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Chicago’s Rare Book Scene

Planning a trip to Chicago anytime soon? Like a number of other major cities in the U.S. and across the globe, Chicago has its own vibe, its own pizza, and its own rare book scene. We want to tell you more about all the city has to offer for buying rare books at stores and fairs, and for delving into rare book research at some of Chicago’s special collections libraries.

     
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Questions to Ask When Visiting a Special Collections Library

By Audrey Golden. Apr 25, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Libraries & Special Collections, Libraries

Whenever you are in search of a particular rare book that you know a special collections library owns, or when you are seeking out information about a specific author and are hoping to find something exciting and new in that author’s papers, you’ll need to be prepared. Some special collections libraries require you to get permission in advance of your visit to conduct research in a particular writer’s papers (or in the special collections library more generally). Sometimes, especially if a library has recently acquired a collection, it won’t yet be open to researchers. You could really find yourself in a bind if you travel to visit an archive only to learn that you can’t access the materials within it. To prepare for a visit to a special collections library, we have some key questions you should consider before you go and while you’re there.

     
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Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library

By Audrey Golden. Mar 17, 2020. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Libraries & Special Collections, Libraries

Whether you’re an academic researcher, an archivist, or simply someone who has an interest in rare books, you should visit the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library at least once in your life. While the collections at the Beinecke, like those within other special collections libraries, are open only to researchers, there’s still a lot to see even if you’re just passing through New Haven, Connecticut on a weekday afternoon. Indeed, the Beinecke keeps a variety of items from its collection on display within its incredible building at Yale University. And don’t get discouraged by the idea that you need to be a researcher in order to view any of the collections. While academics certainly visit the Beinecke with frequency, researchers do not have to be affiliated with a college or university to access the collections. To be sure, researchers come from a variety of backgrounds to engage in work related to the papers held at the library.

     
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Visiting Ralph Ellison's Papers at the Library of Congress

Are you interested in learning more about the life and literary work of Ralph Ellison? If you find yourself in Washington, D.C., there are many reasons to plan a visit to the Library of Congress. One of those reasons, though, should certainly be to explore the Ralph Ellison papers, which include materials from 1890-2005. There are a total of 74,800 items in the collection, such as correspondence, drafts for essays, short stories, novels, lectures given by and about Ellison, a wide variety of resources documenting his literary career, and Ellison’s final unfinished novel, Juneteenth.

     
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Is Book Collecting a Dying Art?

Is book collecting a dying art? The scores of collectors, young and old, who travel long distances and scour the internet for new additions to their collections would certainly tell you, quite vehemently: No! Book collecting is not a dying art. Despite the fact that we’re now in the third decade of the twenty-first century and everything seems to have gone digital, the physical book—and the desire to collect it, to preserve it, to archive it—remains alive and well. From the rise of new rare and independent bookstores to book collecting prizes and coursework in rare books and ephemera, new collectors are springing up every day.

     
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Celebrating the (Literary) History of America's Presidents

Presidents are famously men of letters: educated, erudite, and charismatic. John Adams (whose birthday we celebrate today), Thomas Jefferson, and other founding fathers established their reputation by contributing to beautifully written documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.      
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The Founding of the Smithsonian Institution: Increasing & Diffusing Knowledge

By Katie Behrens. Jul 13, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Libraries & Special Collections

Imagine you wake up one morning and discover that a mysterious benefactor left you a small fortune, stipulating that the funds be used to help others. How would you spend it? Now imagine that you have to make that decision with 293 other people without splitting the money. This is the task that the 24th Congress of the United States faced when it created the Smithsonian Institution

     
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R. Buckminster Fuller Collection at Stanford University

By Audrey Golden. Apr 19, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Libraries & Special Collections, Art

Who was R. Buckminster Fuller? In Stanford University Library’s description of the R. Buckminster Fuller Collection, the description describes Fuller as a “20th century polymath,” while the Buckminster Fuller Institute describes the man as “a 20th century inventor and visionary who did not limit himself to one field but worked as a ‘comprehensive anticipatory design scientist’ to solve global problems.” He was, indeed, a person of many interests, many academic pursuits, and many talents. Fuller lived through most of the twentieth century and published novels and essays, wrote poetry, designed architectural geodesic domes and works of contemporary art, and built prototype cars of the future.

His books are highly collectible, and if you are interested in seeing and learning more, you can access the R. Buckminster Fuller Collection at Stanford’s Special Collections and University Archives.

     
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A Brief History of the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has been around nearly as long as the United States of America. Approve by President John Adams in 1800, the goal of the library was to solve a problem when the government moved from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. Namely, in Philadelphia, congressmen had access to the well-stocked Free Library of Philadelphia. Their concern was that the burgeoning new capital was still under development, and in D.C., members of Congress would lack access to books outside their own personal collection. The Act of Congress allocated $5,000 to stock the library, which today would be roughly $92,000. The books assembled, nearly 750 of them, were inspired by the classical education most of the founding fathers possessed and therefore included papers on theology, philosophy, government, history, and languages.

     
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Visiting the Richard Wright Papers at the Beinecke

By Audrey Golden. Dec 2, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Libraries & Special Collections, Libraries

The Richard Wright Papers at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is an enormous collection. It’s one of the collections that’s actually stored on-site, so you don’t need to request access days in advance as you may find with certain other papers owned by the library. The papers contain 143 boxes, along with additional materials. Researchers have access to Wright’s manuscripts, correspondence, journals, travel documents, photographs, and even the novelist’s screen test for the film version of Native Son, his 1940 novel. We’ll tell you a little bit more about the collection.

     
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About this blog

How can I identify a first edition? Where do I learn about caring for books? How should I start collecting? Hear from librarians about amazing collections, learn about historic bindings or printing techniques, get to know other collectors. Whether you are just starting or looking for expert advice, chances are, you'll find something of interest on blogis librorum.

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