Cataloging British and Irish government documents

This article is about cataloging legal documents emanating from, or principally recording the activities of, the governments of England, England and Wales, Great Britain, Scotland, and Ireland in the early modern period. In addition to providing guidelines for different types of government documents, this article documents Folger catalogers' deliberate deviation from Resource Description and Access (RDA) in formulating authorized access points. These instructions reflect current policy; there are many records in Hamnet for government documents that follow different standards.


England: 927-1536
England and Wales: 1536-1707
Interregnum: 1642-1660
Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales): 1707-
Scotland: -1707
Ireland: -1801


Official announcements given by the sovereign (or Parliament during the Interregnum) or under his or her approval.

Authorized access points

  • Use the authorized corporate name. For example:
1101 England and Wales. ǂb Sovereign (1558-1603 : Elizabeth I)
1101 England and Wales. ǂb Privy Council.
1101 Scotland. ǂb Sovereign (1424-1437 : James I)
1101 England and Wales. ǂb Parliament. [1642-1660]
  • Uniform title "Proclamations" followed by the full, inverted date of the proclamation. For example:
240 10 Proclamations. 1553-07-19

Bibliographical citation

  • Add a 510 reference citation to
510 Crawford, J.L.L. Bibliography of royal proclamations of the Tudor and Stuart sovereigns and of others published under authority, 1485-1714
  • The English short title catalogue and Wing refer to this bibliography as "Steele."
  • Crawford includes proclamations and acts ordered to be proclaimed by Parliament during the Commonwealth, from the Execution of Charles I on 30 January 1649 and the arrival of Charles II in London on 30 May 1660.
  • Add the Crawford notation from the bibliography, reformulated into understandable prose. For example, the entry in Crawford has this: Arms 23 consideration and so
500 The last word of the first line of text is "consideration"; the first word in the last line indented by the initial is "and"; the last word of the last full line of text is "so". Crawford Arms 23.
  • If the item is not in Crawford but is within its scope, give the notation in the same way.
500 Not in Crawford, J.L.L. Bibliography of royal proclamations of the Tudor and Stuart sovereigns and of others published under authority, 1485-1714. Crawford-style notation: last word of the first line of text is "are"; first word in the indented line below the initial is "any"; the last word of the last full line of text is "per-".
  • Any document formatted like proclamations (woodcut coat of arms at head, an initial with a woodcut factotum beginning the text) can be described with Crawford-style notation. It is a good idea to add it as a matter of course, given the growing number of previously-unrecorded editions of this type of material.

Genre terms

655 7 Proclamations. ǂ2 rbgenr

If the proclamation was issued by or with the advice of the Privy Council, add also

655 7 Orders in council. ǂ2 rbgenr


Acts of Parliament

  • Use the name valid for the government at the time the document was issued. Enacted laws are entered under the name of the political jurisdiction, not of Parliament. There are three types of acts: public general acts, local acts, and personal (private) acts.
  • Public General Acts are the result of bills that have successfully passed through Parliament and received Royal Assent. Most legislation falls into this category.
  • Acts of Parliament during the Interregnum did not receive Royal Assent, and therefore cannot be considered Public General Acts. They were styled Ordinances until 1649, when Parliament reverted to use of Act. Consider all Interregnum legislation to be ordinances in formulating uniform titles, regardless of whether the source is styled ordinance or act.
  • Local and Personal Acts are binding on a locality or specific situation, respectively.

Lists of Acts of the Parliaments of England and of Great Britain

Uniform titles

  • Use the appropriate collective uniform title (Public General Acts, Local Acts, Private Acts, or Ordinances) followed by a short citation, formulated by a combination of the modern calendar year(s) of the session of Parliament enacting it, the reigning monarch's regnal year.
  • Use the year of enactment according to the modern calendar rather than the contemporary legal calendar, which began on March 25. Between January 1 and March 24, the year on the resource will always correspond to the following calendar year. Example: Source says "ninth day of January 1715"; it is the modern year 1716.
List of regnal abbreviations for uniform titles
Tudors Stuarts Hanoverians
Hen.VIII Jac.I Geo.I
Edw.VI Car.I Geo.II
Mar. Car.II Geo.III
Ph. & M. Jac.II
Eliz.I Gul. & Mar.


  • For collections of acts and other enacted laws corresponding to a particular session of Parliament,
Add example array
  • For collections of acts of the English and British Parliament and other enacted laws that are complete within a chronological period, use the collective uniform title with the inclusive years. Example:
240 10 Public General Acts. 1685-1707
  • For selected collections of acts, &c., add the form term "Selections" at the end.
 240 10 Public General Acts. 1742. ǂk Selections 

Individual acts

  • Use the collective uniform title with the short citation and the chapter number.
  • Use the List of British sessions of Parliament, 1510–1800 for the authorized forms. Some sessions of Parliament require the session number ("stat.") as part of the citation. Be sure to include the phrase as given.
  • For acts with title pages beginning Anno regni, prefer the more specific title as the title proper, usually appearing as a caption preceding the text of the act.
  • Make an added title access point for the short title or conventional title as found in the lists of acts of Parliament. Note: the list for ordinances and acts during the Interregnum do not have short or conventional titles.

110 1 England and Wales. 240 10 Public General Acts. 1689. 1 Gul.&Mar.stat.1.c.6 245 13 An act for removing and preventing all questions and disputes concerning the assembling and sitting of this present Parliament. 246 1 ǂi Title page reads: ǂa Anno regni Gulielmi et Mariae Regis et Reginae Angliae, Franciae & Hiberniae, primo. On the twenty third day of February, Anno Dom. 1688. In the first year of Their Majesties reign, this act passed the royal assent 246 13 Coronation Oath Act 1688

110 1 England and Wales. 240 10 Ordinances. 1651-02-04 245 13 An act to make void all titles of honor, dignities or precedencies given by the late King, since the fourth of January, one thousand six hundred forty and one. 260 London : ǂb Printed by John Field, printer to the Parliament of England, ǂc 1651 [i.e. 1652] 500 Page 1544 dated and signed: Wednesday the 4th of February, 1651 [i.e. 1652].

Genre terms

655 7Laws. ǂ2 rbgenr
If containing texts of oaths, also add
655 7Oaths. ǂ2 aat

Subject headings

  • Make as rich an array of topical subject headings as is practicable. Researchers who are looking for a particular law will find it, but we want to assist those researching a topic who might find legislation useful but didn't know to seek it out.
  • Delete LCSH form subject headings in favor of genre terms from RBMS, AAT, &c.

Year books

Year books are the law reports of medieval England. Written in Law French (language code roa), they were reprinted through the end of the 17th century.

Example records

Miscellaneous documents

Use "Miscellaneous documents" with inverted 8-digit year for official documents for which no other uniform title is appropriate. Example

110 10 England and Wales. ǂb Sovereign (1625-1649 : Charles I) 
240 10 Miscellaneous documents. 1642-06-16
245 10 His Majesties declaration to all his loving subjects, occasioned by a false and scandalous imputation laid upon His Majesty of an intention of raising or leavying war against his Parliament, and of having raised force to that end ... 


  • Add appropriate genre term: Laws, Legal documents, Legal instruments, Legislative proceedings.

Other government documents

For Scottish laws and other kinds of documents (e.g., bills, parliamentary papers, speeches, treaties), consult the head of cataloging.

External links