What is a rare book? Age may be the first factor to spring to mind, but uniqueness of binding, edition (first or limited), inscriptions or annotations by authors or well-known owners, and size of print runs may cause more contemporary materials to be considered rare. While a standard AACR2 catalog record provides a general description of a book, it may obscure differences between different printings or "manifestations" of that particular work. (Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Books), X.1.2) Researchers are generally more interested in the contents of a book than in the container. However, in the case of rare materials, the physical book itself may be an object of research. The aim of a catalog record for a rare book, then, is to describe the volume and its contents as thoroughly as possible. An individual copy of a rare book can be unique as to binding, annotations, pagination errors, illustrations, etc. Since all of these specifics may be of interest to researchers, rare book cataloging can include much more detail than a "regular" catalog record. The following brief summary outlines some descriptive elements in the creation of rare book records.
Wells, Kathleen L.
"Special Collections Cataloging: Rare Books,"
The Primary Source: Vol. 27
, Article 2.
Available at: http://aquila.usm.edu/theprimarysource/vol27/iss2/2