Printed Materials


There are two main catalogs for finding books and printed materials in RBML:

  • CLIO, the Columbia University Libraries online catalog, contains records for approximately 80% of the ca. 450,000 cataloged volumes in RBML’s rare book collections.  See below for CLIO searching tips.
  • Card catalogs in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library or on the third floor of Butler Library. The RBML card catalog contains locally-made records for many of the books that are not yet cataloged, as well as additional name and subject entries for some titles. The third-floor catalog, however, is more complete, including cross-references and subject headings not found in the RBML catalog. Many of the titles not included in CLIO can be found in the National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints (London: Mansell, 1968-1981).

Researchers are advised to use both CLIO and the card catalogs when searching for RBML materials.

For an overview of our over thirty book collections, see the list of Cataloged Book CollectionsUncataloged Book Collections describes our largest collections not represented in either of the main catalogs.

The RBML copies of Columbia University dissertations and master’s essays are housed off-site and must be requested through the University Archives Reference Desk. However, circulating copies of Columbia dissertations should be available from the appropriate departmental library. Not all of the latter are recorded in CLIO. Likewise, for circulating copies of Teachers College dissertations, see EDUCAT, the TC online catalog. Dissertations may be available electronically through ProQuest Dissertations.

For additional help, consult RBML reference staff. There are also specialized card catalogs, indexes and files available in the RBML Reference Center covering specific genres, collections or subjects, a chronological card file of pre-1875 imprints, and a file of books by selected printers and illustrators.

CLIO searching tips

  • CLIO has records for all books cataloged after 1979, and more and more records converted from the card catalog, although this retrospective conversion is not yet complete.
  • One can limit a search to RBML materials only, or to a particular publication date or date range.
  • Using keyword searching, one can limit to a particular RBML collection: e.g. hkey smith newton search will find books in the Smith Collection of Mathematics which include Newton in the record. (Remember that not every book is in CLIO yet.)
  • The more elaborate the search, the less absolute the result.
  • Rare Book catalogers have used some forms of notes consistently, which may aid in searching for particular kinds of material:
     - Signed by the editor.
     - Inscribed by the editor to …
     - [“Signed” or “Inscribed” by themselves imply that the author signed or inscribed the item.]
     - From the library of … with his [bookplate or signature].
  • Records created by the retrospective conversion (“recon” in library talk) of the card catalog can be identified in CLIO by looking at the MARC view of the record. Scroll down to the line labeled 965: if it reads “RECON...” or “rcp...” it is a converted record, and should be considered less reliable than the alternative, a record created in-house by a cataloger with the book in hand.