Guide to the Research Collections

- Section -- II: -- THE HUMANITIES
- 20 -- GENERAL LITERATURE -- (Including the Berg Collection and the Arents Collection of Books in Parts)


Literature is one of the special strengths of the Research Libraries. Perhaps 25 percent of the volumes in the collections are concentrated here, with notable accumulations of rare and unique materials. The size and scope of the collections make necessary the arrangement of the following chapters in four sections:

The library collects materials of literary merit (belles-lettres) on a comprehensive basis.2 The policy of comprehensive collection applies to American, European, and Latin American literature. For the British Commonwealth countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa), as well as for Scottish literature in both Gaelic and English, and Welsh literature in Celtic, the library attempts representative coverage.

The selection of monographs and serials is systematic for those countries where there are developed bibliographical tools or reliable dealers, but somewhat less systematic for countries where such aids are not available and it is necessary to rely on domestic book selection tools.

Literary texts are normally available in preferred editions. As a rule, the library attempts to secure the first edition of every book wanted and every subsequent edition which adds something to the first through revision, editing, or the addition of exegeses. There are a great number of collected editions of major authors, in addition to the separately published editions of their individual works. The library also acquires the minor works of major literary figures. The Berg Collection collects first appearances in print of the works of English and American authors; since these are often in journals, the collection contains incomplete runs of a number of serial publications.

Literary criticism and biographies of authors form other strong aspects of the literature collection. For major authors, the library collects criticism in all languages, although the literary work itself may be available only in the original language and in English translation (if a translation has been made). The "appreciative" work, designed to introduce an author or literary work to students, is rarely purchased. Textbooks are not usually acquired since the library's research collections are designed for the use of the serious researcher at a mature level.

In contrast to the general policy outlined above, the library deliberately acquires all American literature.