October 16, 2023 in 

A book or manuscript’s provenance refers to its history in books and publishing. This is essential in establishing a document’s genuineness and can affect its worth.

Provenance might include details about previous owners, places where it has been stored (known as custody), and unique identifiers such as accession numbers. It can be decisive in whether or not something is genuine.

Provenance comes from the French word provenir, meaning “to come from.” The origins of a book – where it comes from – are its provenance.

Provenance is very useful if you are in the book world for several reasons. First, it helps to establish that something was made when it claims to have been made, which is often crucial in evaluating its authenticity and integrity. If a book has well-documented evidence of where it came from, you can be more confident that it is what it says on the tin.

Second, provenance significantly adds to a book’s value – financially and historically. Books whose ownership has been documented and felt interesting or important enough to catch someone’s attention over time invariably become more valuable than books without such stories attached.

Finally, provenance provides an excuse (should one be needed) for exploring the history of a particular book – something that frequently involves famous people or interesting events – which can be excellent fun.

Provenance is quite handy if you’re involved in books and publishing; it helps prove something was made when it claims to have been made, provides valuable historical insight, indicates how much something might be worth today, and means you get to go down all sorts of fascinating rabbit holes.

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