The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library builds distinctive collections of original materials and preserves them for use on campus and around the world. In support of Duke University’s mission of “knowledge in service to society,” we collect a diversity of voices in a wide range of formats, with a focus on our signature areas of strength. Our innovative use of technology, expert description and cataloging, tailored reference and instructional services, and engaging public programming provide a variety of ways to discover our holdings. We invite students, scholars, and the general public to explore the world through our unique collections.
Learn more about how we seek to uphold our mission and values in the work we do every day.
About the Library
The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is a place of exploration and discovery. For more than 100 hundred years, scholars have used these deep collections to write new histories, explore significant lives, study ecological change, trace the evolution of texts, understand cultural shifts and create new art and literature.
Over time, both our holdings and our vision have grown — expanding from an early emphasis on regional history to a global perspective and complementing a focus on traditional academic disciplines with the transformative possibilities of interdisciplinarity. Today the Rubenstein Library holds more than 350,000 rare books and 10,000 manuscript collections. These materials introduce new perspectives, challenge preconceptions and provide a tangible connection to our shared past.
Our collections are meant to be shared. The Rubenstein Library is open to everyone — students, scholars, independent researchers and members of the general public. Undergraduate and graduate classes meet regularly in the Rubenstein Library, giving students the opportunity to hold history in their hands and to test what they are learning about the past. Researchers from around the world travel to Duke to see materials held nowhere else, some supported by our research fellowship programs. Through our lectures, exhibitions, performances, screenings and symposia we invite the public to engage with our collections and with each other.
In addition, we are committed to increasing access to our collections through digitization, and we were early innovators in this area. Our digital collections receive more than 2 million visits every year from researchers both near and far.
We invite you to help us continue to build these remarkable collections.
About David M. Rubenstein
Baltimore native David M. Rubenstein is the founder and Co-Executive Chairman of The Carlyle Group, a global alternative asset manager. He graduated magna cum laude from Duke in 1970 and has served on the University’s Board of Trustees. He has three grown children.
Rubenstein is an active civic leader and serves on numerous boards, including those of the Smithsonian Institution, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Chicago, The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He is among those who have pledged to donate more than half of their wealth to philanthropic causes or charities as part of The Giving Pledge established by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.
Rubenstein’s appreciation for historical documents is well known, as is his support for the libraries, museums, archives and other cultural institutions that preserve them. In 2007, he purchased the last privately-owned copy of the Magna Carta and placed it on permanent loan to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., so that the public could view the document. He also owns two copies of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln, one of which he loaned to the White House. (It now hangs in the Oval Office.) In 2011, Rubenstein purchased the first map printed in North America, which depicts the boundaries of the new American nation and shows the “Stars and Stripes” for the first time, and likewise loaned it to the Library of Congress.
At the time of his gift to Duke, Rubenstein said, “Libraries are at the heart of any great educational institution. This renovation and modernization program will help ensure that the Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s priceless collection is preserved and accessible to scholars and the public for decades to come. When I was a student at Duke I worked at the library, so this gift also reflects my appreciation for that opportunity and the important role it played in my academic experience.”