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Bodleian Maps and Music card catalogues now searchable online

October 15th, 2013 Martin Holmes

It is now possible, for the first time, to browse the card catalogues for the Bodleian’s map and printed music collections without having to come to the Library (click images above for links). The images of the cards made in conjunction with the Mellon-funded retrospective conversion project have been made accessible online as a kind of ‘virtual’ card catalogue. The three-year Bodleian Maps & Music Catalogue Conversion Project will see brief catalogue records for this material loaded into the online SOLO catalogue in the summer of 2014 but, as a by-product of this project, the opportunity has been taken to improve access to the collections now by making the scanned cards accessible online.

Since 1992, all music scores acquired by the central Bodleian have been catalogued online and are therefore accessible through SOLO, the online catalogue for most of Oxford’s libraries. All maps acquired since 2008 have been catalogued online, and certain categories of material were catalogued online before then, including around 10,000 antiquarian records for items in the Todhunter-Allen collection.  Additionally, several retrospective conversion projects over the years have meant that a significant number of earlier accessions were recatalogued. For music, this includes opera scores, a large proportion of our pre-1800 editions, music hall songs and a selection of important 20th century composers and collected editions. For maps, this includes records for post-1850 mapping of selected countries, predominantly in north Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, funded by the RSLP Mapping the World project in 2000-2002. However, that still leaves approximately 75% of the Library’s music holdings and 85% of the Maps collection represented only by the bulky card catalogues which used to dominate the old Map and Music Reading Rooms and now line the central aisle of Duke Humfrey’s Library.

An interface has been developed by staff  in Bodleian Digital Library Systems and Services (BDLSS) using ‘flipbook’ technology which allows access to the card ‘drawers’ at frequent index points. Once you have entered a ‘drawer’, you can browse the cards until you find what you are looking for. Each card image comes with an e-mail icon which will bring up a web form to enable registered Bodleian users to request the item from its remote storage location. After entering your name, library card number and contact details, the form automatically captures the filename of the image and sends it to library staff for ordering to the Maps and Music reading room in Duke Humfrey’s Library.

In fact, several distinct music catalogues are included in this project. In addition to the main card catalogue (begun in the 1920s but incorporating much earlier material), the hand-written supplementary slip catalogue (now containing mostly minor Victorian editions received under legal deposit) can be found, along with composer and title indexes to popular music (ca. 1953-1991), and a partial index to printed music found in journals or non-music publications. Included also are a small number of cards for microfilm sets and some individual music manuscripts available on film, along with a partial index to music manuscripts catalogued between about 1965 and 2009. The legibility of some of these hand-written cards leaves much to be desired so the help of Music staff may be required to decipher them.

The maps card catalogue is more simply structured; most records are included in a single alphabetical sequence by country. There is an additional section, the Mapmakers’ Index, which includes cross reference records under the mapmaker’s name for pre-1850 maps; this is a useful shortcut if you are looking for the work of a particular cartographer. All the maps recorded in the Mapmakers’ Index are also included in the main alphabetical sequence.

Links to the ‘new’ catalogues can be found on the SOLO homepage. SOLO should always remain your first port-of-call when looking for any music scores or maps but please also remember to check the card images if you can’t find what you need in SOLO, if it was published before 1992 (music) or 2008 (maps). If you still can’t find what you need, it may be worth asking library staff in the relevant section  as cataloguing practices over the years have often been quite obscure and what you want may not always be filed where you might expect to find it!

While this solution falls short of the ideal – the complete recataloguing of all maps and music scores in SOLO which would see everything fully and consistently described and indexed – it is hoped that the result of this more pragmatic approach will be a considerable improvement on the present situation. The new interface was released in early August in its ‘beta’ phase and currently works best in Firefox and Chrome browsers. Functionality issues with Internet Explorer are being addressed and there are a few bugs to be ironed out in the coming weeks. Comments are welcome to maps@bodleian.ox.ac.uk and music@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

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