|So what does she know about this book that I don't?
From Joseph Neusinger's Papatus nunquam errans in proponendis fidei articulis
(Augustae [Augsburg]: Typis Joannis Michaelis Labhart, 1709).
Cataloging rare books and manuscripts can be a lot of fun--most of the time. There are occasions when one wants to throw one's hands in the air and cry "alas and alack" (or in this case, perhaps "alas and a lack," but more on this below).
|Initial from an uncataloged 1514 Basel edition of the Plenarium, or collection of pericopes in German.
|Johann Neusinger. Papatus numquam errans ... (Augsburg, 1709).
Note the confusing title of De Romano Pontifice,
taken from the caption title. The original
cataloger identified the author as Neusingen, not Neusinger.
|Neusinger's title page from the Internet, with earlier cataloging card.
In the sixteenth century this information moved to the title page for the most part, and now we look there first for a book's identification, and then to the colophon, if there even is one. But what if the title page is no longer in the book? There are many reasons a book may lack a title page, which I won't expand upon here, except to say that many of HMML's books are likely remnants of European monastic collections which were "secularized" at some point in the eighteenth or nineteenth century (we know this is true of about 1100 books that came from two Bavarian monasteries). Since title pages often have ownership notes or stamps on them, it is possible that many were removed to obscure the origin of the volumes a long time ago.
|Plenarium, dated 1514 (Basel) according to a handwritten note on the book. The volume is lacking its title page and colophon.
|One of the wonderful woodcuts in the Plenarium, a collection of Gospel and Epistle readings arranged for the liturgical year.
As a cataloger, these books pose special problems, however. One needs to identify the author and title, and--especially in the case of popular works--the printer, date and place of publication. Without these, it becomes nearly impossible to identify the work in one's hand. One movement toward such identification came in the massive 800-volume National Union Catalog of title before 1956. Today, catalogers and others turn first to WorldCat (OCLC), where nearly all known printed editions are represented. However, to search a database like WorldCat, one needs certain details--author, title, publication data, etc.
Finally, one example of a search: HMML has a volume whose handwritten title page identified it only as Canones et decreta omnium Conciliorum usque ad Tridentinum, compiled by Barth. Carranza. No dates were given, no publisher, etc. One important clue was the colophon that indicated that the book had been printed at the shop of "Ioan. VVithagij." in Antwerp, Belgium. On the following page was a publisher's device, which I was eventually able to trace to the family of Ioan. Steelsij. The most commonly reported editions in WorldCat did not match in the number of pages, an important attribute for preliminary comparisons.
Sure enough, Google has a digitized version of the entire book in a copy from the Bavarian State Library. I was able to compare numerous pages and verify that this was the same edition that HMML has. With that, I was able to print out a surrogate title page to identify our copy (to keep with the book) and to identify a record in WorldCat that matched our copy.
Today, Carranza is on the shelf in the appropriate place! Now to find some more missing title pages (if I can find any spare time ...).