Search and retrieval in seventeenth-century manuscripts: the case of Joseph Hall's miscellany



Vine A (2017) Search and retrieval in seventeenth-century manuscripts: the case of Joseph Hall's miscellany. Huntington Library Quarterly, 80 (2), pp. 325-343.

One of the challenges faced by compilers of early modern miscellanies was how to retrieve material after they had copied it. This essay explores schemes for search and retrieval, including incipient indices to tipped-in texts, using as a case-study the meticulously planned miscellany later owned by Joseph Hall (Folger MS V.a.339). This manuscript’s original compiler collected a wide range of material, including theological texts, scientific and medical items, political reports and other news, and large amounts of verse by the likes of William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Richard Corbett, and Henry King. His manuscript therefore neatly illustrates the problem faced by compilers when they wanted to find an item at a later date. To redress that problem, the compiler devised a system of seven distinct categories, dividing his manuscript into sections. He also tried to anticipate which of these sections would garner more entries, allocating space accordingly. The essay will examine the compiler’s classificatory system, what actually happened when he and another scribe started to copy material, and what this tells us about how early modern miscellanies were used.

Huntington Library Quarterly: Volume 80, Issue 2

FundersThe British Academy
Publication date31/07/2017
Date accepted by journal11/04/2016
PublisherUniversity of Pennsylvania Press

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Dr Angus Vine
Dr Angus Vine

Associate Professor, English Studies

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