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Collection Development Policy on Rare Books

Monmouth University Library collects rare works in ninetieth- and twentieth-century American and British literature, as well as in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English and European history. Operating with modest funding, the goal of Monmouth University Library Special Collections is to acquire primary artifacts that build on our existing strengths and support of university curriculum. The special collections librarian will meet on an annual basis with department chairs and determine which artifacts that aid in academic research may be sought for purchase. To ensure all purchases are legitimate and legal, relationships with rare book dealers in New York, New Jersey and Boston have been established. Specific donor guidelines exist, and must be satisfied whenever rare works are donated to the collection. However, all gifts and all purchases become candidates for rare books classification when they meet the following criteria:

VALUATION: Books are sought by the Monmouth University Library when they first and foremost provide scholarly value. Books are never collected solely for their monetary or market value, and a book is not considered rare because of its market worth or its age. Rare books are purchased to enhance research use, or are retrieved from stacks and placed in rare book classification only when they possess first edition status, edition variation, favorable provenance history, and publication scarcity. When rare books are discovered within open library stacks, and their original bindings have been replaced with commercial ones, the special collections librarian will nevertheless protect them from theft, reclassified them as rare books, and place them in the Special Collections Reading Room; that is, commercial bindings do not diminish a rare work’s scholarly research value, paper quality, or typography style.

DATE: Books published during the hand-press period (prior to 1830) in both England and Europe will be issued rare status, as indicated by ACRL’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Section. However, rare first editions exist in every century, and twentieth-century first editions are especially difficult to acquire. All American imprints should be given rare book status if printed through 1820. Because of our existing New Jersey special collection, books printed in New Jersey before 1850 should be given rare book treatment. Such works are removed from the New Jersey Collection and reclassified in the Special Collections Room.

COST: Materials costing or valued at more than $500 per volume.

EDITION: First editions and limited editions of 500 copies or fewer are favored. 

UNUSUAL FORMATS: Broadsides, manuscripts, miniature books, and artists’ books are considered.

ARTIFACTUAL ASPECTS: Items containing historically significant, scarce or valuable bindings or wrappers are sought, as are items with detachable illustrations. Desired items containing original or noteworthy typography–in the broadest sense, to mean both typeface and design are also sought. Also, items that are printed on unusual, noteworthy or valuable printing surfaces (i.e. vellum, fabric, costly hand-made paper) are desired.

ASSOCIATION COPIES: Items from the libraries of notable writers, artists, printers, publishers, collectors, scholars or notable historians, and items containing significant genealogical information.

INSCRIPTIONS: Items signed by an author are both expensive and highly valuable, but provide little scholarly value or research use.  Thorough consideration will be placed on such purchases when the need arises.