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We Recommend — The Art and History of Books

Registration for this event is currently full, but please look forward to future events with the Rare Books department.

There is a word that describes a person who loves to read, admire and collect books.
That word is bibliophile, and bibliophiles have existed since antiquity…

The ”Book Altar” of Philip the Good
c. 1430-1450 Vienna, Österreichische NationalBibliotheck, Cod. 1800
Lucerne: Faksimile-Verlag, c. 1991
ND3380 B82 1450a [facsimile]

… In the ancient world, papyrus scrolls and early codices were collected by both institutions and individuals. Some books were treasured because of their illustration and art, others were treasured for their gold and jewels, while some books were worshipped because their words had come directly from God. 

Although early manuscripts were not placed on the retail market, their worth was valuable enough to be used as collateral for loans of money, and even valuable enough to steal. Even when the printing press allowed for the production of multiple copies, book collectors could revel in knowing that they possessed within their collections a first edition or limited-edition book, hot off the press. 

While modern technology might promote planned obsolescence, the magic of books continues to be accessible to us hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of years later. It is no wonder that books hold on to their value for so long. For those very special books, there is a very special place in the J. Willard Marriott Library

Paradise Lost
John Milton
London: Printed by Miles Flesher, for Richard Bently, 1688
PR3560 1688

The Rare Books Department of the Marriott Library is one of five departments within the Special Collections Division. Other departments include Manuscripts, Multimedia, and Print and Journal. Special Collections materials are held on the fourth floor of the Marriott Library and can be accessed by request in the Special Collections reading and reference room. 

The history of the rare books collection can be traced back to the early years of the University of Deseret, and its first president, John R. Park. When President Park died in 1900, his entire library of some 3,4oo volumes was given to the University. Park’s library had been one of the most significant book collections ever assembled by an individual in the history of the state. 

Catalogue of Books in the Library of the University of Deseret
University of Deseret
Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret News Steam Printing Establishment, 1875
Z664 S3 A3

The rare books collections core was initially made up of books from the Utah Territorial Library, the University of Deseret Library, and the John R. Park private book collection. Over the years other individual library collections were acquired by the library. As the collection consisted mainly of books on Utah and the Mormons, these collections were put together and set aside in a special room called the Utah Room. Other gifts and donations came in gradually, and by 1965 the rare collection numbered almost 30,000 bound volumes. 

Thanks to university funding and generous gifts, the rare books collection has continued to grow over the last fifty-five years. Today, the Rare Books Department holds more than 80,000 items in the collection, ranging from Sumerian clay tablets to twenty-first-century artists’ books, and almost everything in between. 


Join us this month to learn more about the rare books collection with The Art & History of Books an exclusive showcase in the Rare Books Classroom on Thursday, March 16 and Friday, March 17, from 4:00 – 6:00 PM. Space will be limited to 40 people per day and reservations will be required. Reserve your spot by emailing Lyuba Basin at


1 Comment
  • Alexander Jolley
    Posted at 19:54h, 01 March Reply

    Seriously consider coming if you value the book as a cultural object. It is a wonderful opportunity to see such great works; in the era of technology and gadgets, a physical book has much more power and whimsy.

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