DR575: Victorian and Edwardian Theatre FAQs

The Bad Girl of the Familt publicity postcard

Publicity postcard for Fred Melville’s melodrama ‘The Bad Girl of the Family’, c.1909

We’re really looking forward to welcoming students on the DR575: Victorian and Edwardian Theatre module to Special Collections & Archives this term! It’s always tremendous fun for both our team and everyone studying.

To help everyone settle in, we’ve collated a list of the most commonly asked questions we get about using Special Collections & Archives during the module. This list is by no means exhaustive, and we’ll try and update it throughout the term. However, if you have a question please do have a look through this list to see if the information you need is here.  As ever, we encourage you to get in touch with any queries you might have. See you in our Reading Room!

Accessing Special Collections & Archives

How do I find material to use from Special Collections & Archives?
How do I book an appointment to view material?
Can I book in to the Reading Room with a group of people?
How can I access the playbills you hold?

Contacting Special Collections & Archives

When is the Reading Room open?
I’ve emailed you with a query – when can I expect a reply?

Handling material in Special Collections & Archives

Do I need to wear white gloves?
How do I handle this item?
What can I bring into the Reading Room?

Accessing Special Collections & Archives elsewhere

How do I find other archives for my research?
Where can I find [X] archive?
How do I contact [X] archive?

Exhibition queries

I need a scan of this item! What do I do?
How long will it take you to scan items for me?
Can I use this image for my exhibition?
What should I get my exhibition material printed on to?
Where can I get material printed?
When do I need to get items sent to the printers by?
How much does [X] cost? Can I reclaim this money? How?

Accessing Special Collections & Archives material

How do I find material to use from Special Collections & Archives?
The majority of Special Collections material can be found on LibrarySearch. There are two main ways of finding material:

You can either select ‘Special Collections’ (or ‘British Cartoon Archive’) from the drop-down box on the right-hand side of the search bar, then enter your terms…


…Or you can enter your search terms as usual, then scroll down and select ‘Collections’ from the right-hand side of the screen. You can then select ‘Special Collections’ from the list:


Some Special Collections & Archives material is currently only catalogued on our own website, so it’s worth checking both. Our catalogue can be accessed on the first page:


Enter your search terms, and then you can narrow down the results by collection/type of material/subject…


Once you’ve found an item you’d like to see in our reading room, note down as much information as possible (especially the identifier) and drop us an email.

If you’re interested in searching the British Cartoon Archive, you can search for books using LibrarySearch as above…or you can use the British Cartoon Archive catalogue to search for cartoon artwork:


You can search using the box on top right-hand side of the screen, or click Advanced Search (cartoons) to locate more specific material. By using Advanced Search, you can narrow down results by several terms (such as artist and date). Once you’ve found something you’re interested in viewing, click the image thumbnail to view a bigger version of the image or click the artist’s name to find out more information about the artwork.


If you want to view higher resolution images, or see any original artwork, please do get in touch. It’s worth noting that artwork from the British Cartoon Archive is currently stored offsite due to the Library Refurbishment so we need at least two weeks’ notice to get any material for you. Additionally, some material from the British Cartoon Archive is very fragile, so if we have a digital copy we’ll likely ask you to use that for your research instead.

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How do I book an appointment to view material?

The main way of booking an appointment to view material is as follows:
When you find Special Collections & Archives material through LibrarySearch, you’ll see an option to request the item from Special Collections:


Once you click on the link, a pop-up window will emerge. Fill in the form using the details of the item on LibrarySearch, then scroll down to fill in the date you’d like to see the item (remembering that you need to give us at least two working days notice – and that we’re closed on Wednesdays):



Special Collections & Archives staff will then respond to your email to confirm the time of your appointment.

If you can’t make your appointment, or don’t need the material any more, please do let us know as soon as you can – it takes time to retrieve items from the stores and we’re limited on space for holding items in the Reading Room for you.

You can also email your request over to us at specialcollections@kent.ac.uk (giving as much information as you can about what you want to see) or pop in the office to see us.

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Can I book in to the Reading Room with a group of people?

