Access the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts (SDBM)
In 1997, Penn Libraries Overseer and rare book enthusiast, Lawrence (Larry) J. Schoenberg, C’53, WG’56, set out to build a database that would enable researchers to track and identify the world’s manuscript books produced before 1600. Larry’s primary goal was to provide online access to information on manuscripts. He began with a Microsoft Excel file that was eventually converted in 1999 to a Microsoft Access database. As the database grew, so did its user-base among manuscript scholars and aficionados who worked from copies supplied to them by Larry himself. Its increasing reputation as a research aid in manuscript studies necessitated a move to make it more easily accessible to a wider audience. As a dedicated Penn alumnus, Larry looked toward his alma mater. In 2005, the Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image (SCETI) began hosting the database, where it remains today, freely accessible to all.
The Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts (SDBM) makes available data on medieval manuscript books of five or more folios produced before 1600. Its purpose is to facilitate research for scholars, collectors, and others interested in manuscript studies and the provenance of these unique books.
Drawn from over 12,000 auction and sales catalogues, inventories, catalogues from institutional and private collections, and other sources that document sales and locations of manuscript books, the SDBM assists in locating and identifying particular manuscripts, establishing provenance, and aggregating descriptive information about specific classes or types of manuscripts. With thirty-five searchable fields, the SDBM provides broad searching through a range of discrete descriptive properties (see Field Definitions under Help in the left sidebar). Multiple references to the same manuscript are cross-referenced to facilitate the tracking of individual manuscripts. Every effort is made to match records so that the trail of ownership of a given manuscript can be traced from the earliest recorded owner to the present day.
The Schoenberg Database is a work in progress, with new material added regularly. Lawrence J. Schoenberg, C’53, WG’56, began this project with the intent that it should become a community resource.