The University of Barcelona's Rare Book and Manuscript CRAI Library boasts one of the largest and most significant collections of ancient books in Spain. It holds some 70,000 editions and almost twice the number of individual copies dating from the fifteenth century up to 1820, broadly showcasing the period of manual printing in Europe, particularly in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.
The scope of the collection is such that it contains a wealth of diverse printers' devices. These illustrative elements, usually found on the title page or the colophon, serve to identify the printing house where the book was produced or the editor or bookseller who funded its production.
To enable the public to view this impressive collection of one of the most attractive features of ancient books, in October 1998 the CRAI launched what was a pioneering database in its field: Printers' devices.
After more than twenty years of storage on an in-house platform at the University of Barcelona, in 2021 the records were migrated to a new database in the cloud-based document management system Coeli Platform, which offers more efficient and flexible searching, high online visibility and an eye-catching format that places the images front and centre.
The database is updated each week, growing as work to catalogue the collection advances. It is structured in two groups of records: those detailing the printers, booksellers and editors, and the records of their respective devices.
The first group includes information on the years and locations in which the subject was active, related entries and alternative names, the link to the bibliographic record at the UB, and the sources of the information compiled in the database, which are exhaustively listed in the section Sources/Bibliography.
The second group contains the image of each device together with a description, the transcribed motto and the corresponding iconographic terms, and a link to the bibliographic record from which the image is taken.
The records can be searched by device, printer and location and refined chronologically or by other properties.
The database can be searched in Catalan, Spanish and English. Most of the content is translated, although some fields, such as the description of the device, are only displayed in Catalan.