Significant progress has been made in recent years to provide online cataloging records for the division's holdings. The phrase “Request in: Rare Book/Special Collections Reading Room” appears at the bottom of online records for rare books.
If the book is in a special collection within the division's holdings, an abbreviation of that collection name is part of the call number.
When researching pre-modern or early modern material in the online catalog, using the Library of Congress Authority Files is the best gateway to success. Authority files have the potential to save researchers a lot of unnecessary frustration.
Here's why. Early authors are often known by more than one name: an English name, a French name, a Latin name, and each with variant spellings. In order to create uniform and searchable records, catalogers choose one name as the official name by which to link all of the author's writings. This official name is called the Authorized Heading.
Still having trouble? If you try the authorities and are still struggling to locate your author, you might try searching the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF)External, which is particularly useful for non-western or references to understudied traditionsExternal.
Most people haven't. It's the Latin name for York, England. Traditional printing assumed the word "city" in a printer's statement, and therefore the name of the city was printed the genitive case: "Eboraci," meaning "city of York." Novi Eboraci is therefore the Latin name for "city of New York."
Yes, you can type that into the online catalog and return a solid list of search results!
Researchers should be aware that even sixteenth-century English-language publications often list printer's statements in Latin. For example, in the image below, the famous English Protestant printer, John Day, executed his printer's statement in Latin, even though William Cunningham wrote the text in English. London is spelled: Londini.
Londini and Eboraci are only two of many examples. Researchers working with early printed material from particular locations may experience confusion and frustration, because the Latin names used by printers are often different than the names by which the city is known today.
In 1861, German scholar Johann Georg Theodor Graesse (1814-1885) published the first edition of the Orbis Latinus, a Latin-German dictionary of Latin place names. The dictionary is now in its fourth edition, and can be viewed online though the Bavarian State LibraryExternal. (Click the EN in the top right corner by the search in order to read the introduction in English rather than German).
For those who would rather not use the German edition, a more user-friendly database is available on the website for the Rare Book and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Library (RBMS): RBMS/BSC Latin Place Names FileExternal.
A Word of Caution: A researcher whose work involves specific issues, editions, or volumes of a particular title is encouraged to contact the Reading Room Staff prior to their visit and make certain that the particular volume required is on shelf and available to be served. Send a query through the Ask-A-Librarian services at any time.