Glossary of Terms

What do these terms actually mean?

These are some of the basic terms used in Rare Book cataloging and Manuscript description.

  • Collection
    A collection is a group of varied materials that have been linked together by a common topic or specific purpose, such as the Great War/World War I collection.  Sometimes a collection can contain smaller, even more specific groupings.  For example, the Cyril Connolly collection is composed of the Cyril Connolly library and the Cyril Connolly papers.
  • Library
    A library is a group of books that has been assembled by an individual or for a specific purpose.  The Edmund Wilson library, which was Wilson's personal library.  Another example would be the Peter Howard proletarian library.
  • Archive
    An archive is a group of materials, generally documents, that refer to a particular person or topic.  For example, the University archives is that compilation of documents, ephemera and artifacts dealing with the University.  The Harold Leventhal proletarian archive is a collection of socialist and communist materials that were assembled by Harold Leventhal.
  • Papers
    These are the personal papers of a specific person. Papers can contain a number of different kinds of documents and realia.  For example the Richard Ellmann papers contain research files, medical records, photographs, etc.
  • Letters or Correspondence
    These are the  written communications between two or more people.  They are often part of a specific person's papers.  For example, the James Joyce correspondence.
  • Manuscripts
    Manuscripts are documents,other than letters, written by a particular person.  Often they are handwritten documents, in which case these are called autograph manuscripts or sometimes holographic manuscripts.  For example, the manuscript of Three years or the duration : the memoirs of a munitions worker, 1914-1918 by Lady Peggy Hamilton in the Great War/World War I collection.
  • Diaries or Journals
    A diary or journal is a daily recording of events by a particular person.
  • Photographs or sometimes Photographic archive
    Photographs are visual images created by or gathered by a particular person or persons and/or on a specific topic.  Examples include the Bob McCormack studio photographic archive and Kriegs Erinnerungen.
  • Ephemera
    Ephemerae are items that were intended to be ephemeral or temporary nature, such as handbills, posters, calendars, and newsletters.  While some artifacts, such as doodles, may be considered ephemera.
  • Realia
    Realia refers to tangible things that are not printed or written materials.  This is a general term that may encompass more specific terms such as objects or artifacts.
  • Objects
    Objects are any three dimensional items produced by people or nature. If an object is something found in nature and unaltered by people, it is referred to as an object and realia. If it is man-made or altered by man, it is an object, an artifact, and realia.
  • Artifacts or Artefacts
    Artifacts are items that have been altered or created by people, not intended as a means of communication. A book as a means of communication is not an artifact, while a book as an example of binding is an artifact, an object, and realia.

These are some of the more common abbreviations used in older finding aids to describe non-book materials.

  • AL
    Autograph, or hand written, letter.
  • ALs
    Autograph letter, signed.
  • AMs
    Autograph manuscript.
  • AMsS
    Autograph manuscript, signed.
  • AN
    Autograph note.
  • ANS
    Autograph note, signed.
  • APC
    Autograph postcard.
  • APCS
    Autograph postcard, signed.
  • CC
    Carbon copy.
  • Laid in
    A note, page or similar paper inserted into a book, but not pasted into place.
  • PC
    Photocopy, or Post Card.
  • Tipped in
    A note, page or similar paper pasted along one edge and inserted into a book, as a new page.
  • TL
    Typed letter.
  • TLs
    Typed letter, signed.
  • TMs
    Typed manuscript.
  • TMsS
    Typed manuscript, signed.
  • TN
    Typed note.
  • TNS
    Typed note, signed.
  • TPC
    Typed postcard.
  • TPCS
    Typed postcard, signed.