Bodleian Card Catalogue


People involved: Miranda Lewis, Kim McLean-Fiander, Richard Ovenden, Michael Popham, Richard Sharpe


selden_cardsThe most comprehensive existing catalogue of seventeenth-century manuscript correspondence in the Bodleian Library is a fifty-two drawer index-card file located in the Selden End of the historic Duke Humfrey’s Library.

Compiled in the early- to mid-twentieth century by Bodleian staff, this catalogue provides summaries of around 48,000 MS letters from the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries preserved in 487 volumes of manuscripts in the Bodleian, including material from the Rawlinson letters and the Tanner, Smith, Ballard, and D’Orville manuscripts. This extraordinarily rich resource is available currently only on site, and remains little known beyond the Oxford research community.


Kim explores the analogue cards.


Miranda edits their digital variants.

‘This extraordinarily rich resource is available currently only on site, and remains little known outside Oxford …’

The objective of this sub-project is to place the catalogue more fully at the service of international scholarship by publishing an electronic version of the index online and integrating it into the digital systems at the core of Cultures of Knowledge. The result will be a web-mounted descriptive catalogue of around 48,000 sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and eighteenth-century manuscript letters in the Bodleian Library, providing a new aid in the efficient use of this local material; a starting-point for work on scholarly calendars; a valuable reference point for locating related material elsewhere; and the core of a union catalogue of seventeenth-century intellectual correspondence.

Anatomy of a Bodleian Card

A typical card from the manual index looks something like this:

It reduces each letter in the Library’s holdings to the following seven core metadata fields. Following scanning and keying of the cards in early 2010, these fields have been researched, standardised, and de-duplicated across all records and reproduced – alongside the scanned images of the original cards – in the union catalogue:

  • Sender: Pasor, Matthias (1599-1658)
  • Recipient: Ward, Samuel (Dr) (1572-1573)
  • Date: July 1628
  • Origin: Oxford
  • Language: Latin
  • Abstract: ‘Gratified by receipt of…’
  • Shelfmark: MS Tanner 72 fol. 264.


Primary Outputs

Launch Bodleian Card Catalogue

Although the digitization of this unique resource represents the keystone of the Project’s online effort, little is known about the compilers of the original card index – thought to have been working between the 1930s and 1960s – beyond a handful of local anecdote and library lore. We would like to remedy this situation, so if you worked on the card index yourself – or know someone who did – please Contact Us.

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