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Special Collections

Overview of the General Special Collections at New York University, including the Marion Nestle Food Studies Collection; the Alfred C. Berol Collection of Lewis Carroll, and the Avant-Garde Collections.

Collection Development Policy - Special Collections


The Fales Library & Special Collections 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 Special Collections 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.

  1. Performing Arts Materials

    Theater and film collections relating to the downtown scene, off-off Broadway theater, and experimental film and video are collected, especially as they relate to the development of fictional narratives in the "downtown" art scene.

  2. New York Writers and History

    The work of New York writers is an area of focus for collecting manuscripts, with a special focus on Village writers. New York materials include, but are not limited to, fiction writers. The papers of William Zinsser and Al Silverman, both important New York writers whose work is not primarily fiction, form a nucleus for New York non-fiction writers. New York History is collected when appropriate opportunities arise. The Richard Maass Collection of Westchester County and New York State serves as a core for such acquisitions.

  3. Special Collections

    Other special collections within the Fales Library include the general rare book collections from the NYU Library and several named collections.

  4. Library of Congress Collection

    Contains books of value in all fields. As important materials are identified in the stacks, they are transferred to this collection. In general, for material to be transferred it must be 1) valuable, 2) in its original binding or an appropriate early binding, 3) be significant as an artifact. Transfer of general stacks materials to Special Collections is recommended by selectors for final decision by the Fales Librarian. Rare materials from the NYU Heights campus, formerly known as the Dewey Collection, have been catalogued and re-classed into the LC collection.

  5. Adkins Collection

    The Nelson Adkins Collection of American Literature is housed off-site and serviced through the Fales Library. It contains over 8,000 volumes of American books ranging from college song books to volumes of fiction and poetry. The Adkins Collection is fully catalogued and searchable through BobCat. Nothing is added to the collection.

  6. The Alfred C. Berol Collection of Lewis Carroll

    The Berol Collection is the third largest collection of Lewis Carroll materials in the world, including over 700 letters, manuscripts, drawings, and photographs, plus another several hundred printed items. Funds for additions are limited. In general only new editions of Alice in Wonderland and ephemeral Alice parodies are added.

  7. The Robert Frost Library

    The Robert Frost Library, from his house at 35 Brewster Street, Cambridge, Mass., was presented to NYU in 1964. It is a complete collection of nearly 2,000 books formerly owned by Frost and nothing is added to it.

  8. Erich Maria Remarque Library

    The Remarque Library houses the personal library of Remarque. Additions each year are copies of new editions of Remarque's novels and gifts of secondary literature made by the Remarque Archiv in Osnabruck.

  9. David Kapp Collection

    The Kapp Collection of Don Quixote is not added to.

  10. Special Collections Reference

    The BSCREF collection represents rare book and special collections reference sources held in Fales or Special collections which have been catalogued and shelved in the reading room to assist staff and patrons using original materials. The collection contains specific rare book sources and author bibliographies. Additions are made to the collection to keep it current. There is some duplication with the general stacks, though this is kept to a minimum. Books held in this collection are consulted on a regular basis by special collections staff.

  11. Hebraica and Judaica collections

    The Kaplan and Rosenthal collections are added to only by donation.

  12. Levy Collection of Dime Novels

    We do not actively add dime novels, though the Levy collection contains over 15,000 American dime novels from the latter half of the 19th century.

Types of Materials

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.


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.

Transfer Criteria for Moving General Stacks Materials to Special Collections

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.

