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The Collation

Research aids: understanding catalog records

A number of posts and comments in The Collation have discussed the wonderful work that Folger catalogers do. But sometimes we all need assistance to fully grasp what information is being conveyed in those detailed Hamnet records. As I mentioned in a footnote in my last post, I find the RBMS/BSC Latin Place Names File a very useful resource in working with early book imprints, since the Latin form of place names given in imprints is sometimes so very different from the names by which I know of those places. So in this post I thought I would share some of the other resources that I use when trying to understand library records and book history. There’s an abundance of information out there that I draw on in doing research and in teaching, much too much to be all included here. For this post I decided to focus primarily on information that might help researchers understand the information they’re coming across in catalog records—things like understanding the imprint information and physical book properties. Even so, this list is just a small percentage of the helpful tools that are out there—please leave further suggestions in the comments below.

  1. Incidentally, if you need more assistance with learning basic Latin for your research, the National Archives: Reading Old Documents website including tutorials focused on Beginners’ Latin and Advanced Latin. (This isn’t on my current theme, but they also have tutorials for Paleography and Latin Paleography, information on the basics of Roman numerals, as well as a Currency Converter.) I can’t actually vouch for those tutorials personally, but their other tutorials are nicely done; if you’ve used them, perhaps you can leave comments on them below!
  2. Stay tuned for a post on the relationship between Hamnet and the ESTC!


If you can’t wait for more, get started browsing through these link collections from Owen Massey McKnight and from the RBMS Bibliographic Standards Committee.

Sarah Werner — November 21, 2011