On the numbering and foliation of the Cecil Papers

While discussing the provenance of the manuscripts in my PhD edition, delving into the histories of various collections and repositories, I ran somewhat off on a tangent when writing about the Cecil Papers. Turns out that the foliation in the Cecil Papers is problematic, and references to documents in the Cecil Papers can be obscure. The little pedant in me ended up producing the following rant text, which is a bit too off-topic for even my thesis; for which reason it is now published here. I hope someone, one day, finds it useful. (Hope springs eternal, etc).

Oddly, Perry’s (2010) explanation of the numbering of Cecil Papers documents is incorrect. She claims that Cecil Paper numbers are formed of the volume number and the number “on the first page of that particular document”. Perry further says that “each page has been through-numbered within the volume, irrespective of where a new individual document begins”, so that consecutive document numbers may have gaps, such as her example of CP 56/1 being three “pages” long, and followed by CP 56/4. Yet browsing through the Cecil Papers reveals that the reality is more complex.

If we take Perry to mean “folio” when she says “page”, she is essentially correct. For instance, bifoliums have been given successive folio numbers on their rectos. However, a page has only been given a folio number if there is text (or other markings) on the page. Therefore, while the bifolium CP 29/17 is foliated on both its rectos (which contain text), as 17 and 18 respectively, the following document, CP 29/19, is a bifolium without text on the second recto, and this second folio has not been assigned a folio number. The document following CP 29/19 is thus CP 29/20, and not CP 29/21 as it would be if the foliation followed Perry’s description.

Since a bifolium is the most typical document form (a sheet of paper folded in half), and bifoliums with the second recto blank are very common, this means that a substantial amount of the Cecil Papers remain unfoliated. To complicate matters further, some of the Cecil Papers have been foliated incorrectly. For instance, CP 111/119/2 has presumably been mistakenly assigned the folio number 119 before the archivist noticed that he had already assigned 119 to the previous foliated recto, and had to correct it by adding the /2. It goes without saying that there are thus misfoliated bifolio documents with a blank second recto!

Finally, while the foliation allocating the CP numbers is done in a red ink or crayon, some of the Cecil Papers have also been foliated in pencil, including the blank rectos. For instance, CP 143/114, CP 143/115, CP 143/116 and CP 143/117 are all bifolios with blank second rectos. Their rectos, however, also carry pencilled foliation numbers in order, from “155” on CP 143/114_1r to “162” on CP 143/117_2r.

Top right corner of CP 143 f. 115r (CP 143/115)

Top right corner of CP 143 f. 115_1r (CP 143/115)

(Images from the Cecil Papers, this counts as fair use I think.)

These images are of the top right corners of the rectos of the bifolium CP 143/115, being folios 115r and a blank unfoliated-in-red-ink page I am calling 115_1r. Note the pencilled foliation which I referred to above: unlike the red ink, it is consistent, foliating these successive rectos as 157 and 158.

While emended misfoliation and secondary folio numbers may not prove insurmountable obstacles, the scholar should nonetheless be aware that many document and folio references to the Cecil Papers are thus potentially obscure. For instance, CP 143/115v – or CP 143 f. 115v – can refer both to page 2 of the said document (f. 115_1v), or to the dorse of the document, being the cover of the letter (f. 115_2v).


Perry, Vicki. 2010. “Notes on the numbering of the Cecil Papers and the scope of the digital collection”. Cecil Papers. ProQuest and Hatfield House.

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