Material Evidence
in Incunabula

Material Evidence in Incunabula

MEI is a database specifically designed to record and search the material evidence (or copy specific, post-production evidence and provenance information) of 15th-century printed books: ownership, decoration, binding, manuscript annotations, stamps, prices, etc. MEI is linked to the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC), provided by the British Library, from which it derives the bibliographical records, and it allows the user at last to combine searches of bibliographical records (extracted from ISTC) with copyspecific records.

Uniquely, every element recorded (a certain style of decoration or binding, a manuscript note, etc.) is treated as a valuable clue for provenance, therefore it can be geographically located and chronologically dated. Explicit ownership notes are further categorised as private or institutional, religious or lay, female or male, and by profession. This enables tracking of the movement of books across Europe and through the centuries.

Manuscript notes, equally valuable for understanding the readership of the early editions, are classified according to their frequency and their type: corrections, completions, supplements, extraction of key words, collation, translation, structuring the text, comments, censorship, reading marks (underlining and pointing hands). These data allow for sophisticated social studies on the use of books, readership and reading.

Prices and currencies, fundamentally important to the economic study of the book-trade, are also individually recorded. This will allow a critical mass of evidence to be submitted to the analysis of economic historians.

Personal and institutional names of ownership are linked to the CERL Thesaurus, where further bio-bibliographical information can be found. This provides links to other editions identified with the specified name, clarifying whether the owner was also an author, thus merging ownership and authorship information. Provenance locations are also linked to the CERL Thesaurus, which off ers geocoordinates and map locations. MEI is being developed to provide a physical representation of the circulation of books throughout the centuries, from place of production, to their present locations.

For some basic statistics on this database click here.

Read more about this database on the CERL Website...