Provenance Notes and Tracings

General Policies

Specific Types of Provenance Evidence

Lack of Provenance Evidence

For provenance information for specific collections, see Special provenance instructions.

General Policies


Record provenance evidence in a succinct local note. Include key information, preferably as it appears in the item, but omit extraneous data. The note may be in the form of statements such as:

  • Presentation inscription from Filia [to Nina Berberova], Aug. 1970.
  • Autograph and ms. notes of Nina Berberova.
  • Author's presentation inscription to John T. Doe, Jan. 15, 1993.

Or the note may be in a brief form giving the type of evidence followed by a colon (the colon implies that what follows is quoted):

  • Autograph: John T. Doe, Feb. 22, 1986.
  • Bookplate: Ex libris Hiram Bingham.
  • Ownership inscription: Datu[m] a generoso Mgo. Rudberto de Mosham Andre de Teuffenpach, anno D[omi]ni 1522.

If using quotation marks is clearer and more succinct than using a colon, use them.

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Provenance is traced using two types of headings: form/genre headings and name headings. For a list of form/genre headings used by the Rare Book Team, consult the Form and Genre page.

Trace names as local subject headings (coded 692 or 693 with second indicator 4). Use only the following local subdivisions as appropriate:

  • ‡x Autograph
  • ‡x Binding
  • ‡x Bookplate [used also for labels]
  • ‡x Inscription [used for institutions]
  • ‡x Ms. notes
  • ‡x Original art
  • ‡x Ownership [used when there is no provenance evidence in the item; used also for mailing labels]
  • ‡x Presentation inscription
  • ‡x Presentation inscription to [forename initials] [surname]
  • ‡x Presentation inscription from [forename initials] [surname]
  • ‡x Stamp

Make a name tracing for each type of evidence. Do not necessarily make an additional autograph tracing for presentation inscriptions. An additional autograph tracing should only be made if the autograph appears elsewhere in the resource, as a separate piece of evidence.


590     ‡a BEIN 2000 116: Autograph and ms. notes of Nina Berberova.
692 1 4 ‡a Berberova, Nina Nikolaevna ‡x Autograph.
692 1 4 ‡a Berberova, Nina Nikolaevna ‡x Ms. notes.

Use the authorized form of name. If the name has not been established, use the fullest form of name found in online bibliographical files. If not found, generally make no further attempt identify the person or institution; trace the name as found in the item. In rare instances the cataloger may search in appropriate reference sources if in his or her judgment it seems desirable and likely to yield results, especially for Latinized names. Authority records are not routinely made for names new to the Yale catalog unless references are needed or important information needs to be recorded.

When several separately cataloged works are bound together and the provenance evidence pertains to all the items, the former policy was to make provenence tracings only in the record for the first item. Beginning Jan. 1998, evidence that pertains to all the bound-together items is to be traced in each of the records for the separately cataloged works. Evidence pertaining only to an individual item is traced only in the record for that item. When encountering pre-1998 records for separately cataloged works bound together, add provenance tracings to each of the catalog records to which they are known to pertain. No systematic search for these records is planned.

Trace provenance for each item cataloged, with the following exception: if a list of the items in a collection exists, technical services staff in Beinecke, in consultation with the appropriate curator, may indicate that the provenance is not to be traced. If there is any question, the cataloger should consult with the appropriate Beinecke librarian.

Non Beinecke Books

Provenance notes and tracings are generally made only for items in the Beinecke Library and other special collections. If very old or unusual provenance evidence is found in other items, they may be referred to the appropriate curator in the Beinecke Library. In rare cases a tracing may be made or the book transferred to the Beinecke Library.

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Specific Types of Evidence

Armorial bindings

If a former owner associated with an armorial binding can be identified, make the following tracings:

655   7 ‡a Armorial bindings. ‡2 rbmscv ‡5 CtY-BR
692 1 4 ‡a [name] ‡x Binding.

If the former owner associated with an armorial binding cannot be identified, make only the genre/form tracing.

Armorial bookplates

If a former owner associated with an armorial bookplate can be identified, make the following tracings:

655   7 ‡a Armorial bookplates. ‡2 rbmscv ‡5 CtY-BR
692 1 4 ‡a [name] ‡x Bookplate.

If the former owner associated with an armorial bookplate cannot be identified, make only the final tracing. If the unidentified bookplate includes a motto, quote it in a local note.


Autograph notes tracings are made only for names that are clearly decipherable; do not spend time trying to identify an autograph that cannot be read. It is assumed that any name written in a book is an autograph, although this is not necessarily true. Autograph tracings are usually not made for common names that cannot be identified, such as W. Smith, J. Brown, etc.

692 1 4 ‡a [name] ‡x Autograph.


Make a tracing for the personal name or institution name followed by the subdivision "Bookplate". Ignore bookplates of Yale institutions (e.g. Yale College, Yale University, Yale Library).

692 1 4 ‡a [name] ‡x Bookplate.

Booksellers' labels

Make a form/genre tracing and an added entry for the bookseller. Use an authorized form of the name if one exists. If no term of incorporation appears with the name, enter it as a personal name. If there is no authorized form and the heading would conflict with other headings in Orbis, add a term indicating the profession/occupation or type of corporate body to differentiated it (see RDA 9.16 and 11.7). Add a relator term at the end of the heading even when it duplicates additions to the name. For copy specific information, also add our institution symbol. Authority records are rarely created for copy specific headings. Consult with a librarian when necessary.


