Private Libraries in Renaissance England

Fields in Books


Each item is assigned a PLRE number, which is always composed of at least two numbers separated by a period. The PLRE number identifies 1) the book-list (the number preceding the period) and 2) the place of an individual book in that book-list (the number or series of numbers following the period).

Date of List

The date of the book-list as found in an inventory, a will, an owner’s catalogue, or other less frequently drawn upon sources such as an account book, a bequest, or a receipt of sale. Reconstruction appears instead of a date for book-lists that have been reconstructed from extant books, not from any document. The abbreviation for circa appears after a date, a departure from the standard form to facilitate sorting the database on dates.

Owner’s Identifier

Usually the profession or vocation of the books’owner; the Identifier sometimes is more generic, such as alien or woman. When an owner has two or more Identifiers, they appear separated by a comma (e.g., cleric, scholar; or rescusant, woman). Occasionally, an Identifier is expanded to include a more specific role in a profession, as in cleric (chaplain).

MS Entry

Book lists are transcribed to reproduce as faithfully as possible the entries as they appear in manuscript; some regularization and modernization are employed. An asterisk (*) represents a damaged, missing, or illegible portion of the manuscript. [Reconstruction] appears in this field for collections reconstructed from extant books.


The author of the identified work. With a few exceptions, STC name forms are the default forms adopted by PLRE for authors found in the STC. For authors’ names not appearing in the STC, forms are taken from a list of uniform names developed by PLRE. These uniform names, along with selected variant forms, are found in the Names database.

A few STC name forms appear in the Names database, but there has been no attempt to enter all STC names in the Names database.

[Note: The Names database was originally constructed as an instrument for PLRE Contributing Editors to consult when editing a book-list. It was neither intended nor designed to be a comprehensive or exhaustive list of variant names of men and women associated with books published during the period covered by PLRE.]


The title of a work identified (short title, usually terminating with the first full stop). Often the precise title is impossible to determine from the truncated and abbreviated entries commonly found in early book lists. Further, given that the standard bibliographical sources frequently modify actual titles, the main principle applied here is to identify the work rather than a particular title of a work, especially when a work has gone through several editions with different titles. Therefore:

  1. a work that exists in a single edition is identified by its short title
  2. STC and Wing titles are the default titles for works appearing in the STC and Wing.
  3. a work that exists in two or more editions that bear only slightly varying titles is identified by one of those titles
  4. a work existing in several editions with widely differing titles is identified by an artificial title
    1. in a construction to reflect one or more of the existing titles, but
    2. often in a construction designed to describe the work without any attempt to simulate a title.
    Artificial titles are always enclosed in square brackets. Livy's [Historiae Romanae decades] is an example of the first kind of artificial title (4a), and [Aristotle—Ethica: commentary] is an example of the second (4b).
  5. Unidentified is provided when the work represented by the manuscript entry cannot be determined.

The place of publication of the identified work. If an entry is identified as a single edition of a single work, or if it could be one of several editions published in the same city, the city of publication is provided, regularized and modernized. If the entry represents a work of more than one edition printed in more than one city, one of three general locations is provided:

  • Britain (if the identified printing houses were all in the British Isles),
  • Continent (if the identified printing houses were all located on the Continent), and
  • Britain or Continent (if editions were known to have been issued from different presses located in the British Isles and on the Continent).

Other information appearing in this field:

  • Place unknown (when a work is completely unidentified).
  • Place not given (when the place of publication of an identified book is unknown).
  • Provenance unknown (for non-extant manuscripts in accordance with the generally less precise geographical origins of most surviving manuscripts. The phrase should not be interpreted as relating to previous ownership.

The printer, publisher, and bookseller of the identified work. When an entry represents a specific, identifiable edition, the stationers involved (up to three) in the publication of the book are supplied by uniform names, with the forms appearing in the STC, Vol.3, serving as default names.

