Collections Guide


Center for Book Arts collections consists of reference works, works of art, and archival documentation. There are over 2,000 cataloged items in both the reference library and the fine art collections that are available as a resource for the CBA’s community. Note that neither is a circulating collection. Books and works of art cannot be checked out and must be consulted at CBA only. All cataloged works can be found on CBA’s online catalog. The Librarian’s email is Feel free to reach out with any questions about the collections or using the catalog. 

Fine Arts Collection

The fine art collection consists of artists’ books, prints, and other book arts related works gathered by Center for Book Arts. Use of the fine art collection is available by appointment through the Librarian. A user of the collection is typically tasked with searching the online catalog and requesting specific works via email (, though the Librarian is available and happy to make suggestions and additions based on what the user is looking for. 

Using the Online Catalog

The online catalog is a keyword-searchable database for all collections. The buttons in the upper left provide simple browsing options. Users can search just below these options in the upper left by author or artist, title, subject, date, location, or any other term and the database will search every part of each entry for a match. By using the menu on the right, users can filter search results by collection, people, organizations, subject, object types, and places. Filtering by collection can be useful when searching for items only from the reference collection, for example. 

Reference Collection

The reference library is located in the back hallway between the print shop and bindery. It is housed in the locked shelves with a key available from staff members, though it is usually out and readily available the days the Librarian is in (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). Serials are housed in the set of wooden shelves next to the door of the collections room. Users are welcome to search the online catalog or browse the shelves on their own.

The reference library is classified and organized by major subject categories: Artist’s monographs (AM), bookbinding (BB), book connoisseurship (BC), book making (BM), calligraphy and lettering (CL), conservation and preservation (CP), decorative arts and patterns (DP), directories and supplies (DS), exhibition catalogues (EC), maquettes and models (MM), papermaking (PA), paper Treatments (PT), printmaking (PM), serials (SE), technical dictionaries (TD), typography (TY), and type specimens (TS). 

The two letters in parentheses are included in the call number to indicate which subject category the work belongs to and also where to find it on the shelf. Works on printmaking and type are physically located closer to the print shop while works on book making and bookbinding are closer to the bindery with the other categories in between. The call numbers are written on slips of paper inserted in each book.

An example of a call number: REF.PM.1613

  • REF refers to reference collection.
  • PM indicates that the work is generally about and housed with other books on printmaking.
  • 1613 is the sequential four digital code given to each cataloged work and serves as a guide on where to find an individual work within a category. Books are arranged in order numerically within each category. Note: Each category does not include every number starting at 0001, therefore there are gaps in the numbers of works housed next to each other. For example, REF.PM.1613 is between REF.PM.1611 and REF.PM.1617.

Items taken from the reference collection shelves should be returned to the cart in the collections hallway. Doing so helps staff keep track of what’s being used in order to better understand how the collection is used and provide insight into how the collection can develop in the future to better serve the needs of the CBA community. 

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