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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Special Collections - Lloyd Sealy Library: Rare Books

This is a guide to the Manuscript Collections, Rare Books and John Jay College Archives in the Special Collections at the Lloyd Sealy Library of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Rare Books available by Appt. in the Special Collections Room

The library holds thousands of rare books and pamphlets in criminal justice and other related subjects. Our Collections are particularly strong in rare and unique titles on Crime, Criminals, Policing , Corrections, Criminal Trials, Criminal Anthropology and Medical Jurisprudence.  We also hold significant early modern volumes still bound in the original vellum and leather on European Criminal Law and Jurisprudence.  Most of these monographs are cataloged in One Search. 


For finding books in English printed before 1801 at John Jay and other collections include the ESTC (English Short Title Catalog) freely available from the British Library.  These titles are also digitally available [with a CUNY log-in] in Early English Books Online (EEBO) or Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO). See also Latin Place Names Found in the Imprints of Books Printed Before 1801 and their Vernacular Equivalents.

For information on these and other digital collections of rare books see below.

Fraud and Swindles Collection in the Rare Books Collection

Over 2000 titles comprise the Fraud and Swindles Collection. The titles in this collection can be brought together by searching the term "Fraud and Swindles Collection" in One Search and the original collector's inventory of the collection is available upon request. These titles are available for study by appointment in the Special Collections Room.

This collection was featured in the New York Times:  Lost Manuscript Unmasks Details of Original Ponzi And in the CUNY publication Salute to Scholars A Priceless Collection of Skullduggery There's also a podcast about this collection featuring chief librarian Larry Sullivan Books on Crooks

Milton Helpern Library of Legal Medicine in the Rare Books Collection

Transferred to John Jay from the Library of New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene. For more on this library please see p. 15 of the Fall 2012 Classified Information [library newsletter]. All of the rare books in this collection are now cataloged in One Search and available for consultation in the Special Collections Room by appointment.

Artists' books in the Rare Books Collection

The following artists' books are part of our Special Collections, and may be seen by appointment:

The Brownsville boys: Jewish gangsters of Murder, Inc. / conceived and written by Larry E. Sullivan ; etchings by D.R. Wakefield. Special Collections Room - HV6795 .N5 S87 2013 [22] leaves : col. ill. ; 46 cm. Loose sheets, most printed with a color etching portrait positioned above letterpress shaped text. "... The presswork was executed by Art Larson at Horton Tank Graphics ... The box and chemise were created by Claudia Cohen..."--Colophon. Edition limited to 50 numbered copies and 10 hors d’commerce, each signed by the author and the artist. Issued unbound in a stiff portfolio, housed in a clamshell case with paste paper lining. Library has copy no. 16/50.

FREEDOM OF CHOICE (2009) Three Poems of Love and Death by Lucie Brock-Broido. Richard Minsky. Note: we have copy 1 which is chained to a replica of an electric chair.   Special Collections Room.

Voices From Outside.  (2008) by Just Seeds artist collective. A portfolio project in association with the Critical Resistance ten year anniversary conference in Oakland, California Special Collections Room.

Sum of our Parts: An Examination of Death Rituals in America. (2014) by Jennaway Pearson Washington D.C. Special Collections Room.


Collections of Digitized Books of Interest

All of these digital collections provide free and open access to texts:

Cornell University has digitized the Samuel J. May Anti-Slavery Collection and parts of their witchcraft collection

New York Historical Association's online exhibition of “murder” pamphlets is entitled “Was he a man or a monster?  Merchandising murder in the nineteenth century popular press” displays the front cover of 124 of the approximately 400 pamphlets in the collection of “murder” pamphlets and monographs. The pamphlets range from publication dates in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century, with the bulk published in the 1800s.  Many of the books and pamphlets in this collection are listed in The annals of murder:  a bibliography of books and pamphlets on American murders from Colonial times to 1900, compiled by Thomas M. McDade.

The Universtity of Michigan's  Making of America is digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction.  The collection is particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology.

Freely Available Digital Book Collections

Some of old and rare books will now show up as EBooks in a One Search.  Try also looking for digitally available old and rare books on WorldCat (restrict to internet resource)

Johns Hopkins Univ Library Women of the Book Collection is described in this article.

