L-25v. Reference Sources for Researching Rare Books

Joel Silver

“Until we live in the Matrix and can upload the Joel Silver Memory Palace Expansion Pack into our own brains, this course is the best you can get!” — 2017 student

Course Length: 22 hours
Course Week: 22–26 May 2023
Format: online only
Fee: $1,000

This course presents a systematic introduction to approximately 300 printed and electronic reference sources for researching rare books. Emphasis will be placed on sources in the fields of early printed books; British and American literature; historical Americana; voyages and travels; maps and atlases; science and medicine; and the book arts. In class sessions, the instructor will cover details related to the compilation of each of the sources and will provide information about their strengths and weaknesses, as well as strategies on how they can be used effectively. Students will receive listings containing bibliographical information on the sources discussed, along with reproductions of selected pages or entries from some of the sources.

The course is intended for special collections librarians, antiquarian booksellers, and collectors, at all levels, who are interested in finding out more about the books in their care. Although there are no prerequisites, a basic understanding of the principles of descriptive bibliography would be helpful.

The Tavistock Books Educational Scholarship is a full-tuition scholarship opportunity that is available to all antiquarian booksellers interested in taking this course. For more information, please visit the Tavistock Scholarship page.

Course History

Joel Silver teaches this course online (22 hours).
Joel Silver teaches this course in person.

Course Resources

  • Advance Reading List
  • Evaluations for this course:

Related Courses


Joel Silver

Joel Silver

Joel Silver is Director of the Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, where he has worked since 1983. He has published a number of articles on rare books and book collecting in AB Bookman’s Weekly and Fine Books & Collections Magazine, and he has taught courses in many subjects related to rare books at the Department of Information and Library Science at Indiana University, where he serves as the Director of the Special Collections Specialization.

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