This is a guide to finding and using materials in Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) at UBC Library.
Rare Books and Special Collections acquires books and pamphlets in a number of areas of specialization. Our main interests are the exploration, history, literature, maps, social life and peoples of British Columbia. We also have strong interests in Canadian history and literature, selected areas of English literature, children’s literature, maps and cartobibliography, the history of science and medicine, as well as Guangdong Province of China.
Rare Books and Special Collections’ holdings of cartographic archives and historical maps are especially strong in pre-1800 world/hemispheres, pre-1900 North America and Pacific Rim, fire insurance plans of B.C. towns and cities, and Edo-period Japan. Also acquired as parts of larger archival collections and fonds are collections of maps (both printed and hand-drawn), architectural drawings, and plans and blueprints.
The manuscript collections include materials documenting the economic, political, cultural, labour, and literary history of British Columbia. Prominent among these holdings are the records of the MacMillan Bloedel forestry company, the British Columbia Electric Railway and the Malcolm Lowry collection.
What are rare books?
RBSC defines rare books broadly as books that are hard to find or replace. Some books have qualities that make them more rare, valuable, or increase their research or monetary value. Some of these qualities include:
Further resources about rare books:
Rare Books and Manuscripts Section
Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America FAQs
Antiquarian Booksellers' Association Evaluating Books
What are archives?
Archives are documents created or received by a person, family, or organization. These materials are created as an organic or natural byproduct of their functions and activities, and are kept due to enduring value or as evidence of the activities of the creator. Archival materials are often unique items, such as family letters, where only one copy exists.
Rare Books and Special Collections uses AtoM (Access to Memory) as a database to manage our archival holdings.
What are special collections?
A special collection is thematic collection of materials with high research value. In a special collection, individual items may not have a high research or monetary value, but when the materials are considered together, they provide a rich research site and allow for the exploration of deeper themes on a particular topic. Special collections can be made up of exclusively books, archival materials, maps, or can be a combination of various formats.