The Special Collection contains rare and valuable books on a diverse range of subjects. The predominant categories are Australian literature, Australian history and Australian art, with smaller sections comprising music, anthropology, local history and town planning, along with a few rare collector's items on European history and literature. Historical material about Footscray Technical College, Footscray Technical School, Footscray Institute of Technology (FIT), Western Melbourne Institute of TAFE (WMIT) or the Western Institute is held by VU Archives and is not in the Special Collection.
The Book of Kells
VU Library is fortunate to have one of the 1480 complete facsimile copies of the Book of Kells produced in 1990 by the Swiss publisher, Faksimile Verlag Luzern.
The Book of Kells was jointly donated to the University by the Ausdoc Group and Trinity College Dublin in 2000.
Other rare or valuable items
- These are my people: selected short stories by Alan Marshall Melbourne : Victorian Writers' League,  (1st edition signed by author).
- Collected poems of John Shaw Neilson edited with an introduction by R.H. Croll Melbourne : Lothian Book Publishing Co., c1934 Limited edition, No. 37 of 55 (signed and inscribed with a four line hand-written verse by the author).
- Burke and Wills: the stockade and the tree by John White Footscray, Vic. : Victoria UniversityLibrary in association with Footprint Press, c1992.
- In the days when the world was wide and other verses by Henry Lawson Sydney : Angus and Robertson, 1896 (signed limited edition).
- Treasures of the State Library of Victoria by Bev RobertsBondi Junction, N.S.W. : Focus Publishing, c2003 (Leather bound Collector's edition no. 6 of 73, signed by the writer and the CEO and State Librarian, in presentation box.)
- Nostalgic memories of the Theatre Royal : as published by Victoria Theatres Trust, also,research items and correspondence by John White Footscray, Vic. : John White, 2002
- Men who made "The Argus" and "The Australasian", 1846-1923 (2 vols.) [Melbourne : Argus and Australasian Ltd.?, 1923?].
- The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Work's sewerage scheme : a history of its inception and a description of the engineering works carried on in connection with the scheme Melbourne : Periodicals Publishing Company, 1900.
- Fortune Magazine, first two issues, February 1930 & March 1930.
- The family herbal : or an account of all those English plants, which are remarkable for their virtues, and of the drugs which are produced by vegetables of other countries, with their descriptions and their uses, as proved by experience by Sir John Hill,Bungay : Printed and published by C. Brightly and T. Kinnersley, 1812.
- Doctrine Of Justification By Faith Through The Imputation Of The Righteousness Of Christ Explained Confirmed And Vindicated by John Owen, London : Printed for R. Boulter, 1677.
- Corpus juris canonici Gregorii XIII. pont. max. / jussu editum a Petro Pithoeo et Francisco fratre, ad veteres codices manuscriptos restitutum Parisii, Sumptibus Jo. Friderici Gleditschii, bibliopol., 1695
- Salt : authorized education journal of Australian Army and Air Force Melbourne [Vic.] : Educational Publications, Army Headquarters, 1941-1946.
- First folio of Shakespeare prepared by Charlton Hinman ; with a new introduction by Peter W.M. Blayney, New York : W.W. Norton, 1996 (The Norton facsimile).
- Frank Lloyd Wright on record [sound recording] 1 vinyl 12 inch sound disc (ca. 60 min.) : 33 1/3 rpm. mono : New York : Caedmon, [1956?]
- Handbook on viticulture for Victoria / [prepared by Francois de Castella of the Board of Viticulture], Melbourne : Govt. Printer, 1891
- The vine in Australia, by A.C. Kelly, Melbourne : Sands, Kenny, 1861.
- National Opera Company Melbourne : some personal recollections of early days 1948, with an apologetic comment and correspondence relevant to recollections by John White, Footscray, Vic. : John White, 2001
- Tramway guide to Melbourne and suburbs : containing routes, fares, regulation, &c., and Rambles from the routes, [Melbourne] : Melbourne Tramway & Omnibus Co., [1894 or 1895].
- The London Aphrodite : a miscellany of poems stories, and essays by various hands eminent or rebellious. Published in six sections between August 1928 and June 1929. London : Fanfrolico, 1928-1929
A significant item from the collection is a piece of decorative ironwork (photo right) from the now demolished Federal Coffee Palace (FCP) in the Melbourne CBD.
The Federal Coffee Palace was erected in 1888 on the south-west corner of King and Collins Streets in Melbourne. The building was renamed the Federal Hotel in 1897 and was demolished in 1972. The ironwork was donated to the library by Mr. John White.
This historic artefact is on display on level 2 of the Victoria University Library at Footscray Park.