The Fales Library is committed to preserving the creative work of artists and writers in their original formats, paying close attention to the book as a physical object and other media in their original state when possible. Materials preserved in the Library are meant to be used for scholarly research that requires use of the original editions or works in original formats. These collections complement the collection policies in the general stacks by supplying rare or fine editions of texts and original copies of media or by prospectively collecting works that will become important historical evidence.
Preference is given to works by New York writers, experimental writing and new narrative from beyond New York, and authors representative of trends in mainstream fiction.
Novels and other works of fiction that document styles, genres, and themes of fiction expressed in narrative form. In general, fiction is collected from ca. 1740 to the present. Other materials will be acquired for authors who are collected in depth, such as plays, poetry, adaptations, or for the modern period, cartoons, filmscripts.
Attention is given to "filling in gaps" in "major" author collections to assure completeness of first editions or significant editions of an author's work. Lesser known authors' works of fiction in the same period are added, especially those that give an impression of publishing trends and literary styles. Preference is given to first editions of works in original bindings. If this is not applicable or not possible, rebound copies of good quality may be purchased.
Contemporary authors are collected based on a list of authors whose work is deemed representative of trends and styles in contemporary fiction. All new books by these authors are purchased as they are published to assure comprehensiveness. Following reviews and current writers, other texts are purchased that document trends in fiction. Works by both experimental authors and more popular authors are collected for these purposes.
Preference is given to the acquisition of primary materials, that is, first editions of works or other significant editions. Following precedents within Fales, significant new scholarly editions of works are acquired as are publications of letters, diaries, sketch books, and other primary sources. Biographies of note will be acquired. Critical works will not be acquired. It is assumed these materials will be purchased for the general stack collection.
Contributions by authors to other texts, such as introductions, collaborative works, prefaces, etc. will be collected depending on the level at which an individual author is collected.
By its very nature the Fales library collects literature almost exclusively in English. The primary language of biographies, memoirs, and critical works collected is also English.
The Fales Library collects English fiction, covering the literatures of England and the United States; and to a lesser extent Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Africa, and the Caribbean.
In general, little is added to the pre-1800 collection. Fales holds a strong collection of epistolary and gothic novels, but is overshadowed by other major collections in the area.
This is the period of most retrospective acquisitions. Works by major and lesser- known authors are acquired to fill gaps. Rare or scarce other works of fiction are acquired to give a profile of fiction in the period.
Special emphasis is being given currently to lesser-known authors of the Edwardian period, essentially extending the comprehensive holdings of Victorian fiction into the 20th century. Major authors of the period are well represented. Works of popular fiction are especially being added.
Post-war fiction is being purchased to fill in gaps of major British and American authors. Fales does not attempt to be comprehensive in contemporary fiction.
The Fales Collection has significant holdings of manuscripts and documents by English and American authors. The Fales Manuscript Collection, built largely by DeCoursey Fales, holds some 15,000 items, mostly from the Victorian and Edwardian period, including strong holdings of Sir Walter Scott. Other authors' papers include E.L. Doctorow, M. L. Rosenthal, Jerome Charyn, and Elizabeth Robins. Additions are made selectively.
Fales collects books, journals, newspapers, yearbooks, annuals, manuscripts, archives, ephemeral materials, film, video, and a variety of other original materials. Emphasis is placed on acquiring items in their original states. Authors' books should be acquired in their first appearance. In general this means the first edition in the country of the author, though precedence is given to the first appearance in print. Collected editions of works are purchased for major authors. Scholarly editions of works are also added for major authors. Facsimiles are purchased, but sparingly. Most facsimiles should be purchased by the general stacks. (See the English Literature policy statement.)
The strengths of the collection lie in its extensive 19th century British fiction holdings, which compare favorably with those at the University of California, Los Angeles and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The American holdings are very strong for the same period, though not as strong as the British. Detective fiction, Gothic novels, popular fiction of the Edwardian period (1900-1914), African American novels, proletarian fiction, and the works of 19th-century women writers are especially well-represented in the holdings. In addition, the Berol Collection of Lewis Carroll material is an outstanding resource for the study of Carroll.
The major weakness of the collection is its lack of 19th-century journals, which are increasingly requested by users. Other areas that could be strengthened include 18th-century novels, and popular fiction since 1945.
Because the collection is primarily composed of 19th- and 20th-century novels, a large portion of the holdings are in danger of becoming brittle. Some materials have been microfilmed, others deacidified. There is much work to be done to rehouse and preserve the collection. A rough estimate indicates that ca. 75% of the collection needs some kind of preservation treatment from the simplest protective covering of dust jackets to full conservation treatment of historically important bindings.
The following criteria govern the transfer of general stacks materials to Special Collections. If a book meets one or more of these criteria, it can be routed to Special Collections for review. Special collections staff will evaluate the book and decide on a case-by-case basis whether to transfer the book or return it to the general collection.
The deaccession of materials in special collections is governed by different principles from those for general research collections. Because of the primacy of preserving special collections materials in their original format and, concomitant with that, the role of special collections as repositories for cultural history, the Fales Library will carefully assess all materials before accepting them to lessen the likelihood of deaccession. This said, there are valid reasons why materials in special collections may be deaccessioned.
Acknowledging these points, The Rare Book and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries included a lengthy set of guidelines for deaccession of materials in Standards for Ethical Conduct for Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Librarians, with Guidelines for Institutional Practice in Support of the Standards, 2d edition, 1992. The following policy for deaccession of materials from the Fales Library and Special Collections incorporates and upholds the standards established by RBMS for the ethical deaccessioning of materials from special collections.
Because of its location within New York City, the Fales Library is complemented by several other major collections of rare materials and primary sources for the study of literature and the contemporary arts. Included among these other collections are the Pierpont Morgan Library, The New York Public Library, The Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University, The New-York Historical Society Library.
Other resources for literary texts here at NYU include the various microfilm sets of English and American Literature housed in the microform division.