Coming Soon: the online version of Ker's catalogue of pastedowns in Oxford bindings

Ker Pastedowns Title

The undoubted classic of the study of manuscript fragments in Britain is Neil Ker's 1954 revelatory catalogue of one particular type of fragments, those found pasted down found on the insides of the boards of early-modern Oxford bindings. Ker was able to discover over 2000 fragments and more recent work has built on that. His catalogue is now to be made available on the Lost Manuscripts website.

Neil Ker (1908-82) was instrumental in many major projects, including Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries (MMBL) and Medieval Libraries of Great Britain (MLGB, now available online as MLGB3). A particular labour of love for him was his meticulous collecting together of details of manuscript fragments to be found in bindings made in Oxford in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. He trekked across Britain discovering these. The resulting work was ground-breaking for binding history but all the more for the possibilities it held out for the investigation of fragments.

Ker's work inspired David Pearson's 2020 Oxford Book-binding 1500-1640, like the original work published by Oxford Bibliographical Society; Pearson, using Ker's notes and through his own detailed studies, was able substantially to augment the original list. Further work, undertaken by David Rundle and Scott Mandelbrote, appeared as addenda and corrigenda in the Society's 2004 reprint of Ker's book.

The catalogue, with these later additions, is about to be made available in searchable format on this website. This has been made possible through the generous financial support of the Bibliographical Society of London and Oxford Bibliographical Society, and with the assistance of Dr James Willoughby. It will be launched on 23rd April 2021 and, to coincide with that, David Rundle will be giving a video conference on 'Neir Ker and the Tradition of Studying Fragments in the UK' for the Fragmentarium project.