Frequently Asked Questions
I have access to a source for manuscript data currently not included in the database. How do I add this content?

You can enter the data yourself if you have an SDBM user account by selecting “Add New Entry” dropdown from the left sidebar, then selection either "From a Source" or "Based on Personal Observation"

Does the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts (SDBM) own the manuscripts it describes?

No, the SDBM does not own any manuscripts. We gather data about any manuscript produced before 1600 CE and composed of five or more folios, regardless of geographic location or institutional affiliation. We may at some point change the date and folio limits if the user community believes this is the right course of action. Let us know what you think!

Why does the data seem so messy?

Larry Schoenberg created his personal database as an Excel file in 1997, then created an Access database as the spreadsheet grew and he added more fields. These early formats required character limits, thus frequently forcing him to abbreviate data. As he began sharing his spreadsheet with friends, the user base and scope of the project grew. In 2009, data standards were created and refined and fields were added with the intention of improving information quality. It has been and remains impossible for SDBM staff to go back through all early entries to update the data to current standards. We provide warning labels on those entries that were created prior to the development of the New SDBM. Also, people just make mistakes sometimes. You can help us improve data quality by commenting on entries and adding Personal Observations to the database.

I disagree with the data provided in an entry. How do I change it?

There are many ways to help us improve data. While you can never edit another user’s entry, we do encourage you to create a Personal Observation if you have knowledge of a manuscript that is different from data recorded in an entry. If you notice an error in the way that data may have been transcribed from a source, you can leave a comment at the bottom of the description to notify us of the problem. You can also email us at if you prefer to keep your comments private, though you will miss out on potential conversations with other users. Keep in mind that the SDBM aims to reproduce data exactly as it is given in a source (e.g. an auction catalog).

Some entries are linked together but there is no way they can be the same manuscript, in my informed opinion. Why is that?

Again, people make mistakes. Help us fix them by editing the links or notifying us.

I am looking at a Manuscript Record in which all of the linked entries contain exactly the same data across fields. How can this be, since, for example, one source catalog dates to the 16th-century, before the metric system had been invented, and yet an entry associated with this catalog gives dimensions in millimeters?

At one point in the history of the SDBM, it was determined that all linked entries should contain the same data. We no longer do this because there is no way to determine which source has the “right” data. If you find an instance of this, please help us fix it!

Why can’t I find a particular major sale or a collection catalog? Why is it not represented in the database?

It is entirely possible that a sale of great significance has not been entered because we have not had access to a catalog. Up until the New SDBM was created, we have relied on a handful of researchers limited to certain locations. This is why we decided to open it up to the user-community.

It may also be that the catalog has been entered in such a way as to make it difficult to locate within the database. If you are having trouble finding something, email us at

Why are there no images?

We do not include images of manuscripts because we do not own the manuscripts, nor do we include images of sources and other evidence because this allows us to keep the data light and ensure sustainability. The user has the option to add URLs in Entries that point to images of the manuscript described or other source evidence.

Whom do I contact to get a reproduction of a manuscript described in the database?

Unfortunately, we can’t help you out with this (see the previous question). If an Entry or a Manuscript Record includes current location data, contact the institution described there. If no current location information exists, try using data recorded in the provenance history to track its current location.

Finally, why do many fields (e.g., Seller, Buyer, Author, Place, Language, Provenance Agent, etc.) have an “As Recorded” subfield and a “Find in Name Authority” subfield ?

The “As recorded” field allows you to enter a name exactly as it is recorded in your source, and allows us to capture variations in the way a name is recorded across multiple sources. The authority field is there to link the record to a Name, Place, or Language Authority List maintained by the SDBM staff. It is our goal to make our Authority Lists linkable to other authorities such as the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF). For more information on VIAF, go to