Make a Gift

A Guide for Those Considering a Gift-in-Kind

Throughout its distinguished history the University of Virginia Library has been the grateful recipient of countless gifts of rare books and manuscripts from loyal and 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 quarter of research libraries in North America.

After decades of growth, our collections have matured, becoming both broad and deep in scope. We continue to build these collections, honoring our responsibility to promote the research mission of the Library and the University and to preserve the cultural heritage these institutions embody. Constraints of space and staff time, however, force us, like almost all libraries, 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.

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. The following are the general criteria we use to determine whether a book is rare, special, or appropriate for our collections. These criteria are considered for both purchases and gifts.

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 in determining whether it is intrinsically significant.

The age of a book is not necessarily a factor in determining its value or importance, but we pay special attention to all books printed before 1501, English books printed before 1641, and books printed in the Americas before 1801.

Condition is a major 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 very poor condition, it is unlikely to be acquired unless its rarity and intrinsic importance offsets its defects. Missing pages or illustrations render many books nearly valueless.

The value and significance of a book may be enhanced if a previous owner is well known 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.

Our collections’ greatest 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.

The Library generally acquires materials which enhance already strong or growing collections. As a rule, we do not accept single titles that are out of scope; however we may make exceptions for larger collections, if we believe they will be a resource for scholars’ research needs.

Manuscripts are, by definition, unique. They include such things as handwritten or typed letters, diaries, literary writings, etc. The Library accepts gifts of manuscripts that fit within the guidelines of subject matter and condition set forth for printed books.

Other Formats
Photographs, architectural drawings, maps, films, videos, computer files, printed music, 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 makes referrals to the University of Virginia Art Museum.

The Gift Process

If you are interested in giving manuscripts, printed books, or material in other formats to the Library, please contact us beforehand with information about them. If possible, we would appreciate a complete description of the items and a list of printed books which includes author, title, date and place of publication, as well as information about the condition of the materials.

Upon acceptance of your gift, you will receive a letter of acknowledgment and, depending on its apparent value, 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. 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 to increase funding for new acquisitions. Under certain circumstances, a donor may request that items be returned if they are not to be kept in the Library. We are honored that you are considering placing a gift with the University of Virginia Library, and we look forward to working with you in this process.

Items Which Meet Our Collecting Profile

At present we are collecting in the subject areas listed below; though each may have limits such as date, place of publication, author, etc., as determined by Special Collections curators.

  • American Literature (extensive, including selected Virginia authors)
  • American History (pre-European contact to the 1880s, particularly Southeastern United States)
  • Virginiana (extensive, with particular interest in Central Virginia and Charlottesville, from early times to the present)
  • Jeffersoniana (particularly relating to Monticello or the University of Virginia)
  • Civil War and Slavery
  • British Literature (selected authors, genres, and time periods)
  • William Faulkner
  • John Dos Passos
  • 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
  • Book Arts/Fine Printing/History of the Book/Bibliography

Items Which Do Not Meet Our Collecting Profile

Certain categories of books are not in our collecting scope, are not considered to be primary research materials, or have little intrinsic value. These include:

  • Single volumes of sets or incomplete sets
  • Bibles (with a few rare exceptions)
  • Collected editions of an author’s works published after the author’s death
  • Encyclopedias
  • Textbooks
  • Reprints and facsimiles
  • Newspapers, magazines and comic books (exceptions include rare and important single issues of newspapers; magazines containing first-published articles by American authors whose work we collect; and certain locally published periodicals.)

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