Places & Spaces: Libraries & Centers: Special Collections and University Archives:

Rare Books

The Rare Book Collection contains approximately 52,000 volumes which support research in the humanities, including British and American history and political thought (primarily seventeenth- and eighteenth-century volumes and pamphlets); early New Jersey history and culture (to 1850); the history of science and technology (especially herbals, botanies and agriculture); Westerners in the Orient; lexicography (dictionaries and grammars); English and American literature; and early American and European printing history. Included are European imprints, chiefly before 1801, and American imprints, especially before 1821. Specimens of fine printing, limited editions, private press works, first editions and autographed copies beyond these dates are also held. Noteworthy are early editions of Shakespeare and contemporary editions of Milton, Richard Baxter, Defoe, Cobbett, Dickens, Swinburne, De la Mare, Joyce, Philip Freneau, Melville, Whitman, Twain and Sinclair Lewis. The Rare Book Collection also includes a collection of materials that document New Jersey Book Arts and the Artists' Book Movement in New Jersey. These consist primarily in three subunits: The John DePol Collection of American Wood Engraving (which incorporates an archive of correspondence, ephemera and prints by John DePol, several discrete collections of engraved woodblocks by Lynd Ward, including the 230 woodblocks to his masterpiece, Vertigo (1937), and a collection of late 19th century woodblocks, engraving tools and ephemera constructed by George Howes Whittle); a collection of rare and unique artists' books, created predominantly by New Jersey book artists from 1980-; and an archive of materials about New Jersey book arts and the annual New Jersey Book Arts Symposium. Also included in the Rare Book Collection are early New Jersey laws, atlases, sermons and orations, rare periodicals, nineteenth- century criminal literature, children's literature, miniature books, and works on slavery and Native Americans. Almanacs (1663-present), sixteenth-century medical botanies, literary and gift annuals, theater promptbooks of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and voyages and travels are also represented. For additional information, consult the Rare Book Collection Development Policy Statement.

Collection Contents

Additional Information

Items in the rare book collection of Special Collections and University Archives are stored in closed stacks and do not circulate. They are identified in the Library Catalog by the presence of an "X," either by itself or in combination with other characters, in an item's sublocation. To retrieve them, it is necessary to fill out a separate call slip for each item. As identified on signs in the New Jersey Room, a few of the genre collections (e.g., items with a sublocation of X- TEXT) are stored offsite and require advance notice to consult.

A small reference collection pertaining to rare books, and to materials in other formats held by Special Collections and University Archives, is denoted by the sublocation X-REF. Unlike the other sublocations which include an "X," this one is housed on open stacks in the New Jersey Room.

Rare periodicals, excluding most newspapers, are identified in the Library Catalog by the PER III sublocation. They, too, are stored in closed stacks and must be requested via call slips. As with the newspapers, holdings for each title vary in completeness. Contact the New Jersey Room reference desk at 848/932-7510, or email Ronald Becker (, to determine which specific issues or years are available.

Supplementing the rare book collection are a variety of microform publications available in the Current Periodicals and Microforms reading room on the basement level of Alexander Library. These titles include such sets as the Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800 and the American Periodical Series. To identify locations for these and other relevant microform sets, consult the list of Microforms in Alexander Library.

One substantial set of early printed texts available to members of the Rutgers community, and accessible to anyone at computer terminals in the Rutgers University Libraries, is Early English Books Online and EEBO - TCP.

The Libraries also makes available Evans Digital Texts Evans Digital is a fulltext, online version of all the titles originally published in a microform set, Early American Imprints, Series I. Based on Charles Evans'comprehensive American Bibliography, it will eventually include over 36,000 works. Evans Digital will make available, in Adobe Acrobat images, every book, pamphlet, and broadside published in the American colonies or the United States between 1639 and 1800.

For additional reformatted holdings of rare books see Major Microfilm Collections, which include Gerritsen Women's History Collection, 1543-1945, Three Centuries of English and American Plays, 1500-1800, Black Literature, 1827-1940, American Periodicals, 1741-1900, and other major databases of early books and periodicals.

Rare printed materials in other formats (newspapers, maps, broadsides and ephemera) that are held by Special Collections and University Archives are included in the description of Other Printed Collections. A description of other rare book collections in the Rutgers University Libraries is also available.

For further information contact:

Ronald Becker, Head, Special Collections
Special Collections and University Archives
Rutgers University Libraries
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
New Brunswick, NJ 08903-1163