The Internet Archive offers open and free access to books, contributed mainly from American and Canadian libraries. There are various reader interfaces to use, I recommend the 'flip-book' reader interface that allows you to "turn" the pages by clicking on them. While the search function doesn't always work well for subjects, author and title searches work well. Many Google Books scanned in American libraries that are partially available on the web are available here in fully downloadable form.

HathiTrust is a partnership of major research institutions and libraries working to ensure that the cultural record is preserved and accessible long into the future. There are more than fifty partners in HathiTrust, and membership is open to institutions worldwide. CUNY is not presently a member, so some of the books are not freely available.

Gallica offers millions of documents, recordings, and books from La Bibliothèque nationale de France. If the book you are looking for was published in France, it could be here. You can also browse the books here.

The Digital Old Books Project / Collections partimoniales des bibliotheque from the Universities of Strasbourg offers much more than its humble name implies. Browsing the titles available there reveal amazing scholarly riches of truly rare titles, most from the 16th-19th century available free and in full color. Searching and browsing is available from the homepage.

 Digitized books from the Rare Book Division at the Library of Congress (Washington, DC) including a link the American Memory Project

Project Gutenberg was the first producer of free electronic books (ebooks). You can download over 30,000 free ebooks to read on your PC, iPhone, Kindle, other eBook Reader or other portable device. Book catalog · Bookshelves by topic · Book search · Top downloads · Recently added   you can also volunteer to proofread recently digitized books here.

Older and Rare Books Digitally Available with John Jay Login

The library subscribes to these book collections, which are available to the John Jay community by logging in with your email address and password.
Early English Books Online (JOHN JAY USE ONLY) EEBO contains page images of nearly every work published in English since the beginning of printing through the 18th century (including pamphlets, newspapers and books). These works were originally cataloged in Alfred William Pollard's Short-title catalogue of books printed in England, Scotland & Ireland and of English books printed abroad, 1475-1640. (known as Pollard or STC I) which is continued by Donald Goddard Wing's Short-title catalogue of books printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and British America, and of English books printed in other countries 1641-1700 (known as Wing or STC II). Titles are being added to these bibilographies at the British Library's ESTC project. Also included in this collection is Thomason's Tracts and Early English Books Tract Supplement there are plans to add more collections and titles.  All of these collections were digitized from microfilm copies.
Here's a link to the EEBO brochure there's also a EEBO introductions social network page, at which you can discuss certain works available on this database. There is also a list of 200 recommended titles arranged by subject. You can also try searching for titles and subjects in WorldCat (CUNY USE ONLY) including the note "Early English Books Online" as a search term. This is an evolving and growing resource, and the titles appear on One Search. An EEBO search can also include ECCO records as well.
Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) (CUNY USE ONLY) is an electronic database that is virtually equivalent to the books and annual publications that were in the British Library (formerly named the Library of the British Museum) in 1800 and published between 1701 and 1800. This database offers full-text searchable pages digitised from facsimile/microfilm copies of tens of  thousands of books in English and other languages books published in Britain and its colonies, including British colonies in North America, during the 1700s. Please note that CUNY has access to ECCO Part II.
Here is a link to the ECCO brochure and a navigation guide. A note about ECCO - the search interface is not great, and the records for the titles can be found in One Search. Try searching for titles and subjects in WorldCat (CUNY USE ONLY) including the note "Eighteenth Century Collections Online" as a search term or search ECCO together with EEBO.
Making of the Modern World Part I: 1450-1850  (CUNY USE ONLY) Part I includes the full text of 61,000 works of literature in business, politics, and economics published from 1450 to 1850 from the Includes the full Goldsmiths’-Kress Library of Economic Literature at Harvard University. Please note that CUNY also has access to Making of the Modern World Part II: 1851-1914.
Here is a guide for suggested uses in research and curriculum and a page that describes the search functionality you can also watch a video about this collection. Here's a tally of the most popular searches. The individual titles appear in One Search, but you can also use WorldCat (CUNY USE ONLY) to search for titles in this collection by including the search term "Making of the Modern World"

Rare Books in the News

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