Reference Sources for Researching Rare Books: Some Freely Available Sources

Joel Silver

A three-part, live-only Zoom webinar series open to 20 participants scheduled for Mondays and Wednesdays, 10–11 a.m. ET, 22–29 June 2020. Most seats have already been filled by students admitted to this summer’s iteration of L-25; to inquire about registering for the webinar series, please email RBS Programs at

This brief series will introduce participants to some widely available sources useful for researching rare books, many of which are digitized versions of older (but still quite important) bibliographies and catalogues. These sources should be especially helpful for those with relatively little experience in the field.

Though the series will cover a total of only about 20–25 sources (drawn from the 350 or so that Joel covers in his Rare Book School course L-25 “Reference Sources for Researching Rare Books”), many of these sources are essential within their chronological or subject fields, and through the Internet, they are now available to all.

  • Session 1: Monday, 22 June. General sources; sources for early printed books
  • Session 2: Wednesday, 24 June. Sources for early British books and British literature
  • Session 3: Monday, 29 June. Sources on a variety of other subjects

Participants are expected to attend all three sessions and to read the following articles in advance: 

Silver, Joel. “Bibliographies, Checklists, and Catalogs: The Core of a Collector’s Reference Shelf.” Fine Books & Collections (January/February 2008).

Silver, Joel. “Bibliographical Citations: An Introductory Guide for the Perplexed.” AB Bookman’s Weekly (6 January 1997): 5–9.