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I’ve been pleasantly surprised over the past year or so to discover the number of truly rare books that are available as modestly priced reprints. Such reprints can help to minimize wear and tear on originals, since the informational content is identical to the original. There may be some research purposes for which access to the original is imperative…but not many.
The existence of such reprints may provide a pragnmatic alternative to maintaining copies “in depth” or original publications that might consume more space and care than they deserve. In many instances I think I might recommend that an institution deaccession and sell the “nth” copy of an historically significant book, and use a portion of the proceeds to acquire an “expendable” reprint. The deaccessioned original is apt to find its way into the hands of a bibliophile who will appreciate and care for it better than an institutional holder of multiple duplicate copies.