In addition to his zoological collection, Francis Cole also assembled an impressive collection of books, which he used as sources when writing his own books on the subject of comparative anatomy.

The collection contains 8,000 works on early anatomy and zoology, including many first editions bought by Cole from his own finances. Among the most prized of these volumes are:

  • a first edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859);
  • a first edition facsimile of Pliny’s Natural History (1472); and
  • a first edition of Linnaeus’ Systema Natura.

The University purchased these books in 1959 and established the Cole library. This is currently housed at the Museum of English Rural Life. The library may be viewed by appointment. A particularly important feature of the Cole Library is the leather-bound catalogue that itemizes every specimen in the collection, often in meticulous detail, and which has now been digitised.