Guide to the Research Collections



The dictionary catalog of the Rare Book Division has been published in book form in 21 volumes by G. K. Hall & Company (Boston, 1971); it is supplemented and analyzed by many useful special indexes and files.

Almanac File

A card file (active, 5 card drawers) in two parts of American almanacs published before 1821 and other almanac rarities: (1) An alphabetical file arranged by title of almanac or compiler's name (2 card drawers), and (2) A chronological file arranged by the year for which the almanac was issued. This file is in effect a shelf list of the almanacs in the division (3 card drawers).

Autograph and Provenance File

A card file arranged alphabetically by names which appear as signatures or as manuscript inscriptions in books shelved in the Rare Book Division and the Spencer Collection (active, 15 card drawers). The names may be those of author, illustrator, etc., or of previous owners (personal or institutional).

Bibliographical References File

This is a typed-slip file which contains short form references to bibliographies cited on catalog cards for Rare Book Division and Spencer Collection books (active, 1 card drawer). It provides the library's classmark for the cited bibliography, allowing the reader to obtain more detailed bibliographical information than can be included in cataloging.

Bindings File

A card file of books in the division arranged alphabetically by names of binders and owners (as indicated by coats of arms, signatures, etc. on the bindings) (active, 4 card drawers). The alphabetical list is followed by a classed arrangement by century for unsigned bindings, and by special categories (such as embroidered, silver, curious bindings, fore-edge paintings, etc.). There is also a section containing original and facsimile binders' labels.

Books Printed on Colored Paper

An alphabetical list by author of books in the Rare Book Division, the Spencer Collection, and elsewhere in the library that are printed on colored paper (active, 250 cards). The color of the paper is indicated in each case. Some newspapers, broadsides, and other types of material are also listed.

Books Printed on Vellum

A card index for printed books on vellum in the Rare Book Division, Spencer Collection, Music Division, and elsewhere in the library, arranged alphabetically by author (active, 200 cards).

Broadsides File

A card file arranged chronologically by year, month, and day of broadsides in the Rare Book Division and certain other locations in the library (active, 11 card drawers). Since the broadside collection is not yet fully cataloged, the cards in this file serve as an official record of a portion of the library's holdings; it is included in the printed catalog of the Rare Book Division.

Carriers' Address File

This small file is of much curiosity and interest (active, 1 card drawer). It was formerly the custom of newspapers, particularly in the United States, to prepare a poem at the beginning of each year for carriers to present to customers in the expectation of a monetary reward for the past year's services. Such addresses were printed as broadsides or, much less frequently, as pamphlets. The Rare Book Division's holdings extend from the mid-eighteenth century to the time when the custom fell into general disuse around 1900. The card index file is divided into three parts: (1) A chronological arrangement subdivided by name of newspaper; (2) an arrangement by place of printing; and (3) an arrangement by title of newspaper.

Chapbooks File

A card file of the chapbooks in the Rare Book Division arranged under main entry (author or title) (active, 3 card drawers). It includes some material shelved elsewhere in the library, particularly in the Central Children's Room of the Branch Libraries.

Check List of the Documents of the First Fourteen Congresses

The library's holdings, which with few exceptions are in the Rare Book Division, are checked in an interleaved copy of A. W. Greely's Public Documents of the First Fourteen Congresses, 1789-1817 (1900). These checked volumes form the library's official record. There is also an incomplete alphabetical index to subjects and names of persons and corporate bodies in six card drawers (active).

Check List of State Documents

The Rare Book Division's holdings of U.S. territorial and state documents printed before 1801, or during territorial status, are checked in Grace E. MacDonald's Check-List of Session Laws, Preliminary Check-List Statutes, and Preliminary Check-List of Legislative Journals (1936-37). These checked volumes form the official record of the library's holdings (active).

Christmas Books File

A card file of books and pamplets sent out by individuals or firms as Christmas greetings, arranged alphabetically by name of sender (active, 1 card drawer). Material shelved in the Rare Book Division and elsewhere in the library is noted.

