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Rare Books and Manuscripts Department

Ask a librarian!

Have a question about searching for material, accessing our collections, or anything else we can help you with? Send us your questions and our staff will get back to you! You can also reach us via email at

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need special permission to use BPL's rare books?

No! You do not need special permission, credentials, or expertise to visit our reading room. Everyone is welcome to use our collections. If you've never worked with rare books before, our staff can help you.

See the Visit section of this website for further information.

How do I find materials for my project or interests?

You can find advice on searching our catalogs and databases on our search page. However, you are also welcome to just let us know what types of material you are looking for, and we can help!

I have some old books, what are they worth?

As public librarians, we can not provide an appraisal of your books. Establishing the market value of rare books and manuscripts requires specialized expertise. Many people who wish to establish the value of their books or collections turn to booksellers who specialize in appraisals.

Can I donate rare books and manuscripts to the BPL?

Yes! The Rare Books and Manuscripts Department is grateful for the support of our community. Offers to donate books and manuscripts are always appreciated. Donation offers will be carefully considered by our staff.

In order to help us determine whether the materials you want to donate fit in with our collecting strategy, please consider the following before you send any materials to the library:

  • Before you send anything, always contact us first
  • The more specific you can be about what you have, the better
  • Lists with author, title, year, etc., are extremely helpful
  • Pictures are also extremely useful
  • We are not able to provide you with an appraisal of your donation

While we appreciate the fact that some donors might wish to remain anonymous, we will not open envelopes or packages without valid return addresses. For our own safety, envelopes and packages without valid return addresses will be discarded.

I saw something from your collections on Digital Commonwealth. Do I need your permission to use it?

In most cases, the Boston Public Library does not hold the copyright to the items in our collections. Furthermore, we do not assert any additional restrictions on copies of these items beyond those that might exist in the original. If the material you are working with is in the public domain, you do not require our permission to publish; you are free to use the images in any way that you would like, including in print.

On Digital Commonwealth, you can check the "Terms of Use" for the item to see if there are any known copyright restrictions. If not, it is likely in the public domain. You can download high resolution images using the Download box on the item page. Future researchers may find it helpful if you include "Rare Books and Manuscripts Department, Boston Public Library" and the call number in any credit line or citation so that they can locate the original item themselves.

Contact & Reading Room Hours

Contact us!

Rare Books and Manuscript Department
Boston Public Library
700 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02116

Reading Room Hours:


  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: 9:30-4:30
  • Thursday: 9:30-4:30
  • Friday: 9:30-4:30
  • Saturday- Sunday: Closed