The web and social media are providing means for controlling book ownership data. Already in the ESTC many thousands of copy-specific notes fill out the holdings records. Records for STC books in the Folger Library are quite full — all useful results from a cataloging grant project. Incunabulists now turn to Paul Needham’s IPI for an listing of more than 12,000 recorded owners, both institutional and personal, of fifteenth century books http://ipi.cerl.org/cgi-bin/search.pl]. Nota bene: owners of incunabula were also likely to own worthy books printed post 1500, so provenance researchers for books of any period may profit from consulting IPI.
These verbal tools are being supplemented by the visual. A number of these visual data were noted by binding historian Mirjam Foot in 2005: “The most common ownership marks found on books, either on their first bindings, on later re-bindings, or added to or subtracted from existing bindings, are coats of arms, armorial charges, inscriptions, mottoes, monograms, initials, full names, symbolic tools, badges, or structural features.” (See http://www.cilip.org.uk/get-involved/special-interest-groups/rare-books/publications/newsletters/Pages/rbn76.aspx). One could add to these markings bookplates, bookstamps, owner’s codes, and a host of other features.
To access the visual, websites such as those at the British Library [http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/prbooks/provenanceresearch/provenanceresearch.html and http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/bookbindings/] or St. John’s College, Cambridge [http://www.joh.cam.ac.uk/library/specialcollections/provenance/provenancetype/] offer remarkable help, to name just a few such.
Recently emerging visual tools are a number of provenance-related sites on Flickr. They offer striking, colorful evidence of the range, complexity, and vitality of marks of ownership in early printed books. They also offer sites at which collaborative identifications can be recorded, comparable to CERL’s Can you help? website. http://www.cerl.org/web/en/resources/provenance/canyouhelp
Here’s a short list of notable sites:
Smith College • Mortimer Rare Book Room http://www.flickr.com/photos/bibliography/
University of Glasgow Library http://www.flickr.com/photos/uofglibrary/sets/72157626041343415/
Heraldic Bookplates (Group pool) http://www.flickr.com/groups/1000356@N20/
Pratt Libraries Ex Libris Collection http://www.flickr.com/photos/34900073@N07/sets/72157613160345964/