Our Collection

Searching for Rare Materials

Although some collections are not yet fully represented online, most Special Collections materials can be found by searching our online catalog. Read on for searching tips, and for information on locating uncataloged collections. Readers are encouraged to contact the Special Collections Librarian for reference inquiries, or for help discovering materials for research.

Searching in the Online Catalog

Our online catalog identifies Special Collections materials with the location "Rare Books," followed by a size or collection designation (e.g., "small" or "Hammond," respectively). Readers looking for a specific volume can search by title, author, or keyword. It is also possible to search by subject to locate materials relevant to a particular topic. If there are many editions of a particular text, sorting by year on the results page will list the editions by date of publications from the earliest to the most recent. Most books printed before 1700 are kept in Special Collections. Readers looking for early printed books can use the Advanced Search to narrow results within a specific year or a range of dates. Searching for books printed between 1701 and 1799 will display titles stored in the Library's Closed Stacks in addition to Special Collections material. Books printed after 1800 are stored throughout the Library, both in the stacks and in Special Collections.

Searching for Items by Donor

Use an author search to find books given to the Library by a specific individual. Many Special Collections items contain unique provenance information, and our catalog records trace these features wherever possible.

Searching for Items by Printer or Publisher

Use an author search to find books printed or published by a particular person or company.

Searching with Form, Genre, Provenance, Printing, and Binding Terms

Catalog records for Special Collections materials use Library of Congress terms to identify items with notable printed or bound features or provenance information, such as printers' advertisements, wooden boards, and bookplates. Special Collections materials are also identified with form and genre terms, to create groups of items such as scrapbooks or epistolary novels in our catalog. These types of materials can be discovered using a subject search. For a list of terms used in our online catalog records, click here.

Searching by Collection

Some of our collections are grouped together in our online catalog, making it possible to browse lists of titles. The Hammond and Sharp Collections are fully represented in our online catalog, and others are partially represented online while cataloging is on-going. You can find books in the following collections in our online catalog by using the collection name as an author field search:

Additionally, a digital copy of the Library's 1850 catalog includes an inventory of the Winthrop Collection, supplementing currently incomplete coverage in our online catalog, and there is a Da Ponte Collection catalog available at the Library. Our broadsides collection is represented in our online catalog with an item-level inventory.

Collections not Represented Online

Not all of the Library's Special Collections are fully cataloged. The Library's institutional archives and some additional archival and manuscript materials, including the Goodhue, Harrison, and Bowne Collections of letters are available for research but not yet fully described or available online. The Library also has card files listing items by place and date of publication, a chronological file of titles, and a provenance file listing titles by donor. These are also accessible to researchers by appointment. If you wish to use archival materials or any of our card files, please contact the Special Collections Librarian to arrange your visit.


For more information, please contact the Special Collections Librarian via email at rare_books@nysoclib.org.