Saturday, June 17, 2006

Rare Book School

I’ve just returned from a week immersed in a world where words like verso, signatures, integral and incunabula are bandied about with extreme precision. The University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville is the home of the Rare Book School (RBS). An independent non-profit educational institute supporting the study of the history of books and printing and related subjects, this school was founded in 1983 and moved to its present home at UVa in 1992. For me, it was a wonderful and academically rigorous week spent studying rare book cataloging. In addition to the scheduled classes, RBS offered a week filled with lectures, programs and outings to enhance the students’ knowledge of all things bookish.
Reasons for my interest in this class? The Sterling Morton Library has a significant collection of books including many published during the hand-press period prior to 1830. Herbals and works by Repton and Linnaeus are some examples of early works in our collection. Since these special collections books often have unique physical attributes, their cataloging records require special analysis, descriptors and headings to fully describe a work and enhance access. The immersive aspect of this week was also of particular interest to me. Being a student within the RBS community allowed me to intently study this area of interest and meet with scholars/students/instructors of note. The hoped for benefit from this class is the creation of a body of cataloging records that fully describe our wonderful collection and encourage/enhance/allow access to these resources by all!

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