Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Romance and Classical Studies
Provenance Project
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Special Collection Provenance Project

In collaboration with the FRN 415 "Introduction to French Studies", the French undergraduate students work with the Special Collection MSU Library in order to transcribe and translate French books dating from the 16th to the 19th century for the MSU Provenance Project.

What is the MSU Provenance Project?
The Provenance Project at MSU Special Collections is an effort to document marks of ownership and marks of use in rare books here at Michigan State University. We record and study copy-specific information about books in our collection – that is, features that make one particular copy of a work distinct from all other printed copies of that work. These features can take many forms: bookplates, owner signatures, bookseller’s notes and prices, library marks, unique bindings, handwritten annotations, and more. By systematically cataloging all of these pieces of evidence, we hope to build a robust online database that can be consulted by students and scholars the world over.

Why study provenance evidence?
By studying these copy-specific features, we hope to learn more about the “life stories” of our books: where they have been, who owned them, and when. Documenting a volume’s provenance can also often tell us a great deal about the work’s production, distribution, and the ways in which it was read and used. A detailed provenance record can shed light on historical periods and figures, giving us crucial insight into the habits of readers, the popularity of particular works and genres, as well as the history of the book and the book trade. Provenance evidence can also help us determine a rare book’s authenticity, and often adds to the scholarly and monetary value of a book.