Melitensia – Naval Battles of the Order of St John

Retrieving historic
printed works

Identify and obtain copies for Malta of printed Malta-related material (Melitensia) of a historical and cultural significance held in UK libraries but which are not available in any Maltese public collection.

This research has been undertaken by Prof William Zammit, whose main area of research expertise is the identification of retrospective bibliographic control, particularly the identification and bibliographic description of pre-1900 printed matter. The project is divided in 2 phases. The first phase consisted of visits by Prof Zammit to three UK institutions:

  • Clerkenwell Museum and Library, London.
  • The Bodleian Library, Oxford.
  • Lambeth Palace Library, London

The specific purpose of the site visits was to identify and obtain copies of rare Malta-related works printed prior to 1800. These three collections were confirmed to contain such material, much of it being totally unavailable in Maltese collections and hence mostly unknown to researchers. It mostly consists of pamphlets, ephemera but also of some book-size publications which were either printed in Malta or else outside Malta but which have considerable Maltese historical significance.

Following this, the second phase of the project is a publication which would describe the rare material found and also provide information regarding its location. Actual digital copies of the material will also be requested from the libraries consulted and these copies deposited in the Rare Books Department of the University Library, together with the resulting publication.

The acquisition of knowledge about these rare Malta-related publications dating between the 1500 to 1900, will contribute towards better quality research. Moreover the acquisition of digital copies of such material for Maltese collections, will fascilitate knowledge about and research on such material by other Maltese scholars.

Given the fact that a number of such unknown publications also cover the history of the Order of St John in Malta, the research potential of the project also has an international dimension.

Prof. Zammit scanned the said material and helped in the creation of the metadata required for these works to be uploaded in the University of Malta’s Institutional Repository – OAR@UM. The material can now be accessed at: Naval Battles of the Order: via this link:

Title page of 1683 naval account

Broadening our knowledge and understanding

The importance of retrieving such document is enormous as, for the first time in centuries, documents and maps that are related to politics, society, occurrences, laws and religion in Malta, and which were previously unknown to us or rarely consulted, will become available to researchers, historians and University students. Moreover, the identification of such documents is already unearthing new information about the Maltese Islands, its people and those who had once colonised it.

Dr William Zammit, Senior Lecturer, Department of  Library Information and Archive Services