What is Book Traces @ UVA?

Book Traces @ UVA is a large-scale project to find and record historical readers’ interventions in the circulating collections of the University of Virginia Library, focusing on volumes published before 1923. Many titles in our nineteenth-century circulating collections were acquired by donation from private owners and have unique evidentiary or artifactual value due to characteristics including marginalia, inscriptions, artwork, and inserted objects such as photographs and correspondence. Although the books themselves have always been discoverable in the catalog, the unique artifactual features of the books have previously been undocumented and therefore undiscoverable, hidden in plain sight in our stacks. We have created a protocol for surveying large swaths of the collection and describing the interventions we find using a controlled vocabulary. These descriptions are being added to the UVA Library catalog, Virgo. A white paper with more detail on our protocol and findings is available for download from LibraOpen.

What is this database?

This database contains all of the raw data generated by our shelf surveys. It matches up selected pieces of catalog information (title, call number, and item ID) with data about the interventions found in the books and what we did with the books after we found them. The data can be analyzed by Library of Congress classification and subclass, except for certain books in the Morris Law Library which are classified under the Hicks system.

This data was originally generated for internal project use only, and was not designed with public display in mind, so there are many project-specific codes and abbreviated notations. There may also be some gaps and disconnects in the data due to human or technological error. We had a dozen team members performing shelf surveys in seven libraries, working from lists of over 115,000 catalog records, so perfection is impossible to guarantee. For guidance in using and interpreting the raw Book Traces @ UVA data, please consult the project manager, Kristin Jensen (khj5c@virginia.edu).

We have provided a user interface for searching, sorting, and filtering the data. The results of any search can be downloaded as comma-separated values using the "Download CSV" button. The "Index" field refers to internal tracking codes used by the project. The "Barcode(s)" field refers to the item ID numbers used by the UVA Library and visible in the staff view of Virgo catalog records. The "Bookplate" field gives only the name(s) mentioned on a book’s bookplate, not the complete text of the bookplate.

API access

In addition to the web interface and CSV download, we have made our data available for retrieval via a public API. It has two calls, search and detail.

search takes a few parameters:

API example search query:

https://booktraces.lib.virginia.edu/api/search?q=bach&l=Music&i=true

detail can be used to retrieve full details on a book by referring to its "Index" (internal project tracking code).

API example detail query:

https://booktraces.lib.virginia.edu/api/detail/E-03078

Looking for booktraces.org?

Book Traces @ UVA grew out of Andrew Stauffer’s Book Traces, a website where anyone can submit pictures of unique copies of library books in circulating collections around the world. Have you found a book in your library with old writing on the pages or artifacts tucked in? Share your find on Book Traces!

Access Book Traces Data