Rare Book Collection

Materials come into the custodianship of the Division for a variety of reasons - monetary value, historical significance, association interest, and fragility, to name only a few. However, they all have one point in common: they offer historic documentation about the western and American traditions of life and learning. All items within the Division are purchased by, or donated to, the Library of Congress.

Special Collections

Special collections may be based on provenance, or collected by or about a particular person or association. Examples of this kind of collection are Thomas Jefferson's Library, the Harry Houdini's Collection, and the National Association of Women Suffrage Association.

Other special collections are based on topics or concepts, such as the Reformation Collection, the Kathrine Bitting Gastronomy Collection, and the Batchelder Collection (collected to document the cannon or great works in western civilization). Not all books in a particular special collection need to be rare. In many cases, the value is the whole collection. For example, Kathrine Bitting collected a history of cooking "materials on the sources, preparation, and consumption of foods, their chemistry, bacteriology, preservations, etc., from earliest times to the present day." While some individual books in the Kathrine Bitting Collection many not be considered rare, when considered as a whole, their value is without question. In order to keep the original integrity of the collection intact, it is housed in the Rare Book Division as a Special Collection.

For a complete list of the Special Collections within the Rare Book Division please see this guide: Special Collections.