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Rare Books Research at NYPL: Home


Welcome! You found this LibGuide because you want to know more about rare books at the NYPL. When it comes to doing research in this area, there are several options available at The New York Public Library. This guide serves as an introduction to these resources and will provide helpful hints for starting your research. The order of the tabs in this LibGuide loosely mirrors the steps you should take in conducting research.

If you are interested in Archives and Manuscripts at the NYPL please go to the Archives & Manuscripts Research at NYPL LibGuide

What is a rare book?

According to Arnoud Gerits, the President of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, there are no clear definitions that distinguish “rare books” from “old books” or “antiquarian books.” The current standard definition of an antiquarian book is a book over 100 years old. Traditionally, antiquarian books are those printed before 1800, which is considered to be the start of industrial machine printing and the production of books fundamentally changed from hand-press printing. Through usage the meaning has changed and rare books can now include twentieth century books, such as literary first editions. There are nineteenth and twentieth century books that are much more difficult to find than a good number of sixteenth and seventeenth century books. "Old" does not necessarily mean “rare,”and  “rare” does not necessarily mean “old.”