Sharing Codicological Resources through Bibliographic Networks and Utilities

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William R. Veder, Slavisch Seminarium, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Postbus 19188, 1000 GD Amsterdam (Holland)

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The long established procedures for preparing a manuscript census and distributing information on holdings has been costly, labor intensive, and inefficient. Medievalist are now using computers increasingly to prepare inventories and even more complex descriptions, but they are mechanizing previous manual processes rather than taking full advantage of automation, the recent development of information systems, and of bibliographic utilities and networks. There have been some interesting applications in computer-generated conventional reference tools for access to manuscript resources, which point to the development of interactive data bases capable of access in machine-readable form through established library and archival information systems. The greatest barrier to humanistic research across cultural and international boundaries has been the lack of authority control, standard protocols, format guidelines, and facilities financing online searching outside of one's own institution. Mechanisms are now available for sharing such information via bibliographic networks using the international MARC standard (Machine-Readable Cataloging). Other technical developments allow for the transfer of visual images that are retrievable with textual data. If codicological data are captured in the MARC format on CD-ROM and WORM discs which follow standards for transportability across systems, then resource[s] can be shared off-line between institutions and mounted on locally searchable data bases. The relatively new MARC AMC (Archives and Manuscripts Cataloging) may provide adequate means for codicological description, because its linking capabilities allow for the subordination of descriptive fields including full-text and tabular descriptions such as manuscript collations in matrix form (the so-called Delaisse method). Experiments with such machine-readable codicological description in the U.S. date to 1980. These efforts are discussed along with the evolving standards within the Anglo-American descriptive tradition, to suggest ways in which descriptive practices by codicologists and related manuscript scholars might have reciprocal influence on the standards used in bibliographic networking for sharing manuscript information. The emergence of transportable standardized databases providing intellectual access to manuscript resources will certainly enhance medieval scholarship. Polata 17-18: 59.


Lawrence J. McCrank, Auburn University, Montgomery, Alabama. Dean, AUM Library & Resource Center
This paper was presented at the "International Data Bases for Medieval Manuscript Studies" conference at Katholieke Universiteit, Nijmegen, September 1987.


Cataloging manuscripts, MAchine-Readable Cataloging (MARC), Manuscript Description, Computer encoding of manuscript descriptions


Polata Knigopisnaia: an Information Bulletin Devoted to the Study of Early Slavic Books, Texts and Literatures, v17-18 (December 1987), 30-59