Guide to the Research Collections

- Early Imprints and Valuable Works, Rare Book Division (Billings *K)

Early Imprints and Valuable Works, Rare Book Division (Billings *K)

Many of the works available in the Rare Book Division are also available for general use in reprints, later editions, or historical collections in other divisions of the library.

The collection of Americana in the Rare Book Division contains a large number of early English and Hispanic-American imprints published no later than 1800. These and early European imprints may be divided into several categories.

The first is composed of early works of discovery, exploration, and travel, a very rich group with its nucleus in the collection made by James Lenox. A fine collection relating to Columbus is discussed in a following section. Through gift and purchase the library has continued to add materials published before 1551 containing references to America as itemized in Henry Harrisse's Bibliotheca Americana Vetustissima; it now has most of the works listed, either in original editions or photostatic copies.

Another category of rare books includes early works which mention or describe the Americas, early historical works relating to national colonial periods, and writings not essentially historical which reflect political, social, or religious aspects of the periods of settlement and expansion. Of the many national literatures represented in this early material three are particularly notable: Polish Americana;1 works in German;2 and French acts of royal administration, together with accounts of French travelers in the United States.3

The collection of American periodicals is also rich. Those of the eighteenth century and valuable works of later date are kept in the Rare Book Division. American newspapers published before 1800 and certain rare frontier, Confederate, and other newspapers of a later date are housed in the Rare Book Division; other files are kept in the Newspaper Collection.

Maps and atlases, including a good collection covering the periods of American exploration and colonization, are available in the Map Division, where the literature of American cartography is also housed. Rare maps are to be found in the Manuscripts and Archives Division, the Spencer Collection, and the Rare Book Division.