Welcome to the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts (SDBM)! 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.

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Recent Forum Discussion

lcleaver started Abbe de Rothelin

about 3 hours

At the moment the database has:
de Rothelin
Rothelin, Abbe Charles d'Orleans de
Rothelin, Charles d'Orleans de

I'm assuming that at least the last two could be combined, unless anyone knows better? I'd suggest using Rothelin, Abbe Charles d'Orleans de, as some entries describe him as 'Abbe de Rothelin'.


mfraas started Mac-Carthy-Reagh Catalogues

9 days

Bill's comment on a duplicate entry from the De Bure catalogs of the Mac-Carthy-Reagh collection led me do dig deeper into them. There were a number of SDBM sources for these catalogs and it was somewhat confusing. Should be cleaned up now but the problem remains that there are two catalogues of this collection:

  1. The 1815 catalogue SDBM_SOURCE_882 (https://sdbm.library.upenn.edu/sources/882) which includes the entire collection, and
  2. the separately issued 1817 catalogue of remainders from 1815 - keeping the same lot numbers but with many fewer mss. on offer - this is SDBM_SOURCE_909 (https://sdbm.library.upenn.edu/sources/909)

Every item in the 1817 catalogue (909) is also present in the 1815 (882), but the reverse is not true. I see that some of the lot numbers listed in entries for 1817 do not exist in that catalogue and could only have come from the 1815. In any event, it's worth time for someone to do further untangling. I've put URLs for the digitized versions of both cats in their source info.


lransom posted in currencies

18 days

Thanks for asking this question. Price data is tricky. There was a time when all non-US prices were converted to the historic USD equivalent. There was a good reason for doing this early on, but as the SDBM grew, it became inconsistently applied. So, now it's hard to know for these early entries if the price is in USD or something else. The early entries, or what we call the "legacy data," are flagged as such and users are warned that the data may not follow current standards, so that can help you determine somewhat what prices are accurate. If you can supply the correct price, by the way, we will update the record. Records that aren't flagged as legacy records have been verified or are new entries, so the data should be more trustworthy. If you have a specific question for an entry, leave a comment in the entry and we'll try to answer it as best we can.

We don't use the symbols because from a data management point of view, it's much easier to deal with letters than with symbols.

Again, thanks for raising this. I imagine many others will have the same question.


wsp started currencies

18 days

I can't make out whether the prices listed under auction and dealer catalogues are in local currencies or in dollars. Occasionally British catalogue prices are prefixed with GBP (couldn't you just use the pound symbol £, incidentally?), but in most cases there is no such prefix, and it's unclear what currencies are being used.


lransom started New SDBM Project Director Lynn Ransom 's University of Iowa's Mellon-Sawyer Seminar Series lecture on the New SDBM and past precedents

19 days

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.


lransom posted in Canonici and Saibante

20 days

Well, it's untrue in regard to reality, but if the source doesn't distinguish the two, then we are at least being true to the source. It would be an interesting project for someone to use the SDBM to do the untangling. For now, it's probably best just to note the problem in the Name Record so that other users will be made aware of the problem, and leave the name as is until a better solution comes along.