Catalogue of 1818

The Godmersham Library 1818 Catalogue

In 1818, a year after Jane Austen’s death, Edward Austen Knight began compiling a catalogue of his library. It consists of two leather-bound volumes, each with the date 1818 embossed on the cover. The volumes are written in two distinct secretarial hands. At least two further hands made additions in each of the volumes as further books were acquired, until the 1840s.

Godmersham 1818 Shelf Transcript

The first catalogue lists the books, based on the title on the spine, in their shelf order: east, south, or west side of the library, columns from left to right, and shelf, from floor to ceiling. The catalogue is not a perfect record: the unknown principal compiler misspelled some titles (especially non-English ones) and authors’ names. Sometimes, the compiler made errors converting Roman to Arabic numerals, or omitted the date altogether. The compiler also recorded the place of publication and the “size” of each work: folio, quarto, octavo or duodecimo. Sometimes, the compiler obliterated titles and re-entered them elsewhere in the catalogue, or squeezed new acquisitions in between other lines or at the bottom of pages. Even the order of columns is sometimes shuffled: the first slip of the south wall, for example, is listed after the contents of the west case, at the very end of the catalogue.

Godmersham 1818 Transcript Alphabeticalized

The second volume lists authors alphabetically, along with their corresponding works and shelf locations. Its principal compiler, whose identity is also unknown, apparently worked exclusively from the first volume, without consulting books on the shelves, since all of its errors are reproduced. It is alphabetized by the initial letter of the entry, and then by order in the first catalogue, replicating its spelling errors and updated shelf locations.

You can view both volumes of the 1818 catalogue at the Chawton House website:

[From the Reading with Austen website.]