Using CELM

Although fairly self-evident, and following the basic directives made by John Horden in the General Introduction that appeared in the first volume of the original Index of English Literary Manuscripts in 1980, the arrangement of information in CELM may be summarized as follows.


Each author represented in CELM has a separate Introduction (see list of Introductions). Each introduction generally comprises a brief list of relevant abbreviations and a brief survey of the author’s known manuscripts, drawing attention to any particular points of interest, including, where relevant, the history of the author’s papers, comments on the author’s canon, and accounts of any other documents by or relating to the author that have not been given separate entries.

Authors’ Works

Each work by each author represented in CELM is given its generally accepted title, its first line also cited if verse, followed by brief details, as relevant, of the work’s first publication and standard modern edition(s) of it. References will also be given to other claims to authorship of the work. Each author’s works will generally be arranged alphabetically within groups or divisions according to genre (e.g.. Verse, Prose, Dramatic Works, Miscellaneous, etc.). On occasions these divisions will include other genres such as Books Owned or Inscribed by the Author and Editorial Papers.


Entries are then given for each manuscript, or part-manuscript, text of the work in question, treated as a separate unit. This will include the following elements:

(1) A CELM serial reference number unique to the individual manuscript text. This will comprise an abbreviation for the author followed by a number (eg. JnB 4 for a particular manuscript text by Ben Jonson). The numbers for each author are generally sequential (from 1 onwards). With rare exceptions those entry numbers originally recorded in the Index of English Literary Manuscripts are maintained in CELM, although, for various reasons, some original entries have now been consigned to a ‘Deleted’ section. Many ‘new’ entries have been numbered with decimal point numbers (eg. JnB 4.3 and JnB 4.5 between JnB 4 and JnB 5). If the manuscript text is (wholly or in part) autograph (i.e. in the hand of the author him- or herself) the CELM reference number bears an asterisk (eg. *JnB 102).

(2) A brief description of the manuscript text in question, whether an independent manuscript in itself or an item in a larger manuscript. (e.g.. a miscellany, composite volume of tracts, notebook, etc.) which will itself be described.

(3) Brief details of known provenance of the manuscript in which the individual text appears.

(4) Brief details of known use of the manuscript text made by editors or scholars, in editions, books or articles, as well as references to known printed facsimiles, photocopies, microfilms, or modern transcripts of the manuscript.

(5) So far as is known, the current location, shelf-mark or call-number, as well as relevant page or folio numbers, of the manuscript text (e.g.. Bodleian, MS Rawl. D. 283, ff. 1v-2r).


For terms used in CELM see Peter Beal, A Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology 1450-2000 (Oxford, 2008).

Peter Beal