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A: Paris, Île-de-France, France

The Second Catalogue of the Library of the Sorbonne is Compiled

A page from the second catalogue of the library of the Sorbonne. In MS Paris, BnF, nouv. acq. lat. 99, f. 1r.
A page from the second catalogue of the library of the Sorbonne. In MS Paris, BnF, nouv. acq. lat. 99, f. 1r.

The second catalogue of the library of the Sorbonne—the richest library in Christendom—was written in 1338. 

The library, divided into two parts, contained 1722 volumes. The first portion called the communis or magna libraria consisted of 330 volumes chained to the reading desks. The rest of the collection, designated the small library, consisted of 1090 volumes. About 300 volumes relisted from the prior catalogue written in 1290 were designated as missing or in circulation. The writer(s) of the 1338 catalogue

"furnished a large amount of information about each volume. He gives not only the contents, but also the name of the donor, the estimated value, and first words on the second leaf and on the next to the last leaf. This device, intended to help identification of books belonging to the Library and to prevent mutilation, is invaluable to us in trying to identify surviving volumes of the collection. Some professors kept out books on indefinite loan, like their successors today. Such books were appropriately called libri vagantes, 'strays' from the sacred precincts of the Library. It should be said that usually a money deposit was required of borrowers. We even have loan records of the Library during the fourteenth century. The appraisal of each book given in the catalogue was intended to facilitate payment for books lost by borrowers. Chained books were occasonally loaned but only after a faculty vote. There was even a rudimentary inter-library loan system. And that is not all: a union list of books in the monasteries of Paris was made as early as the thirteenth century for the use of the Sorbonnistes. The catalogue of the reference library is in two parts, a shelf-list and a classified catalogue" (Ullman, The Library of the Sorbonne in the Fourteenth Century. The Septicentennial Celebration of the Founding of the Sorbonne College in the University of Paris. [1953] 35-36).

"The collections of the other colleges of the period included no more than three hundred works. . . " (Martin, The History and Power of Writing [1994] 153).

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