The nucleus of the historical library collection of the University is a small library bequeathed to the College of Santa María de Jesús by its founder, Maese Rodrigo Fernández de Santaella. Small contributions made by the school community itselves and the addition, in the eighteenth century, of an important part of the private library of Cardinal Luis Belluga let the collection to grow.
When College and University had undertaken different ways, after 1767 the University will benefit greatly from the seizure of Jesuit libraries (Casa Profesa, Colegio de San Hermenegildo, Colegio de la Concepcion, etc.) in the 18th century, and also the disentailment of Church property by led by Mendizábal, in the 19th. Added to this we can find donations and legacies of private libraries, some of huge importance, received in the last century.
The jewel of the collection is the Gutenberg Bible. This book, that opens the history of movable type printing, was printed around 1454 in the German city of Mainz and is one of the most beautiful and perfect ever printed. Approximately there are twenty complete copies, some of them printed on parchment. There are two copies in Spain, one complete is preserved by the Public Library of Burgos, while the other, only the New Testament, is the one we have here.
Also noteworthy, among many other documents, are the New Testament annotations by Erasmus of Rotterdam (In Novvm Testamentvm Annotationes …). Basel, 1540. They came from San Agustín convent and on its front page it is possible to read, in Spanish: “This book was purged by mandate of the Inquisitors according to the purge of 1640.” The book presents the traces of censorship.
In 2016, the University rediscovered a legal manuscript where it is contained twice the signature of Miguel de Cervantes and Saavedra in pages 15v and 24v.