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Incunabula Cataloguer
John Rylands Library, Deansgate, Manchester

Job reference: PSX-016243

Location: John Rylands Library, Deansgate, Manchester

Closing date (DD/MM/YYYY): 25/02/2021

Salary: £32,816 to £40,322 per annum, dependant on relevant experience

Employment type: Fixed Term

Faculty/Organisation: Professional Services

School/ Directorate: Engagement and Special Collections

Hours per week: Full Time

Contract Duration: From 1 May 2021 until 30 April 2025

The University of Manchester Library is one of only five National Research Libraries and the third largest academic library in the UK. Our vast and rich collections help us to deliver a world-class library and information service for The University of Manchester. While our primary objective is to meet the learning, teaching and research needs of University members, we are also fully committed to widening access to our services to individual researchers, local schools and others in the regional community and further afield.

The Library’s Special Collections are among the richest holdings of rare books, manuscripts, archives, maps and visual collections in the world. The collections are a superb resource for research, teaching and learning and the Library has a vibrant academic engagement programme. Through the John Rylands Research Institute, we deliver an extensive programme of research on the collections, in collaboration with academic colleagues from the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Manchester.

The project will focus on the extraordinarily rich holdings of early European printing in UML Special Collections. The Incunabula collection of around 4000 volumes is internationally significant and especially strong in examples of the earliest outputs from the printing press. This is the last of the major UK collections to remain uncatalogued to modern standards, and research access is limited to the ISTC (Incunabula Short Title Catalogue, now hosted by CERL) and by some very basic records in the UML library catalogue.

The foundation of the collection comes from George John, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834), the finest private library of the nineteenth century. The fifteenth century books were acquired by Spencer at a time when the antiquarian book market was awash with treasures; the French Revolution, the dissolution of religious houses across Europe and the dispersal by auction of some of the largest libraries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries ensured that there was unprecedented access to the most important and rarest books in printing history, albeit at a price. Spencer was not shy of spending, and managed to acquire all of the editio princeps of the classical and vernacular authors, every significant issue of Gutenberg’s press, including the two most important indulgences he issued, and of the presses of other printing pioneers like Nicolas Jenson and William Caxton. The collection was further strengthened with additions by Enriqueta Rylands and throughout the twentieth century. The library continues an active collection development policy, especially focussed on Italian and German editions and annotated copies.

The project would create, for the first time, fully-researched catalogue records for all of the fifteenth-century printed books at the Rylands, including:

  • Full bibliographical descriptions, including collations, imperfections, and sophistications.
  • Provenance descriptions.
  • Binding descriptions.
  • Details of additional copy-specific information.

We are seeking an experienced and enthusiastic cataloguer who is eager to take on this exciting but challenging project. You will be joining a vibrant community of library specialists, curators and researchers across many disciplines, all committed to unlocking the unique research resources within our Special Collections.

You should demonstrate how you meet each of the criteria required in the person specification by giving specific examples in the “additional information” section of the online application form.

The post is a full-time four year fixed-term contract from 1 May 2021.

Applicants should hold a PhD or equivalent in a relevant subject, or demonstrable equivalent knowledge and experience; excellent research and bibliographical skills and practical knowledge of book history;  experience of cataloguing early printed books and excellent Latin language skills. In addition, applicants should be highly motivated and enthusiastic, have excellent interpersonal and organisational skills, and be able to work independently to meet strict deadlines. 

Hours & Place of Work

Normal working hours are a minimum of 35 per week and these currently comprise daytime “office hours” from Monday to Friday. The flexibility to work occasionally outside office hours and at weekends to plan, attend or support Library events and initiatives is assumed.

This post is based primarily in the John Rylands Library, Deansgate. However, all Library employees are required to work at any Library site, as necessary.

You are required to wear an identity badge.

As an equal opportunities employer we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of age, sex, gender (or gender identity), ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status.  All appointments are made on merit.

Happy to talk flexible working.

Blended working arrangements may be considered.

Please note that we are unable to respond to enquiries, accept CVs or applications from Recruitment Agencies.

Enquiries about the vacancy, shortlisting and interviews:
Name: Julianne Simpson, Research Engagement Manager Special Collections

General enquiries:

Technical support:
Tel: 0161 850 2004

This vacancy will close for applications at midnight on the closing date.

Please see the link below for the Further Particulars document which contains the person specification criteria.


The closing date for this job has now passed.