When a work is identified as having been published in a single city, but the precise edition of several possibilities issued by different printing houses in that city cannot be determined, the phrase different houses is given. Stationer unknown is used when a work is completely unidentified or when the printer, publisher, or bookseller for a known book has not been identified by its imprint or colophon or by bibliographical sources. When Place contains Britain, Continent, and Britain or Continent, reflecting an obvious multiplicity of possible stationers, this field is blank.

Date or Dt Range

The publication date of the identified work, or the date range of multiple editions of that work. Determining the publication dates of the books listed is the most challenging of tasks facing PLRE’s editors primarily because there is seldom certainty that all editions of a work have been found or are known. Except for works listed in the STC or in sources representing comprehensive censuses of authors’ works, Date Ranges must be understood to be at best a guide. Even when a work is presented as a sole edition with a single date of publication, doubts must be harbored. Publication date information, therefore, must be treated with more caution than any information provided by PLRE.

Presentation: if the year of publication can be determined, it is provided. If two or more editions of different dates are possible, either a range of years (given as, for example, 1562–1573) or the phrase date not determined is provided. For works published in multiple editions over a long period of time, even when the editio princeps and the latest possible edition can be identified, date ranges are generally not provided as being unhelpful (for example, 1485-1634) and are assigned instead the convention: date not determined.

The abbreviation for circa appears after a date, a departure from the standard form to facilitate sorting the database on dates.


The language (or languages) of the identified book. If multiple, the languages are listed, without punctuation, in alphabetical order and in the order of probability. When multiple languages appear with (probable) appended to each language, any one of the languages is considered as likely as any other.


In this column a box appears for each record. All boxes are checked by default. Checks can be deleted by clicking on individual boxes. To clear all boxes of checks, click on None under View. Individual boxes can then be checked by clicking on selected boxes. To return the default setting, click on All under View.

This field provides no bibliographical information but allows the user, by clicking on the column heading, View, to retrieve the checked records in the PLRE Volume Entry format See the Brief Records screen for information on how to effect the shift to the PLRE Volume Entry screen for a single record.

In addition to the information found on the Brief Records screen, the following information appears in the PLRE Volume Entry screen after the item’s bibliographical description:

STC status

The primary purpose of this information is to identify the work identified as an STC (or Wing) book. If the work is an STC or Wing book, the appropriate number follows the identifying bibliographical entry and leads the Annotations (see the next). When a work issued in more than one edition is identified as an STC (or Wing) book, but the precise edition cannot be determined, only the first possible STC (or Wing) number is given followed by et seq.

If the work is neither an STC nor a Wing book and, therefore, a book published on the Continent, that non-English origin is signified by the absence of any statement regarding it geographical origins. When, however, a work is known to have been published both in England and on the Continent, and the specific edition cannot be identified, its STC (or Wing) number and its Continental status (denoted by the term, non-STC) are both cited.

When an entry is identified as a manuscript, that information is provided in this location. If an item contains no printing or writing, it is identified here as a blank book.


Whatever information a Contributing Editor believes will be useful and instructive in connection with the entry appears here. Bibliographical sources for citations in the Annotations are found in 1) the Common Abbreviations and 2) the Reference Lists appended to the individual introductions to the book lists in the printed volumes of PLRE.

Cost or appraised value and date of same

Either 1) the amount the owner paid for the book or 2) the book’s appraised value as provided by the compiler of the book list. The date when the amount was paid or when the appraisal was made is usually limited to a year. Not all items are valued since for some books neither a cost nor an appraisal was provided by the compiler of the list.

Current location of the book

This information is restricted to the specific, physical book cited in the book list and should not be understood to identify locations of other copies of the book. Understandably, this information appears in few records.

Owner, Document type, Renaissance location of the document

The book owner’s name and death date, the type of document in which the book-list was recorded (e.g., an inventory or a will), and where in England the book-list was compiled all appear beneath the bibliographical entry and annotations. The abbreviation for circa appears after the death date, a departure from the standard form to facilitate sorting the database on dates.