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Rare Book School at the University of Virginia

G-10. Introduction to Descriptive Bibliography

David Gants and Richard Noble

An introduction to the physical examination and description of printed books, especially of the period 1550-1875. Designed both for those with little previous formal exposure to this subject and for those with some general knowledge of the field who wish to be presented with a systematic discussion of the elements of physical description. A major part of the course will consist of small, closely supervised laboratory sessions in which students will practice the determination of format and collation and the writing of standard descriptions of signings and pagination. In daily museum sessions, students will have the opportunity to see a wide variety of printed books and other materials drawn from the extensive Rare Book School laboratory collections.

This course is intended for persons who want to develop a better understanding of the physical description of books, particularly those books produced before about 1850. Each class day is divided into four parts: lecture, homework, lab, and museum. Daily lectures concentrate on methods of determining format and collation, and of describing type, paper, illustrations, binding, and the circumstances of publication. Students prepare for daily laboratory sessions in which they work, under close supervision, with progressively more difficult examples of various formats and collations. During the daily museum periods, students have extensive hands-on access to the celebrated Rare Book School realia collections: tools and equipment, samples and examples, self-teaching packages, and the like.

Course Resources

  • Preliminary Reading List
  • Evaluations for this course:

Course History

2006

David Gants and Richard Noble co-teach this course for the first time.