Last weekend marked the close of another cataloguing project: bringing all of the records for our incunabula collection (pre-1501 printed works) up to a full level of description and to provide full indexed access to the collection (our incunabula are found across a number of named collections. This work was done from the end of November 2011 and has seen a total of around 160 existing incunabula records edited and six new records created.
The existing records for the incunabula collection had been created over a number of years by several different people and so to a varying level of standards. The majority of this project work was aimed at cleaning up these records, providing specific points of access and making all of our pre-1501 books easily findable. This work included adding references to all relevant bibliographies: ISTC, USTC, Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke [GW], British Museum Catalogue of XVth century books [BM 15th cent.], Frederick Goff’s Incunabula in American libraries [Goff], and the Catalogue of incunabula in St Andrews University Library (1956). After this work was done, uniform titles were added to all works which required them, full title and imprint (or colophon) transcriptions were added, and the descriptive notes which help researchers identify one issue of a work from another were added. Also, all authors, printers, publishers, illustrators and former owners have now been indexed correctly. This project reported six new holdings to ISTC and three to ESTC, and also included the upgrading of about 70 16th century records of items that were bound-with our incunabula.
I also have added a unique subject string to each incunabula record which brings together all incunabula printed in a certain country, city and year, for example: if a researcher wanted to see what books we have printed in Louvain in 1485, they can now do so.
Below you will find a rogue’s gallery of some of the usual suspects in our collection. The majority of this collection has been in the University for a long time: St Andrews only added around 20 incunabula to its collection in the past 150 years. Indeed, some of these books have been quietly resting on our shelves for hundreds of years. This work really felt like I was wandering the halls of a retirement home banging a loud drum and shouting “Wake up! Wake up!” Many of these books were happy to be explored and revealed themselves quite easily, but some took a great deal of time to really figure out what was going on with them: Were there missing leaves? Who’s signature is this? Why is this bound this way? How did you come to be in St Andrews?
This collection has a lot of highlights, but probably the best find was the two fly-leaves of TypGA.A72ZG: fragments of a broadside almanac for the year 1472 used as fly-leaves for a 1470’s printing of Gregory I’s Epistolae (pictured above). This volume actually has the bottom half of two of these broadsides used as the front and back fly-leaves, and there are only three other copies of this work known to exist, all fragmentary. The copy at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek just happens to be the top half of this broadside, and has been provided online as well, so by putting these two halves back together we can get an idea of what this broadside actually looks like!
Now that my work is done on this collection, it is now time for it to settle back down into quiet slumber, but I hope that the cataloguing that I have done in these past few months will provide a more active research and education life for these books. If you’d like to come in and have a look at any of them, just make an appointment!