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Ralph Ellison Rare Book Collection: A Resource Guide

Search Strategies

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.

Examples include "Ralph Ellison Coll" for the Ralph Ellison Collection and "Am Imp" for the American Imprint Collection. Books in the collection can be found by searching the Library of Congress Online Catalog for "Ralph Ellison Collection (Library of Congress)."

For non-book materials including drafts, correspondence, speeches, interviews, and miscellany documenting Ellison's career and development as a writer, you can search the finding aid of the Ralph Ellison papers, 1890-2005.

The Card Catalog

Special card files in the Rare Book Reading Room still provide valuable access information for collections that have not been cataloged and for cataloged collections for which there are no records online. Other special files have provenance, inscription, and binding information on books from many collections.

The division's own dictionary catalog contains 650,000 cards that provide access to almost the whole of the division's collections by author or other form of main entry and, in some instances, by subject and title also. The card file was closed in 1991 and no cards have been added since then. It remains available in the reading room for access to those collections whose records are not yet online.

Other Resources

There is no single catalog that contains records for all items held in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Some items are found only in published bibliographies or divisional finding aids. The staff in the Division can help locate and use these additional resources.