MEI is a database specifically designed to record
and search the material evidence (or copy specific, post-production evidence
and provenance information) of 15th-century printed books: ownership,
decoration, binding, manuscript annotations, stamps, prices, etc. MEI is
linked to the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC)
, provided by the British Library, from which it derives
the bibliographical records, and it allows the user at last to combine
searches of bibliographical records (extracted from ISTC) with copyspecific
Uniquely, every element recorded (a
certain style of decoration or binding, a manuscript note, etc.) is treated as
a valuable clue for provenance, therefore it can be geographically located and
chronologically dated. Explicit ownership notes are further categorised as
private or institutional, religious or lay, female or male, and by profession.
This enables tracking of the movement of books across Europe and through the
Manuscript notes, equally valuable
for understanding the readership of the early editions, are classified
according to their frequency and their type: corrections, completions,
supplements, extraction of key words, collation, translation, structuring the
text, comments, censorship, reading marks (underlining and pointing hands).
These data allow for sophisticated social studies on the use of books,
readership and reading.
Prices and currencies,
fundamentally important to the economic study of the book-trade, are also
individually recorded. Th is will allow a critical mass of evidence to be
submitted to the analysis of economic historians.
Personal and institutional names of ownership are linked
to the CERL Thesaurus, where further bio-bibliographical information can be
found. Th is provides links to other editions identified with the specified
name, clarifying whether the owner was also an author, thus merging ownership
and authorship information. Provenance locations are also linked to the CERL
Thesaurus, which off ers geocoordinates and map locations. MEI is being
developed to provide a physical representation of the circulation of books
throughout the centuries, from place of production, to their present