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 The British Library: History of the library and its collections
 BritLib2: Outline of the collections

The British Library


3.1 Modern general catalogues

The retrospective author catalogue, the music catalogue, and current catalogues in machine-readable form are now available as an online public access catalogue (OPAC).

3.2 Historic general catalogues

Librorum impressorum qui in Museo Britannico adservantur catalogus. 2 vols. London 1787

[interleaved copy used in the Reading Room c. 1788-1812 at L.R.419.bb.3. Another annotated copy, with some pressmarks, at 683.k.16-17]

Librorum impressorum qui in Museo Britannico adservantur catalogus. 7 vols. London 1813-19

[laid-down copy, with manuscript additions, 108 vols, at L.R.419.b.1. In use c. 1820-1848]

List of additions made to the collections [of printed books] in the British Museum in the year MDCCCXXXI (-MDCCCXXXV). 5 pts. London 1833-39 [placed at 732.f.13]

Catalogue of printed books in the British Museum. vol. 1 (letter A only). London 1841

Catalogue of printed books in the Library of the British Museum (known as ``GK1'), with Supplement. London 1881-1905

[Laid down, with additions up to 1955. In use in the Reading Room 1881-1971. Microfilm copy at PB.Mic.C.485]

General catalogue of printed books (``GK2'). 51 vols (A-DEZ only). London 1931-54

General catalogue of printed books. Photolithographic edition to 1955 (``GK3'). 263 vols. London 1959-66. Ten-year Supplement 1956-65. 50 vols. London 1968. Five-year Supplement 1966-70. 26 vols. London 1971-72

[Laid down, with additions up to 1983. In use in the Reading Room to 1997. Microfilm copy at PB.Mic C.10050]

General catalogue of printed books to 1975 (``GK4'). 360 vols. With 6-vol. Supplement. London 1979-88

[This was the version of the ``retrospective' catalogue converted to machine-readable form for online access. The printed version is available in the Rare Books Reading-Room.]

Current catalogue (mainly books with post-1970 imprint dates), produced on microfiche from 1975, with frequent updates [now available online]

A Subject index of the modern works added to the Library of the British Museum in the years 1880-1885 (by G. K. Fortescue). London 1886. This has been followed by a series of subject indexes of newly-acquired post-1880 books produced mostly at five-yearly intervals until the last to be issued by the library, covering books acquired from 1971 to 1975, published in 1986. Commercially-published subject catalogues of books acquired 1975-1985 (75 vols, London 1986) and 1986-1990 (42 vols, London 1991-92) have followed. A subject catalogue of books acquired from 1975 to 1990 is available on microfiche, and the assigned subject headings for this and subsequent periods are searchable online by way of the OPAC

[The entire retrospective and current catalogue can be searched by keyword online.]

Peddie, Robert: Subject index of books published before 1880. London 1933. 2nd series 1935. 3rd series 1939. New series 1948

[These volumes were an attempt to provide subject access to the older collections, but cover these neither exclusively nor exhaustively.]

Alston, R. C.: Handlist of unpublished finding aids to the London collections of the British Library. London 1991

3.3 Special catalogues of German books

Catalogue of books printed in the 15th century now in the British Museum. Pts 1-3 (by A. W. Pollard, A. J. K. Esdaile, J. V. Scholderer, Henry Thomas): Germany, German-speaking Switzerland and Austria-Hungary. London 1908-13

[lithographic reprint of annotated working copy, London 1963]

An index to the early printed books in the British Museum. Pt 2, 1501-1520. Section 1: Germany (by Robert Proctor). London 1903; section 3: Switzerland and Eastern Europe (by Frank Isaac). London 1938

Short-title catalogue of books printed in the German-speaking countries and German books printed in other countries from 1455 to 1600 now in the British Museum (by A. F. Johnson and J. V. Scholderer). London 1962. Supplement (by D. L. Paisey). London 1990

Catalogue of books printed in the German-speaking countries and of German books printed in other countries from 1601 to 1700 now in the British Library (by D. L. Paisey). 5 vols. London 1994

A catalogue of the German books 1701-1750 (by Graham Nattrass) is in preparation.