You can, but please let us know in advance (how many people and what material you need) so we can check who else is booked in for that day. The Reading Room is often used by other researchers, and it tends to be a quieter space, so you’ll need to bear this in mind if you’re working as a group! If we have a lot of researchers booked in, we may need to ask you to come back on a different day.

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How can I access the playbills you hold?

Our playbills are currently being stored offsite during the Library refurbishment. The majority of them, however, have been digitised so we can generally supply you with a digital image of items via email or in the Reading Room. You can also view them online via searching our MODES catalogue. If you let us know the classmark (which will generally begin with UKC-POS), we can check if there’s a digital copy available. If there isn’t, we’ll need at least two weeks’ notice before we collect them from our offsite stores.

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Contacting Special Collections & Archives

The SC&A Reading Room

The SC&A Reading Room

When is the Reading Room open?

The Reading Room is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays between 9.30am and 4.30pm. We are closed on Wednesdays and at weekends! Although we require 48 hours’ notice to retrieve material, you’re very welcome to drop in with any questions about using our collections during these hours.

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I’ve emailed you with a query – when can I expect a reply?

We aim to answer any queries about booking appointments within one working day, but more specific queries about your course/reprographics for your course will be answered on Tuesday afternoons. Please send any requests or questions over to us by Monday morning.

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Handling Special Collections & Archives material


Viewing an item in the Special Collections & Archives Reading Room

Do I need to wear white gloves?

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to wear white gloves to handle archival material – except in very special circumstances with certain items. White gloves generally don’t fit your hands exactly, and by wearing them you lose dexterity which can make turning fragile pages much more difficult. As long as your hands are clean and dry, and you haven’t used anything greasy on them beforehand like hand lotion, then touching material without gloves is fine. The British Library have some excellent guidelines that we all follow here.

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How do I handle this item?

The short answer to this question: ask us! We’ll always advise you on how to handle the items you’re looking at, but there are some general guidelines that apply to all our material:

  • If the item is on a book rest, it needs to stay on the book rest
  • Many of the books we hold require you to use snake weights to keep the pages open – this is to avoid putting excessive pressure on an area of the book in order to read it
  • Some of our material is in plastic (melinex) wallets for protection. Occasionally it’s possible to take items out of these wallets to view them, but if this is the case we’ll do that for you. If it’s in plastic, assume it stays in plastic
  • Treat every item (regardless of its age) carefully, even if it looks in great condition – it’s likely in such good condition because we’ve been so careful with it before!

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What can I bring into the Reading Room?

Before entering our Reading Room, you’ll need to put your coats and bags in one of our (free) lockers/on a coat hook and get out the items you need. You can bring in pencils, paper and laptops/tablets into the Reading Room. Ideally, any devices you bring in need to be charged up as we don’t have many plug points easily accessible at the moment. You are also welcome to take photos of material using your phone, as long as flash isn’t turned on. You can’t bring food, drink or pens of any kind into the Reading Room – doing so runs the risk of damaging the items out on display.

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Accessing Special Collections & Archives elsewhere

How do I find other archives for my research?

There are lots of other databases now that will help you find relevant material – here are a few of the main websites…
Archives Hub searches over 300 UK institutions, mainly from the UK education sector:


Discovery at The National Archives searches over 2500 archives in the UK (and, of course, the National Archives themselves):


Europeana searches archives across Europe to help you find what you need:


If you’re interested in finding theatre resources, the Association of Performing Arts Collections is a great place to start:


As ever, if you need extra help please do ask us – we’re here to help you with any aspect of using archives, not just our own lovely collections!

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Where can I find [X] archive?

Most archives are 21st-century friendly and have their own websites, so searching for them online generally yields results. If not, try using either Discovery or Archives Hub to find the collection you’re looking for.

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How do I contact [X] archive?

Once you’ve located the website of the archive you’re looking for, there should generally be a ‘Contact Us’ page with email or phone details. Like us, most archives will require you to make an appointment in advance to view material; the amount of notice you’ll need to give the material varies. Many archives will require you to fill out a form to register as a user, either online or in person when you arrive, and show proof of ID (passport or driving licence, generally) as well. Some may also require a letter of recommendation from a tutor – they should let you know this before you visit, so it’s always worth getting in touch.

Most archives will have similar rules about us regarding what you can bring in to their reading rooms – so always ensure you have a pencil with you!

