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Publisher's Bookbinding Glossary

The PBO glossary contains more than 450 entries relating to bindings and the publishers' bindings era (1815-1930).

Book History Timeline

From Cave Paintings to the Internet, this is a chronological and thematic database on the history of information and media.

Rare Book and Manuscript Professional Organizations

Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS)  The official website of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). RBMS strives to represent and promote the interests of librarians who work with rare books, manuscripts, and other types of special collections.

Society of American Archivists (SAA)  Twice-yearly journal (American Archivist); newsletter; annual conference; various other continuing education and activities.

Rare Book Continuing Education Programs

Rare Book School (RBS) 
Rare Book School (RBS) provides continuing-education opportunities for students from all disciplines and levels to study the history of written, printed, and born digital materials with leading scholars and professionals in the field. 

Research Institutions

American Antiquarian Society
The American Antiquarian Society (AAS) is an independent research library founded in 1812 in Worcester, Massachusetts. The library's collections document the life of America's people from the colonial era through the Civil War and Reconstruction. Collections include books, pamphlets, newspapers, periodicals, broadsides, manuscripts, music, graphic arts, and local histories.

Folger Shakespeare Library 
The Folger Shakespeare Library is home to the world’s largest and finest collection of Shakespeare materials and to major collections of other rare Renaissance books, manuscripts, and works of art.  The Folger is a world-renowned research center on Shakespeare and on the early modern age in the West and serves a wide audience of researchers and visitors.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
The Huntington Library is one of the largest and most complete research libraries in the United States in its fields of specialization. Collections include rare books and manuscripts principally in the areas of British and American history and literature, 15th century European books, history of science, maritime history, science and technology, and Renaissance exploration and cartography.

Morgan Library and Museum
The Morgan Library and Museum is an independent research library and museum with extensive holdings of manuscripts, drawings, and rare books, including one of the preeminent collections of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts

Rare Books and Manuscripts Resources

The English Short Title Catalogue
The English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) lists over 460,000 items published between 1473 and 1800, mainly, but not exclusively, in English, published mainly in the British Isles and North America, from the collections of the British Library and over 2,000 other libraries

The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue 
The Incunabula Short-Title Catalogue (ISTC) developed at the British Library is the most comprehensive international bibliographical database of fifteenth-century printing. In January 2008 it contained detailed records of 29,777 editions printed from moveable type before 1501.

Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL)
CERL’s primary objective is to record all books printed in Europe during the hand-press period, i.e. before c.1830, in a machine-readable catalogue, called the Hand Press Book Database. Two other significant initiatives are the development of the CERL Thesaurus and the CERL Portal. The CERL Thesaurus was developed to address the problem that place name and personal names in Europe varied from country to country in the period of hand press printing. The CERL Thesaurus contains forms of imprint places, imprint names, personal names and corporate names as found in material printed before the middle of the nineteenth century—including variant spellings, forms in Latin and other languages, and fictitious names.

The European Library
“A portal which offers access to the combined resources (books, magazines, journals.…—both digital and non-digital) of the 45 national libraries of Europe. It offers free searching and delivers digital objects—some free, some priced.”

Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog KVK
A metasearch engine for querying the holdings of the major national libraries of the world, academic libraries in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, and various new book sites in single, comprehensive queries.

Directory of Web Resources for the Rare Materials Cataloguer
Prepared by the Bibliographic Standards Committee of the Rare Book and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College Research Libraries, the links concern the following topics:

  • General Cataloguing Sites
  • Rare Book Cataloguing Sites and Resources
  • Library of Congress Lists
  • Reference Sites—General—Language Resources—Biography Sites—Place Names—Calendars and Computus
  • Special Collections Sites
  • History of Books and Printing
  • Special Topics for Rare Books
  • Images of Rare Books
  • Catalogues which are Particularly Useful for Special Collections
  • Medieval Manuscripts

RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage (formerly Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarianship, RBML) is the Association of College and Research Libraries' journal covering issues pertaining to the world inhabited by special collections libraries and cultural heritage institutions.

Rare Book and Manuscript Exhibits and Online Collections

Large digital libraries of pre-1800 printed books in western languages. Large means: more than 100 works printed before 1800 in English, Latin, French, German, etc. (no Slavic languages) which are whooly digitized as facsimiles. 

British Library's Online Gallery.
View virtual books with 'Turning the Pages', enjoy online exhibitions, and take a highlights tour.

Library and Archives Exhibits Online This site features links to online exhibitions that have been created by libraries, archives, and historical societies, as well as to museum online exhibitions with a significant focus on library and archival materials. The scope is international and multi-lingual.

PictureIt Rare Book Reader  The PictureIt site puts some of the most beautiful and soughtafter items in the UM Library collections into the hands of readers worldwide – virtually. 

Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930 Decorative bindings cover many of the books that people have in their homes today, but their owners are often unaware of their cultural and historical significance. These bindings reflect not only social and cultural history, but bibliographic history as well.


Book History Societies

The principal American societies include APHA, BSA, BSUVA, and SHARP. All have open membership, and they all sponsor the usual mix of journals, newsletters, conferences, and related activities.

The American Printing History Association  (APHA) Quarterly journal (Printing History); newsletter; annual conference in the fall in various locations; annual meeting in NYC on the last Saturday in January; several regional chapters

The Bibliographical Society of America (BSA) Quarterly journal (Papers of the BSA); monographs; sponsors occasional lectures in various locations; annual meeting in NYC on the last Friday in January

The Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia  (BSUVA) Annual volume (Studies in Bibliography, also available online free on the Society's website); monographs; annual meeting in March at UVa.

The Grolier Club Founded in 1884, the Grolier Club of New York is America’s oldest and largest society for bibliophiles and enthusiasts in the graphic arts. Named for Jean Grolier, the Renaissance collector renowned for sharing his library with friends, the Club’s objective is to foster "the literary study and promotion of the arts pertaining to the production of books.

The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP) Annual volume (Book History); newsletter; online bulletin board

The Bibliographical Society (London) Quarterly journal (The Library, also available online for a fee); monographs; monthly meetings in London

Missing or Stolen Materials Databases

Missing Materials The loss of materials held in libraries and archives worldwide is a concern not only for owning institutions, but also for the international antiquarian book trade and global law enforcement. In order to deter thieves, prevent inadvertent purchases and recover valuable stolen cultural materials, OCLC Research, the RLG Partnership and the RBMS Security Committee convened members of the cultural heritage collecting community to explore strategies for sharing reliable information about missing rare books and other materials.

Missing or Stolen Maps Database  In early February 2008, the International Antiquarian Mapsellers Association (IAMA) voted to provide funding for the development and maintenance of a missing and stolen map database. The database is the result of advance cooperation and collaboration between dealers, collectors, librarians and curators. The names of the early non-IAMA member supporters may be seen online on our acknowledgment page. IAMA dealers are listed in a separate member directory.


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Jeremy Dibbell
Special Collections, Bartle Library

See also

Here is a brief listing of related area subject guides.  A more comprehensive list of all library subject area guides is available.