Rare Books Collection Development Statement

At present, Rutgers University Libraries have not identified specific subject areas, languages or formats in which they formally and aggressively collect rare materials, with the exception of materials collected in the Rare Books division of Special Collections and University Archives. This division manages a modest rare book fund from which it captures some quality items that come on the market and complement its collection. (See: Addendum A). In addition, some other collections may periodically be enriched by subsequent rare purchases and/or gifts. Rare materials are typically bought by individual selectors and are then considered for inclusion into a rare book collection or rare book area upon acquisition. Generally speaking, gifts and purchases become candidates for rare books treatment according to the following criteria:

  1. DATE: Date of imprint reflects the latest date of early printing for a particular geographical location: through 1600 for continental Europe, 1640 in Great Britain, and 1700 in Latin America. Because the spread of printing in the Unites States occurred over a long period of time, dates will differ from region to region, and state to state. All American imprints should be given rare book treatment if printed through 1820; books published in the midwest may be considered as candidates for rare book treatment 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 nationally recognized commitment to Jerseyana, books printed in New Jersey before 1850 should be given rare book treatment. (See: Addendum B) for a more detailed examination of the date parameters of early printing.
  1. COST: Materials costing or valued at more than $500 per volume.
  1. EDITION: Limited editions of 500 copies or fewer. First appearance in book form of collected literary writers and seminal critical studies.
  1. UNUSUAL FORMATS: manuscripts, broadsides, miniature books, etc.
  1. ARTIFACTUAL ELEMENTS: Items containing historically significant, scarce or valuable bindings or wrappers: either unique, copy specific bindings or early and significant edition bindings. Items with detachable illustrations, such as are subject to potential theft or illustrations of limited quantity or obvious artistic worth (eg. prints by collectible artists). Items containing original or noteworthy typography--in the broadest sense, to mean both typeface and design. Items printed on unusual, noteworthy, or valuable sprinting surfaces (i.e. vellum, fabric, costly hand-made paper).
  1. ASSOCIATION COPIES: Items from the libraries of notable writers, artists, printers, publishers, collectors, scholars or notable historical figures and items containing significant genealogical information.
  1. INSCRIPTIONS: Items signed by the author.

    While these materials should be considered rare, they need not be permanently housed in special areas. If, however, it is determined that a text is indeed rare, then the appropriate storage, maintenance, and security variables should be addressed and non-circulating status attached. Since many of these items are reported as rare for reasons other than their subject significance, anomalous descriptive techniques may prove requisite.

Final report of the Rare Books Collection Development Policy Statement subcommittee.

May 14, 1993
Ronald Becker
Joseph P. Consoli (chair)
Michael Joseph
Patricia Piermatti
Charlene Shults

Edited 1996-09-09

Addendum A: Abbreviated Rare Book General Policy


The Rare Book Collection in Special Collections and University Archives acquires, preserves, and makes accessible holdings in a number of fields for use by the university and general scholarly communities. The Collection holds over 65,000 books and pamphlets, 6000 broadsides, and approximately 20 medieval manuscripts. Materials range in date from the tenth to the twentieth century with the bulk of the Collection in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.


The Rare Book Collection generally confines the majority of its acquisitions through purchase to fields of strength such as all aspects of New Jersey history, printing, and culture; early American almanacs; contemporary editions of Cobbett and DeFoe; Westerners in Japan; and English language dictionaries. Other purchases are occasionally made by selectors in other disciplines and designated for the Rare Book Collection. Gifts and materials from the general collections are considered according to the following criteria:

  • Imprint Date: Books printed from the incunable period through the end of the seventeenth century are automatically considered to be rare books. Beyond that, items which should routinely considered for inclusion in the Rare Book Collection are materials printed before:
    1. 1901 in Africa and the Pacific
    2. 1876 in the United States west of the Mississippi
    3. 1851 in New Jersey
    4. 1826 in Eastern Europe
    5. 1821 in the United States east of the Mississippi, in Canada, and in Latin America
    6. 1801 in continental Europe and Great Britain
  • Other Criteria
    1. Cost - works costing more than $500.
    2. Edition - Limited editions of 500 copies or fewer. First editions of collected writers and of principal secondary works.
    3. Format - medieval manuscripts, broadsides, miniature books, theater programs, etc.
    4. Bibliographic Features - items notable for their bindings, typography, drawings, or illustrations. Also volumes containing notable autographs, marginal annotations, or those whose provenance or association with historical figures or events or which contribute significantly to a rare or rich collection already at Rutgers.
    5. Preservation - fragile items which need special handling and facilities.
    6. Security - items requiring more security than general collections can provide.

While the above materials should be considered as rare, they need not be permanently stored in Special Collections and University Archives. If, however, it is determined that a text is rare, then the appropriate storage, maintenance, and security variables should be addressed.

Addendum B: Date of Imprint

The following is a global division based upon the spread of printing. The date beside the geographical region represents the conventionally accepted end date of early printing in that region. Early printed books should be given rare book treatment. (For books printed in New Jersey, prefer Part 1 of document.)

Geographical Region End Date
Continental Europe through 1600
Great Britain 1640
Canada 1850
Latin America 1700
West Indies 1820
New York (N.Y.) 1820
New York 1830
Alabama 1840
Alaska 1840
Arizona 1890
Arkansas 1870
California 1875
Colorado 1876
Connecticut 1820
Delaware 1820
Florida 1860
Georgia 1820
Hawaii 1860
Idaho 1890
Illinois (but Chicago 1871) 1858
Indiana 1850
Iowa 1860
Kansas 1875
Kentucky 1830
Louisiana 1840
Maine 1820
Maryland 1820
Mass. 1820
Michigan 1850
Minnesota 1865
Mississippi 1840
Missouri 1850
Montana 1890
Nebraska 1875
Nevada 1890
New Hampshire 1820
New Jersey 1820
New Mexico 1875
North Carolina 1820
North Dakota 1890
Ohio 1840
Oklahoma 1870
Oregon 1875
Pa. (outside of Phila.) 1830
Philadelphia (Pa.) 1820
Rhode Island 1820
South Carolina 1820
South Dakota 1890
Tennessee 1840
Texas 1860
Utah 1890
Vermont 1820
Virginia 1820
Washington (state) 1880
Washington, D.C. 1820
West Virginia 1830
Wisconsin 1850
Wyoming 1890

Confederate imprints (1861-1865 for the following)

North Carolina
South Carolina