History of the Book Collection Policy


subject description and guidelines

  • The History of the Book is an interdisciplinary field that examines the development and impact on society of manuscript and printed works. It draws on the methods of analytical and descriptive bibliography, social history, literary criticism, and cultural theory. Its specific objects of study include literacy and reading practices, relations among publishers, authors, and readers, and media production technology. Bibliography is included in the field, as are materials on the history, philosophy, and technicalities of writing, publishing, book collecting, the book and serial trade, and the history of libraries. Paleography and calligraphy are included within “writing.” Works on freedom of the press and on the history of censorship and copyright are also collected. Works on modern library and information science practice are the responsibility of the Information Science selector.


  • The History of the Book collection serves the needs of faculty and students in the Departments of English and, to a lesser extent, History. Because non-English materials are collected extensively, it also serves the needs of many other departments of literature.


  • Cornell's collections are strongest in the history of books, the history of printing, and the history of bookselling and publishing. Emphasis is on European history until 1900, especially the book trade of the Middle Ages, and on 20th century U. S., British, and German publishing. Works on the history of bibliography, and anonyma and pseudonyma, are collected intensively. All available national bibliographies and catalogs of major manuscript collections are acquired. For the history of libraries, specialized periodicals and monographs have been collected. A special effort has been made to receive all current publications of scholarly institutions. Works about academic research libraries are collected at a research level.

collection level

  • research

geographical guidelines

  • Coverage on national and trade bibliography is worldwide; the majority of monographs are U. S. or European in origin.

areas of significant geographic coverage

country (self-governing)

  • United States of America

language guidelines

  • Material in English is collected extensively, as are major scholarly publications in French and German.


  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Spanish

chronological guidelines

  • Works relating to the post-Gutenberg period (though works on pre-Gutenberg books may be acquired in consultation with the Medieval Studies selector).


  • 1. Textbooks 2. Information science 3. Library science 4. Titles of primary interest to practicing librarians 5. Subject bibliographies in specific subject fields or geographical areas or on specific individuals. (These are the responsibility of the relevant subject specialist.) 6. Legal aspects of copyright and censorship (acquired by the Law Library) 7. Promotional literature and catalogs from commercial publishers and vendors 8. In-house newsletters of other libraries 9. Unrevised dissertations 10. Facsimiles of manuscripts and early books.

material types

  • The collection consists of all formats, though the emphasis is on print. For academic journals, electronic access is preferred. Audiovisuals are acquired primarily at the request of an instructor. Facsimiles of manuscripts are normally the responsibility of the relevant subject selector.


housed in

  • Olin Library

related library subject collection


academic department

  • English (ENGL)


  • History (HIST)


library contact

  • Boettcher, Bonna J. -  Director, John M. Olin and Uris Libraries and the Library Annex; Adjunct Professor of Music