Manuscript cataloging

Most Folger manuscripts are described in the Catalog and/or described in Finding aids (sometimes directly as individual items, sometimes indirectly as part of a group or collection). New acquisitions usually only have an accession-level "Preliminary" record in the catalog. In general, manuscript cataloging follows the same guidelines as other vault material. This article provides instructions specific to manuscripts, including particular types of manuscripts.

Call numbers

Folger manuscripts have been classified according to a number of different call number schemes over the years. Some of these remain as no-longer-added-to legacies, others have been replaced. Starting in 2014, call numbers that have been replaced display in the catalog as "Former call number."


The Folger is particularly interested in the physicality of early modern letters. Where applicable, make the following notes:

Closure evidence:

  • Seal slits visible
  • Seal holes visible
  • Secured with silk floss ([color])
  • Seal is [color other than red]
  • Seal is embedded with wire
  • Evidence of papered seal
  • Papered seal still intact
  • Tuck-and-seal folding
  • Pleated folding

Other physical evidence:

  • Postmarked
  • Superscription in a different hand
  • Filing holes [location]


When adding a note about physical evidence to a finding aid, see the advice on finding aid HBCNs.

Collection-level records in the catalog

To facilitate discovery, most manuscript collections described in finding aids also have a collection-level record in the catalog. However, it is best when researchers request items for use in the reading room from the finding aid. As of July 2024, collection-level records in the catalog will direct researchers to the finding aid for the purpose of requesting materials for use in the reading room.

The following changes/additions should be made to collection-level records in the catalog:

852 8_ $a US-DFo $b [location] $h [call number(s) in the collection]

856 40 $u [url to finding aid] $y To request items from this collection, please view the finding aid

Note: it is currently necessary to encode the finding aid as an 856 40 rather than an 856 42 so that the linked resource appears at the top of the record. This will be adjusted in the future.

If the 856 42 already has a $z such as "Guide to the John Payne Collier collection of letters and papers removed from An old man's diary", this can be turned into a $y by adding the phrase, "To request items from this collection, view the "

For collections with barcodes applied at the item level, add the items to the bib record. In the 856 40 $y, start with the phrase "For a detailed inventory, view the ". For an example, see the Drue Burton collection of state papers and other materials [manuscript], ca. 1607-ca. 1625.