No. 53: Introduction to Descriptive Bibliography
7-11 August 2000

Terry Belanger and Richard Noble
Coordinating Instructors

Julia Blakeley
David Gants
David Jenkins
Shef Rogers
David Whitesell
Lab Instructors

1) How useful were the pre-course readings? How successful was the advance use of the videotape, The Anatomy of a Book, as a teaching tool?

1: The pre-course reading materials were essential. As a beginner, I could not have managed to understand the various elements of format and collation without doing this work. 2: Absolutely necessary. The videotape explained most problems very well. 3: Necessary for preparation of the course, although reading Bowers is and will remain a chore. 4: TB's article the clearest explanation. The pre-course readings are necessary to take the course. Don't come if you can't read them. You will have to describe books before being instructed on how to begin. Anatomy of a Book video was wonderful, especially the transcript of the video that came with the workbook. 5: The pre-course readings were entirely necessary for the coursework. But as I had no prior knowledge of DesBib, quite difficult to grasp until I really began working with the physical books. 6: The videotape was essential. I viewed the tape at least four times. Gaskell was good and Bowers (at that stage) incomprehensible, even after much time spent on it. I wish that "Marks in Books" was available, having now seen a copy. 7: Very. Slogging through the three chapters of Bowers is nearly mind-numbing, but the payoff during class is immense. I've watched the video over and over. 8: Pre-course readings and video were invaluable -- I had some very elementary training in graduate school but needed to have a more structured presentation. 9: The readings were vital to being successful in the course, even if they were difficult to comprehend before attempting exercises. There's no way around that, however. The videotape was useful. I didn't need the plethora of sheets; two or three would have been fine. 10: Would never have gotten through without pre-course readings. Video quite helpful. 11: The pre-course readings were difficult to understand, but came together beautifully during the week. 12: Absolutely essential -- homework would have been to 3:00 am every night without the pre-course readings. 13: Very useful. Could not have done the coursework without the pre-course readings. 14: The video was an excellent teaching tool in that you could stop/start and playback several times (which fortunately/unfortunately I needed). 15: Very useful to have pre-course reading lists. 16: Absolutely crucial! (Long live Bowers!) Great video. 17: Very useful; indeed essential if one is to learn anything in this course about des bib. I liked the Anatomy tape very much and I plan to use it for instructional purposes again and again. 18: Pre-course readings were essential, especially Bowers. For a broad overview of printing history and processes, Gaskell fulfilled this purpose well. The Anatomy of a Book was excellent, a good introduction and could well be recommended first before Gaskell and Bowers. After reading some Gaskell and Bowers, watch the video again. 19: The videotape was great. I think I watched it four times. It was so difficult to read Bowers, but as the week progressed I did begin to understand him. 20: Very helpful. 21: The videotape was very useful and easily accessible. The readings gave a good introduction to the basics in the field, and Bowers is, of course, Bowers. I'm sure future students will appreciate RN's forthcoming (not-so) magnum opus.

2) Were the course syllabus, exit reading list, and other materials distributed in class useful (or will they be so in the future, after you return home)?

1: Yes, all the above were very useful. 2: I expect them to be, and on request of my boss, will also hand them out to colleagues. 3: Very useful. 4: Absolutely. 5: Yes, I am very grateful these were compiled (particularly exit reading list) for us. 6: These were excellent. The exit list and main materials for future reference. But the book description exercise sheets and workbook were helpful during the course when time was at premium. 7: Yes. 8: Absolutely. 9: Absolutely. I needed a structure to help me in my studies, and (as a non-MLS student) I will rely heavily on these materials. The examples (for instance, of quasi-facsimile) are handy reference guides. I'll also buy Tanselle's syllabus, but that's more ambitious. 11: They are essential to developing a better understanding of the field away from RBS. 12: Most certainly. I feel this material will be used a great deal. 13: Yes. 14: All materials enhanced the learning experience. The exit reading list does indeed look to be a useful tool for the future. 15: Very useful, when I return home, to have as a reference. 16: Absolutely -- saved the stress of taking too many notes. 17: Very useful syllabus that guided all of us through a very tight schedule. The exit reading list is a gold mine for anyone interested in bibliography. All of the materials/handouts will prove extremely useful. 18: The exit reading list will definitely come in handy in my future bibliographical ventures, especially the general sections. It would be nice to see more material in other languages, since everything on the list in now in English. 19: All the class handouts were useful, and I'm planning on reading many of the books in the exit reading list. 20: I have read a few of the titles on the exit reading list (prior to attending RBS), and found them extremely relevant and interesting. It is helpful to find a good list of recommended titles -- with some evaluation/comments. 21: Yes, they will be used and consulted frequently.

