What we do:


Sean Oblak (SCU ’21), Bree Bellati (SCU ’20), and Dr. Andrew Keener presenting SCEMBI at Santa Clara University College Showcase ’19

The Santa Clara Early Modern Book Initiative (SCEMBI) is powered by a team of students, librarians, and scholars at Santa Clara University. Our work uses techniques in literary studies, book history & bibliography, and library science to share and spread knowledge about SCU’s oldest books.

SCEMBI enhances the globally-accessible English Short-Title Catalogue as well as SCU’s own library catalog, OSCAR, improving considerably the quantity and most importantly the quality of details about SCU’s oldest books available in both these resources. This project is all about putting SCU’s eligible rare materials “on the map” in a way that will profit students, librarians, and scholars.

SCEMBI builds on the work originally undertaken by Renaissance Books, Midwestern Libraries, a similarly purposed and similarly collaborative project at Northwestern University. To read more about SCEMBI, see these blog posts by research assistants Bree Bellati and Sean Oblak. At this time:

  • SCEMBI has raised SCU’s representation in the ESTC from an initial 162 items (pre-1800) to 281 items.
  • 23 pre-1800 items matched into the ESTC by SCEMBI survive in 10 or fewer copies worldwide.
  • In the midst of COVID-19, SCEMBI proceeds with remotely-facilitated work with SCU’s pre-1800 collections, including an edition of an early modern play and an exhibit for a later date.

Participants Past & Present:

Jessica Joudy ’21, Research Assistant (current)
Sean Oblak ’21, Research Assistant (current)
Bree Bellati ’20, Research Assistant (graduated)
Wen-Ying Lu, Head of Cataloging
Billie Knepper, Cataloging Specialist
Nadia Nasr, Head of Archives & Special Collections
Andrew Keener, Assistant Professor of English (Director)

What is the English Short-Title Catalogue?

The ESTC is the British Library’s digital catalog resource for students, librarians, book collectors, and scholars of fields including (but not limited to) literature, history, and printing. This site contains detailed information about books printed between 1473 and 1800, either in the English language or in the English territories. While the ESTC certainly has limitations, users can pinpoint the whereabouts of many pre-1800 books and learn about their copy-specific details. Knowledge about these books’ locations and features creates exciting new avenues for humanities research and teaching.

Support and Funding

Thanks to a grant from the Dean’s Office and support from SCU Libraries, SCU Archives & Special Collections, and the SCU Department of English, SCEMBI is able to proceed with this work at a steady pace in a manner that will result in higher-quality bibliographical data in the ESTC and OSCAR.