The Rare Books and Special Collections Library is one of the most comprehensive research libraries for Egyptology in the country and has resources that support high-level research. The core of its holdings in the field are the personal libraries of Egyptologists Labib Habachi and Selim Hassan. Subsequent acquisitions from scholars Constant de Wit and Shehata Adam and most recently Nabil Swellim expanded the collection further.
The library acquires current texts in the discipline, and subscribes to leading international journals on Egyptology and archaeology. Also included are publications and excavation reports produced by such institutions as the Service des Antiquités de l’Egypte, Egypt Exploration Society, Institut français d'archéologie orientale, and Deutsches Archaeologisches Institut (Abteilung Kairo). A reference section with bibliographies, encyclopedias, and historical dictionaries is also available.
The collection covers all aspects of ancient Egypt, including Coptic studies. Among the topics represented in the collection are architecture, fine and applied art, religion, science and technology, epigraphy, language and literature (including Coptic) and papyrology. The library possesses an important body of works by early Egyptologists such as Giovanni Battista Belzoni, Jean Francois Champollion, Auguste Mariette, Gaston Camille Charles Maspero, and William Matthew W.M. Flinders Petrie.
Highlights of the collection are the Description de l'Egypte produced by the scholars of Napoleon's 1798-1801 expedition, which ignited European interest in ancient Egypt, as well as the depictions of monuments in the volumes of prints by David Roberts. Also noteworthy are the several richly illustrated, oversize volumes on Egyptian monuments by the nineteenth-century German scholar Karl Richard Lepsius. These holdings are supplemented by early European works about ancient Egypt, like those of mid-16th century German Jesuit Athanasius Kircher, and travel accounts by Scottish explorer James Bruce and others.
The library's photographic holdings include numerous prints (dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries, through the end of the 20th century in collections of architects and artists), postcards, and slides depicting pharaonic era monuments and artifacts.
In recent years the library has begun to collect the archives of Egyptian Egyptologists, including those of Ahmad Fakhry, Gaballa Ali Gaballa, Abu Bakr Abdel Moneim, and Nabil Swelim. Other archives and personal papers collections include material related to Egyptology, like items on popularizing interest in the topic in the papers of Sayed Karim.