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Rare Book School at the University of Virginia

L-20. How to Research a Rare Book

D. W. Krummel

A survey of major reference sources covering rare and early printed books, and the strategies for working with them. The course is aimed at reference librarians and others who need to find citations and interpret particulars, whether for work in acquisitions, cataloging or description, captions in an exhibition, or informed work with readers.

The course is concerned with searching for the bibliographical citations that will tell us about out the character and importance of rare books. Proceeding by country and period, the most important lists will be introduced for work with printed materials before 1900. Non- English sources will be emphasized and citation practices discussed, although no special background in either languages or in library cataloging is expected. Experience in searching is provided through daily assignments, followed by class discussions of the strategies and techniques for locating and evaluating entries and for verifying citations. The class will also evaluate the bibliographical record, in general and in terms of regions, nations, periods, and genres.

The course should prove useful for reference librarians and others who need to find citations and interpret their particulars, whether for purposes of acquisitions, cataloging or description, or captions in exhibitions or annotations. While the course is not restricted to persons with library degrees, prospective students without library degrees should have had a considerable period of practice in working with bibliographical citations. In their personal statement, applicants are encouraged to speak briefly to their subject and language backgrounds, and the extent of their previous training or experience in bibliographical searching and verification.

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Course History


D. W. Krummel has taught this course many times since 1990.