Iberian Books is an ongoing research project based at the Centre for the History of the Media at University College Dublin. It is funded through two generous grants awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation under their Scholarly Communications and Information Technology Scheme. The objective of Iberian Books is to produce a foundational listing of all books published in Spain, Portugal and the New World or printed elsewhere in Spanish or Portuguese during the Golden Age, 1472-1700.
In 2010, the project completed its survey of printing in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, while in 2014, the project’s second phase came to a conclusion, extending the survey up to the middle of the seventeenth century. The current datasets, therefore, made available here freely via an Attribution Creative Commons License, represent the work of the team to date, publishing information on some 66,000 items, surviving in 339,000 copies in over 1,900 libraries worldwide. In addition, some 15,000 links to digital reproductions have been included. Unlike comparable national cataloguing projects, Iberian Books has also made efforts to log information on ‘lost’ books, works with no known surviving copy but which are supposed from archival or other sources to have once existed.
The project will be funded to 2018, when we hope to be in a position to incorporate datasets for the period 1651-1700.
Iberian Books will need to continue to evolve and develop over generations if it is to be as authoritative as some of the other national short title cataloguing projects. However, this should not detract from what is being accomplished by the project team. Iberian Books offers a powerful aid to scholars interested in the rich history, literature and culture of Golden-Age Spain and Portugal. Its extension up to 1700 will also open up further opportunities for investigation. It will, for instance, greatly facilitate the exploration of issues such as the complex political developments that led up to the War of Succession, the tentative beginnings of the periodical press and the growing news culture, the invention and popularisation of genres such as the relaciones de comedias, or the impact of the Junta de Comercio on the Spanish book trade from the 1680s onwards.
Iberian Books provides a practical resource, helping to identify works by a given author or publisher, or on a given subject. A very substantial barrier exists at present, with scholars forced to confront information fragmented across various card, manuscript, printed and online catalogues and bibliographies. As a digital resource, the catalogue offers powerful and refined search facilities.
Iberian Books will continue to facilitate broader thinking and the ability to contextualise research. Ultimately, it will reconfigure our understanding of how the publishing industry and marketplace for print evolved over almost two and a half centuries. Without Iberian Books, it is simply not possible to gain anything more than a myopic impression of publishing on the Peninsula. The integration of the datasets into the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC) based at the University of St Andrews (www.ustc.ac.uk) will further enhance the value of the project, helping to situate Spain and Portugal within the context of the European book world.
By publishing the datasets in accordance with recognised international standards, and via a platform that will facilitate the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) harvesting of metadata in OAI-compliant Dublin Core and Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS) formats, it is hoped that the scholarly community will be able to make use of the information in a range of exciting and innovative ways other than those originally envisaged by the Project team. It is possible, for instance, to imagine powerful connections between Iberian Books and biographical resources.
The project will aid the conservation of what is a truly global printed heritage. Iberian Books will be able to target digitisation efforts. In particular it will make libraries aware when theirs is the only known surviving copy of a book or pamphlet, and thus a priority for conservation actions. At a glance, libraries and commercial publishers will also be able to see whether items have already been digitised. It is very much hoped that the project will encourage greater global strategic thinking in the preservation and dissemination of early printed books.
The objective of Iberian Books is to build upon the rich corpus of existing bibliographical studies, bringing together information that has so far remained fragmented. It will integrate data from union catalogues, online and published catalogues of individual collections, auction catalogues, and specialist analytical bibliographies of printing centres and offices. In addition to compiling a unified resource, the end result of these investigations will be to add significantly to the corpus of known editions, states and issues – including those publishing centres well serviced by modern analytical bibliography (Iberian Books has been able to expand even excellent analytical bibliographies by around a fifth). Iberian Books will also provide a more complete map than has hitherto been possible of surviving copies, through its census of libraries worldwide.
It is hoped, therefore, that Iberian Books will offer a very useful resource to the scholarly community. It should be acknowledged frankly, however, that no-one is more conscious of the limitations of the project than its editors. This is envisaged as preliminary work which will lead ultimately to a fully-formed Spanish and Portuguese short-title catalogue. At this stage, it is simply not possible financially to undertake a systematic programme of physical inspection and analytical description. Iberian Books should be seen as a first edition of a dynamic project which will continue to be corrected, refined and enlarged. In this first iteration, the project will be dependent for the reliability of its information on the sources it will consult. Those collections without a published or online catalogue will be less well covered in the resulting database – although this is mitigated by a) the fact that partial accounts of many such holdings will come into the catalogue via specialist bibliographies, and b) provision has been made to visit some of the most important of these collections. Most problematic of all, however, is that category of largely ephemeral print which emerged from the presses undated or without place of publication information. Unless an item has been identified as belonging to the seventeenth century in an online or published catalogue, or it is contained in one of the major bibliographies, it may well escape notice.
Iberian Books will, then, represent a foundational resource. It is hoped that users will find sufficient merit in this initiative not only to make use of its findings but also to support its development by suggesting additions and refinements. As the experience of the English Short-Title Catalogue Project has demonstrated, a project of the scale and ambition of Iberian Books can realise its full potential only as a long-term collaborative effort involving the scholarly community, librarians, booksellers and private collectors.
The Project Director and project team gratefully acknowledge the generous financial support afforded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. A grant for €178,400 was awarded in 2011 to cover the survey between 1601 and 1650. A further grant of €342,100 was awarded in 2014 to extend the survey to 1700. The work of the project will come to an end in 2018.
The Project is also very proud to acknowledge the funding and practical support it has received from the Pine Tree Foundation of New York (2015-2017). This support will facilitate book in hand inspection of around 2,000 ostensibly unique Iberian items held in US collections.
The Project is also very proud to acknowledge the funding it has received from the Instituto Camões, the Portuguese Embassy in Ireland, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and UCD's internal Early Modern Research Strand. This money was used to host an international conference held in Dublin in May 2010, which saw the launch of phase one of the project (covering the period to 1601).