Priebsch, Robert: Deutsche Handschriften in England. Bd 2. Das Britische Museum. Erlangen 1901

3.4 Other special catalogues including German books

Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC). A union catalogue of world holdings of incunables, compiled from published catalogues

[Available online, and in CD-ROM and microfiche versions. The Illustrated ISTC project is adding to the CD-ROM selected images of items in ISTC in digitised form.]

Eighteenth Century Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). A union catalogue of books printed in English-speaking countries and dependencies, 1701-1800, including those in the German language

[Available online and in microfiche and CD-ROM versions. This is currently being expanded into the English Short Title Catalogue, to include all English books printed before 1801.]

Document Supply Centre (DSC) Serials file

[Available online. This provides easy access by title to current and retrospective serial holdings in the British Library.]

British Museum. Catalogue of printed maps, charts and plans. Photolithographic edition to 1964. 15 vols. London 1967. Ten-year Supplement 1965-74. London 1978

[accessions on microfiche]

The catalogue of printed music in the British Library to 1980. 62 vols. London 1981-87

[accessions on microfiche; also available online]

Catalogue of the Newspaper Library Colindale. 8 vols. London 1975

Catalogue of the Library of the Patent Office. 3 vols. London 1883-1910

India Office Library. Catalogue of European printed books. 10 vols. Boston 1964

Catalogue of Hebrew books in the library of the British Museum. London 1867. Supplement 1868-1892. London 1894. 2nd supplement 1893-1960. London 1994

Catalogue of Yiddish printed books in the British Library

[with romanised title index; card files in the Oriental Reading Room]

Kearney, P. J.: The Private Case. An annotated bibliography of the Private Case erotica collection in the British (Museum) Library. London 1981

Alston, R. C.; Hill, B. S.: Books printed on vellum in the collections of the British Library. London 1996

3.5 Catalogues of private collections now in the British Library which include German books:

Catalogues of Sir Hans Sloane's library

[MS. Sloane MS.3972C (8 vols; index at Sloane MS.3972D); Sloane MS.3995]

Mercklin, G. A.: Lindenius renovatus. Nuremberg 1686

[Sloane's interleaved copy with manuscript additions as a catalogue of his medical books in Latin. 878.n.8]

Catalogue of the Old Royal Library

[MS, before 1787; with inventories and lists c. 1650-1730. C.120.h.6. Microfilm copy of the catalogue at PB.Mic.A.10504]

The Lumley Library. The catalogue of 1609 [in Trinity College Cambridge]. Ed. by Sears Jayne and F. B. Johnson. London 1956

Selwyn, D. G.: The library of Thomas Cranmer. Oxford 1996 (Oxford Bibliographic Society publications ser. 3 no. 1)

Birrell, T. A.: The library of John Morris. The reconstruction of a 17th-century collection. London 1976

Pollard, A. W.: A rough list of the contents of the Bagford Collection. In: Transactions of the Bibliographical Society 7 (1902-04) pp. 143-159

Pollard, A. W.: The Ames Collection of titlepages. In: Transactions of the Bibliographical Society 7 (1902-04) pp. 160-162

Catalogue of Major Arthur Edwards's books

[by Richard Widmore, 1755; MS. C.120.h.2.]

Catalogue of the library of C. M. Cracherode

[Autograph MS, 1790. Add.MS.11360]

Dryander, J.: Catalogus bibliothecae historico-naturalis Josephi Banks. 5 vols. London 1796-1800. Repr. 1966

Inventory of the library of Sir Joseph Banks

[MS, 1827. 460.g.1]

Bibliothecae Regiae catalogus [i.e. the library of King George III; by Sir Frederick Augusta Barnard]. 5 vols. London 1820-29

[classified inventory of the King's Library, MS, 12 vols., placed at 102.gg and 103.gg]

Catalogue of maps, prints, drawings, etc. [i. e. those 2 vols of George III]. London 1829

Catalogue of the King's pamphlets (i.e. those of George III)

