Most of the rare books and special collections at Starr East Asian Library are Chinese-language rare books and other special materials. Chinese rare books and special collections at the library include all types of materials particularly books on family histories, local histories, legal histories, individual collected (literary) works among others. Special collections include papers of China-related organizations and personalities especially those from the Republican Period, and very rare materials such as oracle bones and jade book, etc.
Materials and documents on Qing and modern China constitute a very significant portion of the collections. A great number of materials are unique items held nowhere but at Columbia.
The post-1949 collections include Cultural Revolution Propaganda Art, the Collection of China's Spring 1989 Democracy Movement, and most of the Ephemera Collection on Chinese Science, Technology, Law, and Society, etc.
The library also has many other very rare and special collections, such as Oracle bones, which have been digitized in collaboration with Zhejiang University and made available to public, a very rare set of jade book in both Manchu and Chinese languages, of which the texts have been digitized, and artwork and objects to be fully processed and cataloged.
Other libraries at Columbia such as Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary and Gottesman Libraries at Teachers College also hold collections of China-related special materials.
There are numerous print catalogs and bibliographies, of international, national, provincial/city, or institutional scope, or by dynasty or time period, or by genre, etc., could be used to identify the essential information of Chinese rare books.
Examples of comprehensive print catalogs and bibliographies include the following:
Users often ask for Columbia's print catalog, bibliography or title list of Chinese rare books and special collections in a book format. Unfortunately, a general catalog, bibliography or title list in a book format has not been compiled due to a variety of reasons. Thus, CLIO or Worldcat has to be used, particularly for relatively updated, accurate information of rare books and special collections.