Using Rare Books

The East Asian Library and the Gest Collection

East Asian Library and the Gest Collection

普林斯頓大學葛思德東亞圖書館 ・ プリンストン大学東アジア図書館 ・ 프린스턴 대학교 동아시아 도서관

Using Rare Books

Online Catalog

Rare books can be found in the main catalog. However, you may also refer to the specialized Chinese Rare Books Catalog. This catalog allows browsing of rare books, Chinese only, by author name and subject, and offers an advanced search as well. Thus, the main catalog answers the question "does Princeton have book X in any form " (including rare items), while the specialized catalog answers the question "what rare books does Princeton have? (but it will not tell you not whether we have a microfilm or reprint of the title.)

Outside visitors

Outside visitors are welcome to use the East Asian Library. For borrowing privileges regarding the normal collection, please contact the Access Office in Firestone Library. Prospective users of the East Asian Library can apply to the Friends of the Princeton University Library Visiting Fellowships for some limited funding; note that competition is fierce.

Access to Rare Books

Due to space considerations, the books of the original (Chinese) Gest Collection are no longer physically located in the East Asian Library, nor are other rare books acquired subsequently (e.g., most Japanese and Korean rare books). Of course, you still will be able to use these books; the following explains the procedures to follow. In all cases, it is strongly encouraged to contact the Chinese Bibliographer before you visit Princeton, and it will benefit you greatly if you identify the items needed in the publicly available catalogs beforehand, in order to minimize the time spent on retrieving the books. Frequently there are ongoing preservation and scanning projects, which may make certain items not immediately available; if alerted in advance, we will make efforts to retrieve them.

Books considered Rare (most Chinese books published before 1796, but including some later choice items; most Japanese and Korean pre-1900 items) are physically located in the EAL Rare Book Collection in the Firestone Rare Books Library, where they can be consulted in its Reading Room when open (usually, five days a week from 9 to 5.) However, it is important to note that many traditionally-bound materials are located in Princeton’s storage locations (Annex or ReCAP), and are not in this Rare Book Collection; retrieval may take several days. A few choice items may be in the high-security rare books vaults in the main library. The electronic catalog will tell you what is where; for items not listed therecontact the Chinese Bibliographer using this link.

With few exceptions, users will be able to make digital photographs of books for their own personal use, after signing an agreement form at the Reading Room; this does not inlcude publication rights, for which special permission needs to be sought.

Individual registration

All users are required to register once first; please read the FAQ, and fill out the form on Users from outside Princeton will have to obtain a special photo-ID at the Access Office; proper identification (government-issued ID, passport, or university ID card) is necessary (see at the link above the registration FAQ.)

Requesting Materials

As mentioned above, first-time users are strongly encouraged to first make an appointment with the Chinese Bibliographer using this linkalso for Japanese and Korean material. Information on access to some items, especially those not yet in the electronic catalog, as well as other information on temporarily unavailable items of the Rare Books Collection is only available at the East Asian Library itself.

For the most up-to-date information on all pre-1796 items, please consult the entries in Princeton’s on-line catalog. To request material in there, click on the See Request Options link, and follow the instructions on the general Request Materials page.

The OCLC database now contains the full International Union Catalogue of Chinese Rare Books, compiled under leadership of Sören Edgren. All Princeton’s Chinese rare books are included. This project was undertaken by an independent organization under the auspices of the Department of East Asian Studies at Princeton University. This electronic catalog gives superior access to detailed records of the pre-1796 Chinese rare book holdings of most North American and several important Mainland Chinese and European libraries, according to detailed uniform guidelines. In OCLC, users should click on “show record information” and then on the particular library record for getting the specifics for that particular item.

Users may also benefit from the printed Qu Wanli Pulinsidun daxue Geside Dongfang Tushuguan Zhongwen shanben shuzhi (originally published in 1974, now available as vol. 13 of the Qu Wanli quanji; compiled in 1965-1966 on the basis of an unpublished draft of Wang Zhongmin). This catalog contains mostly Ming works, and contains the large majority of such items available at Princeton; but this catalog is now considered outdated in some of its details.

Finally the printed Chang Bide/Wu Zhefu, Pulinsidun daxue Geside Dongfang Tushuguan Zhongwen jiuji shumu catalog (1990) contains mostly Qing items. It may contain items not yet in the on-line catalog. Call number and locatio information listed in this catalog may be incorrect; the correct information is in the on-line catalog.

Especially if you need items in one of the storage areas (Annex or ReCAP), or not in the electronic catalog at all, and you are not physically at Princeton, you should contact in advance the Chinese Bibliographer, so that the non-rare books can be retrieved for you from storage before you visit Princeton. You can make such a request using this form.

Use and reproduction rights

For information on permissions and rights regarding producing images from the East Asian Library's rare books, please contact the Chinese Bibliographer using this form.

In your request, please include the following information:

Image to be used and way to  be used (inside the book/ as a cover)
State whether you need an image in a particular format, or have one already
Title of the book with projected publication data
Projected run, price, targeted audience (e.g., academic)
Any possible connection to Princeton 

In general, we follow the guidelines as established by Princeton’s Rare Books and Special Collections department ( In practice, the use of most of the material held in the rare book collections of the East Asian Library, will fall into the “waived fees” category:


Reproduction fees are routinely waived for the Princeton University community, including current faculty, staff, and students; as well as the Princeton University Press, Art Museum, Index of Christian Art, and other university offices or publications. Fees are also waived for black-and-white reproduction of a few images of textual or visual materials on inside pages of a scholarly journal (either printed or electronic), in an academic monograph published in a press run of fewer than 750 copies, or in a scholarly microform or electronic edition. Reproduction fees in these specific cases will be waived for everyone, whether or not a member of the Princeton University Community. However, even when fees are waived, existing photoduplication charges must be paid in advance, and permission to reproduce images must be requested in writing in order to guarantee that citations are accurate.

Restrictions on access

For any particular requests (or access to items not in the on-line catalog), please contact the Chinese Bibliographer using this form.

Since items always can be temporarily out of circulation (preservation, digitization, cataloging improvements, exhibitions), and some rare books will have to be retrieved from storage, you are always strongly encouraged to contact us ahead of your trip to Princeton.