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Rare Book School at the University of Virginia

L-30. Rare Book Cataloging

Deborah J. Leslie

Aimed at catalog librarians who find that their present duties include (or shortly will include) the cataloging of rare books or special collections materials. Attention will be given primarily to cataloging books from the hand-press period, with some discussion given to c19 and c20 books in a special collections context. Topics include: comparison of rare book and general cataloging; application of codes and standards (especially DCRB); uses of special files; problems in transcription, collation and physical description; and setting cataloging policy within an institutional context.

This course – restricted to working catalogers experienced in AACR2r, MARC, and general cataloging principles and practices – will provide training in the application of Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Books (DCRB). Lectures, discussion, and exercises will center around the following topics: DCRB and the differences between rare book and general cataloging; a brief introduction to printing and binding in the hand-press era; basic concepts of edition, issue, and state; the organization of the cataloging record, including levels of detail and variety of access points; problems in transcription, format and collation, and physical description; recent developments in codes and standards; the uses and requirements of special files; and setting rare book and/or special collections cataloging policy within an institutional context. The goal of this course is to provide practice in each of the primary elements of the rare book catalog record, so that students will be equipped to begin cataloging their institutions' rare book and special collections materials. Although some attention will be given to post- 1800 books, the primary focus will be on books of the hand-press era.

In their personal statement, applicants should describe their experience with machine-readable AACR2 cataloging and provide a brief description of the types and date range of materials they expect to catalog with DCRB. In addition, applicants are requested to submit 3-6 typical bibliographic records of materials they currently are cataloging, preferably original cataloging of modern books or serials.

Course Resources

  • Preliminary Reading List
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Course History


Deborah J. Leslie has taught it at least once annually since 1998.


Various instructors taught this RBS course 14 times in this period.