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Exhibition queries


Objects and captions on display during the DR575 exhibition from 2016

I need a scan of this item! What do I do?

Please email specialcollections@kent.ac.uk and mark your email for the attention of Joanna, the Special Collections & Archives contact for this course.

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How long will it take you to scan items for me?

If you email your request to us by Monday, we’ll have a reply sent your way by Tuesday afternoon (along with the images). However, if your request is large (or you email us after Monday) this may take longer – we will let you know.

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Can I use this image for my exhibition?

Special Collections & Archives material (including British Cartoon Archive items) often has very strict regulations attached to it about who can use it and what for – sadly there’s no single rule about it, and you need to ask us before you use any images. Give us as much information as you can and we will get back to you as soon as possible. You can also check with your tutor.

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What should I get my exhibition material printed on to?

The quick answer: check with your tutor! In previous years, students have either had their captions and images printed onto Foamex boards (5mm), which is a little more expensive but tends to look really professional, or print out their own images and stick them onto Foamex by hand, which requires being rather adept with rulers and glue. It’s up to you!

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Where can I get material printed?

We recommend that you use the Design and Print Unit on campus, giving them as much notice as you can. You’ll need to send your items over to them via email in PDF format (no JPGS or DOCX files). In previous years, students have also used Omicron Reprographics in Canterbury – if in doubt, ask your tutor.

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When do I need to get items sent to the printers by?

The exhibition launches on Tuesday 4th April this term, and our Reading Room will be reserved for you to prepare your material on Monday 3rd/Tuesday 4th. We recommend checking with your tutor and the printers for specific deadlines, but please do allow time before these days to check your material has been printed correctly.

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How much does [X] cost? Can I reclaim this money? How?

If you’re using the Design and Print Unit on campus, they will be able to give you a quote before they print your work. All other budget-related queries go to your tutor, please!

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Special Collections & Archives is now on Instagram!

The social-media savvy amongst you may have spied something new for Special Collections & Archives recently: we have an Instagram account!

Special Collections on Instagram

Instagram is a website and app that allows users to share photos and short videos. Users can post photos, follow other accounts and ‘like’ images. It’s a very visual platform – quite different to our other social media home on Twitter.

Musical books from our stores

We are particularly keen to use Instagram to share both material within our collections and the work that SC&A staff do to offer a ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse of the archives. We’ve also been using it recently to promote events we’ve been involved in, such as this year’s MEMS Festival:


What’s been interesting so far is seeing which other special collections, archives and library teams are using Instagram. Our wonderful Library colleagues also started an account recently (you can find them here), but a lot of Instagram users are American libraries. It’s great to engage with an international audience, and we’re really looking forward to developing these connections more.


It’s still early days with our Instagram feed, but we’re really enjoying it so far. If you use Instagram, please do follow us – and let us know what you’d like to see on our feed over the next few months!

Upcoming Exhibition: Treasures of Rochester Cathedral Library

I am very excited to announce a one-off opportunity for you to get up close to some of the most beautiful, unique and culturally significant books from Rochester Cathedral Library.

After some months of cataloguing these books, as part of a collaborative project between Rochester Cathedral and the University of Kent (funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund), I am thrilled to be able to share these books with you for the very first time!

Register to join us on Monday 7 March 2016 at the Drill Hall Library, Chatham Maritime

Book of Hours

15th century illuminated ‘Book of Hours.’

This guided exhibition will give you the opportunity to explore the treasures of the library and find out more from experts who will be on hand to answer any questions on the day. The books and manuscripts being exhibited date from c. 1150 to the 18th centuries, with highlights from the collection including:

  • Tudor Bibles (such as Henry VIII’s ‘Great Bible’ (1539), the Geneva Bible (1584) and the Bishop’s Bible (1568))
  • an excellent example of a John Reynes Tudor binding with royal armorial decoration
  • a fifteenth century illuminated Book of Hours
  • manuscript items including an 11th century St Augustine’s ‘De Consensu Evangelistarum’ and the 13th century Lombard’s ‘Sentences’
  • early modern maps of Kent

So come along and join us for this one-time opportunity to discover more about the collections and Rochester Cathedral, and to speak to members of the project teams from the Cathedral and the University of Kent.

