Former Owners

To see the list of owners and provenances in alphabetical order, click here.

It is not necessary at this point to justify the importance of books as a "historic product". In other words, it is very important to provide the history of the item in the catalogues of libraries; to provide the researcher with data on the history of ownership, use and provenance of the items which form the collection of this university library[1]. (For the history of the library, see “History”).

Aware of this fact, our aim in the project of cataloging the ancient collection of the University of Salamanca has been to accompany bibliographic descriptions with a description of the item to learn their particular history: its successive signatures, reflecting their location in different libraries or changes in arrangement; the marks of ownership and use, the presence of lecture notes, the testimony of the book having been suspected of heresy or condemned by the Inquisition; the binding as a mark of ownership and the artistic reflection of the times.

Among all this information, particular relevance is intended for the history of possession, use and reading of the specimens. The idea of creating a list of owners and provenances came, in principle, not as an aid to researchers interested in these aspects of book culture, but as a tool for the cataloguing team, an instrument that would allow us to keep a list of authorities for the owners and users of books in the collection, a data set (bookplates, reading notes, binding, etc.) that allowed us to identify the traces —sometimes not at all clear— found in books.

It is difficult to give an account of the difficulties, joys and frustrations that build up when trying to identify the marks due to the use and ownership of books. The difficulties arise from handwritten notes, difficult to read at times; sometimes crossed out or scraped by a subsequent owner, zealous to be the only owner of the book. Adding to these problems, there is the not too unlikely possibility that our transcript or allocation is not adequate. The joy comes when we see illustrious names, belonging to men of letters or great bibliophiles, many of them unrelated to the geography of Salamanca; people who would sometimes affectionately annotate their books, these books that we can now contemplate. Finally, the frustration comes when we are unable to decipher a handwritten note, not knowing how to identify a heraldic bookplate, unable to identify a scholarly hand that has filled the margins of the book with wise annotations and who has not registered his or her name.


The structure of the entries that make up the list of owners and sources of books is as follows:

  • Name: the authoritative form assigned to the person or institution. Please use this pattern in the online catalogue: Quevedo, Francisco de
  • Date: allows us to locate chronologically the person or institution. In those cases in which the user has not been fully identified, this approach has been made from an examination of the calligraphy and the terminus post quem implied in the publishing date of the book.
  • Biographical information: when the user has been identified, it offers some facts like his or her profession, activities and position, literary activity, and so on. However, when the identification is not positive from their possession marks, a potential user is sometimes suggested.
  • Library: when information is available about the composition and destination of the library belonging to the institution or owner, some brief data are given.

  • Motto: the motto or phrase that sometimes accompanies the bookplate or the escutcheon is transcribed here.
  • Exlibris: you can find transcribed here the statement or statements with which the owner is usually identified. We have chosen the one that is more significant for identification. However, in those cases in which variations are significant, several are transcribed. The transcript is accompanied by one or more images. Additionally, some pictures have been taken of the entries found in the book when the allocation to the user whose name appears on it seems quite probable.
  • Bibliography: here are collected —including but not restricted to— any bibliographic items in which data about the user and/or library —which at times have been decisive for identification— can be found.

To retrieve bibliographic records related to a particular owner, the researcher should perform a search in the online catalogue, using the option Fondo histórico – Impresor, editor, antiguo posesor (Printer, publisher, former owner) in the Historical Repository section. In the notes area on the specimen you can find the statement of ownership or use in that particular book.

Some Similar Projects

Although there are a number of Old Repository catalogues that keep a record of the former owners and users together with the provenances of books, there are some specific projects that develop aspects related to their history. These projects are being collected on the website of CERL (Consortium of European Research Libraries), in the “Provenances” section.

[1] Cf. as examples of the importance of this field: David Pearson. Provenance research in book history: a handbook. London: The British Library, 1998. Print; Diego Navarro Bonilla. «Las huellas de la lectura: marcas y anotaciones manuscritas en impresos de los siglos XVI a XVIII». Ed. Antonio Castillo Gómez. Libro y lectura en la Península Ibérica y América (siglos XIII a XVIII). Valladolid: Junta de Castilla y León, 2003. 243-87. Print; Julián Martín Abad. Chapter 5, "El producto histórico". Los libros impresos antiguos. Valladolid: Universidad, 2004. 109-27. Print.