Rare Book Collection Development Policy


The New Brunswick Libraries Special Collections and University Archives, the principle repository for rare printed books at Rutgers University, acquires, preserves, and makes available for use materials that because of their rarity, cost, or institutional significance are kept together for special treatment. 

The rare book collections in Special Collections support the information, instruction, and research needs of Rutgers University students, faculty, and staff, as well as the university and research communities. These materials contribute to programs in all areas of study, and are regularly included in exhibitions sponsored by Special Collections and University Archives and other New Brunswick libraries. The rare books collections contain over 53,000 printed books, pamphlets and broadsides covering a wide range of subjects as diverse as fifteenth century cooking, nineteenth century broadsides announcing escaped slaves and twenty-first century artists' books, with notable depth in American and British literature and history. For a detailed discussion of our rare book collections, see our Rare Books and Book Arts Collection Strengths.i  

In acquiring rare materials, preference is given to materials that connect readily with broad and changing research trends and support the existing collection concentrations of the institution. 


Potential acquisitions and gifts are added to the collections by the Rare Book Librarian, or an appropriately trained librarian designated for that purpose. The collection grows in the following ways: 


Donations and gifts are regulated by the Rutgers University Libraries Drop off Donation Policy,ii and by the Collection Policy for Special Collections and University Archives.iii 

Special Collections welcomes donations that meet established collecting criteria and serve the needs of the university.  

All donations are reviewed and must be approved by the unit director and the vice president for information services and university librarian. Special Collections cannot accept gifts that pose preservation hazards (e.g., mold, insect infestation, dampness); entail special conditions and constraints that the library cannot honor; or require extensive processing or conservation treatments. Wherever possible, in the interest of researchers, Special Collections will make a collegial effort to direct donors toward a more suitable institution for materials that do not meet these criteria. 

Deeds of gift are signed by the Vice President for Information Services / University Librarian and the donor. Donors are invited to meet with Special Collections librarians and archivists, and other library personnel, to ensure that the rights and responsibilities of each party are clearly understood and agreeable. No collection will be physically accepted without a deed of gift signed by the Vice President for Information Services / University Librarian and the donor. Donations of books in small numbers without copyright implications do not necessarily require a deed of gift, in which case a Receipt of Gift form may suffice. Special Collections does not accept materials on deposit. 


Special Collections prefers to purchase rare books from professional book dealers, auction houses, or, in the case of artists’ books, independent artists selling their own work. Purchases are made according to the policy Preparing Firm Orders, which requires all vendors to be approved by the university in advance of purchase.iv 

Rare book purchases are selected by or in consultation with the Rare Book Librarian, or an appropriately trained librarian designated for that purpose, except for research collections curated within Special Collections. These are The William Elliot Griffis Collection, and The Sinclair New Jersey Collection. 

  • The William Elliot Griffis Collection contains journals, manuscripts, printed materials, photographs, family papers and scrapbooks, correspondence, and ephemera. Acquisitions of rare books for the William Elliot Griffis Collection are made by the curator.v 

  • The Sinclair New Jersey Collection includes monographs, pamphlets, periodicals and serials. Acquisitions of rare printed materials for the collection are made by the curator 

Purchases of $1,000 or above are made in consultation with the Assistant Vice President for Information Services, Director of New Brunswick Libraries. Purchases of more than $2,000 are made in consultation with the Vice President for Information Services, University Librarian or the Rutgers University Libraries Assistant Vice President for Scholarly Communications and Collections. 

  1. TRANSFER:  


There are six criteria for transfer that have been developed in accordance with the Guidelines on the Selection and Transfer of Materials from General Collections to Special Collections, developed by the ACRL.vi  Books may be candidates for transfer to Special Collections should they meet one or more of them:

  •  MARKET VALUE: Books with significant replacement costs (currently valued at more than $500 per volume);
  • RARITY AND SCARCITY: Books whose demand exceeds their supply: these include books with fewer than ten copies held in the United States; books not held by another New Jersey library; books unavailable in HathiTrust; books issued by private presses, generally in fewer than 500 copies; 
  •  BIBLIOGRAPHIC AND RESEARCH VALUE: Books that can significantly contribute to our knowledge and/or ability to teach the history of the book, or possessing texts with enduring research value; these include: first appearance in book form of collected literary authors and the first appearance in book form of collected seminal theoretical or critical studies; books relating directly to the history and material culture of New Jersey; books relating to William Elliot Griffis or that document the history of Westerners in Japan during the Meiji period; books from the libraries of notable persons or institutions (significant or understudied writers, artists, printers, publishers, collectors, scholars or notable historical figures) bearing annotations or unique genealogical information.
  • PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Because our rare book collections document the history of the printed book, we consider for transfer books in unusual formats, such as miniature books, nineteenth century novels in parts, annuals and gift-books, dime novels, printed ephemera, and extra-illustrated books.  Artifactual details that help foreground book history for research or teaching purposes are similarly valued and preserved: for example, books that have distinctive bindings, plates, original art or photographs, unusual typography, unusual printed surfaces, e.g. wood, fabric, Mylar, cloth, glass, metal, handmade paper, etc., or display collecting practices of a particular period, for example books containing extensive annotation or extra-illustration.  
  • DATE: Early printed books, dated according to the parameters the Library of Congress considers “early printing” for a particular geographical location: through 1600 for continental Europe, 1640 in Great Britain, and 1700 in Latin America. Because printing spread gradually in the United States with westward expansion occurring over a long period of time, dates will differ from region to region, and state to state. All American imprints should be considered for given rare book treatment if printed before 1820; books published in the Midwest may be considered if printed before 1860. Similarly books printed in the northwest before 1875 may be considered candidates for rare book treatment, as should books printed in the southwest before 1875. Because of Rutgers’ internationally recognized commitment to Jerseyana, books printed in New Jersey before 1850 should be given rare book treatment. 
  • CONDITION: Items meeting the foregoing criteria are not automatically added to the rare book collections. Wet and/or moldy books that pose a risk to the collection, and mutilated volumes that have lost their integrity as artifacts will be rejected, as will books or collections that severely impact space limitations. 


Rare books identified for possible transfer to the Griffis Collection or Sinclair Collection will be evaluated by those curators respectively. Otherwise, rare books identified for possible transfer to Special Collections will be evaluated by the Rare Books Librarian (or an appropriately trained librarian designated for that purpose) in consultation with the Head of Preservation or Associate Director of Special Collections and University Archives, where warranted. Candidates for transfer may be identified by any Rutgers Librarian, or patron. Once the decision to transfer has been made, Central Technical Services will review the cataloging and make necessary changes to the record, in consultation with the appropriate curator. The book will then be relabeled and delivered to Special Collections and University Archives for conservation treatment, if required, and shelving. 



Guidelines for deaccessioning rare books are established by the Collection Policy for Special Collections and University Archives.vii  

Rare books will be deaccessioned only when they do not fall within the collecting scope of Special Collections, or their physical condition has significantly deteriorated. Materials may be transferred to a more appropriate collection within or outside of Rutgers University, or otherwise treated as determined by the circumstances of their removal, subject to the terms of acquisition, University regulations, and state and federal laws.