The collection was established in the 1970s by withdrawing items published before 1851 from the Library’s general holdings. Most of these items were purchased between 1849 (when the College was founded) and 1900. Some were received from institutions such as the Royal Cork Institution, the old Cork Public Library and the Royal Irish Academy. Since then others have been added to the collection. The collection contains c13,000 volumes, including almost 2,000 volumes of folio and elephant folio size. The main subject coverage is history: Irish, English and European; philology, palaeography, literature, music, philosophy, natural sciences and medicine are also represented. The majority of items are from the 18th and 19th centuries with a small portion from the 16th and 17th centuries. Languages: French, German, Italian, Latin, Irish Gaelic, Greek, Dutch, Spanish. The collection also holds a small collection of pamphlets. In addition, there are various serials such as Anthologia Hibernica which ceased publication after four years, as well as penny magazines and journals. These short runs of early periodicals are valuable from an Irish studies perspective and the history of literacy in Ireland.