Please register for this free event via Eventbrite at www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/treasures-of-rochester-cathedral-tickets-21555859155.

Geneva Bible

Geneva Bible, 1584


Happy New Year!

With the last days of Christmas coming to a close, we hope that you all had a restful and enjoyable festive season. Special Collections & Archives is now open as usual again and we look forward to seeing you in 2016.

If you’ve been getting involved in social media over the festive period, you might have seen our very own celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas via @UoKSpecialColls. With only 140 characters in which to celebrate our wide range of collections, we had to be brief, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you more about some of the items we featured.

The first day of Christmas: an ancient Greek vase

Perhaps one of our most enigmatic items, this Greek vase has been part of Special Collections for a long time, and represents those stand alone items which are not part of any collection, but are unique, rare or valuable within their own right. Although the provenance of the vase is unknown, information with the item does suggest that this is an ancient treasure.

The second day of Christmas: two pantomime clowns

Still a staple of the festive season, pantomime was an important part of the theatrical tradition throughout the Victorian and Edwardian periods. The clowns were, of course, an early part of the pantomime genre, which evolved from the Italian comedia dell’arte. These two comedians are Dick Henderson and George Jackley, who regularly collaborated with the Melville family in their annual pantomimes. This image is from the 1923/24 production of Jack and the Beanstalk at the Lyceum Theatre.


Information about the Theatre Collections.

The third day of Christmas: three cute koalas

3714This lovely image is of Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Canterbury Cathedral from 1931-1963. A contraversial figure in his lifetime, owing to his stalwart support of Communist regimes including Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China, Johnson travelled widely. This photograph is from an album celebrating Johnson’s visit to Australia in 1950 as part of a global tour giving speeches at Peace Rallies. Having travelled via Rome, Karachi and Calcutta, Johnson then visited Sydney and Darwin, arriving in Melbourne on 15th April. The photograph was taken at  Lone Pine Wildlife Sanctuary, Brisbane in Queensland.

Information on the Hewlett Johnson Papers.

The fourth day of Christmas: the voyaging Beagle

The Jack Johns Darwin Collection includes a wealth of early and rare editions of Charles Darwin’s work, including a first edition of the ‘Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1836‘. Johns became fascinated with Darwin while volunteering at the museum of the Darwin family home, Down House in Kent. This 1839 edition comprises four volumes: two written by Fitz-Roy, the captain of the Beagle, one by Philip Parker King, the naturalist on the voyage, and the third volume by Charles Darwin, whose official role on the voyage was as companion to the Captain. Following Darwin’s later fame, later editions of The Voyage of the Beagle comprised just this third volume.

Information about the Jack Johns Darwin Collection.

The fifth day of Christmas: five Portuguese windmills

F184298The Muggeridge Collections include a variety of photographs of mills and other rural subjects, which date from 1904 onwards. William Burrell Muggeridge and his son Donald were fascinated by the vanishing rural life in Britain and across the wider world. Donald’s role in the Second World War gave him the unlikely opportunity of photographing mills across Europe, and he later supplemented this collection on family holidays. The set of images of mills in Portugal were taken in April 1966: this photograph is of a group of tower mills at Abelheira near Esposende. As well as documenting lost architecture and ways of life, the Muggeridge father and son were also innovative in their use of developing photographic technology.

Information about the Muggeridge Collections.

The sixth day of Christmas: six Stand-Up comedians

Stand-Up_LogoSince the autumn of 2014, the University of Kent has hosted the nascent British Stand Up Comedy Archive, which was founded with the deposit of materials from comedians Linda Smith and Mark Thomas. This archive includes a wealth of audio visual materials and is growing rapidly. Alongside the collections of another four comedians, materials include records of venues, interviews with comedians and some magazines relating to the early Stand Up Comedy scene.

Information on the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive.

