Special Collections: Request Scans

How to Request Scans

Our staff may be able to provide limited reference scans of collections, free of charge. If you are interested in requesting scans of materials, please contact us and let us know what you would like scanned and for what purpose — so that we can help determine the image resolution required.

When you request scans, we’ll look at the size and format of the material, the amount of scans requested, how thoroughly the material is described, and the physical condition of the material. Due to staffing limitations, we cannot spend more than 30 minutes per request. Some material may be too large, fragile, unprocessed, or in a format that does not permit scanning. Depending on the items requested, we’ll get back to you within 1-3 weeks.


In most cases, the Boston Public Library does not hold the copyright to the items in our collections. Furthermore, we do not assert any additional restrictions on copies of these items beyond those that might exist in the original. As such, we cannot grant or deny permission to use copies of these items. It is the sole responsibility of the user to make their own determination about what types of usage might be permissible under U.S. and international copyright law. 

The copyright law of the United States (title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. 

Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement. 

This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law. 

Browse Digital Collections

Selections of our collections have been digitized and are available online to explore. Additionally, high-resolution images may be available to download. Check for a link on each item’s page.  

Digital Commonwealth & Internet Archive

Digital Commonwealth

Explore selections of our digitized collections available online.

Internet Archive

Access selections of our rare books and manuscripts online.
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