American Geographical Society Library



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AGSL Rare Materials Collection

Nicolas Fremont d'Abla[i]ncourt. Suite du Neptune Francois, ou Atlas Nouveau des Cartes Marines, Amsterdam: Pierre Mortier, 1700.

The AGS Library contains items ranging in date from the fifteenth century to the present day. Many of these items are extremely rare and valuable. An example is a world map dated 1452 by Giovanni Leardo, which is one of only three known manuscript world maps by this Venetian cartographer. Another example is a 1478 Rome edition, on vellum, of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia.

In general, a cut-off date of 1900 separates those materials in the AGS Library which are considered "rare" from the so called "working" collection. Age, however, is not the only factor used in assigning an item the "rare" designation. Uniqueness, special format, or fragile condition can all lead to an item’s classification as "rare".

The AGS Library’s holdings of rare books, periodicals, photographs, maps, and atlases are housed in a special environmentally controlled and monitored room within the Library.

While recognizing the necessity of preserving these rare materials for future generations, the AGS Library staff strives to make them as accessible as possible to patrons. The AGS Library Rare Room is restricted to staff only. The AGS Library staff will retrieve any needed materials from the Rare Room upon the completion of the Rare Materials Use Form. Proper identification is required. A reading room under video surveillance is adjacent to the Rare Materials Room that provides an area for research and study.

Although photocopying of rare items is generally not permitted, photography (including personal photography) or scanning can sometimes be used as alternatives.

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