Internal Context: A Look Into the Inclusion Files

One of the most rewarding aspects of rare book cataloging is seeing and decoding the various markers of history that make their way into the pages. Most of these markers are permanent – bookplates, sellers’ and binders’ tickets, annotations, and doodles are inextricably linked to the physical item and can’t be removed.

Boarding pass, Belfast

Boarding pass, Belfast, March 26, 1968 Found in: High Upon the Gallows Tree, by Anthony Glynn (1967) DA690 .M4 G58 IRISH

However, for a lot of the books in the Burns Library, the most revealing clues about an item’s history can be removed, and in fact should be. Due to their potential research value, these materials aren’t thrown out, but housed in an acid-free folder, and can be pulled and viewed

Illustrated short poem: Worry is like a rocking chair- it gives you something to do but it doesn't get you anywhere

Illustrated poem Found in: Light from the West, by William H. Marnell (1978) BX4659 .I7 M28 1978

alongside the book they came from. Think of everything you shove into your books – notes, official bookmarks, unofficial bookmarks, flowers or leaves to press, Post-Its (public service announcement: please don’t stick Post-Its to your books). This isn’t a new practice, and a lot of the books we get at Burns aren’t cleared out before arrival (and rightly so!).

Handwritten gift certificate

Gift certificate for uninterrupted television time Found in: A Francis Stewart Number, edited by J. H. Natterstad (1976) PR6037 .T875 Z829 1976 IRISH

In the six months since I started working at Burns Library, I have removed enough extraneous things from books to fill two full (acid-free, of course) boxes. Some of the items I’ve found are useful when analyzing the subject of the book – many people take notes on bits of scrap paper while reading, and leave them between pages or inside the cover.

Other things– such as letters, photographs, and flyers for readings or other events– help flesh out the provenance of an item, where it has been and when, and in whose hands.

Seventeen four-leaf clovers

Seventeen pressed four-leaf clovers. Found in: Tales of Old Japan, by A. B. Mitford (1871) 03-6499 GENERAL

 Some materials may not necessarily tell us anything concrete about the history of the book or donor, but are interesting, beautiful, or amusing in their own right.

 Depending on what you’re researching, all of it can be useful in bringing context to what you read.

Annotated syllabus for an English class, Fall 1976

Syllabus from a 1976 English class, heavily annotated Found in: Notes From the Land of the Dead, and Other Poems, by Thomas Kinsella (1973) PR6021 .I35 N66 1973 IRISH c.2

You can tell if a book you’re interested in looking at has associated materials in our library catalog; just scroll down and look for the phrase “removed to inclusion file; available upon request” in the “Description” area of the record.

Happy researching!

  • Tess Amram, Special Collections Cataloging Assistant, John J. Burns Library

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
This entry was posted in Cataloger's Corner, Rare books, Staff Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Internal Context: A Look Into the Inclusion Files

  1. J.B. Walsh says:

    Great article Tess!

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