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Columbia University Libraries

Library Overview

Established in 1930, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML) is the largest of Columbia University's special collections, containing more than 500,000 books; 30 million manuscripts in some 4,500 separate collections; 75,000 photographs; and 40,000 prints, drawings, and works of art; as well as other formats such as papyri, playing cards, and scientific instruments. The other libraries with special collections within the Columbia University Libraries and their affiliates are: the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, the C. V. Starr East Asian Library, the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library, the Barnard College Library, the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, the Gabe M. Wiener Music & Arts Library, and the Arthur W. Diamond Law Library.

RBML's holdings range from 2000 BCE to the present and include material related to most subject areas. Particular strengths are medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, classical authors, Anglo-American literature and history, the archives of literary agents and of major publishers such as Harper & Brothers, education, mathematics, economics, human rights, social work, history of photography, printing and the allied arts, New York City politics, and theater history. RBML also contains the papers of many of Columbia's distinguished alumni/ae and faculty, including John Jay, Joseph Pulitzer, Frances Perkins, Bennett Cerf, Lionel Trilling, Bella Abzug, Thomas Merton, and Edward Said.

Today, RBML comprises not only the general manuscripts and rare book collections but also the Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European Culture, the Carnegie Collections, including the records of four philanthropic organizations founded by Andrew Carnegie, the Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research, the Herbert Lehman Suite and Papers, the Oral History Research Office, and the University Archives.

Columbia University
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Butler Library, 6th Floor, East
535 West 114th Street
New York, New York 10027
(212) 854-5590 (t)
(212) 854-1365 (f)