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Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the UK and Republic of Ireland


The new in paperback edition of the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the UK and Republic of Ireland, 3rd edition features an additional 72 libraries not represented in former editions. These cover England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, and represent the range of libraries present in the Directory overall from academic, public, subscription, ecclesiastical etc.
The Directory is the only publication to bring together rare book and special collections from all kinds of libraries across the British Isles and is an essential research tool for researchers and librarians throughout the world. Fully updated since the second edition was published in 1997, this comprehensive and up-to-date guide encompasses collections held in national libraries, academic libraries, public libraries, subscription libraries, clergy libraries, libraries for other professions, school libraries, companies, London clubs, museums and archives, and libraries in stately homes.
Consulting the Directory is an essential first step in a research project and it can answer question such as, "Where can I best research the reception of Jane Austen's novels?"; "Can I find Civil War tracts in a library near me?"; "Is Thomas Carlyle's library intact and in the public sphere?"; "Does Britain have the resources to study Nazi school textbooks?"; "How do I arrange my research trip to study Tauchnitz publications?" The Directory:

  • Provides a national, cross-sectoral overview of rare book and special collections
  • Provides a quick and easy summary of individual libraries' holdings
  • Directs researchers to the libraries most relevant for them
  • Assists libraries to evaluate their special collections according to a 'unique and distinctive' model
  • Enables libraries to make informed decisions about special collections acquisition and collaboration
  • Helps booksellers and donors to target offers
  • Entries in the Directory provide full contact details, and descriptions of rare book and named special collections including quantities, particular subject and language strengths, and information about salient features such as provenance.

Readership: Researchers, book historians, book collectors, special collections librarians, reference librarians, academic liaison librarians, library managers, booksellers, and other heritage professionals.

Karen Attar is the Rare Books Librarian at Senate House Library and a Research Fellow of the Institute of English Studies, both of the University of London. She has published widely on library history and aspects of special collections, is the reviews editor for Library & Information History, and in 2012 edited the treasures volume Senate House Library, University of London.

In an increasingly electronic age, the rare, the special and the unique in our libraries becomes all the more important and distinctive. The Directory has become established as a one-stop compendium of information on such material and a comprehensive update of Barry Bloomfield's much respected 1997 edition is very welcome.

David Pearson (Director of Culture, Heritage and Libraries at the City of London)

Consulting the invaluable Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the UK and Republic of Ireland is often a critical first stage in developing a worthwhile research project in the humanities. Its thoroughness and comprehensiveness serve both the scholar and librarian well.

Simon Eliot (Professor of the History of the Book, University of London)

Together, institutions in the UK and Ireland hold unrivalled special collections. From our great National Libraries, through university collections to the smaller collections of specialist societies, cathedrals, historic homes, and museums we have a centuries-old tradition of collecting, preserving and giving access. Scholars from around the world and across disciplinary differences rely on the treasures held by libraries listed in the Directory to pursue their research and help us make sense of the world in which we live.

David Prosser (Executive Director, RLUK)

The new edition of the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections is a long-awaited reference work which will help researchers identify the UK and Republic of Ireland's great collections of research materials. It provides detailed and authoritative information and is a must for all serious researchers.

Richard Ovenden (Bodley's Librarian, Oxford)

Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty; general readers; professional bibliophiles.

CHOICE (Nova Southeastern University)

To dedicated bibliographers, the present edition will make excellent bedtime reading;there are plenty of out-of-the-way collections to discover ... congratulations are in order to the Group, the publisher, and, above all, to the editor for a well accomplished job.


The new Directory lists 873 libraries, summarising their holdings of pre-1900 imprints with references to key sources of further information. Historical researchers of all kinds can quarry this to find out where large and small libraries are located and how relevant they may be; where collections with particular strengths in folklore, or Napoleon, or playbills, or anything else, can be found (the index of subjects runs to fourteen pages); and what is, and is not, discoverable online.

Library & Information History

...reveals the treasures to be found in the rare books and special collections in the UK and the Republic of Ireland...Attar's organizational achievement is phenomenal...Internet links are ephemeral and dependent on those who host them; this printed book gives us some guarantee of permanence.

Times Literary Supplement

The endless work of the 'harmless drudge,' the editor, and that of her team cannot be underestimated;producing a reference work of this nature is a labour of love and inevitably the resulting information will vary depending on information supplied and available. Researchers will be glad of this work and it will indeed help those needing to know where to find their research material.

Archives and Records (British Records Association)

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