The manuscript catalogue of the library at St. Martin's Priory (Dover Priory) in Dover, England compiled in 1389 was innovative for several reasons. The catalogue, compiled by John Whytefeld, who was probably "precentor," the officer in charge of the library, was divided into three sections:
1. A shelf-listing by call number, the number representing a fixed location even to the location of the individual volume. These entries included short title, the number of the page in the book on which the call number was recorded, and the first words of the text on that page, as well as the number of leaves in the book and the number of works contained in the volume.
2. A section arranged by call number that provided the contents of each volume, with the opening words for each work, and the number and side of the leaf on which each tract begins.
3. A catalogue of analytical entries and an alphabetical listing, but with entries of the usual medieval type, some under author, others under title followed by author, with still other entries beginning with words such as liber (book), pars (part) or codex, with no importance attached to the entry word.
In The Ancient Library of Canterbury and Dover (1903) xc ff., E. R. James described Whytefeld's catalogue and reproduced sections one and two. He also reproduced in Latin Whytefeld's explanatory introduction to the catalogue. This was translated into English by J. W. Clark and published in The Care of Books (1901) 194-96. Because of the innovative, unusual, and complex features of his catalogue system Whytefeld undoubtedly recognized the need for a detailed explanation. I have quoted Clark's translation in its entirety:
"The present Register of the Library of the Priory of Dover, compiled in the year of the Lord's Incarnation 1389 under the presidency of John Neunam prior and monk of the said church, is separated into three main divisions. The object is that the first part may supply information to the precentor of the house concerning the number of the books and the complete knowledge of them: that the second part may stir up studious brethren to eager and frequent reading; and that the third part may point out the way to the speedy finding of individual treatises by the scholars. now although a brief special preface is prefixed to each part to facilitate the understanding of it, to this first part certain general notes are prefixed, to begin with, for the more plain understanding of the whole Register.
"Be it noted, then, first, that this whole library is divided into nine several classes (Distinctions), marked according to the nine first letters of the alphabet, which are affixed to the classes themselves, in such a way that A marks out to him who enters the first Class, B the second, C the third, and so on in order. Each of the said nine classes, moreover, will be seen to be divided into seven shelves (grades), which are also marked off by the addition of Roman numeral figures, following the letters which denote the classes. We begin the number of the shelves from the bottom, and proceed upwards so that the bottom shelf, which is the first, is marked thus, I; the second thus, II; the third thus, III; and so the number goes on up to seven.
"In additon to this, the books of the Library are all of them marked on each leaf with Arabic numberals, to facilitate the ascertaining of the contents of the volumes.
"Now since many of the volumes contain a nymber of treatises, the names of these treatises, although they have not always been correctly christened, are written down under each volume, and an Arabic numeral is added to each name shewing on what leaf each tract begins. To this number the letter A or B is subjoined, the letter A here denoting the first part of the leaf, and the letter B the second. The books themselves, furthermore, have their class-letters and also their shelf-marks inserted not only outside on their bindings, but also inside, accompanying the tables of contents at the beginning. To such class-letters a small Arabic figure is added which shews clearly what position the book occupries in the order of placing on the shelf concerned.
"On the second, third, or fourth leaf of the book, or thereabouts, on the lower margin the name of the book is written. Before it are entered the above-mentioned class-letters and shelf-numbers, and after it (a small space intervening) are immediately set down the words with which that leaf begins, which I shall call the proof of investigation (probatiorum cognitionis). The Arabic figures next following will state how many leaves are contained in the whole volume; and finally another numeral immediately following the last clearly sets forth the number of the tracts contained in the said volume.
"If then the above facts be securely entrusted to a retentive memory it will be celarly seen in what class, shelf, place and order each book of the whole Library ought to be put, and on what leaf and which side of the leaf the beginnings of the several treatses may be found. For it has been the object of the compiler of this present register [and] of the Library, by setting forth a variety of such marks and notations of classes, shelves, order, pagination, treatises and volumes, to insure for his monastery security from loss in time to come, to shut the door against the spite of such as might wish to despoil or bargain away such a treasure, and to setup a sure bulwark of defence and resistance. And in truth the compiler will not be offended but will honestly love anyone who shall bring this register—which is still faulty in many respects—into better order, even if he should see fit to place his own name at the head of the whole work.
"In the first part of the register, therefore, we have throughout at the top, between black lines ruled horizontally, first the class-letter in red, and, following it, the shelf-mark, in black characters (tetris signaculis). The again between other lines ruled in red, vertically: first, on the left a numeral shewing the place of the book in order on its shelf; then the name of the volume; thirdly, the number of the 'probatory' leaf; fourthly, the 'probatory' words in the case of which, by the way, reference is made to the text, and not to the gloss); fifthly, the number of leaves in the whole volume; and, lastly, the number of the treatises contained in it—all written within the aforesaid lines. In addition there will be left in each shelf of this part, at the end, some vacant space, in whcih the names of books that may be subsequently acquired can be placed."