Principles of cataloguing fragments

One of the aims of the project at its pilot stage is to consider the standards required for cataloguing fragments. What follows is an outline of the principles that have been used. Do bear in mind that this an ongoing project and we are always looking to refine our practices. So, if you have any suggestions, do contact us.

  1. The first principle is that each fragment has a double identity: it is an entity in its own right and, at the same time, witness to the previous existence of a larger unit of which it was part - the 'lost manuscript'.
  2. Each fragment should be catalogued individually, showing it the respect which is given to a complete extant codex (a principle which was first enunciated by J. P. Gumbert).
  3. At the same time, a fragment cannot provide some of the information furnished by a complete codex - a single cutting, for instance, cannot reveal the quire structure in which it once sat. With that omission of some important data comes the need to record those details that are available, to a level which is not necessarily common when cataloguing whole manuscripts. This is driven by the next principle:
  4. One purpose of cataloguing fragments is to help others to identify -- or, equally important, to exclude from a possible match -- the source of a fragment they have before them. All assistance should be given to aid that process of identification. So, for example, the most frequently available measurements for a fragment are not the overall dimensions of written space or total number of lines -- most pieces included here are smaller than a page -- but the height of minims and the width between lines.
  5. The entry for a fragment should concentrate on what is before the cataloguer's eyes and not extrapolate on its basis -- that is the purpose of the description of the Babel manuscript.
  6. The Babel manuscript takes all existing fragments and, on the basis of the data they provide, attempts as far as possible to describe the book as it would have looked before it was dismembered. We describe some elements of how this is done on the page titled Reimagining a Lost Manuscript.