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HMCPL Special Collections: Rare Books

HMCPL Special Collections is the community's archive. We empower individuals to seek their past, explore Huntsville and Madison County, and connect with history.

Zeitler Rare Book Collection

The Zeitler Rare Book Collection is the library's collection of books deemed rare by their topic, age, or limited publication release. Browse the collection in the library's online catalog. ("Z" will precede the call number.)

Researching in the Rare Books Room

The Rare Books Room is located on the 2nd floor, behind the Special Collections staff desk. If you are interested in reading any rare books (including yearbooks and city directories), please talk to staff.

Sampling of Rare Books

What you'll find in the collection:

Yearbooks - see indexes on this page

City & Telephone Directories - for Huntsville area

Civil War Collection - one of the largest collections in the state

Library Book Collections - 200+ years of books from different iterations of the Huntsville Library

Political works, religious/theological texts, biographies, fiction, local authors, state/county/city histories, and more.

Who was Henry B. Zeitler?

Henry B. Zeitler (1885-1943) was a farmer and lifelong resident of Mooresville, Alabama. Locally, he was a well-known collector of books, manuscripts, and artifacts, particularly focusing on the Civil War though including social, political, religious, and military histories. In the 1970s, his family arranged to donate his personal library – about 5,000 books, as well as some manuscripts – to the Huntsville Library. In commemoration of the donation, the Library dedicated a “Henry B. Zeitler Historical Room” on March 28, 1976 at the Fountain Circle branch. This was an earlier version of what the HMCPL Archive is today. The Zeitler Collection (“Z Books”) has been added to over the years by the various librarians and archivists who have developed the collections in what is now the Special Collections.


We have elementary, middle, high school, and college yearbooks. All are located in the Rare Books Room, on the second floor of the Downtown Huntsville Library.

We periodically receive new yearbooks from donors. If you do not see the yearbook you are looking for, call us and we'll double-check (256.532.5969)!

For yearbooks from Councill High School, please contact archivist Cait Monroe.

City Directories

Also known as Polk Directories, we have 100+ years of local directories of citizens and businesses.

See a full list in the online catalog.