3) Was the intellectual level of the course content appropriate?

1: The intellectual level of the course was appropriate for the subject matter. 2-4: Yes. 5: Yes. Stimulating and challenging. I was quite happy with this. 6: Well, it was probably too high for me. I really struggled in parts, and it was hard work. But I managed to come through and had learned a tremendous amount by the end of the course. Well worth the effort. 7: Very. 8: Yes. I appreciated the rigor and the pace. There was never a moment wasted. 9: For me, yes. I wanted a practicum with minor theory and an overview of how DesBib "functions." 10: Yes. 11: Definitely. 12-13: Yes. 14: I was very pleased with the content of the course. I came away with much more than I expected to get from the course. While the homework was tiring and repetitious, I do believe it gave reinforcement which will cause some of the minor details to "stick" better and longer. 15-16: Yes. 17: Yes, it was rigorous and just about what I expected. 18: Very appropriate. 19: Yes. My lab instructor DW helped us to understand the especially difficult parts. 20: Yes. It was challenging but appropriate (provided we had read the assigned reading beforehand). 21: Yes.

4) To what extent did the Museums contribute to the success of the course? How could they have been improved? How useful to you were (or will be) the copies of the museum labels?

1: The Museums were wonderful in every respect. 2: I believed the Museum part to be most useful to me. A lot of examples are shown, and it is always important to see for yourself. 3: Very useful. Examples of dylux paper/process discussed in the Paper Museum. 4: Museums improved? No. I was very impressed with the overall organization of this course. The Museums brought so many topics together. In the BAP Museum, you can touch what is on display. The explanations were extremely useful and still continue to be. 5: The Museums were a helpful supplement. I appreciated the opportunity to look through the range of material pre-selected for us. I felt I learned a lot at the Museums. I believe the copies of the Museum labels will be more useful to me as a retrospective. 6: These were brilliant -- although I always felt that time was always running too fast. During these sessions there was so much to see. 7: The Museums are fabulous. I plan to keep the labels in a 3-ring binder for future reference. 8: I was disappointed that I couldn't see all the exhibits -- there just wasn't time. That's why I'm grateful to have copies of the labels. 9: The Museums were very helpful, especially those exhibiting materials used for book production (binding and type equipment, for instance). Some of the labels were very useful as handouts; most could just be read on the tables. 10: Greatly. I do not see how could have been improved. 11: The Museums supplemented the classroom beautifully. 12: Very useful. But needed more time generally to go over them all. 13: Museums were a high point of this course -- well prepared and superb examples of material germane to the day's topic. Space a bit crowded (esp. the hall) but not a barrier to viewing materials. 14: The Museums were an absolutely wonderful teaching experience. By the second one I did learn I would not be able to complete all activities and would need to focus on those I was more interested in learning about. However, this did lead me I think to forego some examples that I would have also enjoyed. 15: The Museum labels are useful, because I would read the lists before and when I get to Museums I just have to look. 16: The Museum part was my favorite part (the labels will be very helpful). 17: The Museums are the rare book librarian's "theme parks." I especially enjoyed all the examples of bibliographies -- the fruit of what bibliographers do. I am already planning to use copies of the labels to help inform my work when I get home. 18: The Museums were my favorite part of the course -- a sort of bibliographers's petting zoo or exploratorium. A great opportunity to see, touch and play with objects and artifacts that I've only read about. 19: The Museums were wonderful to have following the lecture. N. Pickwoad's binding structure was the best. I'm sure I'll use the copies -- especially the one of bibliography examples. 20: Excellent; I enjoyed seeing and comparing the examples. The Museum labels will help because they provided good descriptions of each item (and its importance). 21: The Museums were wonderful teaching tools and helped to get concepts, techniques and materials into 3 dimensions. The only problem is that 90 minutes is not enough time to go through them thoroughly. If, in the future, a secure place could be found where the Museums could be viewed for the whole week, that would be ideal.

5) How successful were your format-and-collation labs? How effective was your lab instructor in conveying the material to be covered? How could the labs have been improved?

