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Rare Books: Copy specific information

A guide to finding and using rare books in the Bodleian Library

Savile Library bindings

Bindings from the Broxbourne collection

Provenance Research

The recording of provenance in early printed books is an area of particular growth, and there are now many libraries providing access to this information online. For a broad overview of the available databases and websites see CERL's Online Provenance Resources



Scope of the collections

Copy specific information about antiquarian books includes information about provenance, binding, foliation (i.e. perfect or imperfect copies) and marginalia, which is increasingly of interest to book historians. While the Bodleian has added copy-specific information to the majority of early printed books catalogued since 1988, many pre-1920 records remain sparse. As such, information in our online catalogue is complimented by card indexes held in the Rare Books office (please contact for more information).

Online resources:

Card Indexes
  • The Broxbourne Collection: provenance and bindings (additionally, bindings from the Broxbourne Collection are uploaded periodically to our Flickr account with full copy specific information).
  • The Rare Books Provenance Index: a partial card index of provenance for early books, listing known names and the type of evidence, including bookplates and signatures (sometimes reproduced on the cards).
  • Bindings of Bodleian books and manuscripts arranged by date and country.


Library Records:

The Library preserves a large quantity of its own administrative records from 1602 to the present day. These reflect the various aspects of the work of the Library over four centuries (though few series are complete for the whole period) including but not limited to:

  • curators' minutes and reports;
  • accounts and bills;
  • correspondence with donors and depositors;
  • papers about the acquisition of collections.

Please see Finding Aids - Early Modern & Modern Manuscripts at the Bodleian Library for more information.


Books with manuscript annotations

Bodleian Adversaria: An Early-Modernist's Miscellany by Dr. William Poole.

The following list is a tourist's miscellany, compiled piecemeal from personal experience in conjunction with Duke Humfrey R. Ref. 717, "Printed Books with Manuscript Additions‟.