How is the McCune Collection different than other rare book collections? Most rare book collections are associated with universities and can be seen but not touched. Their purpose is to provide scholars a place to do research. Although the McCune welcomes scholars and students to use the collection, it is also open to everyone with an interest in books. We encourage a hands-on approach. We recognize that books were not made merely for scholars but for everyone. We recognize that there is a big difference between seeing a book through a glass case and actually holding one in your hand (Clean hands, please!). We recognize that there is a special feeling when one actually handles a rare book and knows the history behind it. That is why the McCune Collection not only encourages patrons to visit the collection but also to physically handle the collection.
Where else are you encouraged to pick up and examine a page of an original 15th Century French Illuminated manuscript, or examine the original leaves from early Chaucer books (1551 and 1561) or original leaves from early printings of Shakespeare's plays (1623, 1632, 1663, and 1685)? Where else can you be shown over twenty original legal documents in French and English from the 1600-1800s waiting to be translated? Where else can you pick up books designed by Bruce Rogers or Mallette Dean? Where else can you hold illustrations by Valenti Angelo, Mary Grabhorn, John Henry Nash, Henry Evans, and others? Where else are you encouraged to examine fine printing, handmade paper, fine binding, exquisite illustrations? All at no charge!
Another way the McCune Collection is different is that it is completely staffed by volunteers. There is no paid staff. All money received goes entirely to preserve and enhance the collection. Although donations are sincerely appreciated, there never is a charge to view the collection. In addition, the McCune also offers a series of free lectures in the spring and the fall. Typically there have been three lectures in each series, which have encompassed California history and the art of the book (printing, binding, illustrating, layout, etc). The McCune will continue to offer these lectures in the foreseeable future.
The McCune Collection has a working Antique Albion Hand Printing Press (1852) that has been used in the past to print broadsheets. It is anticipated that this press will be used in the future and the McCune Printing Society has been formed to expedite this process.