Columbia Library columns (v.14(1964Nov-1965May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



Jump to page:

Table of Contents

  v.14,no.2(1965:Feb): Page 19  

Columbia's "Special Collections":
Its History and a Glance Ahead


Columbia University's department of rare books was officially
established on July i, 1930, with Trustee approval, "long before
the fashion came"—though since then many college and uni¬
versity hbraries have established such departments, often pro¬
viding them with elaborately appointed physical housing. The
formalized departmental status at Columbia was the direct answer
to an existing need, for the interest here in rare books and manu¬
scripts, to support advanced studies in the humanities and social
sciences, was apparent almost from the beginning of the Libraries
themselves—an interest that had resulted in the acquisition not
only of individual rarities such as the Audubon elephant folio
(1835), the second Shakespeare folio (1923), the John Stuart
Mill manuscript autobiography (1923), and the Serlio manuscript
(1924)—to specify an absurdly scant representation among
literally thousands of examples—but also of whole collections
such as the Stephen Whitney Phoenix library (1881), the Avery
Architectural Library (1890), the Temple Emanu-el collection
(1892), the Holland Society deposit (1901), the Brander Mat¬
thews collection (1912), the Samuel and William Samuel Johnson
libraries (1914), and the Montgomery Accountancy Library
(1924)—again, a very scant representation of the wealth of
specialized materials that have poured into the Columbia Libraries
over the years.

In those early days exceptional rarities were distinguished from
the general in two principal ways. Single items were catalogued
with prefixes to their call numbers—"Manuscript Room," which

  v.14,no.2(1965:Feb): Page 19