Home Historical Collections Policies and Procedures Statement on Book Policy for Special Collections

Statement on Book Policy for Special Collections

All members of the library staff are concerned with the three-fold function of the library — acquisition, preservation, and use of printed and allied materials. This is especially true with rare books and manuscripts. The character of the HSHC and the judicious display of its contents help to attract gifts of materials for productive research. By the very nature of rare books, their scarcity and their value, it is clear that they must not be subjected to careless, thoughtless, or rigorous usage. The HSHC is organized and maintained to assure steady growth of the rare book and manuscript collections, and their proper preservation and use.

Outlined in “Classes of Materials to be Considered for the Health Sciences Historical Collections” are certain guidelines to be used in selecting books for Special Collections.

No absolute or exclusive set of rules can be drawn up to identify every rare book. No code can take the place of discrimination, sound judgment, and knowledge of the field of rare books. There are, however, certain general criteria, which all should know and apply when fitting.

Simply stated, rare books are uncommon books. More specifically, rare books are identified by their contents or physical characteristics which command more than ordinary attention among book collectors, librarians, scholars and booksellers. Neither rarity nor age alone can determine the value of a book; there are literally thousands of old books which have no value. When, however, a book possessing either or both of these qualities contains additional significant features which make it both unusual and of great interest, then it may be considered valuable. Many qualities can make a book unusual and interesting.

A beautiful or peculiar binding, typographical excellence and illustrations by a noted engraver are a few of the external characteristics which influence value. Previous ownership by a distinguished person frequently lends luster to an otherwise prosaic volume. But the contents of a book and the esteem with which it is regarded are controlling factors in determining whether or not a book is properly considered a rarity.

Last modified: June 23, 2009