Beginning Cataloguing Rare Books: Ten Free Resources

It’s the last Friday of the month, so time for our Beginnings article.

With new course Beginning Cataloguing Rare Books launching on Monday, I thought it would be useful to highlight some free resources for cataloguing rare books.

1. Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Books) (DCRM(B)). The main standard for rare books cataloguing is maintained by the Rare Books and Materials Section (RBMS) of the Association of College & Research Libraries and is available to download in pdf form for free.

2. The English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). A firm favourite with Beginning Bibliography students and anyone else who researches Early Modern and Eighteenth Century books, the ESTC is available free on the British Library website. Originally the Eighteenth Century Short Title Catalogue (begun in 1980), its coverage was extended from 1987 to include books from the beginning of printing in the British Isles (ca. 1472) to 1700. It draws on the work of earlier scholars, incorporating both Pollard and Redgrave and Wing, as well as holdings reported by over 2,000 contributing libraries. There’s an overview of its coverage here.

3. The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC). A sister catalogue to the ESTC, as its title suggests the ISTC covers books printed before 1501. Again coordinated by the British Library, contributing libraries cover every corner of the globe, and by August 2016 its website could claim that “The database records nearly every item printed from movable type before 1501, but not material printed entirely from woodblocks or engraved plates.” An extremely useful piece of scholarship, and an indispensable resource for any cataloguer trying to trace a recorded copy of an incunable they are trying to catalogue.

4. Material Evidence in Incunabula (MEI). Based on bibliographic records from the ISTC, MEI provides post-production evidence, and so is a wonderful resource for provenance information. Again, contributions have been obtained from a range of international libraries with strong holdings of incunables. Free to search on the CERL website.

5. Heritage of the Printed Book Database (HPB). Another CERL initiative, HPB began life as the Hand Press Book Database and then expanded to cover the period c.1455-c.1830. It is a consolidated catalogue derived from a wide range of contributors, with a list that in itself can be useful if you want to look at holdings of a specific library. The usual caveats for any consolidation apply, but generally its search mechanism works well and it is certainly useful in limiting the dataset to only the handpress period.

6. Jisc Library Hub Discover. For many years, COPAC was the byword in consolidated catalogues in the UK. Rebranded to form part of a suite of offerings from Jisc, Discover brings together catalogue data from research libraries, and is a brilliant way to see if anyone else holds a copy of the item you are cataloguing. Given the large number of libraries who contribute, it is a useful indicator of the rarity of an item. Its Advanced Search options include year published, which is obviously essential if you are looking for a title that is likely to have been republished and reprinted many times over the centuries.

7. RBMS Latin Place Names File. Drawing on Peddie’s Place Names in Imprints and Graesse’s Orbis Latinus, as well as several online sources, this useful resource helps cataloguers work out where in the world a Latin name means in modern English. It’s a browsable alphabetical listing, so it is easy to see similar place names.

8. VD-16 and VD-17. Two separate resources covering German holdings from the 16th and 17th centuries. Simple to search even if you don’t have much German, and useful tools.

9. Artists and the Book. Not all rare books are old. I love artists’ books, and the National Art Library has a nice way of presenting its holdings – first through a collections highlights page, from which if you select “Search the Collections” it will take you to a saved search on the V&A Collections database, which you can then explore. In teaching cataloguing artists’ books and other materials (such as exhibition catalogues), I often compare the National Art Library approach with the Tate’s, since both institutions follow international standards but have chosen slightly different options within them.

10. Lists of resources. Several organizations maintain lists of resources for rare books cataloguers, including RBMS’s Web Resources for the Rare Books Cataloger; CERL Resources; and the Historic Library Forum’s Useful Links page (HLF also has a range of publications that are useful, including Cataloguing Hebrew, Cataloguing Latin and Cataloguing Incunables).

Beginning Cataloguing Rare Books

Open for Booking

Available from Monday 28 September 2020, 20-25 hours of online learning you can complete in your own timescale: reading, watching presentations, and undertaking some cataloguing practice.

There’s an introductory video here, and an outline of the curriculum here.

Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Books) (DCRM(B)) is the international standard for rare books cataloguing, created and maintained by the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). It is freely available on their website.