Julia Blakely: 1: The labs were very effective. The instructor was consistently helpful, well-informed and open to questions. 2: Very clear instructors. I had no questions left at the end! 3: Very good. Instructive, but I still was making many errors in grammar, especially of pagination, which were completely new to me. 4: JB is a great teacher. Each day I came away learning more and more about what clues to look for in books. Bowers was explained very well and anything that was unclear was made clear. 5: Very successful. JB struck just the right balance between allowing in-depth discussion of relevant details while keeping us moving along at a good pace and could explain and clarify anything we were confused about. Perhaps for the labs make it mandatory to do only four books, optional to do all six? 6: These were the highlight for me. Everything seemed to fall into place. JB, our instructor, was first class. David Gants: 7: They were terrific. DG was an excellent and patient tutor, and it was great fun working with two fellow students equally serious about the subject, equally concerned about the correct "grammar" of the formulae, and equally enthusiastic about learning from the books. 8: The labs were a true high point, and absolute proof of the need for actual, direct, human interaction (in the days of administrators pushing distance learning). DG was wonderful to work with, and I appreciated his patience and sense of humor. 9: DG was just terrific. He was very informed about the details of production and not just teaching from crib sheets. Labs helped me see how much more disciplined I must become in my approach, so they worked. My lab partners had also read the material, so we felt comfortable discussing interpretations of Bowers. The team was very supportive. David Jenkins: 10: Lab instructor extremely helpful. Able to clarify points that would have remained incomprehensible otherwise. 11: The labs were perfect, and DJ shared his understanding and experience in a way that made us feel comfortable. We learned from our mistakes as a result of the lucid explanations of obtuse Bowers. 12: DJ was very helpful -- also showed us many different collations to solve. He knew his "stuff." 13: Lab instructor was excellent, very kind in his corrections! He knew the materials cold and could well illustrate points with drawn examples. He was well prepared on each book which we were assigned. Labs were just the right length. 14: Our instructor was great! Energetic! Knowledgeable (at least he fooled us)! Sense of humor! There were good reenforcements for learning. The teacher-student ratio couldn't have been better. We learned from the assignments, from the instructor, and from each other's mistakes and successes. Shef Rogers: 15: The labs are great, because it let me see how other students are thinking, and the instructor helped us get through the problems that we have, and he does make things clear for us to understand. 16: The lab worked out well -- we had different errors, which was helpful in pointing out various "things not to do." 17: Very successful and not as intimidating as I thought they would be thanks to SR's gentle guidance. SR taught us very well and provided good background information, too. David Whitesell: 18: The labs were a great learning experience. I like the collegiality between students and our excellent lab instructor, DW. DW was patient, always asking probing questions and challenging us to consider possibilities that had eluded us. 19: I loved the labs, even though it was comical when three of us had different collations for the same book. DW is an absolutely wonderful teacher. 20: Excellent. He was good at answering our questions and correcting us without making anyone feel awful. 21: The labs were great. DW was a fantastic instructor, considering our ideas and then pointing out why they were or were not correct. The attitude was encouraging and supportive and the approach of the instructor illuminating.

6) Did the actual course content correspond to its RBS brochure description and Expanded Course Description?

1: Yes, the material in class corresponded to the description. The course surpassed my expectations. 2: Yes, although I do not believe homework was mentioned. 3: The lab break outs into smaller groups wasn't related to us in advance. Pleasantly surprised that we weren't slogging through this en masse in a group of 24! 4-5: Yes. 6: Pretty much. I had a good idea as to what I was getting myself in for. This is not for the faint-hearted (non professional). 7-8: Yes. 9: Yes. Exactly. 10-21: Yes.

7) What did you like best about the course?

1: I liked the fact that, if we followed the advice of the lecturers and the lab instructors, it was quite possible to learn. 2: Museum. 3: Hard to say. Labs most useful but lectures most interesting. 4: TB and RN for instructors. The lab. The lab is the best thing because the student-teacher ratio is so small and it's the best way to learn. 5: The challenge of covering the depth and breadth of the material that we did; having such knowledgeable instructors. This was the best academic experience I have had along with my graduate studies in the UK. 6: The practical exercises in format and collation. 7: Working with real live c18 books. 8: The shared commitment to high-quality work shared by instructors and students. 9: The structure. A very good combination of information and practicum in the lectures, Museum, homework, lab sequence. 10: The movement from lecture, Museum, lab. This physical movement helped to keep my old body in working order and relieved some mental stress. 11: The homework. The opportunity to handle the books. 12: Small groups with almost one-on-one attention. 13: Hands-on experience in the Museums. 14: The format of lecture, homework, lab. 15: The best about the course is we get individual attention from one instructor during the lab time. 16: I honestly enjoyed every aspect. I very much appreciated the Museum aspect -- having examples available to examine. Loved meeting all the fun-loving book types, and -- (fine wine selection! hee hee). 17: Everything really. Although I found the lectures and TB's anecdotes to be a highlight. 18: The Museums. The labs, the excellent instruction and of course, the other students. 19: It would be difficult to choose one aspect, but I think the lab sessions when we could really discuss a particular book. 20: The Museums for the opportunity to see, feel and compare (but the labs/homework, while not as fun, maybe more useful to students who don't have the opportunity to practice). 21: I'd have to say the homework and the labs just due to the cycle of work/learning/satisfaction/more learning that actually doing what you're studying gives you.

