The modern manuscripts at Trinity are divided into about ninety collections, as shown on the List of Collections. This page gives some information about how they are described in this catalogue.
Archival catalogues, unlike library catalogues, are typically arranged in a number of levels. These levels may be designed to communicate information about the documents’ historical context, in particular the way in which the creator of the archive (see below) organised them. But where this kind of information has been lost or is insignificant the arrangement adopted is usually intended simply to enable the contents of the collection to be navigated easily.
For instance, the first main division of the papers of Lord Butler (RAB) is ‘Personal Correspondence: General’, and this class contains in turn a number of files of correspondence from different correspondents. In this case the letters are not described individually, but in some other collections they are.
The top description of each collection contains general information about the collection as a whole, in particular its immediate provenance, its archival history, and the name of its creator. But many elements are common to descriptions at every level, e.g. the unit’s reference, date, physical extent, and scope and content.
Information supplied at one level is not usually repeated at the levels below, so it’s worth bearing in mind when you are looking at the description of an item or a group of items that there may be relevant information at a higher level.
In this catalogue the creator of an archive indicates the person, family, or other body who accumulated the records and used them. In some cases they will have actually created the records in the usual sense, but in others, e.g. in-letters, they will not.
Many of the descriptions in the catalogue are indexed with the names of the people or organisations associated with them, other than the creator. These index terms, which appear in the section headed ‘Access Points’, can be used to search for other records relating to the same person or organisation.