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Rare Books and Maps

Rare books figure prominently in the Special Collections Research Center’s mission to support research and teaching at GW and beyond. We are building and making accessible a rare book teaching and research collection for use by students and faculty of the University as well as the external community. Learn more about how we can support your course instruction and see below for more information about our rare book and map collections. See this research guide for more information about using rare books at GW as objects of study.

I. Edward Kiev Judaica Collection

The Gelman Library has diverse and wide-ranging holdings in the field of Hebrew and Judaic studies, including modern Judaica, rare books, and archival materials. Foremost among the resources in the Special Collections Research Center is the I. Edward Kiev Collection, the leading university collection of Judaica in the Washington Research Library Consortium.

Middle East Institute Rare Book Collection

The Middle East Institute Rare Book Collection is the original collection held in the The George Camp Keiser Library of the Middle East Institute, Washington, DC. The collection consists of some 700 volumes of orientalist literature and scholarship, addressing various aspects of the history, culture, politics, literature and languages of the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire, Central Asia, the horn of Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and the Islamic lands. A large part of the collection is composed of travelogues and other geographical works related to these regions. The holdings of the collection vary in language, date, and provenance.  Although most of the books are in English, there are many in Arabic, and the rest in other western and oriental languages, especially French, German, Turkish, and Persian.  Among these are books printed in different corners of the Islamic world, including North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, and India.  The major portion of the collection stems from the 19th and early 20th centuries, but there are also some older volumes from the 17th and 18th centuries.  The many editions and translations of sacred and classical texts include Alexander Ross’s version (from the French) of The Alcoran of Mahomet (London, 1688); Flügel’s academic edition of the original text, Corani textus arabicus (Leipzig, 1858); Edward Lane’s English version of The Thousand and One Nights (London, 1839-1841); and Macnaghten’s edition of the Arabic original, Alif Laylah wa Laylah (Calcutta, 1839-1842).  The oldest book in the collection is the Spanish translation (from Ladino) of Moses Almosnino’s Extremos y grandezas de Constantinopla (Madrid, 1638).

Map Collection

The Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, and early America area map collection includes over 360 maps, many of them rare, and other printed graphic materials documenting Washington, DC and the surrounding areas from 1630 through 2003. The map collection also contains the Maps of the Holy Land collection donated by Samuel Halperin and Henry Epstein, which includes maps of the Middle East created by such famous cartographers as Gerhard Mercator, Sebastian Münster,  Christian von Adrichem, and Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville.

Specialized Book Collection

The rare book collection contains more than 60,000 titles and covers a variety of subjects and time periods. It includes fine examples of early modern printing, book arts and printing, historic materials about the District of Columbia, historic Bibles, and works from nearly every century. The rare book collection continues to grow as a teaching collection and is used to support classes each semester. See more about rare books used in courses here.

Corcoran Collection of Artists' Books

Artists’ books are works of art, sometimes published in small editions and sometimes one-of-a-kind, that are manifested in book or book-like form. The Corcoran Collection of Artists' Books contains over 300 artists' books focusing broadly on the theme of social justice. The artists’ books collection serves as a teaching collection in support of the Corcoran School's books arts and printmaking programs. View all Corcoran collection artists' books in our library catalog.


If you are interested in reviewing any rare books or maps please contact us.

Rare Books and Maps Staff

Senior Library Assistant, Special Collections Public Services