Search Help

Performing basic searches

Enter one or more words you are looking for in the empty Quick Search box in the website header.

To search for a phrase, type double quotation marks around the phrase. Other Boolean search operators and query modifiers can be employed: the Asterisk* for truncation (the query architect* will retrieve records containing the words architect, architecture, architectural, etc.), the +Plus symbol and -Minus symbol (when a plus sign is placed immediately before your search term, only records with your term will be retrieved; when a minus sign is placed in front of your search term, records with that term will be excluded from your search results). All search terms must contain at least four characters; your results will be the same whether you use capital letters or lower case letters.


Searching for books by a particular author? Try our alphabetical Index Nominum, which is useful also for browsing Artists/Illustrators, Printers/Publishers, Owners, and Other names. Searching for books on a particular subject? You can browse our Index Rerum for subject terms that best match your topic, or enter a term or phrase in the Subject Query box on the Advanced Search page.

Browse search

A Browse Search is sometimes a useful alternative to keyword searching, and is accessed from the Browse Inventory tab at the top of the page. The results of your Browse search can be filtered by item Department (for example: Rare Books & Manuscripts, Paintings, Prints), item availability, Creation date (or range of dates), and Subject. It is possible to apply more than one filter. To remove a filter, click the icon (x) and you will be returned to your previous results without the filter applied.

The results of your Browse Search will display as a list arranged alphabetically by Author/Creator. Search results can also be sorted by Title or Date (earliest first or latest first). To re-sort your results, choose a different option from the drop-down list. By default, 25 results will display per page (you can increase the number up to 125). Once you have changed the number of results to display this number will persist throughout your session unless you change it again. Where there is more than one page of results, click a number in the pagination menu to display the results listed on that page, or click Previous or Next to view the previous or next page of results in the sequence.

Display of results

What information is shown in each result? The listing page shows all the items that match your search query. For Books, the following information displays (where available) ● Author ● Title ● Place, printer, and date of publication, with the search term highlighted in yellow. The information shown for Art varies, but usually includes (where available) ● the Artist/Creator ● item Title ● Origin and date, with the search term likewise highlighted in yellow. Most Rare books and Works of Art have an extensive Commentary, which is accessed by clicking Read more. When a group of closely related items are offered together (for example, a set of auction catalogues), descriptions of the constituent parts are found by clicking Read more. If your search term should occur in the Commentary or in an affiliated item, it will be highlighted in yellow on the listing page. Results are sorted in order by relevance (there is an option to change the order and sort them by author, title, or date). If there are more matches than will fit on a single web page, a pagination menu at both the top and bottom of the page assists navigation. Prices are expressed in GBP£ sterling. You are invited to click on Enquire to request further information or on Place search Request to request information about items marked “Sold”.

On the browse page, the Author/Creator, Title, Place or origin of the item, and its date are shown. When available, a concise description of the item (abstract) and/or an image also appear. The physical details of the item are seen by clicking Read more. For Books, the following additional information is displayed (where available) ● format (or height), collation or pagination statement ● provenance ● binding, and other copy specific information. Equivalent details (where available) are provided for Art. The Commentary/Full text (where available) may contain additional images of the item at higher resolution and/or comparative illustrations. If you prefer to read on paper, click either the PDF icon or Print icon. Visitors may bookmark items of potential interest, either as a guest without logging in (bookmarks are retained for 48 hours) or by creating an account (saved bookmarks can then be accessed from anywhere at any time). Links are provided for sharing bookmarks on social media.