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Guidelines for uploading and describing images in the CERL Provenance Digital Archive

A PDF version of the Guidelines can be downloaded here

Version 0.5 (April 2020)
Marieke van Delft
Additions: Marian Lefferts, Cristina Dondi, John Lancaster


Website: https://www.arkyves.org/r/section/him_CERLPDA/
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If you go to Arkyves, below the Arkyves logo, you will see ‘CERL Provenance Digital Archive' in blue which is the link that directs you to the PDA.


Preferably, the entire page with a provenance mark is photographed so one sees the context of use of the mark. If a page of the book that you describe contains more than one evidence of provenance, for example two inscriptions by two different former owners, you should create two entries in the PDA, one for each former owner; attach a picture of the specific provenance mark and also the full page image to see the context of the provenance mark.

The PDA is meant for unique provenance marks. Therefore, for repetitive marks such as Ex Libris, Armorial Bindings or Library Stamps, one description will do. If the same mark is used multiple times in various books, the mark is only described once in Arkyves. Inscriptions can be repetitive, but when the former owner uses a different wording or the former owner’s handwriting has changed substantially, an inscription can be added twice or more times. The decision whether a mark should be described separately is up to the editor that describes the provenance mark. Thus, before adding a new image, check if the image is already available in the PDA by searching with the elements you plan to describe the provenance mark: name of the former owner (user of the provenance mark), subject of the image, text on the mark or ICONCLASS code.
- If you cannot find the provenance mark in Arkyves, describe it in the CERL PDA;
- If the mark is already described, do not insert it a second time; click on the image and then you can add the source with the second instance in the Comments field on the right side of the screen. We strive to turn this into a linked field in the future; for now only add the URL of MEI, a library catalogue etc.
- If the image occurs in another Arkyves collection (you will only see this when your library has a subscription to Arkyves), a new description in the CERL PDA can be added. Descriptions can only be edited by the person who made the initial contribution, and the general MEI-editor; the name of the creator of the description is added to the description.


You start the description of a new provenance mark by clicking the brown button in the bar above. On the right part of the screen you see the button ‘Upload image(s)’. There you can upload one or (if needed) more images of the provenance mark. On the left part of the screen you see the fields needed to describe the image
1. Start by uploading the image(s)
2. Then insert the information in the concerned fields; fields with an * are obligatory


Source URL
In this field a URL can be pasted referring to:
HPB: the Heritage of the Printed Book Database; you find the URL in HPB by clicking the “cite” image with your right mouse button and copy the link, for example: http://hpb.cerl.org/record/GB-UkOxU.01.013365380
MEI: Material evidence in Incunabula Database, for example: https://data.cerl.org/mei/02100998
ISTC: Incunabula Short-Title Catalogue, for example: https://data.cerl.org/istc/is00670300

After pasting a valuable URL the descriptive fields of the source (Shelf mark, Bibliographic details) will be filled automatically.

If the source does not occur in any of these bibliographical resources, you can manually add the relevant information to the source fields.

Here a description of the provenance mark must be given. The detailed information will be specified in the specific fields describing the provenance. This is a free field, you may choose your own wording in English; the more specific the description, the easier the mark will be found.
- Ex-libris of J.B. Verdussen
- Notes by J. Visser with bibliographical information concerning the edition
- Stamp of the Pragae Emautina Bibliotheca

Institution name
Institution names are based upon the CERL “Holding Institutions” Database (https://data.cerl.org/holdinst/_search). For more information or to add a missing institution, please contact: Marian Lefferts, CERL Executive Manager.

NB: You can open this database via the help button above the field; open the database in a new tab with the right mouse button, otherwise you might lose the description you made because going back does not work.

Location in source
Picklist. Describe the location in the source via the picklist, i.e. binding, front or back pastedowns, flyleaf, folio, page, or other; if you click page a second box opens where you can insert the exact page or folio number

Kind of provenance
Picklist. Choose one of the options. If you miss something, please write to Marieke van Delft, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the National Library of the Netherlands, The Hague.

Bibliographical data
These fields will be filled automatically when adding the link in the source field.


Transcribe the text (if any) on the provenance mark in normal use, i.e. do not use capitals if these are not used in a common sentences; give the text as it is meant, i.e. solve the u-v, i-j etc. in Latin[“virtus” instead of “virtvs”] and if possible, give a translation between brackets [ …].

Picklist. Choose the language of the text on the mark

Picklist. Choose the century in which the mark was in use; multiple centuries are possible.

The date in this field should be as specific as possible; general information on dates is given in the Century field. For persons, give the biographical dates. If no date can be found, leave the field empty.

Via the information button [questionmark] the most used codes are given. For more information, for example to describe the figures on the image, use: http://iconclass.org/help/outline.

Use a term form the picklist. If you miss a technique, please send an email to Marieke van Delft, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the National Library of the Netherlands, The Hague.

Width and Height
Give these in cm, rounded up or down to halves (2,5 cm)

Place of use
This means the place where the provenance mark was used or/and the Former Owner (user of the provenance mark) lived. Type the name of the place of use and the name will be retrieved. If not, see Missing Names below. You can also add the name of a country if you do not know a specific place or region where the mark was in use. Please verify the form of the name of the country in use in the CERL Thesaurus. There is some delay in the retrieval of the geographical names from the Thesaurus, so you may have to wait until it appears.

Former Owners
Here comes the name of the user of the provenance mark. Insert the name of the Former Owner as specific as possible. This field is connected to the CERL Thesaurus. If you type a name, a person or institution pops up. If this is the right one, you insert it by clicking. Please verify the form of the name of the former owner in use in the CERL Thesaurus. There is some delay in the retrieval of the names from the Thesaurus, so you may have to wait until it appears. If you do not know the former owner, please leave the field empty; in the presentation the words “Unidentified Owner” will appear. And do not forget to tick the Can You Help box.

Missing names
Place names and Former Owners are retrieved from the CERL Thesaurus Database. If no name pops up when typing, try some different spellings. If then still no name pops up, please open the CERL Thesaurus (https://data.cerl.org/thesaurus/_search) in a new tab and search for the name. If the name lacks in CERL Thesaurus, you can add it with the button ‘Add missing lookup items’. A new form opens where you can choose between Place, Former Owner (person) and Former Owner (Institution). Insert the place or former owner and it will be kept in the CERL Thesaurus and your description. There can be some delay when saving new names in the Thesaurus, so you might have to wait before it turns up.


Can You Help forum
Can you Help? If you could not identify the image, please give all the information about the image you have and tick this box. The image will then show up in the Can You Help forum at Arkyves and other scholars might be able to help you to identify it. If you could not identify the image, please give all the information about the image you have and tick this box. The image will then show up in the Can You Help forum at Arkyves and other scholars might be able to help you identify it.

In this field you can add information you were not yet able to provide: for example URL’s of other books with the same image. Other useful information such as bibliographical references, references to other provenance websites, information about a former owner etc. For some elements new fields might be defined in the future.


These guidelines are compiled for describing provenance marks in the PDA. You can link from MEI to the CERL PDA through inserting the Permanent link from the CERL PDA in the appropriate field in MEI.

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 resources/provenance/pdaguidelines.txt · Last modified: 2021/08/30 10:39 by lefferts



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