[MS, 9 vols, placed at LR 419.b.3; another set, incomplete, vols. 3-18 only, placed at LR.419.b.2]

Catalogue of the King's Music Library (by W. B. Squire and W. C. Smith). 3 vols. London 1927-29

Bibliotheca Grenvilliana. 4 vols. London 1842-72

Catalogue of the fifty manuscripts and printed books bequeathed to the British Museum by Alfred H. Huth. London 1912

Katalog der Musikbibliothek Paul Hirsch. 4 vols. Berlin, Frankfurt, Cambridge 1928-47

Foot, M. J.: The Henry Davis gift. A collection of bookbindings. vol. 2. A catalogue of North-European bindings. London 1983

3.6 Sale catalogues of collections from which large numbers of German books were purchased

Catalogues of books offered for sale by Baron von Moll in 1815

[MS. 3 vols. Add.MS.39294-6]

Catalogue d'une collection précieuse de livres ...qui seront adjugés au plus offrant à Halle le 16. mars 1846. Halle 1846

[This is the catalogue of the Kuppitsch Collection. No marked copy survives.]

Catalogue de la bibliothèque célèbre de M. Ludwig Tieck qui sera vendue à Berlin le 10. décembre 1849 et jours suivants par Mm. Asher & Comp. Berlin 1849

[marked copy at 011900.ee.29]

Deutscher Bücherschatz des sechszehnten, siebenzehnten und achtzehnten bis um die Mitte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts. Gesammelt von Wendelin von Maltzahn. Jena 1875. Register (by Georg Völcker). Frankfurt 1882. Repr. Hildesheim 1966

[No marked copy survives.]


4.1 Archival sources

The Central Archives of the British Museum consist of administrative records created mainly through the Office of the Principal Librarian (from 1898 Director and Principal Librarian), and contain much relating to individual departments such as the Department of Printed Books. These include the minutes of the various meetings of the Trustees (the governing body of the Museum), a limited amount of correspondence, and early donations records (the ``Books of presents') from 1756. They are open to the public on prior application to the Archivist.

The British Library Archives. Post-1973 library records, and those relating solely to the Department of Printed Books during the time when it was part of the British Museum are held in the Archives of the British Library. The main relevant classes to 1973 are as follows:

DH1 Panizzi papers, 1837-56

DH2 Reports to the Trustees and Trustees'

minutes, 1856-1973

DH4 In-letters, 1867-1948

DH5 Invoices for purchases, 1827-33, 1837-1973

DH52 Register of accessions, 1837-49

DH53 Register of donations, 1836-1953

Survey of the General catalogue (typescript). 6 August 1965, revised 29 June 1966.

The contents of the Title Room (currently unavailable), comprising catalogue entries in manuscript (``titles') and a shelf-list on cards (``fourth copies'), contain much valuable information on items in the collection (e.g. on provenance, sources for identification of anonymous and pseudonymous works, previous locations in the library).

Alston, R. C.: A topical index to pressmarks in use in the British Museum Library (1823-1973) and the British Library (1973-1985). Privately printed, London 1987

Annotated copies of the sale catalogues of British Museum duplicates are placed as follows: 1769 at 820.i.8; 1788, 1805, 1818, 1819, 1831 and 1832, bound in 3 vols, at C.191.b.20.

4.2 Parliamentary papers, House of Commons:

Report from the Select Committee on the condition, management and affairs of the British Museum; together with the Minutes of evidence. 6 August 1835

Report from the Select Committee on British Museum; together with the Minutes of evidence. 14 July 1836

Representation from the Trustees of the British Museum to the Treasury, on the subject of an enlarged scale of expenditure for the supply of printed books for the Library of the Museum. Printed, with the Treasury's reply, 27 March 1846 [This included the text of Panizzi's On the collection of printed books at the British Museum, its increase and arrangement (privately printed), London 1845. Grenville's copy of the latter at G.13908]

Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the constitution and government of the British Museum; with Minutes of evidence. London 1850

Returns of the British Museum to the House of Commons [Published annually in the series of Parliamentary Accounts and Papers, 1843-1918; thereafter independently]

