C-20. Book Collecting

Terry Belanger William P. Barlow, Jr.

This course is aimed at persons who spend a fairly substantial amount of time, energy, and money on collecting, but who feel rather isolated from the national (and international) antiquarian book communities. Topics include: the rationale of book collecting; developing relations with dealers; buying at auction and via the Internet; evaluating prices; bibliophile and friends’ groups; preservation, conservation, and insurance options; tax and other financial implications; what finally to do with your books; and the literature of book collecting.

This course is intended for serious collectors who would like to learn more about the current American rare book scene: about the interlocking professional and social worlds of antiquarian book collecting, the rare book trade, and research librarianship. It is aimed at persons who collect energetically but who currently are not active members of bibliophilic social clubs and who do not participate to any great extent in library friends’ organizations. The course will have at least something of a proselytizing bent (the instructors admit to being members of various social and scholarly bibliophilic and bibliographical organizations, as well as a good many library friends’ groups; and they are well acquainted with a fair number of book dealers).

Among the questions the course will address: Why do we collect? How can I most effectively use the services provided by dealers, the Internet, auction houses and other agents? How do I know that a price is “right,” and what should I do if it isn’t? How can I best use bibliographies and other lists in my collecting? What kind of records should I keep? What can I do to preserve books on my own? When professional conservation is required, how do I find it? What should I do about insurance? What are the benefits of professional and bibliophilic organizations and cooperation with libraries and scholars? How should I dispose of my books? What are the tax and collecting implications of sale, gift, and bequest? How can I establish my own program for learning more about books and collecting?

In their personal statement, applicants should describe their book collections and their most active current collecting interests, and state what they would particularly like to see the course cover.


Course History

William P. Barlow, Jr. and Terry Belanger co-taught this course several times during this period.
This course is not currently being offered.

Course Resources

  • Evaluations for this course:


  • Terry Belanger
  • William P. Barlow, Jr.

Terry Belanger

In September 2009, Terry Belanger retired as founding Director of Rare Book School and University Professor and Honorary Curator of Special Collections at the University of Virginia. He is a 2005 MacArthur fellow.

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William P. Barlow, Jr.

William P. Barlow, Jr. is a partner in the San Francisco accounting firm of Barlow & Hughan. He has advised many individuals and institutions on bibliographical tax matters both in a professional capacity and as an officer of library friends’ groups.

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