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Rare Books and Special Collections
Sidney E. Berger
Item Number: 978-1-55570-964-8
Publisher: ALA Neal-Schuman
Price: $129.00
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Winner of the 2015 ABC-CLIO Library Publishing Award

560 pages
8.5" x 11"
ISBN-13: 978-1-55570-964-8
Year Published: 2014
AP Categories: A, B, C, D, I, J, Z

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From cuneiform, coins, and codices to prints, drawings, photographs, and maps, departments of rare books and special collections are the premier repositories of significant printed and manuscript works and artifacts. Entrusted with the responsibility of preserving the records of history and culture, these institutions enable access to millions of source materials. Berger, a veteran of rare book and special collections, offers a landmark examination of this field, aimed at practitioners in the library field, instructors teaching courses on the subject, booksellers, private collectors, historians, bibliophiles, and others involved in rare and unique materials. Showing readers everything they need to know about rare books and special collections, this wide-ranging book offers coverage of such key topics as
  • The profession’s history and its relevance in the face of an increasingly digital world
  • Archives’ relationship to the special collections department and their role in the wider institution
  • Collection development, cataloging, processing, physical layout, and other operational functions, with coverage of acquisition sources and methods
  • What everyone needs to know about the physical materials in their care, including preservation, conservation, and restoration, storage, handling, and security 
  • Reference and outreach services, including a look at exhibitions and tours
  • Fundraising and financial management
  • Legal and ethical issues
  • Forgeries, fakes, and facsimiles
  • Bibliography and its impact on the rare book world, including a look at booksellers, donors, and auctions
  • The present state of books in our digital environment
  • The vocabulary of the trade
Rare Books and Special Collections presents a meticulous and systematic understanding of this growing field.


List of Illustrations

Foreword, by Joel Silver



1          Some Practical Realities

2          Running a Rare Book Department

3          Archives

4          The Physical Materials of the Collection

5          Physical Layout and Operations

6          Fund-raising

7          Security

8          Legal Issues

9          Bibliography

10        Book Collecting and Handling

11        Outreach

12        Preservation, Conservation, Restoration, and Disaster Planning

13        Special Collections Departments Today

14        Other Issues


Appendix 1: RBMS Thesauri and Rare Book Cataloging

Appendix 2: Levels of Collecting and the RLG Conspectus

Appendix 3: Booksellers’ Catalogs and the Business of Selling

Appendix 4: Paper Sizes

Appendix 5: RBMS Standards and Guidelines

Appendix 6: Department Forms

Appendix 7: Citing Sources and Plagiarism


About the Author

Sidney E. Berger is currently the Ann C. Pingree Director of the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. It is the third-largest library in an art museum in the United States. Sid and his wife, Michele Cloonan, are proprietors of the Doe Press, for which they hand print books of poetry and other works, some by Pulitzer Prize winners. He makes paper and casts type by hand. Since 2002, he has been an English, Communications, and GSLIS (Graduate School of Library and Information Science) professor at Simmons College in Boston, where he teaches Editing Copy and Proof, History of the Book, and Rare Books and Special Collections Librarianship. Sid is also an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He has published and lectured widely on literary, bibliographical, and library subjects. 

”A tour de force compendium of accurate, carefully evaluated information concerning rare books as physical objects and the complex accountabilities associated with special collections librarianship … will serve as an excellent textbook for library school students and employees learning on the job, and could do much to raise standards for directing special collections departments nationally."
— Technical Services Quarterly

”This splendid book is an essential purchase for libraries that have rare book collections and highly recommended as a reference source for libraries whose patrons have inquiring minds."
— Technicalities

”A tour de force. It is comprehensive and should be on the reference shelf of every special collections department."
— Portal

”With this work, Berger pulls together in a single source diverse topics ranging from call slip creation to collation to emergency planning. Aspiring and newly minted rare book librarians will appreciate the practical approaches Berger brings to these diverse topics, as well as the many resources listed throughout the work. More importantly, Berger delves into the critical importance of collaboration and accessibility and the roles they play in research-driven activities."
— Journal for the Society of North Carolina Archivists

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