British Library Sloane Printed Books Catalogue

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About the Project

At Sloane’s death, his library was estimated to contain 50,000 volumes of books and manuscripts, of which approximately 47,200 were printed items. This figure may well turn out to have underestimated the number of bibliographical items, since many volumes contain several publications, and the collection included a considerable amount of unbound single-sheet material. The online catalogue lists (September 2019) over 42,000 bibliographic items; work continues to identify Sloane’s books and add to the database.

The project explores the catalogue as something other than a straightforward reconstruction, since it holds in one place things which were physically and chronologically dispersed during Sloane’s lifetime (books which were donated, lent to friends, or subscriptions which continued to come in even after Sloane’s death). Moreover, it is necessary to recognise that the boundaries of the ‘library’ are in some cases arbitrary, and that for Sloane they may have been more fluid: even our categories of ‘printed books’ and ‘manuscripts’ are not watertight.

Type of collection, contemporary or historic

This is a contemporary collection of the Sloane’s books held in the BL database.

Information on digitisation

Bibliographical records are enhanced with Sloane’s own numbers or other identifying marks, and with information about previous owners. A number of records include information on the physical state and condition of the items.

Some of Sloane’s books may be found among the 400,000 volumes of out of copyright texts which, in partnership with Google, the British Library has digitised. This digital content is freely available online via Explore the British Library Some examples of Sloane’s books available to inspect as digital items are:

Pharmacopoeia Londinensis Royal College of Physicians of London (1627) interleaved with copious manuscript notes by Turquet de Mayerne

Salomon Trismosin’s collection of treatises on alchemy translated into French as La Toyson dor ov La flevr des thresors … (1612)

A defence of tabacco: with a friendly answer to the late printed book called Worke for chimny-sweepers, &c.  (1602) by Roger Marbecke

Material included in the original collection

Printed books.

Metadata and formats

The printed book collection is searchable online from

The records contain the following metadata; Shelfmark, Author, Title, (the element might contain Title and Description information), Publication, Sloane no. , Catalogue, Identified by, Binding, Notes, Condition. Not all metadata elements are used on every record, some records are more detailed than others.

API / Download

No download page or API is available from the portal.

Usage and citation

The records are copyrighted under the Copyright © The British Library Board. Use for non-commercial purposed should be clarified. 

The digitised versions of the books are made available under the ‘Terms of Use for Google Books’ which clarify that “You may copy, download and print these books for personal study or education-related non-commercial purposes. Commercial re-use and download, and/or any further distribution or republishing (commercial or non-commercial, digital or on paper) is not permitted. It is not allowed to copy the books digitised by Google beyond the permissions provided for in these Terms of Use.”

Further information

The historic Sloane own catalogues of printed books, manuscripts, albums, pamphlets, etc are available only in jpeg format. They are not transcribed but are made available by the BL from .

Contact person

Alison Walker, Karen Limper-Herz, William Frame, Julian Harrison, Alexandra Ault, Mia Ridge are the key people to contact. Please feel free to contact them directly, or otherwise contact us to bring you in touch.


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