Rare Book School

RBS Home| Course Schedule | Admissions | Support RBS | Contact RBS | Previous Years

C-90. Provenance: Tracing Owners & Collections

David Pearson

Users and custodians of historic books are increasingly interested in evidence of former ownership, which helps to elucidate how they were used, read, regarded and circulated.  Provenance research includes recognising and deciphering various forms of ownership markings, tracing owners and their books, and understanding the value of this information.  The course will focus on all these areas, and aims to give participants an improved personal toolkit for interpreting the different kinds of provenance evidence they are likely to encounter.  Topics covered will include inscriptions, palaeography, bookplates, heraldry, bindings as provenance evidence, sale catalogues, tracing owners, and the recording of provenance data in catalogues.  The primary focus will be on pre-20th century printed books.

The course should be of interest to anyone who regularly works with early books – librarians, collectors, dealers – and who would like to improve their knowledge in this area.  It will be assumed that students have at least a grounding in historical bibliography and some familiarity (through direct handling experience) with early printed books.

Course Resources

Course History


David Pearson teaches this course for the first time.