The best way to resolve most problems is by looking at the detailed 'Description of Separate Fields' document; this includes comments on all the fields that can appear in a full record, not just those that are searchable from the initial search page. To reach 'Description of Separate Fields', select Fields at the bottom of the initial search page.
Additional tips are given below on the searchable fields, the difference between simple and extended searches, how to limit a search, the form in which results are displayed, and how to re-order results.
The elements of each name are presented in the following order--surname, first name(s), title--and give the name in the form in use at the time the letter was written, e.g. for Scott's elder daughter, 'Scott, Charlotte Sophia' before her marriage in April 1820 and 'Lockhart, Charlotte Sophia Scott' afterwards. Since, as in the above example, a commonly-used first name may differ from the official first name, it is advisable to begin correspondent searches with surname alone. Then, having identified the individual sought and his or her full complement of first names, the search can be repeated using this information and adding any limitations, such as restriction of the search to a particular group of years, or to letters to rather than from this correspondent. To be sure of catching all letters to or from a particular correspondent, select the link View all records for this correspondent that appears at the end of each record in a results list. This link solves the problem of the variation over time of names and titles. Where the name of the sender or recipient cannot be established 'Unidentified Correspondent' is used; where a letter is signed with initials or a nom de plume an addition is made in this field, for example 'Unidentified Correspondent A.B.' or 'Unidentified Correspondent Shepherdess'.
When looking at an actual manuscript for which the sender or recipient is unknown, these fields can help establish whether a particular letter is recorded in the Catalogue. They can also be useful for tracing letters written to or from a particular street address, town, or city, for example, finding letters addressed from Newcastle. But the results of such a search should be used with caution since address information is recorded exactly as it appears in the source document. This means that the results from a search for 'Newcastle' as sender's address will include neither those letters from Newcastle correspondents which do not include a sender's address, nor those which employ a shortened form of address that omits the name of the city.
This field is particularly useful when looking at an individual manuscript and checking whether it is recorded in the Catalogue. Since Scott got 'on topic' very quickly, it is also worth checking this field for particular keywords or names of individuals. Remember that the opening words are recorded exactly as they appear in the source document and may contain idiosyncrasies of spelling that are not reflected in a standardised text in a published edition. It is worth trying alternative spellings and truncations before giving up on a search in this field.
Whenever a printed version of a complete letter, or of a significant extract, has been traced, the information is given here. Since the 12-volume Grierson edition (1932-37) is by far the most important source for printed versions of Scott's own letters, it is given primacy over other printings, and the abbreviation 'SL' is used, followed by volume and page number. For letters not included in the Grierson edition but available in other published sources, a short-title reference with volume and page number is provided. Full bibliographical details of these published works can be found by using the link Printed Sources at the bottom of the initial Search Page.
The information needed to locate the source document. When the name of an institution does not specify the town or city in which it is located, these details are added, thus facilitating a check for all mss in a particular location. A search on New York, for example, produces a list of over 800 records; this list can then be sorted by Document location, when it will begin with all the letters in the Berg Collection grouped together. The inclusion of '(private)' after a location indicates that the letter is privately owned and not accessible in a public collection.
Additional information about any of the other fields is available here: e.g., indications of sources for the dates assigned to letters not fully dated by the sender. During work on the catalogue this field was used for information that might subsequently help to identify a correspondent, establish a date, fit a particular letter into a sequence of other letters on the same topic, etc. This extra information has been retained as and when it occurs; it can therefore be productive to search this field for keywords or names that may happen to be mentioned. For letters published in the Grierson edition this field indicates when a source other than the manuscript was used for the printed text.
This is useful for tracing a record on the basis of a reference to the catalogue in an external source, or for returning to a particular record.
The opening search page offers string-searches for a word or phrase in any one of the main fields of the catalogue. The default field is Correspondent, but the drop-down list at the right-hand side allows other fields to be selected. The Extended search page allows Boolean searches that combine several fields or several elements in a single field.
The default setting produces records both for letters written by Scott to a particular correspondent and for the letters he received from that correspondent. Searches can be limited to Scott's own letters by using the To option; for letters received by Scott, the From option should be selected. To limit the range of years covered by a search, use the Between Years option. For searches on an individual year, enter the same year in both boxes. To see the records for all letters in a year or range of years, enter the year(s) and leave the other options in the search page blank.
The initial list of results provides an abbreviated form of each record; select View full record for this letter to see all fields in a particular record.
The records in a list of results are initially ordered by correspondent and then by date within the group for each correspondent. The entire list can be re-ordered by date or by document location.