Rare Books

Rare books are housed in the Thomas E. and Jennie W. Welmers Rare Book Reading Room on the lower level of the Van Wylen Library.

The collection includes works on art, history, literature, mathematics, and science as well as a collection of Bibles. The library welcomes inquiries about the collection and will be pleased to help students and faculty use rare books in their classes and scholarship. Rare books may be used under supervision in either the Rare Books Reading Room or the Director’s Conference Room.

rare books

The Rare Books Room is open anytime the library is open Monday through Friday and may be reserved with special permission through the EMS system.

The majority of materials in this collection have been received as gifts from friends of the college. We welcome additional gifts of rare and special materials that meet our collection development guidelines. We especially would like to collect materials that illustrate the history of the book and examples of early manuscripts. Please contact the Director of Libraries.

Defining a Rare Text

Several characteristics can qualify a book as rare. Age by itself is not enough to make a book valuable. The importance of the text, the condition of the book, and demand for it will determine the valuation of an old book. A book known to exist in only a few copies may have significant monetary value if collectors and libraries prize it. First editions of important literary or historical works and initial reports of scientific discoveries or inventions are prime examples of books that are important because of their contents, but there are other characteristics that may cause a book to be considered rare. A book may also achieve rare status if it bears the signature, inscription, or marginal annotations of the author or a significant owner.

The scope of the Thomas E. and Jennie W. Welmers Rare Book collection is large, housing everything from theological to scientific and mathematical texts. Dates range back to the late 15th century, and appraisals reach well into the thousands.

Your Old Books - A guide sponsored by the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Antiquarian Bookseller's Association of America, and the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. Your Old Books is also available as a compact PDF version.