Rare Book School

RBS Home| Course Schedule | Admissions | Support RBS | Contact RBS | Previous Years

C-50. Managing the Past

Nicolas Barker

This course is intended for librarians and others for whom the custody and deployment of books printed or written before 1950 is part of the day's work. How to make the most of what you've got, what to buy, how to buy, whether to sell (and if so, how and when) is on the agenda; but the core of the course is the analysis of copy-specific data: what makes this copy in (or about to be in) my library different from and more important than anyone else's?

This course will focus tightly on the various physical attributes of individual books that make the use of reformatted substitutes (later editions, reprints, facsimiles, microforms, photocopies, scanned images, &c.) undesirable or impossible. Topics include: the non-textual use of books; original condition vs present condition; provenance and signs of use; cultural and monetary values; restoration, conservation, and tampering; dealers, auction houses, and trade expertise; changing conditions in the antiquarian book trade; and changing conditions in rare book libraries.

In their personal statement, applicants should explain their specific reasons for wishing to take this course and any topics they would particularly like it to cover.

Course Resources

  • Evaluations for this course:

Course History


Nicolas Barker has taught this course many times since 1993.