While there is no universal definition of what constitutes a rare book, it may be thought of broadly as a book with high intrinsic or research value that would be difficult to replace. Factors of age, fragility, scarcity, research value, or unique characteristics may bring books into Special Collections. Additionally, books that may not be rare or particularly valuable as individual items may be of significant research value in the context of an in-depth, tightly-focused subject collection.
The Rare Books unit holds nearly 29,000 printed volumes, as well as substantial holdings of periodicals, broadsides, pamphlets, maps, architectural plans and drawings that document the diverse histories and cultures of San Antonio, Texas, the Southwestern United States, and Mexico. The collection is comprised of first editions, manuscript books, inscribed and signed copies, variant editions and formats, ranging in date from 16th to the 21st centuries.
The Rare Books Digital Collection includes select digitized materials in the areas of architecture, culinary history, and the development of tourism in San Antonio. Additional digitized materials include select local newspapers and newsletters, as well as individual items from collections of particular note.
The collections complement many of our Personal Papers & Organizational Records, Photography and Oral History Collections and have been used by students and scholars in research ranging from local history to food culture.
Strengths of the collection include
- Mexican Culinary History and Cookbooks
- San Antonio History
- San Antonio Authors
- San Antonio and South Texas Art, Architecture and Urban Development
- Texas Fine Press Collections
- History of Mexico