What is Preserving the World’s Rarest Books?

Preserving the World’s Rarest Books is a new programme, sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation of New York, which aims to put the analytical power of the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC) at the disposal of the world library community. The USTC is an analytical database of books published throughout Europe to 1650. Many of the books described in the USTC are extremely rare: around 30% survive in only one located copy. The St Andrews-Mellon programme is intended to help libraries find the rarest books in their collections. Participating libraries will be furnished with a list of all their early holdings, ranked according to rarity. Libraries are free to do with this information what they wish: participation in the programme imposes no obligations. But some of our early partners have indicated that they may use our information to shape digitization priorities; others may highlight unique items in forthcoming exhibitions or publications

The USTC welcomes enquiries from any institution with early printed holdings. We are actively seeking a range of participating libraries: large and small, public and private. We are also keen to work with libraries and archives interested in knowing more about their printed holdings. Our initial group of partners includes both university and municipal libraries, one distinguished specialist library and one national library: they are spread among seventeen countries across four continents. In the first three years of the programme we intend to recruit a total of up to fifty libraries.

Interested in learning more?

How do we work with libraries?

Who are our partners?