This page provides information on searching and browsing the catalogue. For information on how to order material, please see the Order special collections page.
The catalogue can be browsed by manuscripts, works, people or places. Each list can be filtered in different ways.
This page returns an alphabetical list of all the manuscripts in the catalogue. It may be filtered by language, century, country of origin, material, decoration (yes/no), institution (e.g. Bodleian Library or Christ Church), and collection (e.g. MSS. Ashmole, MSS. Digby).
This page returns an alphabetical list of all works currently contained in the records (ordered according to the initial letter of the title, for anonymous works, or the initial letter of the author’s name, for works with authors). It may be filtered by initial letter, by subject (this applies to anonymous works only), or by language. The subject categories used here are based on those used to index anonymous works in the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues.
This returns an alphabetical list of all persons. The forms under which persons are indexed have been drawn, where possible, from existing authority files as recorded in VIAF (the Virtual International Authority File). This means that persons may be indexed according to either ‘given’ or ‘first’ name. The list may be filtered by initial letter or by a person’s role (author, scribe, owner, etc.).
This returns an alphabetical index of places which can currently be filtered by initial letter only. Preferred spellings are those used by the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names, where the name occurs in that thesaurus. This index also includes the majority of organizations found in the descriptions, indexed according to place-name. For example, the Franciscan convent at Salisbury is indexed under Salisbury.
The indexes of works, persons and places cover only the contents of the records on this site, most of which contain only summary descriptions (see here). When searching for a particular person, work or place the indexes should be used in conjunction with the printed indexes to the Summary and Quarto catalogues. These finding aids are described in more detail here.
The main search box allows keyword searching across all these fields (manuscripts, works, people, places) from the home page, or within a single field when browsing that field. Searching for “Constantinople”, for example, will return different results according to whether the search is carried out from the home page, the manuscripts page, the people page or the places page.
The following search syntax is supported:
Quotation marks (")
You can place quotation marks around multiple words so that only that specific phrase will be found. Astronomical tables (without quotes) produces many more results than "Astronomical tables" (with quotes).
AND / OR
You can combine words into groups using AND, OR and brackets. AND is used as default when nothing is specified. AND and OR must be capitalised for this to work. For example you could search for Barocci AND (Aristotle OR Plato) which will find only records with containing “Barocci” and at least one of “Aristotle” or “Plato”.
Plus (+) / Minus (-)
With the plus and minus you can define which phrases must be found and those which must not be found. The plus is default. For example geomancy -astrology will return everything with the word geomancy but not the word astrology.
You can use wildcard values to match only part of words. A question mark (?) will match a single character while the asterisk (*) will match one or more characters. A search for astro* will match words like "astronomy", "astrological" and "astrology".
You can combine all the above options into a single query, such as: astro* -astrology which finds every starting with "astro" but excluding "astrology".
To find a particular manuscript (e.g. MS. Bodl. 264)
Browse through the relevant collection (MSS. Bodl.) from the list on the home page
Search for the shelfmark or part of it (e.g. MS. Bodl. 264, Bodl. 264) from the home page or the manuscripts browse page. You will get the best results using the canonical form of the shelfmark – in this case, “Bodl.” rather than “Bodley”. The canonical shelfmarks are the abbreviated forms listed on the home page. A search without quotation marks for Bodley 264 will find the manuscript but will return several unwanted results in addition. A search with quotation marks for “Bodley 264” will not return any results. A search with quotation marks for “MS. Bodl. 264” returns only the desired result.
To find a particular person
Navigate to the “people” browse list, then use keyword search. Your search will query a large number of variant name forms that are not visible in the browse list. For example a search for “paradiso” will return Jacobus de Clusa (1381?-1465) alias Jacobus de Paradiso, who only appears in the browse list under J (for Jacobus).
Note that the index only includes persons mentioned in our summary records, which generally give only a summary indication of contents and do not record owners. Fuller information about persons in the manuscripts will often be found in the printed Quarto and Summary catalogues and their indexes (see here).
To find a particular work
Works with authors (as identified in our records). These are listed according to the index form of the author’s name. For example the Canterbury Tales are under Chaucer, Geoffrey, -1400: Canterbury Tales. You may use the keyword search box to search for titles or parts of titles (e.g. ‘Canterbury’), but the index does not currently have a good record of variant titles, so results may be patchy.
Anonymous works (as identified in our records). These are best found by browsing according to subject and language, for example, selecting the filters “medica” and “Latin”.
The Works index will remain under development for some time as we improve the identification and classification of texts in our records. Again, it reflects our summary records, which do not always give a full account of a manuscript’s textual content.
Note that filters can only be combined using AND logic. Selecting "France" and "Italy" under Origin will return manuscripts associated with both France AND Italy, not France OR Italy. To use filters with OR logic, use the advanced search function. Select the relevant attributes, leaving the other search boxes blank.