The seventh day of Christmas: seven bad girls of the family

Melodrama was a hugely popular genre on the stage throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. One of the last series of hugely popular melodramas were the so-called ‘Bad Women’ dramas written and produced by the brothers Fred and Walter Melville, during the first two decades of the 1900s. These included such evocative titles as ‘The Girl Who Wrecked His Home’ and ‘A Girl’s Cross Roads’. One of the novelties of these productions were the use of female villains, usually with a male counterpart, who often had dubious morals and plotted to ruin the heroine. Although Walter Melville was acused of being a ‘woman hater’, these roles would have offered the actresses in the company an unusually rich character to portray. This publicity postcard comes from a set for ‘The Bad Girl of the Family’, produced around 1909 at the Adelphi Theatre, London.


Information about the ‘Bad Women’ Dramas.

The eighth day of Christmas: eight Melville children

The Melville Collection contains gems from a theatrical dynasty which started with George Robbins (1824-1898), who alledgedly ran away to join the theatre, changing his surname to Melville. His son, Andrew Melville I continued the theatre tradition, and had eight children with his wife, Alice, all of whom went on to become performers, playwrights, theatre managers and owners. Of the eight, Jack died young, but the four daughters went on into the profession and married performers. Fred and Walter became successful theatre managers in London, owning the Lyceum Theatre and building the Prince’s theatre in 1911, which is now the Shaftesbury. Andrew Melville II was an actor and manager outside London, with the Grand Theatre in Brighton on his circuit. It was the widow of Andrew Melville II’s son who donated the collection to the University.

M600671Information about the Melville family.

The ninth day of Christmas: nine worthy women

IMG_2012Alongside our archival collections, Special Collections also holds a number of rare books. Written by Thomas Heywood, this 1690 edition of The exemplary lives and memorable acts of nine the most worthy women of the world does not include the woodcuts present in the Cathedral Library’s copy. Considering the lives of ‘three Jews, three Gentiles and three Christian’ women, Heywood includes the Biblical Deborah, Judith and Esther, before considering three ‘heathens’, one of whom is Boudicca, called ‘Bonduca’ in this text. The three Christian women are ‘Elphleda’, daughter of Alfred the Great, Margaret of Anjou, queen of Henry VI, and, of course, Queen Elizabeth. Bringing together this range of women shows just how diverse Early Modern precedents for behaviour and virtue could be.

Information about the rare book collections.

The tenth day of Christmas: ten tins of talc

The British Cartoon Archive celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015. Alongside the many cartoonists represented within this still growing collection, the well loved Giles artwork is a perennial favourite. As cartoonist for the Daily Express, Giles produced satirical political cartoons, but it is for his eclectic family of characters, including the mischevious children and irascible Grandma which he is most commonly known. This cartoon was published on 29th December 1964, proving that the post-Christmas sale is no new thing! Alongside the published version, the Archive holds the artwork and it was also included in the 1964 Giles annual. These annuals are still produced each year, with materials from the Giles Collection at the Cartoon Archive.

Information about Carl Giles materials in the British Cartoon Archive.

The eleventh day of Christmas: eleven Ken Smith poems

Modern literature is well represented in the Collections, with our Modern First Editions including poetry and prose. Alongside the reconstructed library of poet Charles Olson (collected and deposited by Ralph Maud), first editions of Brideshead Revisited and a number of works by E. M. Forster, we have small print press items which are regularly used in teaching. This volume is by Ken Smith, a major voice in world poetry, who died in 2003 and whose archive is at Leeds University, which Smith attended and where he also became tutor as Yorkshire Arts Fellow 1976-78.

Information about the Modern First Edition and Modern Poetry collections.

The twelfth day of Christmas: twelve William Harris letters

William sent his letters home via his friend Mr Hunter, who lived in Paris.

As with the ancient Greek vase, this small collection of letters represents gems in the archive which do not necesserily link with a wider range of materials. As successive blog posts have shown, however, the Harris correspondence offers insight into the adventures of an architect exploring Europe in the early nineteenth century.

Information about the William Harris letters.

If you’d like to know more about any of our items or collections, do take a look at the website, or contact us.

Rochester Cathedral Cataloguing: The mystery of the missing title page

The book cataloguing for Rochester Cathedral has been going very well and has been a fairly smooth process to date, but sometimes a book presents itself that turns out to be a bit of an enigma.  Sometimes it can be something small that stops you in your tracks for a short time, but on the odd occasion something bigger turns up, and the need to don a proverbial deer stalker hat whilst bearing a spy glass in one hand may indeed be necessary.

