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Library Policies

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Collection Management Statement - Rare Books

The Gingrich Library houses a collection of books that have been designated "Rare." The following criteria will be used to evaluate (1) the existing collection to determine if they should remain housed in the library's special collections, and (2) possible acquisitions to be given the designation "rare." In addition books to be included in the rare book collection will be considered case-by-case, and in consideration of the rest of the collection.

Rare books are those that need a secure environment, supervised use, non-circulating status, conservation, and rare book cataloging.

Selection Criteria

1) Date: Books printed before 1830

2) Characteristics: Books may possess intellectual value, artifactual value, or both. Books with artifactual value include:

  • fine bindings
  • books with valuable prints or original photographs
  • publishers' bindings up to 1920
  • extra-illustrated volumes
  • books with decorated endpapers
  • fine printing
  • printing on vellum or highly unusual paper
  • volumes or portfolios containing unbound plates
  • books with valuable maps or plates
  • broadsides, posters and printed ephemera
  • material requiring more security than the general collection can provide (e.g., books in unusual formats, difficult to replace) miniature books (10 centimeters or less)
  • preservation - fragile books which need special handling and facilities
  • 20th century literary works with intact dust wrappers
  • books with significant provenance (e.g., notable autographs, or an association with historical figures or events or books which would contribute significantly to other rare books existing in the Library's rare book collection)
  • The durability of most documents produced since the mid-nineteenth century has declined drastically. It is now increasingly difficult to locate even representative examples of many nineteenth- and twentieth-century printing and binding processes in fine original condition. So many volumes have required rebinding, for example, that the richness of the original decorative art applied to bindings and printed endpapers is increasingly difficult to find and study. Dust jackets frequently contain important information (e.g., text, illustrative design, and price), and their presence greatly affects both the market and research value of 20th century books.

3) Condition: Age itself often will determine whether a book is "rare," while condition is usually more important in judging more recent material. All values of the book--scholarly, artifactual, bibliographical, and market--may be greatly affected by condition. Copies that are badly worn, much repaired or rebound, are not generally included in rare book collections, unless the age of the material preempts condition as a criterion

4) Bibliographical, Research or Market Value: The rarity or importance of individual books is not always self-evident. Some books, for example, were produced in circumstances which virtually guarantee their rarity (e.g. Confederate imprints). Factors affecting importance and rarity can include the following:

  • desirability to collectors and the antiquarian book trade;
  • intrinsic or extrinsic evidence of censorship or repression;
  • seminal nature or importance to a particular field of study or genre of literature;
  • restricted or limited publication;
  • cost of acquisition. Materials costing or valued at more than $500 per volume; or
  • edition: limited editions of 500 copies or fewer. First appearance in book form of collected literary writers and seminal critical studies.