Special Collections & University Archives

Collecting Policy

Formats We Collect:

Manuscripts and Archival Material:

  • audio recordings
  • business records
  • college records
  • correspondence
  • diaries and similar first person accounts
  • maps and surveys
  • organizational records
  • professional, personal, and family papers

Printed or Published Material:

  • books and pamphlets
  • broadsides
  • University publications
  • ephemera
  • maps
  • photographs

Audio Visual Material:

  • photographs of all varieties
  • moving images
  • oral histories
  • postcards
  • posters
  • videos
  • CDs
  • DVDs

Electronic or Digital Material:

Where items originally existed in a non-digital format, we prefer to acquire items in the non-digital format, accepting the digital format as a supplement or, if the original no longer exists, as a substitute. Material that is “born digital” will be considered if it is accessible for research, can be migrated and preserved relatively easily using accepted industry standards and common technologies, and includes appropriate metadata. In addition, Special Collections will accept electronic records and digital images from the University for the University Archives


Even though our main focus is on collecting paper-based material, we selectively acquire art (mostly as a gift) to complement our African Americana and Caribbean West Indies art collections

What Makes a Book Rare?

Some books in our collection are not necessarily old or expensive, but they considered rare. Taken literally, the term rare is misleading. To be considered rare a book must be more than just scarce; it must be scarce relative to the demand for it.

Age by itself is not enough to make a book valuable. The importance of the text, the condition of the book, and demand for it will determine the valuation of an old book. However, certain categories of books are generally more sought after, including all books printed before 1501, English books printed before 1641, books printed in the Americas before 1801, and books printed west of the Mississippi before 1850.

Sometimes only a particular edition of a book is rare, such as the first printing of a work, known as a first edition, a true first, a first issue or, sometimes, just a first. In some cases it is the signature of the author, the artwork contained in the book, or the typesetting, layout, or binding of an edition that makes it desirable to the collector. The signature of the author might be the key to a book’s value, or, in the case of an association copy, the previous owner might be someone interesting or famous. Or, the information contained in the book may simply not be available anywhere else.

Our general criteria for considering a book as Rare & Collectible are:

  • Age
  • Association Copies
  • Dedication Copies
  • First Editions
  • Fore-edge Paintings
  • Vellum, or Suede Bindings
  • Limited Editions
  • Miniature Books
  • Out of Print
  • Presentation Copies
  • Privately Printed
  • Provenance
  • Signed Copies
  • Uncut/Untrimmed Edges
  • Unique/being the only one
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