Interest in provenance information goes in and out of fashion. Once it was a bibliophilic interest concerned with authors’ association copies and books belonging to great men. Following the rise of the history of the book in the 1980s and 1990s, provenance studies have become an important ingredient in the work of social and cultural historians dealing with questions of readership and literacy. The ownership of books by craftsmen and women is now as significant as that of kings and archbishops.
At the same time, a separate development of concern about the security of library collections has widened interest in recording provenances of all sorts, ancient and modern.
CERL has seen its own interest in provenance grow in recent years, reflecting the increase in interest on the part of its members and the wider scholarly public. Increasing numbers of records in the Heritage of the Printed Book Database now record provenance information. More recently, CERL has added a Provenance Names section to the CERL Thesaurus.
CERL hopes that these pages will provide useful links to work going on in the recording of provenance data for both manuscripts and books of the hand-press period and also work on the study of provenance as part of the history of the book, the history of libraries and the history of reading. It is likely that the materials on this page will reflect the interests of members of the Consortium, especially in the context of work on CERL’s Heritage of the Printed Book Database (HPB) and the CERL Thesaurus; that is to say that it will be largely European in focus and will deal especially with the period up to the mid-nineteenth century.
CERL has developed a resource for publicising requests for identification of provenance queries.
This database provides a user environment for discussing provenance questions. When you have created a login, you can post queries (including images) and post replies to other people's requests.
For further information, go to Can you help?.
Go directly to the Provenance Database.