Catalogs and Databases

Special collections materials are discoverable and accessible through a variety of different interfaces, both online and offline

Research catalog, opens a new window

  • Image of research catalog search page, opens a new windowBest option when searching for rare books and individual manuscripts
  • Records display full bibliographic data on primary screen
  • All descriptive fields, including subject headings, genre headings, and copy-specific descriptions are keyword searchable

Catalog, opens a new window

  • Good option if title or author are already known
  • Better ability to search/browse collections by department and/or date range
  • Must "broaden search" to see full results list 
  • Records display abbreviated bibliographic data, with option to view full description

  Finding aids, opens a new window

  • Search and browse archival finding aids or descriptive inventories of manuscript collections held within the Boston Public Library

Digital Commonwealth, opens a new window

  • Online repository of digitized materials from BPL collections and from the collections of hundreds of other Massachusetts institutions
  • Facilitates discovery and download of digitized prints, drawings, manuscripts, books, works of art, and photographs not always indexed in the online catalogs


Boston Public Library at Internet Archive, opens a new window

  • Online repository of digitized materials from BPL collections, including special collectionsBPL Internet Archive collections page, opens a new window
  • Good resource if you already know the exact title you are looking for and that it has been digitized

Printed catalogs, lists, and inventories

  • Printed card catalogs in the Rare Books DepartmentCertain items and collections are not yet cataloged online and are primarily searchable on-site and in print form only
  • Individual departments maintain card catalogs, paper finding aids, accession lists, and other inventory documents
  • Researchers are encouraged to visit in person or to contact the appropriate department for further information
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