4.3 Other publications

[Coventry Patmore on the library of the British Museum]. In: Edinburgh review 109 (January 1859) pp. 201-226

Edwards, Edward: Lives of the founders of the British Museum; with notices of its chief augmentors and other benefactors 1570-1870. London 1870

Cowtan, Robert: Memories of the British Museum. London 1872

Dziatzko, K. F. O.: Die Bibliothek und der Lesesaal des Brittischen Museums. In: Preussische Jahrbücher 48 (1881) pp. 246-276. English translation by P. C. Hogg, London 1992

Esdaile, Arundell: The British Museum Library. A short history and survey. London 1946. 2nd impression 1948

Miller, Edward: That noble cabinet. A history of the British Museum. London 1973

Harris, P. R.: The acquisitions system of the Department of Printed Books in the 1870s. In: The British Library Journal 7 (1981) pp. 120-135

Harris, P. R.: The development of the collections of the Department of Printed Books, 1846-1875. In: The British Library Journal 10 (1984) pp. 114-116

Harris, P. R.: Acquisitions in the Department of Printed Books, 1935-50, and the effects of the War. In: The British Library Journal 12 (1986) pp. 119-144

Chaplin, A. H.: GK. 150 years of the General catalogue of printed books in the British Museum. Aldershot 1987

The library of the British Museum. Retrospective essays on the Department of Printed Books. Ed. by P. R. Harris. London 1991

Sternberg, Ilse: The acquisitions policies and funding of the Department of Printed Books, 1837-1959. In: P. R. Harris (ed.): The Library of the British Museum. London 1991, pp. 103-143

Sternberg, Ilse: Policies for the acquisition of printed books at the British Museum Library, 1837-1960. With particular reference to the procurement of works from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America. A revised version of the thesis submitted for the degree of PhD at the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies, University College London, 1991

[copies available in the British Library reading rooms]

Harris, P. R.: A history of the British Museum Library 1753-1973. London 1998

Paisey, David: Selective universality? The development of the British Museum Library's collections of German printed books in the nineteenth century. In: Library History 14, no. 2 (1998) pp. 133-141

Antonio Panizzi

Miller, Edward: Prince of librarians. The life and times of Antonio Panizzi of the British Museum. London 1967

Oldman, C. B.: Panizzi's acquisition of incunabula. In: Essays in honour of Victor Scholderer. Mainz 1970, pp. 284-291

Weimerskirch, Philip J.: Antonio Panizzi's acquisitions policies for the library of the British Museum. DLS thesis. Columbia University 1977

Willison, I. R.: The political and cultural context of Panizzi's reform of the British Museum Department of Printed Books as a national research library. In: Gerhard Liebers and P. Vodosek (eds.): Bibliotheken im gesellschaftlichen und kulturellen Wandel des 19. Jahrhunderts. Hamburg 1982, pp. 53-73

Paisey, D. L.: Adolphus Asher (1800-1853): Berlin bookseller, Anglophile, and friend to Panizzi. In: The British Library Journal 23 (1997) pp. 131-153


5.1 Publications relating to the German collections:

German studies: British resources. Papers presented at a colloquium at the British Library, 25-27 September 1985. Ed. by David Paisey. London 1986 [This places the German collections in a national context, but most of its account of their history and composition is superseded by the present text.]

The German book 1450-1750. Studies presented to David L. Paisey in his retirement. Ed. by J. L. Flood and W. A. Kelly. London 1995 [Several of the essays in this book refer to German books and groups of books from the given period now in the British Library.]

Articles by members of the staff and accounts of notable acquisitions are occasionally to be found in the following serials published by the British Museum and the British Library respectively:

The British Museum Quarterly (BMQ). vols 1-37. London 1926-73. The British Library Journal (BLJ). vol. 1- . London 1975- .

