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Manuscripts: Archives and Modern: Summary Catalogues

A guide to the finding aids available for early modern and modern manuscripts and printed ephemera in the Bodleian Library.

The Summary Catalogue

The Summary Catalogue is a seven volume (seven volumes in eight) catalogue of the Western Manuscripts holdings of the Bodleian Library received before 1915.

Digitized copies of all volumes are available via the link below.

[The (New) Summary Catalogue: Continuation]

Digitized copy of all three volumes available via the link below

How to use the Summary Catalogue


Falconer Madan, et al., A summary catalogue of western manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford which have not hitherto been catalogued in the Quarto series (7 vols. in 8 [vol. II in 2 parts], Oxford, 1895-1953; reprinted with corrections in vols. I and VII, Munich, 1980).

Scope of the Summary Catalogue

These eight volumes cover all manuscripts acquired by the Bodleian up to and including 1915, but omit a number that were acquired in that year (e.g. MSS. Bywater). A description of the various cataloguing campaigns is given in vol. I.

The catalogue is arranged primarily by chronological order of acquisition. The running-numbers for seventeenth-century accessions (nos. 1-8716 = vol. II, parts 1-2) are those used in Edward Bernard, Catalogi librorum manuscriptorum Angliæ et Hiberniæ in unum collecti (2 vols., Oxford, '1697' [really 1698]) and the sequence continues from there.

Manuscripts previously described in the 'Quarto' catalogues are generally not described again in the Summary Catalogue, but are very briefly listed under their running-numbers; a few manuscripts which had been omitted from the 'Quarto' catalogues are described, and a number of corrections to the 'Quarto' catalogue descriptions are also provided.

Volume-by-volume details


SC nos.




R. W. Hunt, Vol. I: historical introduction and conspectus of shelf-marks (1953; reprinted with corrections 1980).
The Introduction is available online as a series of page-images [].



Falconer Madan and H. H. E. Craster, Vol. II, part I (collections received before 1660 and miscellaneous MSS. acquired during the first half of the 17th century), nos. 1-3490 (1922).



H. H. E. Craster and N. Denholm-Young, Vol. II, part II (collections and miscellaneous MSS. acquired during the second half of the 17th century) (1937).



Falconer Madan, Vol. III (collections received during the 18th century) (1895).



Falconer Madan, Vol. IV (collections received during the first half of the 19th century) nos. 16670-24330 (1897).



Falconer Madan, Vol. V (collections received during the second half of the 19th century and miscellaneous MSS. acquired between 1695 and 1890) nos. 24331-31000 (1905).



Falconer Madan and H. H. E. Craster, Vol. VI (accessions, 1890-1915) nos. 31001-37299 (1924).



P. D. Record, Vol. VII: index (1953; reprinted with corrections 1980).

How to use the Summary Catalogue

There are three main ways of finding information in the Summary Catalogue.

  1. If you already know the Summary Catalogue number of a manuscript, you can turn straight to its description using the numbers in the table above, or on the spine of each volume, as a guide.
  2. If you have the shelfmark of a manuscript, look it up in the 'Conspectus of shelfmarks' in vol. I, where you will find the Summary Catalogue number, then proceed as above.
  3. If you have neither a shelfmark nor a Summary Catalogue number, use the index in vol. VII: Summary Catalogue numbers are listed in each index entry. Note that there is a separate index of owners and donors at the end of the volume.

How to read a typical catalogue entry

The following is a fairly typical entry in the catalogue, with the Summary Catalogue number (in this case 14503) at the top in bold, the shelfmark at the bottom in bold (in this case MS. Rawl. poet. 10):

Summary catalogue image1

The following is an entry in the main index, with the main heading in bold, and individual manuscripts (including MS. Rawl. poet. 10) referred to by their Summary Catalogue number; roman numerals in parentheses indicate the century of the manuscript:

Summary catalogue2

The following are entries in the index of owners and donors, with individual manuscripts (including MS. Rawl. poet. 10) referred to by their Summary Catalogue number:

Summary catalogue3

Points to remember; pitfalls to avoid

The running-number of a manuscript in the Summary Catalogue is not the same as its shelfmark -- though it is unfortunately quite common to see Bodleian manuscripts referred to by these numbers alone. If in referring to a Bodleian manuscript you wish to include the Summary Catalogue number, please make the status of the number clear by placing it with the letters SC in brackets after the shelfmark, i.e. MS. Rawl. poet. 10 (SC 14503).

Vol. III was the first to be published, in 1895: vol. I was reserved for an introductory volume, and vol. II for descriptions of the manuscripts which had been described in Bernard's '1697' catalogue (see Scope, above). As it turned out, an increased level of detail in the cataloguing meant that vol. II grew in size and had to be divided into two parts. Vol. II, part 1 was published in 1922, and part 2 in 1937, but work on the introductory and index volumes was interrupted by the Second World War, and they were not published until 1953.

Each volume from vol. IV onwards has a section of addenda and corrigenda, often referring to the volume which preceded it; in some cases these amount to substantial new studies of individual manuscripts.

Passages signed '[E.W.B.N.]' are additions and corrections by E. W. B. Nicholson, Bodley's Librarian (1882-1912). As explained in the introduction to the Summary Catalogue (vol. I, p. lxii): 'Nicholson had the scholar's dislike of leaving a problem unsolved and would have spent endless time over the details of date, provenance and questions of text: Madan was convinced of the greater importance of overtaking the arrears of cataloguing and of producing a catalogue within as short a time as possible'.

Owners and donors are indexed separately at the end of vol. VII, pp. 533-80, after the General Index.

The reprint published in 1980 adds a number of corrections and a few additions to vols. I and VII.

Note that the shelfmarks in the Conspectus of shelf-marks in vol. I of the Summary Catalogue are not always identical to those in the catalogue itself, especially in the use of abbreviations: thus a shelfmark given as 'MS. (Canonici) Liturg. 322' on p. 381 of vol. IV, should be cited as 'MS. Canon. Liturg. 322' as indicated in the later Conspectus of shelf-marks in vol. I.

There are two very small printer's errors in the Conspectus of shelf-marks: there should be a point after 'Selden' (i.e. 'Selden.') in the cross-reference on p. 4, and there should be no point after 'Laud.' (i.e. 'Laud') on p. 26 and in the running-headers on pp. 25, 27. Similarly, 'Barocci' should not be abbreviated to 'Barrocc.' (p. 10).