I always start, with every book that passes though my hands, by running a series of checks using a range of databases to find out if any other organisations or institutions hold the same copy.  These organisations can range from universities from around the world, to libraries such as those at Lambeth Palace and the British Library.  This not only helps me to work out if the copy I have in front of me is what I think it is, which is especially useful when my book lacks a date of publication, but also allows me to see if my copy has any unique attributes, such as bindings that vary from other copies or editions. This is for the most part a successful process.

However, the problem with rare book cataloguing is that the book I am looking for isn’t always available anywhere else. They are not always held by other institutions and are not held on any of my usual ‘go-to’ databases.  Even my back-up checks of auction houses fail to generate results in some cases. This is never a huge problem as I tend to be able to work with what I have in front of me, until I met this inconspicuous little number.

Front cover

From the outside it offers very little in the way of aesthetically pleasing design or any clues as to what may lay within.  It is somewhat plain and quite unremarkable in appearance, particularly when compared to other ornate bindings within the collection.

I opened the front cover not expecting anything out of the ordinary, and was greeted by what appeared to be a dedication to Her Majesty Queen Anne, as well as a preface to the reader and an engraving.  Not an unusual grouping of items in themselves, but where was the title page?

First few pages

Finding a place to start was going to be difficult, but I had to start somewhere.  After checking the entire book for supplementary title pages (of which there were none), I began reading the text within the first two pages to look for clues as to what this book may be.

My first clue came from the dedication to Queen Anne.  One sentence stated that “It is (Madam) The History of the Holy Bible.”  I also noted that the dedication was signed by Richard P…. so kept in mind that this was most likely going to be the author or publisher of the work.

Title and author clue

I started exploring all the usual databases and uncovered a few close matches, but nothing concrete.  As a cataloguer, my need to source the most accurate information available needs to be satisfied before I share it with the world.  So, although still lacking the full knowledge as to the definite identity of this book, I set off on a page by page exploration.  This text is very fortunately full of Biblical images created by a range of well known engravers. This, I hoped, would help me on my way to discovering the true identity of the text, and to start building a catalogue record containing the details of every single engraver with responsibility for one of these beautiful illustrations.


This process helped me to identify nine engravers.  Although I still lacked the title, author and publication, it was a reliable start.

I then worked on building a catalogue record where the information I could source about my book was easily available.  Sometimes even the simplest of details, such as how the page numbers are structured within the text (which isn’t always straight forward with rare books), can help in identifying a particular edition or imprint of a publication.

Engravings and provenance

I was well on my way to completing my record. I’d referenced everything from the page numbers and subject matter, to the condition of the item, its binding, provenance and the presence of any inscriptions and signatures. But still without a title, I returned to the drawing board, optimistic that my metadata was sufficient to cross-reference with my favorite data sources. I used the information that I had gathered so far and started my search once more.  Here I had a breakthrough and sourced several versions of the same title, ‘The history of the Old and New Testament extracted out of sacred Scripture and writings of the fathers‘ by Nicholas Fontaine, and was delighted with this discovery.   However, I needed to establish if it was indeed the given title and if so, which edition.

I headed over to EBBO (Early English Books Online) to view their digitised content of rare books. Here I found five potential matches, but after thorough checking I concluded that these were not exactly the same in every way (variant dedication, note to the reader and frontispiece image).  However, I had concluded that the above title was correct in its basic form and that this would be sufficient for my catalogue record. I also had an author I was certain was correct.

My record was almost complete. However, one mystery remains even to today. When was it published and who published it? Because I’ve not been able to source any absolute confirmation that my copy is exactly the same as any other copy, it would be inappropriate to rely on other sources for the name of potential publishers,booksellers, or a date of publication. To overcome this, the best that can be done is to calculate the likely date of publication based on all other evidences, ensuring this is appropriately referenced as an estimated date in the catalogue record.

For the most part, the majority of the books within this collection have had in tact title pages, making life much easier from the cataloguing perspective. But becoming a detective for a while adds another level of interest to the job.  When you love rare books as much as I do, getting to discover more along the way that you wouldn’t have otherwise encountered is an added bonus.