8) How could the course as a whole have been improved?

1: I would like to see the study period for each group split into evening and morning time. 2: Perhaps -- considering your thought of having DesBib 1+2 -- one period could be squeezed in on the notes in a description. It needs practice anyway to be perfect, and for me doing DesBib as extensive in two weeks would simply be too much. 3: More practice, but that just comes with more practice. 4: It can't. It's been perfected over many years. 5: Put 30 hours in a day. 6: Possibly a "fast stream" and a secondary slower paced variant, especially for non-professionals. There seemed to be a very diverse level of experience among participants. 8: Warnings about the homework. I didn't know about it in advance, and found it to be absolutely the most important part of the course. I guess the buzz-phrase would be "hands-on experience at the most elemental level." 9: More attendance of lab instructors during homework. But that may be asking too much. I did my homework on the late side. And, frankly, after having DG as lab instructor, not every lab instructor seemed as helpful as he. 10: This is a two week course! It is a very interesting and vitally important two week course: but it is a two week course! 11: The transcription lab was unnecessary. We're not going to be doing it much longer. I might have taken formulas from other bibliographies and constructed an exercise in converting them to Bowers. 12: Make it two weeks, thereby eliminating the homework. 13: Lectures could have been more focused on the day's assignments. While entertaining and providing new perspectives, context could have been stronger. A basic survey of principles for bibliographical description in lecture #2, for example, could have been useful and helpful. 14: Does descriptive bibliography not cover (no pun intended) the cover of the book as well? Our Museum did have binding examples, but we did not address this in descriptive bibliography. 15: No improvement. 16: I have been thinking hard about this, and I am unable to come up with any helpful criticism. I am very impressed with it all. 17: The only improvement might be to consider splitting into I and II. It's so much to learn and absorb in just one week. 18: A two section course, as TB has proposed in the future, would be a good idea. Perhaps too much material now to absorb in one week. 19: Get RN to write a better Bowers. 20: No suggestions. 21: Longer, more time, more of everything (hard to believe I just wrote that).

9) Please comment on the quality/enjoyability of the various RBS activities in which you took part outside of class (eg Sunday afternoon tour, Sunday night dinner, Video Night, evening lectures, Tuesday evening Bookseller Night, Study Night, hand-press printing demonstrations, Rotunda exhibition, &c.).

1: I would have only one suggestion, the possibility for early Sunday arrival, and a van at our disposal (for a price, of course, to see Monticello and other areas of interest . 2: A very good distribution of evening activities, with still time left to do homework. 3: Enjoyed Brett Charbeneau's lecture, but he should have listed the sources of the handouts provided on the handouts or on a short list with the handouts. 4: I attended most activities. Having been to RBS before, I skipped Bookseller Night to do my homework. 5: I would have preferred more structure for Bookseller Night -- van to bring people down together and then let us find our own way home. 6: Wonderful! You have to take in the whole experience ,which will be tiring. But terrific fun. 7: Brett Charbeneau's lecture was inspiring for us aspiring bibliographers. 8: I took part in almost all the outside activities and enjoyed them all, although it was difficult to combine some of them with the homework. Most enjoyable: tie between Brett Charbeneau's lecture and collator festival. 9: Dinner -- good schmoozing; Brett's lecture -- good, inspiring; Bookseller Night not too good (most books gone in lower price range); Study Night -- good roaming time but low instructor turn-out; Rotunda -- good; Collator exhibit -- very good. Liked when Carter Hailey demo'd his own at reception; TB talk -- ever useful, amusing and challenging. 10: Excellent. 11: They rounded out the experience. 12: All excellent, including wine. 13: All were enjoyable -- varied and well mixed into the activities for the week. The tour on Sunday was super. She showed us exactly what we needed to see to get started. Demos were neat too. Other high points were Charbeneau's lecture and the "Alphabet" videos. 14: I enjoyed the guest lecturer. Bookseller Night was nice, but not all booksellers stayed open (or realized this was the night). And, the printing demonstrations were enhancements to the learning experience. I especially enjoyed the pop-up book exhibition as well as Gold on Them Thar Books: so much to do, so little time. 15: Sunday night dinner, Video Night and evening lectures were great. And so is Tuesday Bookseller Night and hand-press printing. 16: Everything has been delightful! 17: All were quite enjoyable, although the Rotunda lecture was not as stimulating as I'd hoped. 18: All very good. 19: Given the amount of homework, I went only to the evening lecture on Wednesday. The lunchtime demos of the hand-press and collectors was great. 20: Sunday night dinner and lecture -- good opportunity to get acquainted and informed about RBS. Bookseller Night -- fun! Exhibition -- very impressive for its depth and breadth (in several aspects of gold -- realia, book bindings, scholarly and historical books about gold and mining). 21: There were activities outside of class? The printing and collating demonstrations were great.

