Rare Books Librarianship I

This is the first of two short course on rare books librarianship and it provides a general  introduction to this specialist field. It gives a brief overview of the development of the printed book in the hand-press period (to approximately 1850) and examines the problems of identifying and making available valuable and early printed materials in libraries.

The aim of this short course is to enable students to identify materials in a rare-books collection and give them the appropriate curatorial care, give help and advice to the general public about materials in a rare-books collection, and to deal appropriately with bibliographical queries and promotion.


Jennie Hill BA MA MScEcon - Director of Learning and Teaching and lecturer Department of Information Studies, Aberystwyth University.

Jennie has a wealth of experience working in information and archive posts including:

In addition to modules in archives and recordkeeping, Jennie also teaches rare books and special collections. Her research interests centre on engagement with the past in all its guises, but particularly interdisciplinary engagement with archives, public history and heritage, collecting, and the history of libraries and recordkeeping. Jennie’s publications include:

  • Hill, J. (2010) ed. The Future of Archives and Recordkeeping, Facet
  • Lane, V. and Hill, J. (2010) Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Situating the Archive and Archivists, in Hill, J. ed. The Future of Archives and Recordkeeping, Facet.
  • Hill, J. and Slocombe, W. (2010) No Larkin Around: The Serious Business of Contemporary Literary Archives, Archives: The Journal of the British Records Association, 35(122), 1-10.
  • Co-editor of special issue of Archives on literary archives including contributions from Jamie Andrews, GLAM, Christine Faunch, Jeff Cowton, David McClay and Peter Barry. Archives: The Journal of the British Records Association, 35 (122) April 2010.
  • Hill, J. and Taylor, M. (2009) Taking Off: encouraging deeper learning and cohort identity through dialogic learning, in Gaskill, A. and Mills, R. eds. Supporting Learning in the Digital Age: rethinking inclusion, pedagogy and quality: collected conference papers and abstracts (Cambridge, September 22-25 2009), 222-229.


Students should have an interest in the history of the book. It is helpful to have access to a rare books collection, but this isn’t essential for studying the module successfully

Learning Outcomes

After completing this short course you should be able to:

  • critically appraise the nature and purpose of rare-book libraries
  • critically evaluate the history of the printed book in Western Europe, especially in Britain
  • identify and assess the principal physical characteristics of a printed book of the hand-press period
  • critically evaluate the general principles of the printing process in the hand-press period
  • interpret the roles of the various tradesmen and craftsmen within the book trade, such as printer, bookseller, binder, papermaker, compositor
  • demonstrate how to identify a book of the hand-press period using the standard bibliographical reference tools for English printed materials
  • analyse the main curatorial and management problems facing a rare-books librarian, including security, conservation, information technology, and reader services
  • devise and justify a promotional strategy for a rare-books collection


To apply please complete the Short Course Application Form

This form should be completed and returned - with your reference - as soon as possible to the Postgraduate Admissions Office: 

For further information, please contact the Department of Information Studies tel: (+/0)1970 622731 / 622189; e-mail: dis-dept@aber.ac.uk