Designing The Universal Short Title Catalogue

USTCGraeme Kemp, School of History


The Universal Short Title Catalogue brings together information on all books published in Europe between the invention of printing and the end of the sixteenth century, creating a powerful resource for the study of the book and print culture.

The project has a searchable interface, which brings together data from established national bibliographical projects and new projects undertaken by the project team based at the University of St Andrews, with partners in University College, Dublin. This provides access to the full bibliographic information, locations of surviving copies and, where available, digital full text editions that can be accessed through the database. All told, this information encompasses approximately 350,000 editions and around 1.5 million surviving copies, located in over 5,000 libraries worldwide. Between now and mid-2016 coverage will be extended to 1650, approximately doubling its size.

In addition to the core database, the USTC has recently been successful in winning a grant from the Mellon Foundation for a programme entitled ‘Preserving the World’s Rarest Books.’ This is a new initiative to collate data on surviving books in the world’s 6,000 research libraries and archives. The programme will offer to participating libraries and archives data analysing their collections of early printed books in terms of rarity, highlighting items that survive in only a very few copies in other libraries, or are the only known surviving copy. Libraries will then be encouraged to make these items priorities for conservation digitization. Digital copies of these unique or very rare items can then be shared with users through the USTC platform, and thus become generally available to the world’s research community.

With such an ambitious programme, that requires both public engagement and wide dissemination of the data gathered by the USTC team, the project faces steep challenges in both the design and implementation of a user interface. The discussion at this session will focus on such challenges and look to consider how far we should think about design as an integral part of working within the digital humanities.

For Discussion:
What place does design have in digital humanities projects?



Dr Graeme Kemp is currently Project Manager of the Universal Short Title Catalogue project. Previous to this position, he worked as a research assistant on a Leverhulme sponsored project to investigate early mathematical editions printed in Europe before 1600 and as a research assistant on a Wellcome Trust sponsored project to catalogue medical books in Northern Europe.  In addition, he provides consultancy on a private project to catalogue British Geological editions printed before 1900 and to ProQuest’s Early European Books Project. Graeme is managing editor of IDC Brill electronic resource Book History Online, the authoritative guide to articles and publications on the history of the book. His current research interests principally focus on book auction sales of the seventeenth century in France and England. He has a number of articles about to come into print on the subject and is currently preparing a monograph along these lines.