590     ‡a BEIN 1997 1870: Bookseller's label: Barry Williams, buyer and seller of good books, 97a High St., Marlborough.
655   7 ‡a Booksellers' labels. ‡2 rbmscv ‡5 CtY-BR
700 1   ‡a Williams, Barry, ‡e bookseller. ‡5 CtY-BR

Booksellers' stamps

Make a form/genre tracing and an added entry for the bookseller (see instructions under Booksellers’ labels above).


590     ‡a BEIN 2000 717: Bookseller's stamp: E.S. Fowler.
655   7 ‡a Booksellers' stamps. ‡2 local ‡5 CtY-BR
700 1   ‡a Fowler, E. S., ‡e bookseller. ‡5 CtY-BR

Institutional inscriptions

Make a tracing for the institution name followed by the subdivision "Inscription." Make a note and tracing for items inscribed Yale College Library. Ignore items inscribed Yale University.

693 2 4 ‡a [name] ‡x Inscription.

Manuscript notes and annotations

Make the following tracings:

655   7 ‡a Annotations ‡y [known or estimated century of annotations]. ‡2 local ‡5 CtY-BR
692 1 4 ‡a [name] ‡x Ms. notes.

Notes must be textual in nature to receive a tracing, not just markings, underlinings, vertical marginal strokes, etc.

Monastic provenance

The name of the monastery is usually traced only if it is established. Trace the religious order of the monastery if it is known, subdivided geographically by locality if known. Make a tracing for the subject heading "Monasteries", subdivided geographically by location if known.

In short, make as many of the following tracings as are applicable:

690   4 ‡a Monasteries ‡z [locality if known] ‡x [type of evidence].
693 2 4 ‡a [name of monastery if known and established] ‡x [type of evidence].
693 2 4 ‡a [religious order if known] ‡z [locality if known] ‡x [type of evidence].


Name of monastery is established
590     ‡a BEIN Zi +343: Inscription of St. Ulrich und Afra (Benedictine monastery in Augsburg).
690   4 ‡a Monasteries ‡z Germany ‡z Augsburg ‡x Inscription.
693 2 4 ‡a St. Ulrich und Afra (Benedictine abbey : Augsburg, Germany) ‡x Inscription.
693 2 4 ‡a Benedictines ‡z Germany ‡z Augsburg ‡x Inscription.
Name of monastery not known
590     ‡a BEIN Zi +653: Manuscript notes on fol. 1a: Ad Bibliothec. PP. Francisc. Amberg[a]e.
690   4 ‡a Monasteries ‡z Germany ‡z Amberg (Oberpfalz) ‡x Inscription.
693 2 4 ‡a Franciscans ‡z Germany ‡z Amberg (Oberpfalz) ‡x Inscription.
Name of monastery is known but not established
590     ‡a BEIN Rosenthal 64: Bookplate: Ex bibliotheca Augustiniana Conventus Generalis Viennensis ad SS. Sebastianum & Rochum in via Regia.
690   4 ‡a Monasteries ‡z Austria ‡z Vienna ‡x Bookplate.
693 2 4 ‡a Augustinians ‡z Austria ‡z Vienna ‡x Bookplate.

In general, do not take the time to establish the name of the monastery. However, if you are establishing the name, the following reference work may be useful: Cottineau, L.H. Répertoire topo-bibliographique des abbayes et prieurés.

Original art

Do not use for original art published as such. If the artist can be identified, make the following tracings:

655   7 ‡a Original art. ‡2 local ‡5 CtY-BR
692 1 4 ‡a [name] ‡x Original art.

If the artist cannot be identified, make only the final tracing.

Presentation inscriptions

Make a tracing for each presenter and for each recipient. Base the form of name used in the subdivision on the authorized heading but shorten it by omitting dates and changing all forenames into initials (do not separate the initials with spaces).


692 1 4 ‡a Smith, John Devon ‡x Presentation inscription to R.A. Stephens.
692 1 4 ‡a Stephens, Richard Alan ‡x Presentation inscription from J.D. Smith.

For author's presentation copies, make a tracing for the author as presenter even if the author's name does not appear in the inscription (e.g. when the note is simply signed "from the author"). Make a tracing for Yale College Library if the book was inscribed to the College or Library before 1887. Do not make a second tracing for the library if the author has inscribed a book to the Yale University Library. If only the presenter or only the recipient can be identified, make the tracing as follows:

692 1 4 ‡a [name] ‡x Presentation inscription.


Make a tracing for the personal name or institution name followed by the subdivision "Stamp".

Make a tracing if the item is stamped Yale College. Do not make if it is stamped Yale University.

692 1 4 ‡a [name] ‡x Stamp.

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Lack of Provenance Evidence

Provenance will sometimes be noted and/or traced using the local subdivision "Ownership" even if there is no physical evidence on the item. The following represent three such cases:

Printed material removed from an archive

Printed material remaining in an archive

Personal libraries with no archival component

Sometimes Beinecke receives the library of an individual and there is no archival component. The archival component may come later, may have come earlier, may not exist, or may not be coming to Beinecke at all. Sometimes Beinecke will want at least one provenance tracing for each item in the collection. If so, make a local note "From the library of [name]" and make an "Ownership" tracing if there is no physical evidence of ownership.


590     ‡a BEIN 1991 220: From the library of Matilda Tyler.
692 1 4 ‡a Tyler, Matilda ‡x Ownership.
590     ‡a BEIN 2000 1108: Bookplate: Tyler Kipling Collection.
692 1 4 ‡a Tyler, Matilda ‡x Bookplate.

Note: in the 2nd example neither a local note "from the library of" nor an ownership tracing for Tyler is made.

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