Antiquarian book cataloguing

Antiquarian book cataloguing is the use of code in order to create a reasonable facsimile of a book that serves as a record of all the physical information about it. Not to be confused with bibliography, each having their own distinct merits.  Cataloguing rare books requires an understanding of a variety of things amongst which are:

The history of early printed books, print and production

History of the period in which the books were produced

Rare books handling knowledge

Knowledge of binding, and binding decoration

I have recently had the privilege of becoming an antiquarian book cataloguer of books of the Reformation period c. 1500 to 1650. The catalogue that I have created can be found here. Please enjoy searching for works by Thomas Stapleton, Nicolas Caussin, Matthew Kellison and Edmund Lechmere amongst many other recusant authors of the period. During my project at Downside Abbey in Somerset with the Benedictine monks, I blogged about a variety of things including printer’s woodcuts, provenance, the Dunkirk nuns and important manuscripts. You can find these by searching for #cataloguer. There were various ‘interesting’ titles such as The angel-gvardian’s clock, The audi filia, or a rich cabinet full of spirituall ievvells, The pseudo-scripturist, Hive of sacred honie-combes, and The foot out of the snare.

Sadly the final catalogue at this point, does not show the copy specific information on each book, which also required many hours of research. This can be obtained by contacting the Abbey – details are on the catalogue. Personally speaking, this project followed many years of librarianship which included using AACR2, cataloguing modern text books within a University library. So it was with great pleasure that I became fine tuned in the dark art of DCRM(B) or even our hybrid RDA for early printed books, as well as handling rare materials including manuscripts and archives, and familiar with quirks such as 16th and 17th century handwriting and “spelling”. 


If you have a heritage project that I can assist on, please contact me at for antiquarian book cataloguing project work.

card catalogue watermark


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