In the days of Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules DCRM(B) was more detailed than AACR2, and so many libraries used AACR2 for their general collection and DCRM(B) for rare books. With the introduction of Resource Description and Access (RDA), general cataloguing has become more detailed and now, with the new version of RDA’s needing application profiles to be created before implementation, small libraries already using DCRM(B) are beginning simply to extend its use to their general collections. There is a helpful Statement on DCRM and RDA from the Bibliographic Standards Committee responsible for DCRM here, and an update on the DCRM RDA Revision here.

The Beginning Cataloguing course Beginning Cataloguing Rare Books: An Introduction to DCRM(B) is entirely independent of RBMS. It’s based on their publicly available materials at https://rbms.info/dcrm/dcrmb/ and our own teaching examples. We set it up to meet the needs of our existing clients and are opening it up to anyone new to rare books cataloguing.

Thanks to our existing clients and newsletter subscribers, whom we told about it yesterday, places are already flying off the shelf, and it looks like it will be our most popular course so far.

Note: Beginning Bibliography students should check their email for a discount coupon code.

Any More for Any More?

Beginning Cataloguing Monthly ships today: sign up by lunchtime for your copy.

The first Beginning Cataloguing Monthly goes out by email later today, and when it’s gone, it’s gone – you won’t see this content anywhere else on our web offering and we’re deliberately not keeping a public backfile.

Alongside listings of our courses and recent publications, here’s a little teaser, in the form of the pictures we’ve used as section heads.

Intrigued? Sign up by lunchtime to receive the full newsletter this afternoon.

Book Organization: Bookends

Over on KonMari.com it’s the end of the 8 Week Tidy Challenge, which included a day to organize books by category.

Day 45: Organize Books by Category

As a rule of thumb, store like items with like – and don’t disperse storage throughout the house. Books are a special case: Group these by category – cookbooks, coffee table books, novels, etc. – and store them where they make the most sense. If you like to read before falling asleep, designate a book zone in your bedroom – this way they won’t overwhelm your nightstand or end up in a stack on the floor.

Marie Kondo.

Following this advice, there’s a link to a small selection of bookends on the KonMari shop. I thought now might be a good time to look at why bookends are useful not only in organization but also in preservation.

There’s lots of advice on the Internet about how to store books properly, and some of it is more reliable than others. The British Library has a good public advice page which keeps it simple and straightforward:

Store books on flat, smooth shelves, strong enough to support their weight. Ideally, books should not come into contact with unsealed wood which can release organic acidic vapours. Line shelves with acid free board to avoid this problem. Stand books vertically close together and if possible by size. Use bookends to prevent books collapsing.

Although it can look aesthetically pleasing to use different objects as bookends, remember that they are placed against the cover or board of the book, and a danger they can present is pushing unevenly against this. Uneven pressure can cause warping or, over time, even detachment of a board from the spine. This is also why we shelve books of a similar size together – tiny books next to large books can similarly put the spine and cover / board of the larger book under stress.

A good bookend lays flat against the book, and holds it upright. It should be pushed over far enough that the books stay in their positions but are not so tight that we put stress on any of them when we remove one from the shelf.

So, now we’ve established what good quality bookend looks like, let’s have some fun browsing for them. There are so many styles to choose from, there’s at least one to suit every home.

1. Keep it simple.

As a career-long librarian, I tend to go to library supply companies like Gresswell for basic bookends, but highstreet stationers like Rymans and Office Monster stock them too.

This style lifts the books up slightly, so don’t place a volume “half on and half off,” as that will damage it over time.

With “flex” systems, like Wickes’s, you need to make sure the bookends are always, always straight to avoid spring-loaded pressure.

2. Channel the past.

The book has been around for centuries, so there’s a wide range of antique and second-hand bookends out there to suit every budget.

I found my pair of plaster of Paris dinosaur bookends in Crystal Palace, which as well as being famous for its dinosaur park, is a significant place to me. They are both kitsch and historical, which fits my style perfectly.

Online sources of second-hand bookends include eBay, Etsy, and Preloved. Remember to look for flat backs though!

