This past 22-23 November marked the launch and celebratory conference of the latest database resource for scholars and book collectors of the 15th-16th century: The USTC, or Universal Short Title Catalogue. The ‘universal’ appeal we’re talking here is very Western: “all books published in Europe between the invention of printing and the end of the sixteenth century” as they put it on their website.

Job Koelewijn‘s Mobius bookshelf

But the ‘universal’ also means access in a truer sense of the word. It is a worry that the preservation of cultural heritage is a little too confined within institutions of higher education, but this database is free and open to the public, has done well to link with digital copies of texts where possible, which really gives face to a name in a way that would appeal to anyone (an area that will only expand), and in the meantime, the opening party was widely attended: Italian, French, and German consulates were all there and yes, even the Edinburgh Renaissance Band provided the music and did it in period costume. To add to the excitement, the launch dovetails with news that the project, based at St. Andrews, has received funding to expand into the 17th century.

For anyone that couldn’t attend, but would have liked to, I’ve tried to make sense of my notes here:

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