English and American Books

  • All books printed before 1801.
  • Books printed in the Western Hemisphere before 1821. (Rare Americana is determined largely according to those dates when printing was introduced in each state. A list of these dates, by state, is appended.)
  • Confederate imprints, 1861-1865.
  • English and American drama before 1851.
  • Landmark books in the history of learning (usually 1st editions).
  • Books of famous printers such as Baskerville, Elsevier, etc.
  • Private Press Books by such presses as Ashendene, Chiswick, Cuala, Kelmscott, Merrymount, Peter Pauper, etc.
  • Limited edition titles (usually 500 copies or less) are collected according to the importance of the author or illustrator. They are not collected per se and will be added to Special Collections only if the text is of special interest or if the author is a writer collected by the Fales Library.
  • Autographed books (signed by author, artist) or association copies (personal copies of famous people).
  • Miniature books with textual value. (Miniature books are not collected as such, and will be added to Special Collections only if the text is of scholarly interest.)
  • Hebrew Books published anywhere in America before 1865.


In addition to the criteria above, any books published in America before 1821 will be considered for inclusion in special collections. There are exceptions, and their cut-off dates are as follows:

States A-I States J-N States O-Z
ALABAMA (1840) KANSAS (1875) OHIO (1840)
ARIZONA (1890) KENTUCKY (1830) OKLAHOMA (1875)
ARKANSAS (1870) MINNESOTA (1865) PENNSYLVANIA (1830, except Philadelphia)
FLORIDA (1860) MONTANA (1890) TEXAS (1860)
HAWAII (1860) NEBRASKA (1875) UTAH (1890)
IDAHO (1890) NEVADA (1890) WASHINGTON (1875)
ILLINOIS (1850; Chicago, 1871) NEW MEXICO ((1875) WEST VIRGINIA (1830)
INDIANA (1850) NEW YORK (1850 outside NYC; 1830 for Hudson River towns) WISCONSIN (1850)
IOWA (1860) NORTH DAKOTA (1850) WYOMING (1890)

Foreign Language Materials

  1. German

    Any German texts before 1840 or pro- or anti-fascist primary source materials about WWI or WWII.

  2. French

    Any French Revolutionary materials.

Deaccession Policy for the Fales Library & Special Collections


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.

Guidelines for the Deaccession of Materials

  1. In the deaccession of rare books and manuscripts, the Fales Library & Special Collections will weigh carefully the interests of the public for which it holds the collections in trust, the interests of the scholarly and cultural community, and the Fales Library's own mission.
  2. The Fales Library & Special Collections will consider any legal restrictions, the necessity for possession of valid title, and the donor's intent in the broadest sense.
  3. Procedures for the deaccession or disposal of materials will be at least as rigorous as those for purchasing and should be governed by the same basic principles. The decision to dispose of materials must be made only after full and scrupulous consideration of the public interest and the needs of researchers; the process of deaccession will be carried out in as open and public a manner as possible.
  4. Mandatory restrictions on disposition which accompanied a donation will be observed unless it can be shown clearly by appropriate legal procedures that adherence to them is impossible or substantially detrimental to the New York University. When statements of donor's preferences accompany an acquisition, any departure from them will be carefully considered and negotiated with the donor or the donor's heirs or settled by appropriate legal procedures.
  5. Responsibility to the needs and reputation of the Fales Library & Special Collections requires that, in preparing for and accomplishing any deaccession, the Fales Library will take care to define and publicly state the purpose of the deaccession and the intended use of monetary or other proceeds of the deaccession, to avoid any procedure which may detract from the Library's reputation for honesty and responsible conduct, and to carry out the entire process in a way which will not detract from public perception of its responsible stewardship.
The following points must be taken into consideration:
  • The Fales Library will insure that the method of deaccession will result in furthering the agreed purpose of the deaccession, whether this be monetary gain or more appropriate placement of scholarly resources.
  • The Fales Library will disclose to the potential new owner or intermediary agent any action, such as the retention of a photocopy of the material, which may affect the monetary or scholarly value of the material.
  • To the fullest extent possible, the Fales Library will make public information on the disposition of deaccessioned materials.
  • The Fales Library will not allow materials from its collections to be acquired privately by any library employee, officer, or volunteer, unless they are sold publicly and with complete disclosure of their history.
  • Due consideration should be given to the library community in general when disposing of items. Sales to, or exchanges between, institutions will be explored as well as disposal through the trade.

Other Resources

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.