Old and Valuable Holdings

The division responsible for old and valuable holdings of the Main Library stores and documents holdings that were published more than 100 years ago. You may only use these items in the reading room for old books.

The reading room for old books is located on the 1st floor of the Main Building. You can reach the accessible reading room via the foyer of the Main Library.

The following media are available at the reading room for old books:

  • books published 100 years ago and before (with the exception of books from the location Teinfaltstrasse)
  • books with the note “A-Magazin”
  • rare books with the shelf mark addition “E.S.” or “ES-Magazin”
  • large books (III, IV, V, VI)
  • the ORF archive

The Library digitises individual, copyright-free items from the old and valuable holdings in random order and makes them accessible via PHAIDRA, the digital repository of the University of Vienna.


You are obliged to leave your coats and jackets at the cloakroom of the reading room for old books. You have to store all your bags (including laptop cases), coats and jackets in the lockers. Please fetch the key for the lockers at the Information desk in the reading room. You are not allowed to bring food and drinks into the reading room. Please keep your mobile phone in silent mode.

Note about arsenic contamination in old books

In the 19th century, green dye was made using arsenic; this dye was also used in books (e.g. bindings, book edges, colored papers, etc.). The issue is not new, and experts generally do not consider it to pose any real risk to librarians or users.

Around ten per cent of books from the 19th century may be contaminated with arsenic. However, the arsenic is bound and only dissolves on contact with water. Books from the 20th century are not affected, as the toxic dye was banned at the end of the 19th century.

In principle, no books from the 19th century can be borrowed from the Vienna University Library. Nevertheless, we are taking the following precautionary measures in the Main Library:

  • When books from the 19th century with green book cuts or bindings are ordered, the books are checked for contamination before being made available, and users are informed of this before they are handed these books. We also provide latex gloves and face masks.


If you have any questions, please contact: