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Rare Books

Finding Rare Books

You can search for rare books through the main library catalog. If you want to limit your search to Special Collections, use the location feature in the Advanced Search. Additional collections of rare materials are housed in the Art and Architecture, Music, East Asian, School of Medicine, and School of Law libraries.

Some items in the rare books collections, such as prints and manuscripts related to books can be found using Finding Aids. Finding Aids are a detailed listing of what is in a collection and can be searched using the link to the right.

If you have any questions about how to find rare books in the catalog or finding aids, email We would be happy to help!

Resources for the Study of Rare Books

Rare books are primary sources that can be used in many different ways. You can study the book as an object or cultural artifact, you might look at a reader's notes from the 17th century, or you might look at changes in text between editions. Because of this, rare books are used and cited differently from the books found in circulating collections. Below are some resources that may be helpful in your research.


Introduction to Bibliography: Seminar Syllabus. By G. Thomas Tanselle.
Introduction to Scholarly Editing: Seminar Syllabus. By G. Thomas Tanselle.

G. Thomas Tanselle’s Introduction to Bibliography: Seminar Syllabus and Introduction to Scholarly Editing: Seminar Syllabus are comprehensive guides to the literature of these two fields, including suggestions for basic reading and chronological lists of the writings on specific topics.

Rare Book School Advance Reading Lists

Rare Book School (RBS) is an independent non-profit educational institute supporting the study of the history of books and printing and related subjects. Founded in 1983, it moved to its present home at the University of Virginia in 1992. It makes the advance reading lists used in its courses generally available.

ABC for Book Collectors. By John Carter and Nicolas Barker.

Here, in over 490 alphabetical entries, ranging in length from a single line to several pages, may be found definition and analysis of the technical terms used in book collecting and bibliography, interspersed with salutary comments on such subjects as auctions, condition, facsimiles and fakes, 'points', rarity, etc. This eighth edition has been revised by Nicolas Barker, editor of The Book Collector and incorporates additional words created by the introduction of web-based collecting. The ABC For Book Collectors retains its humorous character as the one indispensable guide to book collecting while also keeping us up-to-date with modern terminology.

Your Old Books. By Peter Van Wingen, as revised by the RBMS Publications Committee.

This guide addresses some frequently asked questions about rare and older books and their values. The answers are meant only as general responses to these questions, and many possible exceptions are not described. No attempt has been made to identify or to evaluate individual books, nor does RBMS have the resources to respond to such requests. The appendix lists online and print resources for more information on the questions covered.