The Hankow Club, founded by the British in 1878, was one of many which grew up to provide amenities for the foreign communities which began to settle in Hankow when the various concessions were made in 1861. The "China" section of this club library was bought by the University of Hong Kong in 1932 when Sir William Hornell was Vice-Chancellor. It contains some three thousand volumes, providing a rich collection of western rare books that have an emphasis on the Far East. Though the collection is now integrated with the general rare book collection, books from Hankow Club can be easily identified by its bookplate or book-stamp.
The Morrison Collection is the first major rare book collection that the Libraries received. The history of this collection goes back to 1806 when a library was set up by the members of the English Factory in Canton. The collection later formed the basis of the library of the Morrison Education Society set up as a memorial to the Rev. Robert Morrison, D.D. who died in 1834. The library first moved to Macao in 1841 and then to Hong Kong in 1842. At that time it consisted of 3,500 volumes. In 1869 the collection became part of the stock of the newly opened City Hall Library. But a few years later the usefulness of the Morrison Library to the general public was in doubt and it was loaned to the newly established University of Hong Kong in 1914. In 1925 the collection was made over permanently to the University.
Bequeathed by Sir Paul Chater to Hong Kong after the 80-year-old philanthropist passed away in 1926, the Chater Collection is renowned for its oil paintings, watercolours, sketches, prints and photographs. Yet, the Collection also incluced a library of 54 rare books related to China, which Sir Cecil Clementi, Governor of Hong Kong from 1925 to 1930, presented to the University of Hong Kong in 1927. Most Chater books are nineteenth century titles and some of them have excellent illustrations.