6-10 March 2006
Julia Blakely, Haven Hawley, David Whitesell
Curator of the Course Museums
1) How useful were the pre-course readings? How successful was the advance use of the DVD, The Anatomy of a Book, as a teaching tool?
1. The pre-readings were invaluable and absolutely essential, not only for their formidable content, but also for preparing to be in an appropriate “book as object” head space for five solid days. Indeed, at points while reading Fredson Bowers’ Principles of Biographical Description for the first time, the only thing that is clear is that the thing you are reading is in fact a book! 2. The pre-course readings were essential: the video was perhaps less so, but wonderful nonetheless as a preview of the course. 3. The pre-course readings were useful and necessary - Bowers in particular. The video was invaluable in allowing me to visualize the production of the various book formats. 4. a. Indispensable. b. Very good and helpful indeed. Especially facsimile sheets for hands-on. 5. The readings were almost impossible to understand before the course. The DVD was useful. 6. The pre-course readings were helpful and not helpful. I am glad I did the reading, but Bowers only made sense to me after the course, once I’d had hands-on experience. Now I think I could read and appreciate Bowers, not before. 7. Very useful/absolutely essential. I found it helpful to read in approximately the order Belanger ("Descriptive bibliography"), Gaskell (New Introduction to Bibliography), Bowers, You could, perhaps, skip Stoddard, Marks in Books. 8. The pre-course readings were immensely useful - Gaskell and Bowers especially. Make sure you read both before class starts, as you will constantly refer to them throughout the week. 9. Very useful, but I wish there had been included some of the discussion of historical material on bibliography since (say) McKerrow, An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students, to situate Bowers (and Gaskell) in their contexts. 10. Readings and tape were very useful. But I do think I would have found some [of] the reading a bit more baffling if I hadn’t already been doing some rare book cataloging. 11. The readings and the tape were very clear and helpful. It is necessary to prepare yourself for this class. 12. Reading reference tools is deadly. DVD was good but very elementary. 13. The pre-course reading was essential. TB’s essay provides a useful introduction before approaching Bowers. The video served as an unnecessary review. It might have been more useful to watch before doing the reading. 14. Helpful. Bowers was difficult to understand without examples, but the first reading helped when I then got to class.
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. Absolutely, especially in the organization of the reference materials by subject. 2. The exit reading list should be very useful, and the course museums packet acts as a good reminder of the individual examples. 3. The reading list will prove extremely useful as a starting point for further investigation. 4. Exceptionally so. 5. The workbook and museum book were useful and I expect them to continue to be useful. I am very happy to have the exit reading list and expect to use it. 6. Yes, very much so (although the exit reading list is a bit overwhelming). 7. Exit list of tremendous utility...particularly helpful when instructors could say “See #xx on your exit list”, rather than waste class time to copy a citation. 8. All materials distributed were most useful. I found the index to Bowers particularly helpful, and I referred to it constantly. I also appreciated having a bound copy of the museum catalogs, which were very instructive. 9. I anticipate getting a great deal out of the exit list.10. YES. 11. Yes. I am going to share the books, syllabus, and handouts with my colleagues at work. 12. Yes. 13. The exit reading list should be quite useful in the future. 14. Yes, I plan to obtain several items when I get home.
3) What aspects of the course content were of the greatest interest or relevance for your purposes? Was the intellectual level of the course appropriate?