Other publications relating to individual German editions in the collections are far too numerous to list, but the following are devoted at least in part to larger groups of material, and to collections which include German books:

See also: A directory of rare book and special collections ... 2nd ed. London 1997, pp. 132-179

5.2 Works on particular collections

Sir Hans Sloane

Finch, J. S.: Sir Hans Sloane's printed books. In: The Library ser. 4, 22 (1941) pp. 67-72

Nickson, M. A. E.: Hans Sloane, book collector and cataloguer, 1682-1698. In: BLJ 14 (1988) pp. 52-89

Nickson, M. A. E.: Books and manuscripts. In: Sir Hans Sloane, collector, scientist, antiquary, founding father of the British Museum. Ed. by Arthur MacGregor. London 1994, pp. 263-277

The Bagford Collection

Gatch, Milton McC.: John Bagford, bookseller and antiquary. In: BLJ 12 (1986) pp. 150-171

The Old Royal Library

Birrell, T. A.: English monarchs and their books. From Henry VII to Charles II. (The Panizzi lectures 1986.) London 1987

Brown, T. J.; Scheele, M.: The Old Royal Library. London 1957

Selwyn, D. G.: ``Books with manuscript'. The case of Thomas Cranmer's library. In: BLJ 23 (1997) pp. 47-59

Skelton, R. A.: The Royal map collections. In: BMQ 26 (1962-63) pp. 1-6

C. M. Cracherode

Davis, A.: Portrait of a bibliophile XVIII: Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode. In: The Book Collector 23 (1974) pp. 339-354, 489-505

The King's Library (the library of George III)

Brooke, John: The library of King George III. In: Yale University Library Gazette 52 (1977) pp. 33-45

King, A. H.: The Royal Music Library. In: The book collector 7 (1958) pp. 241-252

Paintin, Elaine M.: The King's Library. London 1989

Sir Joseph Banks

Carter, Harold B.: Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820). A guide to biographical and bibliographical sources. Winchester 1987

Joppien, Rüdiger: Die Gelehrtenbibliothek des Sir Joseph Banks. In: Buch und Sammler. Private und öffentliche Bibliotheken im 18. Jahrhundert. Colloquium der Arbeitsstelle 18. Jahrhundert, Gesamthochschule Wuppertal, Universität Münster, Düsseldorf 1977. Heidelberg 1979, S. 115-127 (Beiträge zur Geschichte der Literatur und Kunst des 18. Jahrhunderts 3)

Ludwig Tieck

Hewett-Thayer, H. W.: Tieck's marginalia in the British Museum. In: The Germanic review 9 (1934) pp. 9-17

Hewett-Thayer, H. W.: Tieck and the Elizabethan drama: his marginalia. In: Journal of English and Germanic Philology 34 (1936-37) pp. 377-407

Lázló Waltherr

Czigány, L.: The László Waltherr Collection. In: BMQ 33 (1968-69) pp. 92-102

James Hilton

The Hilton Bequest of chronograms. In: BMQ 5 (1930-31) pp. 119-120

Paul Hirsch

Epstein, Peter: Die Musikbibliothek Paul Hirsch in Frankfurt. In: Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde N. F. 20 (1928) pp. 80-89

King, A. H.: The Hirsch Music Library. In: BMQ 15 (1952) pp. 11-13


Greek printing types 1465-1927. Facsimiles from an exhibition of books illustrating the development of Greek printing shown in the British Museum, 1927. With an historical introduction by Victor Scholderer. London 1927

Nattrass, Graham: Exhibition of recent acquisitions. In: German studies: British resources. London 1986, pp. 313-320

Nickson, M. A. E.: Early autograph albums in the British Museum. London 1970

Paisey, D. L.: German popular literature as seen in some recent antiquarian acquisitions. In: BLJ 5 (1979) pp. 91-101

Paisey, D. L.: Acquisitions, German Section. In: BLJ 9 (1983) pp. 82-92

15th and 16th centuries

Acquisitions from the Broxbourne Library. In: BLJ 6 (1980) pp. 86-107

Bezzel, Irmgard: News from Portugal in 1506 and 1507, as printed by Johann Weissenburger in Nuremberg. In: The German book 1450-1750. London 1995, pp. 31-44

Bohatcová, Mirjam: Sixteenth-century German Bohemica in the British Library. Ibid., pp. 111-121

