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Rare Books and Early Manuscripts at the University of Chicago Library

This guide contains resources, descriptions, and tutorials on how to use the rare book and early manuscript collections at the University of Chicago Library. There is also information and resources on book history, printing, and book collecting.

History of the Book and Printing: Print Resources available in the Library

Identifying and Locating Rare Books

Books and Book Collecting: Search for specific titles and find rare book vendors. 

Your Old Books: This guide is published by RBMS and addresses some frequently asked questions about rare and older books and their values.

Advanced Book Exchange (ABE): Find rare books on sale from thousands of booksellers.

Alibrisonline marketplace for independent sellers of new and used books, music, and movies, as well as rare and collectible titles. 

Bookfinder: An e-commerce search engine that searches over 150 million books for sale—new, used, rare, out-of-print, and textbooks. 

Palaeography: reading old handwriting 1500 - 1800: A practical online tutorial created by the National Archives, London

ProvenanceCan You Help? for provenance queries. Bibliography of provenance sources. Records for book owners in the CERL Thesaurus.

Book Illustration

Online resources for identification and history of illustration and print techniques:

Glossary of Rare Book Terms

Rare Book Societies and Programs

Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP): news, events, and resources from SHARP on the history and continuation of the printed word.

Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (ABAA): learn about ABAA's events, news, history, and search for rare and out of print books. 

Rare Book School (RBS): 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.

Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the American Library Association (RBMS):  RBMS strives to represent and promote the interests of librarians who work with rare books, manuscripts, and other types of special collections.

Columbia College Chicago: Center for Book and Paper Arts:The Center for Book and Paper Arts is dedicated to the research, teaching, and promotion of the interdisciplinary practices that support the book arts and hand papermaking as contemporary art media. The Center is part of the Interdisciplinary Arts Department at Columbia College Chicago, and in addition to housing both graduate and undergraduate classes for that department, it publishes a critical journal and artists’ books, mounts exhibitions, hosts artist residencies, sponsors symposia and public programs, and provides advanced study through a workshop program.

The Caxton Club of Chicago: program listings, publications, membership directory and links to other sites.

American Academy of Bookbinding: A school of fine binding and book conservation in Telluride, Colorado.


Creating Fine Letterpress Books at Arion Press on PBS NewsHour

The PBS NewsHour visits Arion Press in San Francisco during the making of what is likely the last Bible to be printed by letterpress from hot metal type. "This Bible is unique because this place is unique. It's one of the last shops in the world where all the work on a book is done under one roof. Press director Andrew Hoyem designed and printed the Bible here, and his colleagues cast the type, made the covers, and bound the work by hand. These artisans and their tools have been designated an endangered cultural treasure by the National Trust for Historic preservation." For more information:

Woodcut Printing: 1450-1520

This film focuses on woodcut printing. The use of woodblocks to print text had been known in the East since the 8th century. In Europe the technique was first applied to textiles, but shortly after 1400 it was adopted also for images. There is no sound in this 3 minute video. 

The Engraving Process

A demonstration by Andrew Stein Raftery, Associate Professor of Printmaking, Rhode Island School of Design. In this video Andrew Raftery creates a copper engraving with the same methods done by the old masters of Europe. 

Online Resources for the History of the Book and Printing

Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900) Digital archive of primary sources on copyright from the invention of the printing press (c. 1450) to the Berne Convention (1886) and beyond, focusing on key materials from Renaissance Italy (Venice, Rome), France, the German speaking countries, Britain and the United States. While the focus is copyright, the site is also a helpful resource in understanding printing history in Western Europe and the United States.

The Newberry Library's Book History collectionThe Newberry’s collection on the history of printing and the book arts is one of the world’s leading collections in the field. Collection strengths include the design of letter forms, calligraphy, type and type-founding, technical innovations in printing, design usage and theory, bookselling, bookbinding, papermaking, the history of book collecting, and the history of libraries.

Slash:Paper Under the Knife:Online version of an exhibition that ran from 10/7/2009 - 4/4/2010 at the Museum of Arts and Design (NY).

Book History Online (BHO) and Annual Bibliography of the History of the Book and libraries (ABHB):An online version of the Annual Bibliography of the History of the Book (and Libraries), the current international bibliography in the field of book and library history.

The Kimball Brooker Prize for Undergraduate Book Collecting

The University of Chicago Library is the proud sponsor of the T. Kimball Brooker Prize for undergraduate book collecting. Mr. Brooker (Ph.D.1996) established the Prize to foster a love of the book and to encourage book collecting among undergraduates. Entry in the competition is open to current second-year and fourth-year students at the University of Chicago.

 One $1,000 prize will be awarded to a fourth-year student, and one $500 prize to a second-year student.

To learn more about the prize visit:


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