Reconciliation Day Public Holiday

All National Library reading rooms will be closed on Reconciliation Day, Monday 28 May.  Regular reading room hours will resume on Tuesday 29 May. See our holiday opening hours for more information.

Can you give me information on rare books?

Shelves of books at a Sydney University library


Books become rare only when the demand for them is greater than the supply. The demand for a book is generated by a number of elements which affect a book's desirability and therefore its price.

Some of these elements include:

  • author's reputation
  • illustrator's reputation
  • publisher's reputation
  • quality of the binding
  • scarcity of the edition
  • whether the books literary genre is fashionable.

Rare books are, by their nature, less common than second-hand books. While there is no clear boundary between rare books and second-hand books for the most part, a second-hand book is a used book that is not distinguished by its edition, provenance, binding, or overall condition; its retail price generally is quite modest.

For more information, including general answers to some frequently asked questions about rare books, see the website Your old books.

The September 2010 edition of the National Library Magazine includes an article on rare books within our collection.