3. Be inspired by nature.

These days, everyone from Made in Design to Robert Dyas to small specialist stores seems to be offering bookends created from natural objects. There are obviously extra ethical concerns buying or collecting fossils.

On the desk in my study, I use a pair of agate bookends to hold books on which I’m working. They were a present from my parents, so they’re both functional and spark joy (as Marie Kondo says things should).

Most books are robust enough to be shelved in this type of desk arrangement for a short space of time.

You have to be careful standing books next to natural objects. Bringing things in from the garden can introduce extra moisture (even if they don’t feel damp to the touch) and even insect life. Never place books against unsealed wood, as it can release acid which is extremely damaging to books. Be careful with waxed items too – you don’t want anything to transfer onto the cover or board from your bookend.

4. Share your interests.

There are bookends themed to suit almost every hobby and interest you can imagine – #bookends on instagram includes dogs, and bicycles and Star Wars, and, of course, reading.

Here’s a pair of bookends posted by @mylesfromhome_uk that would suit someone with an interest in phrenology or tattoo art, or who simply loves vintage style in general.

The shop gives the advice, “They’re so unique that they’re never going to blend in, so instead create a conversation point!” That’s true for any bookend beyond the basic.

5. Put on a display.

Bookends aren’t the only support on the market. Sometimes you might want to highlight a book by having it face outwards.

I spotted this in the Publishers Association when I was attending a BIC course on ONIX metadata last November. As well as making me want to read Kingsford’s book (which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way), it gave me something appropriate to look at in their reception area.

With this sort of display easel, it’s important that the book is supported but not forced – never try to squeeze a book onto a stand that is too small for it. Prefer one with a base, as pictured, to one with individual strips of metal or wood running under the book, as they will put pressure unevenly on the tail of the boards / cover. Recipe stands aren’t just for cookbooks! Some shelving systems, like Ikea’s Billy bookcases, are designed the option of display stands.

There’s so much more to be said about book supports – I’m aware of not even touching on bookends for children – but perhaps that’s a post for another day.

Cataloguing Careers: Emma Booth

We’re really excited about our newsletter, Beginning Cataloguing Monthly, which we’re sending to subscribers next Tuesday and which features a range of exclusive content not available elsewhere on our website, blog, or social media.

The lead feature is our Cataloguing Careers series, in which each month we ask a different person 5 questions about their route into the profession. We are absolutely delighted to feature Emma Booth as our interviewee this month. As well as being E-Resources Metadata Specialist at the University of Manchester Library, Emma is the author of the National Acquisitions Group’s report Quality of Shelf-ready Metadata, which is our Metadata Must-read for September.

The Metadata Must-read is one of the Beginnings Bookshelves, which also consists of a Classic Cataloguer, an Associate’s Choice of leisure reading, and a Body in the Library – a new book selected from our project researching crime fiction set in libraries. It’s one that we received as an Advanced Reader Copy, so is different from those on the @bodiesinthelibrary Instagram.

Beginning Cataloguing Monthly also includes a Typo Tip-off and a Metadata Muddle, for which you can suggest solutions and possibly win a free place at one of our upcoming seminars.

All this alongside listings of our events and recent publications, and a newsletter loyalty freebie or discount.

Apart from the listings, all Beginning Cataloguing Monthly content is exclusive to newsletter subscribers. Sign up before Tuesday to receive the first issue.

Image: Emma Booth’s profile picture on Twitter and LinkedIn. Reproduced with permission.

SLA Europe 2019

Unpacking Your Library: Books about Book Organization

As well as cataloguing home and studio libraries, we offer services to organise them and advice on how to do so.

Anne Welsh‘s latest publication is a blog post at myVLF.com sharing top tips on how to organise your library.

You can read the tips in full on the myVFLF Blog alongside lots of other bookish posts. Librarian to the core, we thought it might be helpful to share a bibliography of the books and articles mentioned. Wherever possible, we’ve shared links to fulltext, WorldCat libraries, the original publisher, and secondhand sellers, in that order.

Continue reading “Unpacking Your Library: Books about Book Organization”

Beginning Bibliography Week 5

Beginning Bibliography Week 4