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ENGL 413/MARS 420: The History of Books

From Beowulf to Shakespeare

How to Find Rare Books

Search the Libraries catalog at

Purdue Libraries catalog search

Helpful Hints for Searching

To search rare books, go to the Purdue online catalog. Click on "Books and Media" and begin your search. You can search for a specific author, title, or subject in the catalog and limit your results by clicking "Archives and Special Collections" under "Location" in the "Refine My Results" box to the left. You can also order your results according to date, which will allow you to see the oldest book available in your search.  There is a box located on the upper right side of the page that says "Sorted by:" Click on the downward arrow and select "Date-Newest"; that will order your search hits by date. Then go to the end of the results listed to find the oldest materials.

If you are looking for items from a particular date period but do not care about the subject area, you can receive a list of all books in the catalog by typing in the search box: PURDUE_ALMA* (use all capital letters). Once you hit the search button, you will receive millions of results. You can begin reducing the number of results by limiting according to Library location (on the left side of the screen, next to "Library," select "Archives and Special Collections.") You can also limit your results to a particular date range, such as 1-1700. The oldest book in the Libraries collection is a 1502 book of Latin poetry published by Aldus Manutius (Catallus, Tibullus, Propertius, call # 874.2 C29c 1502).

It is always best to contact us via email if you are having trouble locating rare books on a specific subject, as we can better aid you in your search.When requesting a rare book, please provide the call number as well as any additional information such as whether the book is part of a particular collection (example: Goss Collection, Krannert Collection, Bruce Rogers, Charles Major, etc.) If you email us at least 24 hours in advance, with the title, author, call number and collection name, we can pull up to 4 books for you in advance and have them on hold when you visit. This will save you time in your research, as some of our books are located in different buildings on campus and therefore take time to retrieve.

How to Find Medieval Manuscripts

Search our internal catalog of archival and manuscript collections by visiting

ASC search

Helpful Hints for Search

To locate medieval manuscript collections and rare book leaves, type search words such as "vellum", "rare book", "engraving", "medieval", etc. in the search box (do not use quotation marks around your search term unless you are searching by phrase, such as "rare book".  Searching only one word at a time will broaden your results.  When you click on the collection link, there will be detailed information about the collection provided.  To access the finding aid, click on the section named "External Documents."  This detailed finding aid is full of helpful and important information, and will help you identify what folders and boxes within a collection you would like to see.

How to Find Digital Collections

Helpful hints for searching digital collections in eArchives:

Many of our Medieval Manuscript leaves have been digitized and can be viewed in eArchives. Under "Choose a Collection to Browse," click "Medieval Manuscripts."  This will take you directly to all of the digitized images of medieval manuscripts.  Please note that not all of the Medieval Manuscript leaves in our collections have been digitized!