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The Collation

Hidden notes, "bibliographic nightmares," and STC call numbers

Sometimes when keyword searching Hamnet, the results include mystery matches: when you Ctrl-V to find the word you’re looking for on the page, it’s not there. That’s because some fields only display on the “MARC view” tab. Usually the information isn’t worth making public. For example, what displays as:

Five-line description of specific copy of a book.

is served up by this underlying Machine Readable Cataloging, or MARC: Picture of text that reads: 852 0_ |b DeckC-Rare |h PR2805 |i 1820b Sh.Col. |j cs790 |x CMS 20101102 |z In plain paper wrappers. Owned by Mr. and Mrs. Folger.

The only hidden piece of information is “CMS 20101102” – the initials of the cataloger who created the record and the date the record was finished.

Sometimes, though, information in a non-public note seems worth bringing to light. When keyword searching for “fingerprints” the other day, the results included the Hamnet record for Folger call number STC 22459b.2 for no apparent reason. That’s because “fingerprints” only appears in a non-public note, which can be revealed by clicking the MARC view tab:

An exceptionally difficult item to classify bibliographically; see "The Library", ser. 5, vol. 1 (Sept. 1946), p. 113-26. There are, broadly speaking, three settings of the work. The fingerprints provided in STC 22458.5-22459b, based on this article, fail to give a meaningful sorting by these settings, and further subdivision (by imposition, &c.) is frustrated by the mixture of states exhibited by each forme from copy to copy.

If the information wasn’t meant for public viewing, who was it meant for? Answer: staff of the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). It’s in the 509 field, which Folger ESTC catalogers used in the late 1990s and early 2000s to send messages back and forth to ESTC Headquarters. Sometimes entire conversations about an item take place in the 509.


Each time I see “Former call number” in that image, I misread it as “Folger call number.” Should we change it to “Old call number”?

Erin Blake — June 14, 2014

Hmm, I haven’t had that problem, but I’m not averse with changing the phrasing. “Old call number” seems a bit odd in the context of a library that holds a lot of old things. Maybe “Previous call number”? What did we do with manuscripts that changed number?

Sarah Werner — June 16, 2014

Yep. I’m with you, “Old” does look odd. I was afraid “Previous call number” sounded like part of a browse: previous call number would be the thing to the left on the shelf, Though I guess the fact that there no “Next call number” label is a clue.

Standard wording in the free-text notes in Hamnet is generally either “Formerly…” or “Reclassified from…”

Erin Blake — June 16, 2014