Date File

A chronological catalog of books printed through 1800 shelved in the Rare Book Division,

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the Spencer Collection, and in certain other locations such as the Special Collections Reading Room of the Music Division (active, 49 card drawers).

Ephemera Collection

Miscellaneous material not individually cataloged is placed in envelopes arranged alphabetically under subjects such as "Authors," "Churches," or "Tickets." A typed list of subject headings is maintained (active, approximately 300 envelopes).

Imprint Catalog

This is the largest and most important special index in the Rare Book Division (active, 261 card drawers). It is arranged alphabetically by place of printing and by date of imprint under each place. It includes cards for books and broadsides in the division and in the Spencer Collection, as well as for early or unusual imprints in other parts of the library, such as American imprints from 1801 to 1820. Newspapers and federal and state statutes and journals, which are not cataloged on cards, do not appear in this catalog; the Rare Book Division notes its holdings in standard printed bibliographies or check lists, and maintains a separate Newspapers Check List (noted below).

A number of cards for books not in the library are also filed in the Imprint Catalog to establish the record of printing in a city or because the book is important and a record is wanted. The latter volumes of Sabin's Dictionary of Books Relating to America were prepared at the library, and many entries from the proof sheets of that portion of the work covering Smith to the end of the alphabet have been cut, pasted on cards, and filed in the Imprint Catalog.

This catalog was commenced by Wilberforce Eames, as librarian of the Lenox Library, and developed by L. Nelson Nichols and others. It was established in its present form in December, 1912, when various date, place, and historical printing cards were brought together into one file. In the winter of 1914 the Imprint Catalog contained twelve trays of cards. Entirely separate from the official dictionary catalog of the Rare Book Division, it was first planned to serve as a check list of rarities in the library, but now includes a record of all important or unusual imprints that come to the staff's attention. It covers the history of printing of more than 10,000 places. No attempt has been made to include a complete card record of printing under any one place with the exception of English cities through 1640, by means of the cards for University Microfilms' reproductions of English imprints through that year. The earliest imprints of a given place have naturally been emphasized, as have printing in the United States and Latin America. A typed and manuscript index to this catalog is arranged alphabetically by country and state, listing each city and town with a note of the earliest imprint date represented in the library.

Landauer Collection of Title Pages, Colophons, etc.

In 1926, Mrs. Bella C. Landauer gave the library 24 scrapbooks of actual title pages, type ornaments, and colophons (inactive, 24 scrapbooks). This collection richly covers French and Italian typography from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. There is a typed contents list which gives such information as the number of items by century, the chronology of the imprints, imprints by place, etc. The complete title pages are represented by cards in the Imprint Catalog.

Newspapers Check List

A check list of newspapers in the Rare Book Division arranged by cities and towns (active, 2 loose-leaf notebooks). This is the official record of newspapers held by the division.

Presidential Campaign Buttons File

A card index, arranged chronologically by campaign year, of holdings of coins, ribbons, buttons, name tags, etc. for U.S. presidential elections (100 cards). Material for both presidents and unsuccessful candidates for office is included.

Printers before 1521 Index

A card file listing books in the library printed before 1521, arranged alphabetically by the names of the printers and chronologically under each printer (active, 6 card drawers).

Reproductions of Bindings

A vertical file of pictures, most of them clipped from dealers' catalogs, mounted and sourced (active, 11 file boxes). The file is in three parts: pictures of bindings arranged by name of binder (5 boxes); those arranged by special forms, such as chained bindings, embroidered bindings, etc. (3 boxes); and representations of armorial association bindings (3 boxes).

Special Press Catalog

A card file of books and pamphlets printed by special and private presses, a strong collecting interest of the Rare Book Division (active, 18 card drawers). Most of the cards represent material shelved in the division but include some items shelved elsewhere in the library. References to other entries in the division's dictionary catalog pertaining to special presses are included. A printed list of the presses, book clubs, and book designers represented in the special press collection of the division is issued periodically in revised form for internal use by the library as a Preparation Services Technical Order; the most recent is Technical Order 72-9 of March 24, 1972.