British Museum. Luther exhibition. Arranged by G. Bullen. London 1883

Claus, Helmut: New light on the presses of Adam Dyon and Kaspar Libisch in Breslau, 1518-1540. In: The German book 1450-1750. London 1995, pp. 61-80

Dodgson, Campbell: Catalogue of early German and Flemish woodcuts in the British Museum. 2 vols. London 1903-11. Index (by A. Lauter) Munich 1925. Repr. 2 vols. London 1980

Hellinga, Lotte: La mise en valeur de la collection d'incunables de la British Library grÆéce aux catalogues des incunables. In: Luigi Balsamo and M. Festante (eds.): I fondi librari antichi delle biblioteche. Firenze 1981, pp. 179-197

Hieronymus, Frank: Physicians and publishers. The translation of medical works in sixteenth-century Basle. In: The German book 1450-1750. London 1995, pp. 95-109

Johnson, A. F.: German Renaissance title-borders. Oxford 1929

Painter, G. D.: List of books acquired by the British Museum from Chatsworth. Pt 1, Incunabula. In: The Book Collector 7 (1958) pp. 241-252

Paisey, D. L.: A collection of German religious songs of the mid-sixteenth century. In: BLJ 1 (1975) pp. 71-83

Pollard, A. W.: The building of the British Museum collection of incunabula. In: The Library ser. 4, 5 (1924) pp. 193-214

Scholderer, V.: Three Cologne incunabula. In: BMQ 8 (1933-34) pp. 116-117

Sheppard, L. A.: Acquisitions of incunabula 1941-1950. In: BMQ 15 (1952) pp. 15-16

17th century

Bircher, Martin: The ``splendid library' of the Counts of Auersperg in Ljubljana. In: The German book 1450-1750. London 1995, pp. 285-298

Paisey, D. L.: Illustrated German broadsides of the seventeenth century. In: BLJ 2 (1976) pp. 56-69

Paisey, D. L.: The ``Officina Poetica' at Leipzig. In: Gutenberg Jahrbuch 54 (1979) pp. 205-209

Paisey, D. L.: Literatur, die nicht in den Messkatalogen steht. In: Paul Raabe (ed.): Bücher und Bibliotheken im 17. Jahrhundert in Deutschland. Hamburg 1980, pp. 115-125

Simoni, A. E. C.: A German-Dutch tapestry. Some early seventeenth-century Dutch publications with German connections: Henrick van Haestens of Leiden and Jan Jansz of Arnhem. In: The German book 1450-1750. London 1995, pp. 161-183

18th century

Adler, Jeremy: Experience in using German material in the history of science at the British Library [mainly 18th century chemistry]. In: German studies: British resources. London 1986, pp. 303-308

Nattrass, Graham: The Swiss civil war of 1712 in contemporary sources. In: BLJ 19 (1993) pp. 11-33

Nattrass, Graham: The baroque sermon, illustrated by a collection from Austria and neighbouring territories. In: The German book 1450-1750. London 1995, pp. 345-359

Paisey, D. L.: The first fruits of Johann Friedrich Hager, printer at Göttingen, in 1729. Poems for King George II of England. In: Gutenberg Jahrbuch 52 (1977) pp. 170-182

19th century

James, Elizabeth: Tauchnitz Edition at the British Library. In: Rare books newsletter 43 (1993) pp. 24-29

Tauchnitz-Edition. National Heritage Memorial Fund, KulturStiftung der Länder. London 1992

20th century

Eden, Ros; Paisey, D. L.: World-Cup Willie and others. Some German illustrated books of the 1960s. London 1989 (British Library exhibition notes)

Paisey, D. L.: The illustrated books. In: Frances Carey and Antony Griffiths: The print in Germany 1880-1933. The age of Expressionism. London 1984. 2nd impression 1993, pp. 233-272

Thomas Mann, 1875-1955. A British Library exhibition. London 1975

September 1997

David Paisey

Quelle: Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland. Digitalisiert von Günter Kükenshöner.
Hrsg. von Bernhard Fabian. Hildesheim: Olms Neue Medien 2003.