 through the generosity of Tony and Christine Wilkinson.

Matthew Wren’s Benefactors’ Book has also been digitised thanks to the generosity of Nick Dummett and Cliff Webb. The metadata was written by Pembroke alumnus, Jonathan Nathan, and funded by John and Deborah Deane. Jonathan's work on the project is detailed in this blog post.

Matthew Wren Benefactors Book

We have recently digitised E.G. Browne’s diaries, made possible by the generosity of Bahman Mottaghi Irvani. This video film which was made in conjunction with the digitisation explains the process and significance of these unique diaries.