Sixteenth-century materials at the Huntington are embedded in an extensive and varied collection that ranges from medieval times to the present and encompasses political and social history, literature, science, art, cartography, and bibliography. Although Continental and Latin American materials may be found in the Library, particularly in the history of science and cartography, the primary emphasis is Anglo-American.

The core collections were acquired during Henry E. Huntington's brief but spectacular collecting career, which began in 1904 and ended with his death in 1927. Three of the collections purchased during this time form the heart of the Library's sixteenth-century manuscript holdings:

Significant single manuscripts from the period include a number of commonplace books (microfilmed by Adam Matthews Publications) and plays. Some highlights of the play collection are the Towneley Cycle (late fifteenth- or early sixteenth-century), the Chester mystery cycle (1591), and Bale\u2019s autograph of King Johan (ca. 1538, ca. 1558-1560). The Library also has an important collection of portolan atlases, most notably the Vallard atlas of 1547. The archives of Battle Abbey contain both pre- and post-dissolution materials that are useful for the study of land tenure and paleography.

Among the Huntington's rare book collections, the incunables and the early English books are well known to scholars, and images of many of the Huntington copies are available through the Early English Books microfilm set or Early English Books Online. However, it is less well-known that of the 11,000 sixteenth-century printed books at the Huntington, about 6500 are Continental, with about 2500 coming from Italy and about 1400 from France. Substantial additions to this collection were made with the recent acquisition of the Francis Bacon Library (which contained 132 sixteenth-century books as well as some Bacon manuscripts) and the Burndy Library of the History of Science and Technology (with about 700 sixteenth-century books, mostly Continental). The Library continues to actively pursue both print and manuscript materials in the period; legal history and the history of science are special areas of interest.

The Library's manuscript holdings are described in the following published catalogues: