The earliest information we could find showing existance of an Engineering Library at Iowa was a comment, in the University’s Library report for 1879 that the engineering and normal libraries were included among the 9,594 books held by the General Library. It is not certain where this early engineering library was located. Given remarks made in later years about departmental libraries in general, in all probability this collection was in the office of the Professor of Civil Engineering, Philetus Philbrick.
In the first years of the University Library, titles of newly purchased books were entered into a ledger or acquisitions book and assigned a serial number. The acquisitions books were some of the few items saved from the fire in Old North Hall in 1897 that destroyed two thirds of the General Library. The acquisitions books still exist. The first book purchased that is arguably an engineering book was listed as “Robinson’s Surveying and Navigation” with accession number 854. The oldest engineering title still found in the collection is noted as “Gardner’s Steam Engine” acquisition number 1857. The General Library reached 1410 volumes by 1861 and 8,561 by 1878, so the first engineering book was thus purchased before 1861 and the second one noted arrived well before 1878.