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Rare and Manuscript Collections

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Finding Materials

Sculpture of Snorri Sturluson by Dr. Magnús Ágústsson, M.D., in RMC’s reference room.
Almost all of our resources are listed in the library catalog. The catalog is the best place to start your search for published materials, bound manuscripts, and archival collections.
To search only the materials available at the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, select “Kroch Library Rare & Manuscripts” under “Library Location” or use this pre-populated search page.

You may further limit your search by using the “Limit your search” options listed on the left side of the catalog. For instance, you might limit the search to “Manuscript/Archive” under “Format,” or for a particular edition of a book, you might adjust the search results’ date range under “Publication Year.”

Once you’ve located material in the catalog, follow the instructions in the How to Register and Request Resources guide to request material for the reading room, or see the “Reproductions & Permissions” page to order scans.

Please be aware that most manuscripts are cataloged at the collection level; this means that the catalog record summarizes what is in the collection as a whole. These catalog records do not describe every letter, postcard, photograph, pamphlet, or other document the collection contains. In many cases, though, there is a link from the catalog record to an online finding aid, or guide, which describes the collection in detail.

If you don’t find the rare materials you are looking for in Cornell’s online catalog, please contact


Restricted Collections

Please be aware that many of our materials have restrictions. These need to be addressed before you can access the material, and whenever possible, well before an in-person visit. If you see a restriction on material of interest to you, please contact us directly at

A collection or work may:

  •  Require prior permission of our curators
  • Require permission of the donor or the office that created the collection
  • Be restricted in part
  • Be restricted for a certain length of time
  • Be available for research, but not for reproductions
  • Be currently “in processing” by our staff, and not immediately available
  • Include digital content that may not be accessible on short notice

You can see the restrictions when you request material through the library catalog and in the “Information for Users” section of our Finding Aids.

Special Notice for Audiovisual Materials

Due to the fragility and potential degradation of moving image and sound recordings, viewing and listening is limited to items that have been digitized. If an item is in another media format, you may order and pay for a digital copy. See the “Reproductions & Permissions” page for more information. Please e-mail us in advance at if you plan to access digitized content in the reading room.

How to Search Archival Collections

When deciding what items to request, it can be helpful to review a collection’s finding aid, if one is available. If a collection has a finding aid, it can be accessed either through a link under “Availability” on the collection’s library catalog record or by searching RMC’s “Archival Guides” on our website.

While finding aids can differ in their level of detail, most include the following basic elements:

  • Descriptive Summary: lists the collection’s title, the repository where the collection is held, the collection number or call number,  a brief description or abstract of the collection contents, creator of the materials, the size and extent of the collection, and language(s) represented in the collection.
  • Biographical Note: details the biographical information or organizational history relating to the collection.
  • Collection Description: provides a more detailed overview of the materials in the collection.
  • Information for Users: how collection should be cited and if applicable, details any restrictions placed on the access or use of collection materials.
  • Subjects: a list of terms, topics, names, etc., covered in the collection, and in the collection’s library catalog record linked to other records with the same term.
  • Container List: a box-by-box, folder-by-folder listing of the materials stored in the collection. The level of detail in this section may vary.

Take note of which boxes or items have the most relevant materials for you, and then request them through the library catalog.

Tips for Searching Pre-1800 Books

Many pre-1800 books held in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections can be found in the Cornell Online Library Catalog not only by author, title, or subject, but also by publication date, place of publication, any former owners who put their names in the book, press (if a small press), or binder (if known). For example, if you would like to look up all the books in the Division that were published in 1798, you can find them by searching “1798” as a subject heading. If you would like to find all of our books that were published in Bristol, England, before 1800, you can find them by searching “Bristol England imprints” as a subject heading. If you are looking for all the Dodsley imprints in our collection, you can find them by searching “London England imprints Dodsley” as a subject heading. To search by former owner, binder, or small press, simply do an author search on the name of the person or the press. Your search results will not be comprehensive, because some books published by a particular firm may have been issued anonymously, or without a place name or date given. Still, your search will give you a good start on investigating the Division’s holdings from the standpoint of printing history.

Cornell University Building Plans

For questions concerning reproducing Cornell University building plans and drawings, please see Facilities and Campus Services – Archiving Services.

Genre Terms

Books, manuscripts, visual, and audiovisual materials in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections can also be searched online by form or genre. Some examples of searchable form or genre terms are: diaries, scrapbooks, photograph albums, photographs, videotapes, broadsides, engravings, poems, songs, dialogues, sermons, or almanacs. To find out what holdings we have in a particular form or genre, do a subject search on that term (in the plural, e.g. diaries). Some broad categories such as plays, poems, or novels are subdivided by country and century. To search for 18th-century French plays, for instance, do a subject search on “Plays France 18th century.”