10) Any final thoughts? Did you get your money's worth?

1: Yes, I definitely got my money's worth! Thank you! 2: I do not believe it will be useful to do this course in two parts. Bibliography I have learned this week; it's a lifetime study anyway. The contents of the course are not too difficult to grasp in one week, especially when you did preliminary reading. 3: Don't let the rumors about this course scare you. Come prepared, be on time and be willing to apply yourself and learn. 4: My institution got its money's worth. This course is the most demanding course at RBS. There is not much free time. However, what you leave knowing makes it all worthwhile. Do the readings. 5: I more than got my money's worth. And though this has been said a hundred times over by now, definitely do the reading beforehand! 6: This is a serious course, but fantastic fun also. Pre-course reading is essential. You will get your money's worth for sure. 7: Read Carter, then Gaskell, then Bowers. Re-read Bowers ch. 5, 7 and 12 the week before class! 8: Advice: drink plenty of coffee, bring a calculator, invest in good reading glasses. Prepare to struggle with Bowers, but know that you struggle neither alone nor in vain. Yes. I got value for money. 9: This course, especially in combination with another I took earlier this summer, has made me feel part of a community I lacked before coming. I feel I have the tools, contacts and continuing support I need and have found nowhere else. Even on my student income, it was worth every penny. P.S. "Will do DesBib for food." 10: Come prepared to work. My money's worth and more. Thank you! 11: It was worth it. 12: Certainly had my money's worth. This is essential for all rare book dealers and librarians. Do the reading, work hard, listen, do the homework and you'll achieve greatness. 13: Yes! [Got my money's worth.] 14: 1. View the video several times. 2. Be sure to read assignments suggested prior to attending. 3. Do not plan other activities during class week. Yes [got my money's worth]. 15: I think for all people who love books; they should take this class. Does not matter what their backgrounds are. 16: Very intensive. Wednesday I was studying (slaving) until 11 pm and Thursday until 10 pm (Arriving in at 8 am!) Well worth it, however. Considering a week ago I could never have attempted to write a collation formula ... (rather fun!). 17: This is the course for anyone interested in rare books. I definitely got my money's worth. 18: Take this course! You'll be intimidated, you'll work hard, you may complain, but by Friday you'll be planning your next trip back for Advanced Descriptive Bibliography or a more specialized course. 19: Try to get through Bowers but don't expect to understand it until you begin doing the homework. I did get my money's worth; I can't believe I learned so much in one week. Give the lab instructors Friday lunch as free time. 20: Yes. I plan (hope) to return next year. 21: I'm tempted to say that any student coming to RBS should take DesBib as a pre-requisite, but that may simply be the sadist in me. I think if a separate course is constructed (apart from the Advanced course -- the name of which may seem daunting -- I don't feel ready for an "Advanced" course) that students will take it and feel even more confident in their abilities.

Number of respondents: 21


Leave Tuition Housing Travel
Institution gave me leave Institution paid tuition Institution paid housing Institution paid travel
43% 33% 33% 33%
I took vacation time I paid tuition myself I paid for my own housing I paid my own travel
5% 48% 57% 57%
N/A: self-employed, retired, or had summers off N/A: self-employed, retired, or exchange N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home N/A: lived nearby
52% 19% 10% 10%

There were six antiquarian booksellers (28.5%), four rare book librarians, four general librarians with some rare book duties, four full time students (19% each), two book collectors (9.5%) and one teacher/professor (5%).

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