Welcome to the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts! The SDBM aggregates observations of pre-modern manuscripts drawn from over 12,000 auction and sales catalogs, inventories, catalogs from institutional and private collections, and other sources that document sales and locations of these books from around the world.

Search the Database
Everyone is invited to search the database. Use the search bar below, or click the facets to the right.

Here's what you can do

  • Contribute Data, including your own personal observations of a manuscript or group of manuscripts.
  • Engage With Other Users to facilitate research and conversations about both the history of manuscript transmission and the data gathered in the process of recording this history.
  • Manage Your Contributions, track your search history, bookmark, tag and download your results.
  • Download Search Results for your own use under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 Unported License

New Interactive Features

Recent Announcements

Indexing is all up-to date, the application should be working normally now. Thanks everyone for your patience, and sorry for the inconvenience!

Users may notice problems today with out data. For example, searches aren't returning complete results, and many links will not work. We are addressing the problems, and hope to have a fix in place by the afternoon.

Hi everyone,

There's been a small update, mostly with bug fixes and some small layout tweaks. If you encounter any problems, please feel free to send me a message! The specific changes are listed below.

Note: The database will be re-indexing all entries from about 9:30am, EST (Monday, October 30th). The process will last up to a couple hours, during which time search results will be incomplete.

  • Forum, Dashboard, Profile and Public View design adjustments
  • Name/Place/Language Authority modal improvements (pagination, display)
  • Delete/Merge error message feedback improvements
  • Counter fix for Sources/Source Agents; Merging records
  • Merging records with many uses no longer causes error
  • Source-agent "As Recorded" field added
  • Personal Observation UI/Workflow improvements
  • Source selection form should now preserve search terms in 'Create New Source' modal
  • URL fix for usernames containing the '.' character
  • Composite 'All Provenance' field for searching entries, combining Provenance and Transaction text

Dr. Benjamin Fleming has uploaded an inventory from the Rāmamālā Library Manuscript Project, sponsored by the British Library's Endangered Archive Programme and the Schoenberg Institute of Manuscript Studies. The inventory represents a near complete (95%) record of Sanskrit and Bangla manuscripts currently held at the Rāmamālā Library by the Rāmamālā Trust in Comilla, Bangladesh. Access the data here: https://sdbm.library.upenn.edu/sources/34910/

Students in my "The Medieval Manuscript from Charlemagne to Gutenberg" class at the Simmons College of Library and Information Science are cleaning up legacy Census and Supplement records as a homework assignment. I created a group of 280 records and, once my students registered as SDBM users, I invited them to join the group. The new "Group" feature is perfect for this assignment, as it automatically upgraded the privileges of my students when they joined and it allows me to easily retrieve and verify their assigned records. They've each got ten assigned records to compare to the relevant entries in the printed Census or Supplement, deleting any data that doesn't come directly from the source and making any other corrections to bring the record into agreement with the source. I suspect that some of them will want to do more than the ten they've been assigned…they're future librarians, after all, and messy data keeps them up at night! - Lisa

This past April I had the chance to speak at the University of Iowa's Mellon-Sawyer Seminar "Cultural and Textual Exchanges: The Manuscript Across Pre-Modern Eurasia." My talk–“Manuscript Description in a Crowd-Sourced, Open-Access World: Problems and Perspectives from the New Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts Project”–addressed the challenges of creating an online and crowd-sourced database to track the current and historic locations of the world's manuscripts by first considering a similar enterprise attempted in the 1920s and 30s, then by considering how crowd-sourcing technologies and approaches and lessons learned from the past have shaped the New SDBM to meet those challenges.

Users may find it useful for the background and a more in depth explanation of the data model and the reasons behind many of our decisions.

Here's the link to the lecture (abstract below): Video

And if you're interested, here's a link to the Seminar website: https://obermann.uiowa.edu/programs/andrew-w-mellon-sawyer-seminar. A lot of great speakers participated!

In the 1920s, the American librarian Ernest Cushing Richardson set out to create what he would call his “Union World Catalogue of Manuscript Books,” a finding aid for all of the world’s manuscripts produced before the age of print. Though sounding far-fetched, his aspirations for a union world catalogue, when understood in the context of his day, were grounded in contemporary ideals of democratic access to knowledge. Although the project ultimately failed, Richardson’s vision of a simple accounting of the world’s manuscripts has relevance today in the study, care, and conservation of these unique witnesses of our intellectual and cultural heritage. Indeed, current advances in information technology make it possible not only to reconsider Richardson’s vision but also to move forward in its implementation.

The Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts (SDBM) has taken on the challenge. With data drawn from auction and sale catalogues and other sources dating back to the 15th century, the SDBM assists researchers in locating and identifying pre-1600 manuscript books from Europe, Asia, and Africa, establishing provenance for these books, and aggregating descriptive information about them. Thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, we are redeveloping the SDBM into an online, collaboratively-built, open access, universal finding aid and provenance research tool for the world’s manuscripts. In creating this resource, to be launched in the summer of 2016, the project team has had to grapple with many of the same issues that beset Richardson’s enterprise: how to maintain good description standards that will enable searching and access without intimidating the non-specialist who may have access to data that scholars do not? How do you ensure that good data is entered? What is sufficient data for good manuscript description? What is an acceptable level of “bad” data? When is it appropriate to lower standards? How do you manage user expectations when your data isn’t perfect? When does the perfect become the enemy of the good? I will consider these questions and discuss how the New SDBM project has addressed them in an effort to shed light on the changing, or unchanging, nature of crowd-sourced scholarship.