Make a gift to Special Collections

A guide for those considering a gift in kind

The University of Virginia Library has been the grateful recipient of countless gifts of rare books and manuscripts from generous alumni, faculty, and friends. These gifts, arriving in ones, tens, or thousands, have enriched its collections immeasurably, helping to place it in the top tier of North American research libraries.

Constraints of space and staff time, however, compel us to structure and focus our collecting energies. Although our range of collecting is broad, certain books and manuscripts, potentially valuable in themselves, may not fall within it.

Special Collections of the University of Virginia Library deeply appreciates your interest in donating materials. In considering any gift, please keep in mind the following criteria we use to determine its suitability for our collections.

The gift process

If you are interested in giving printed books, manuscripts, or material in other formats to the Library, please contact us and we will forward your inquiry to the appropriate curator. We request that you do not bring materials to the library without having first communicated with a curator.

Upon acceptance of your gift, you will receive a letter of acknowledgment and a deed of gift. If you wish to claim a charitable tax deduction, the IRS requires that gifts valued at $5,000 or more be professionally appraised at the cost of the donor. Please let us know if you would like help finding an appraiser.

Once accepted, gifts become the property of the University of Virginia Library. If they are found to be duplicates, or if they do not fit our collecting profile, they may be sold or transferred to another library. The proceeds of sales will be used for new acquisitions. Under certain circumstances, a donor may request that items be returned if they are not to be kept in the Library.

How to help us support your donation

If you are considering donating a substantial collection of books or manuscripts to the library, we would be grateful for any financial support you can provide towards the processing of the collection. Funding can help us make your donation available to researchers and students more quickly. Funds for cataloging, archival processing, housing, and conservation are always welcome and are tax deductible.

Criteria for gift acceptance

  • Printed books
    There is no simple formula for determining whether a book is rare or valuable, and what might be defined as such for one person or library might not be considered so for another. The selection of books for Special Collections is, therefore, guided by the curators’ knowledge and expertise. We use the following criteria to determine whether a book is rare, special, or appropriate for our collections. These criteria are considered for both purchases and gifts.
    • Rarity/Importance
      • A rare book generally has some intrinsic importance that sets it apart. Many early editions of major works in the arts and sciences, such as reports of discoveries or inventions, important literary or historical texts, works by a fine artist or those with illustrations which give a new interpretation to a text fall into this category. In addition, features having to do with the book as a physical object, such as special or fine bindings, may be considered.
    • Age/Condition
      • The age of a book is not necessarily a factor in determining its value or importance. Condition is a more important consideration in determining the desirability of a book. Condition refers both to a book’s physical appearance and to the completeness of its contents. If a book is in poor condition, it is unlikely to be acquired unless its rarity and intrinsic importance offsets its defects. Missing pages or illustrations, and badly damaged bindings, render many books nearly valueless.
    • Provenance
      • The value and significance of a book may be enhanced if a previous owner is well known or a member of a particular community and if the book is important in relation to that person. Similarly, other associations can enhance value; for example, a book inscribed from one author to another. Authors’ signatures, particularly in twentieth-century books, are fairly common; though often desirable to collectors, they rarely have significant research value.
    • Language
      • Our collections’ primary strengths are in English-language materials related to American literature and history. Some notable exceptions include important early texts in Latin and European vernacular, Renaissance French literature, and our pre-eminent collection of Jorge Luis Borges. In order to serve the always changing teaching and research needs of the university community, we are glad to consider books and collections of books in languages outside these strengths on a case-by-case basis.
    • Subject
      • We depend on donors to help us fill significant gaps in our existing strengths, and to provide us with the opportunity to consider new and often unexpected collecting areas. If we are unable to accept a book or collection because it is outside our scope, we can often recommend other institutions that may be a good home for the materials.
  • Manuscripts
    • Manuscripts, personal papers, and organizational records are a fundamental part of our collecting mission. We regularly acquire additions to existing collections and new collections that are within the subject strengths of our existing collections. We are happy to consider manuscripts and archives that are outside our traditional scope.  Manuscripts are, by definition, unique. They include such things as handwritten or typed letters, diaries, drafts of literary works, meeting minutes, digital files or storage media, etc. The Library accepts gifts of manuscripts that fit within the guidelines of subject matter and condition set forth for printed books.
  • University of Virginia
    • Archival materials
      • Administrative records of units across Grounds, faculty and alumni papers, and student organization records form the core of the University Archives, and document important but different facets of UVA’s history. We acquire materials in analog and digital formats which have administrative, legal, and historical values. For administrative records, this includes permanent records (see retention schedules for more details) as well as records which document activities and operations of the university, including minutes, reports, correspondence, photographs, departmental publications, and websites.
      • We seek to collect and steward a diverse and inclusive record of the university in line with UVA’s Diversity and Inclusion Vision Statement. For faculty and alumni papers and student organization records, the Archives prioritizes the acquisition of records and personal and professional papers of groups which have been marginalized and are underrepresented in the Archives’ holdings. Materials typically included in faculty papers donations are correspondence (paper-based and email), photographs, research notes and data, course notes and syllabi, drafts of publications, and digital project websites. Alumni papers donations include correspondence documenting one’s experience at UVA, scrapbooks, course materials, photographs, and student publications. Student organization records donations include constitutions, by-laws, correspondence, membership lists, as well as websites and social media content.
    • Books
      • The University Archives acquires books about UVA, as well as select books authored by faculty and alumni.
    • Artifacts
      • Artifacts, especially memorabilia, are collected on a case-by-case basis due to storage and space constraints. We do not collect plaques or trophies.
  • Further formats
    • Photographs, architectural drawings, cartoons and caricatures, maps, films, videos, audio recordings, printed music, zines, posters, websites, and similar items that fit our collecting profile are of interest, as are works of art (original illustrations or engraving plates, etc.) relating to specific books. In general, we do not accept gifts of fine art or artifacts, but make referrals to the University of Virginia’s Fralin Art Museum

Collection strengths

We may be interested in materials in a wide range of areas. Below are some of the areas in which we actively collect; though each may have limits such as date, place of publication, author, etc. as determined by Special Collections curators.

  • History of UVA
  • American Literature (extensive, including selected Virginia authors)
  • American History (pre-European contact to the present, particularly Southeastern United States)
  • Virginiana (extensive, with particular interest in Central Virginia and Charlottesville, from early times to the present)
  • Thomas Jefferson (particularly relating to Monticello or the University of Virginia)
  • Civil War and Slavery
  • British Literature
  • William Faulkner
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Jorge Luis Borges
  • African-American History, Literature and Culture
  • Natural History
  • Sporting Books (estate sports and related subjects)
  • World Wars I and II
  • Miniature Books
  • Book Arts/Fine Printing/History of the Book/Bibliography

Items which do not meet our collecting profile

Certain categories of books are usually not in our collecting scope, or and are unlikely to contribute to our researchers’ needs. These include:

  • Single volumes of sets or incomplete sets
  • Bibles (with a few exceptions)
  • Collected editions of an author’s works published after the author’s death
  • Encyclopedias
  • Modern textbooks
  • Reprints and photocopies
  • Post-1900 newspapers and popular magazines

For further more on gifts, see our collection development policy or contact us with questions.

Updated October 22, 2019

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