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Research Guides

Book Arts & Rare Book Collections: Home

Historically significant, rare and collectible books from the Libraries Special Collections Division.


The Special Collections Book Arts and Rare Book Collection is comprised of materials not found in the regular Libraries stacks. These materials are reference only, which means they are “in library use” only and brought to readers and researchers in the Special Collections Reading Room. If you are interested in seeing fragile, not yet cataloged material, or receive personalized research assistance, please contact the curator. If you would like to consult material from the catalog, you may schedule an appointment in the reading room or virtual reading room. You are invited to get as creative or inquire after as bizarre research topics as your heart desires--we will have something for you to peruse!

Contact info and scheduling

If you have a call number and wish to see a specific piece you can sign up to visit our reading room. None of the collections are directly browesable except for our Reference Collections. Some items require an appointment to view. 

Students wishing to see a variety of materials or to have a selection created for them on a topic, binding style, or technique should contact the Book Arts and Rare Book Curator, Sandra Kroupa. 


Sandra Kroupa

Book Arts and Rare Books Curator


Phone: 206-543-1929 [Special Collections Main] 


Office Hours:

Please fill out this form if you'd like to attend Winter 2022 office hours. We have a virtual and in person option. 


Updated: Jan. 2022

Primary v Secondary Sources

  • The categories of primary, secondary, and tertiary sources are not mutually exclusive. 

  • The way one uses or interprets an item determines whether it is a primary or secondary source. 

  • A book can be treated as an artifact, documents can consist of visual elements, and visual materials are often considered to be documents.

  • Think off primary sources as the raw data for your research and consider this example:  Encyclopedias are usually considered to be classic reference sources.  However, they are primary sources to someone studying encyclopedias.

 -From NYU Libraries History of the Book LibGuide

Starting Points / Top Resources

Interested in how books use design and format to communicate beyond text? Piper Thomas explores the breadth of possibilities available for non-textual elements in books in her capstone project for the Textual Studies and Digital Humanities minor. 


Cali Vance (UW MILS, 2022) and Claire Cannell (UW MILS, 2022) researched and curated a detailed timeline of the history of the book as a capstone project for completing their Masters of Library and Information Science degree at the University of Washington. If you are curious about material history, book history vocabulary, and more take a look at their digital exhibit. 

Handling Guide

Before coming into the reading room, you may review these guidelines for handling rare book material.