The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Posts Categorized: Cataloging

Physical description in book cataloging

Does a4 A-O8 P10 make perfect sense to you? If so, please read on anyway. This isn’t a post on how to decode a collational formula. It’s a post about what to expect (and what not to expect) in the “physical description” portion of a library catalog record for a book. In other words, the part that looks like this in a Hamnet record, taking the record for the 1513 Venetian edition of Macrobius’s Commentaries on the Dream of Scipio as an example: International Standard Bibliographic Description (yes, there is an international standard) calls this part of the record the Material Description Area.… Continue Reading

In Defense of the Card Catalog

Whenever I am giving a tour of our Reading Rooms, or introducing a new Reader to our collection, I always make it a point to mention that we still have a card catalog room (two, in fact—one primarily for our printed collections, and one primarily for our manuscripts and art collections), which together hold forty separate series of cards. The responses I get to this fact are varied, ranging from “Oh thank goodness, I’m so much more comfortable using a card catalog!”… Continue Reading

New STC call numbers for old

The Great Reclassification has begun! As some of you may know, all newly-acquired vault material at the Folger is shelved in the order it was accessioned except for publications that fall within the scope of  A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640 compiled by A.W. Pollard & G.R. Redgrave, better known at the Folger as “STC” (also well-known as “Pollard and Redgrave”).… Continue Reading

Folger Tooltips: Making a spreadsheet from raw Hamnet data

Hamnet, the Folger’s online catalog, is more than just a searchable inventory of printed books, manuscripts, engravings, paintings, and other resources in the collection. It is also a giant data set, freely available for machine analysis. But there’s a catch: library catalog data is encoded in MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging), the coelecanth of the digital world. Developed in the 1960s, this data standard is now a living fossil.… Continue Reading

Libraries ǂx Special collections ǂv Blogs

How do catalogers make library materials findable? The cataloging process has already been covered here at The Collation—identifying the item and describing its contents so that users and other catalogers alike can compare the book in the catalog record to the book in their hands or the book they want to retrieve from the stacks. At the Folger, we pay particular attention to the artifactual evidence of our items in addition to their contents, and this level of cataloging is enabled by the use of genre and form terms.… Continue Reading

Marginal calculations; or, how old is that book?

I’d like to make a pitch for recording a specific type of manuscript annotation in printed books and manuscripts: the “book age calculation.” These calculations turn up frequently on pastedowns and endleaves, and sometimes right in the middle of texts. They are usually in pencil, but sometimes appear in ink as well, as in this example from last week’s Crocodile.… Continue Reading

Meet the Hamnet HBCN (“Handy Butt-Cover Note”)

When libraries replaced card catalogs with computer catalogs, researchers lost a crucial piece of information: an at-glance indication of relative trustworthiness. Consider this thin slip of paper from the Folger’s card catalog, for example: Looks fairly preliminary, right? That’s because it is. This is an “accession slip” (referred to in some libraries as a “flimsy”). It was typed up in the Acquisitions Department, then filed in the card catalog as a place-holder until the item could be cataloged.… Continue Reading

Folger files; or, a fetch-quest come to life

“MS. corrections to the text, by the author (Folger files).” Such an innocuous note in the Folger copy note field of the record for our second copy of Philip Massinger’s The Bond-man (STC 17632). Meaghan Brown, the Folger’s CLIR Fellow, came across it while doing a survey of our collection of early modern drama. There are hundreds of notes like it in Hamnet.… Continue Reading

Knowing your Adams from your Adams: decoding library catalog citations

Picture, if you will, a 16th-century Continental edition of Ovid, an 18th-century illustrated history of London, and a 19th-century book about the American west. Now picture which one of the three might be “in Adams.” Which one did you pick? Years ago, when I was doing dissertation research at the British Library Map Library, everyone in my circle knew that “Adams” referred to the standard bibliography of London topographical books published between 1604 and 1851.… Continue Reading

A brief introduction to RDA

Below are four copies of Hamlet. They’re four editions of a French translation by Carlo Rusconi, and at first glance look fairly similar. However, they have some significant differences, such as publisher, date, and inclusion in a series. In order to make sure that someone searching Hamnet for French translations of Hamlet knows what they’re finding, their catalog records each need to reflect these small but important differences, as well as specifying their location in the Folger Library.… Continue Reading