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Search Tools

  • CLIO
    The Columbia University Libraries online catalogue is a primary tool for locating RBML materials.
  • Archival Collections Portal
    This portal provides access to records of archival collections at Columbia University Libraries, including finding aids, collection descriptions and available digital content, such as online exhibits and images.
  • Oral History Portal
    Use this portal to explore the collections of the Columbia Center for Oral History (CCOH) Archives at RBML.
  • Digital Library Collections
    The Digital Library Collections (DLC) website is a gateway to digital reproductions and descriptions of photographs, posters, drawings, objects, ephemera, and manuscripts as well as other archival material from Columbia's rare and special collections.

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Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative

The Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI) is an international digital library project aimed at putting text and images of cuneiform tablets online. The RBML's collection, searchable here, is made up of more than 500 cuneiform texts, diverse in contents, mostly from the Ur III period.

Digital Scriptorium

Digital Scriptorium is a consortium of libraries and museums, including the RBML and other Columbia University libraries, committed to free online access to their collections of pre-modern manuscripts. All the medieval and Renaissance manuscript holdings of the RBML have short descriptions and images on Digital Scriptorium.

Homer Papyrus Fragment

In 1995 the Advanced Papyrological Information System was started to create a collections-based repository of information about and images of papyrological materials (e.g., papyri, ostraca, wooden tablets, etc.). Now with, it is possible to view descriptions and images of items in the RBML collection.

Manuscripts, papers and records

A core resource in locating research material in the RBML is the finding aid. Simply put, a finding aid is a descriptive document created to help patrons find research material. Types of finding aids include file lists, inventories, container and folder lists, card catalogs, databases, published guides—virtually anything that allows one access to large amounts of material.

  • All collections can be found in CLIO, the Columbia University Libraries online catalogue. For tips on finding archival material through CLIO see the Archives and Manuscripts Help Page.
  • Finding aids for many collections are accessible via the Archival Collections Portal. Patrons can search across all repositories and collections held in the Columbia University Libraries.

Books and 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.
  • 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.

Researchers are advised to use both CLIO and the card catalogs when searching for RBML materials. Many of the titles not included in CLIO can be found in the National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints (London: Mansell, 1968-1981).

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

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

Codex Manuscripts

A codex manuscript is a written (not printed) work bound as a book. RBML’s codex manuscript collections include Western manuscripts in collections distinguished by subject, and non-Western works in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Hebrew, Sanskrit, and other languages.

All the medieval and Renaissance manuscript holdings of this library, as well as those of other Columbia libraries (Barnard, Law, Music, Teachers College) have short descriptions and images on the Digital Scriptorium website.

Cards for post-1600 Western codex manuscripts are filed in the manuscript/document card file in the RBML reference area under author. There is also a shelf list card file for individual collections. For General Manuscripts, there is a binder at the reference desk with indexes by date and by language. See More Details on Codex Manuscript Holdings for a list of collections and languages we hold. For additional help, contact

Theses and Dissertations

The Columbia University Archives staff has put together some Research Guides to help you take advantage of our holdings. For a full guide on how to find the different collections of Master's Essays and dissertation and information on how to request copies, see the University Archives Research Guide. If you need help in identifying what materials you need to learn more about the history of Columbia or to find information on a former Columbia student, faculty or staff member, please contact