1. I found the History of Bibliography/Bowers fascinating, and particularly useful for my thesis preparation. Likewise, simply interacting with other members of my class/legion/cohort has been immensely valuable to a young scholar at the start of her career. 2. The Museums were illuminating as tangible examples of what can seem very abstract processes; the homework/labs were the most relevant aspect of the course for my work as a librarian. 3. The intellectual level was appropriate. The hands-on experience collating books will be of the greatest professional help. Also, the printing press demonstration was helpful in allowing me to visualize the process. 4. a. Really all. But I do tend to use any tool I have, sometimes without regard to its intended purpose. b. Yes. 5. I found it all interesting. While I was intimidated by the pre-course reading and the fact that I am the only non-librarian in the group, I found the level of the actual course perfect. 6. The hands-on descriptive part and also learning about the different bibliographies that exist. 7. The first two Museums were perfectly timed. Museum 1 helped clarify my reading of Bowers before the 1st homework. Paper Museum was a treat, but helped considerably with c19/more difficult examples. 8. The intellectual level of the course was most appropriate - the material was challenging, and we were constantly encouraged to look not just for “the answer” but better answers. 9. The activity of working out collations, signing formulae, &c. were most useful. 10. Format and collation were of greatest relevance to me; thus, I found the labs and homework to be the most useful portion of the class. Intellectual level was appropriate. 11. The intellectual level of the course was appropriate. What I wanted was experience with working with rare books, their construction, their challenges. 12. Collational formulas, and yes. 13. The level of the course was appropriate. 14. Intellectual level appropriate. Greatest interest for me were Museums and labs.
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. Museums offered a wonderful opportunity to approach material individually while under the watchful eye of lab instructors and MM, who were terrific resources for explanations/anecdotes. My only difficulty was in initially recognizing the independent nature of the Museum on the first day - it was somewhat unclear whether the Museum counted as assigned activity similar to homework. 2. The Museums and catalogs were gripping, the more so as much of rare books librarianship centers on controlling how material is handled - it was a delight to be encouraged to examine and handle materials. 3. The Museums served to highlight and bring out certain aspects of the course - especially some of those things discussed in Gaskell (type, paper, etc.). I thought the session on different bibliographies was the least helpful, as I was already acquainted with a great many of them. 4. a. Greatly. b. For the first one, some advance notice of which exhibits were “hands-on” would have been nice, as the opportunity to fold paper comes so rarely in the lifetimes of most. 5. It was helpful to see objects and processes that I was reading about. I plan to keep and refer back to the catalogs. 6. Fewer items in the Museum! There was so much to look at that I felt like I had to either look at everything really fast, or else skip over things with the concern that I has missed something really important. 7. See number three. The prepared spiral-bound take-home Museum catalog helped me get through the Museums quickly, so as not to waste time copying information from labels and in planning my time generally. 8. The Museums were a wonderful break in the day. I really appreciated the time they afforded for individual study. All of the items on display there were discussed with insight and clarity. 9. Museums were great - I wonder if having the Examples Museum first might have been more useful than having it last, so that one has a clearer idea of the pitfalls of bad work and the virtues of good. 10. I found the Museums helpful, but I think it should be explained on [the] first day of class that these are “a la carte” affairs, as I felt a little unsure [of] how to approach it the first day. The material was certainly interesting, especially as there was such a variety. 11. I think the Museums were too long; one hour would have been sufficient for me. The objects were interesting and offered us an opportunity to look [at] and touch items we usually don’t see. The catalog will be very useful for future reading. 12. Substantially. 13. The Museums were great, particularly Paper and Type. The final Museum was overwhelming and should be pared down.
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. Easily the best part of Desbib. JB was exact, precise, thorough and highly approachable, even with what could seem to be a minor but frustrating difficulty. Classrooms with better light would be lovely, but not absolutely necessary. 2. The labs were very useful - probably the part of this course from which I learned the most. 3. The labs were the most helpful and satisfying portion of the course. The instructor was able to render the sometimes abstruse and nebulous Bowers into concrete, practical terms. The labs could only have been improved by being longer - I often felt as if there wasn’t enough time! 4. a. Very. b. Very. 5. The format and collation labs were very successful - the most critical element, in my opinion. I think more labs and less solo work would be better. 6. This was the backbone of the course for me. I would have rather had a final box o’ books (or at least one or two new books) to do Thursday evening and have normal lab on Friday and folded the transcription exercise into lecture on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Lecture topics could have been consolidated. I loved our lab and our instructor was great. Haven Hawley: 7. Very successful ...we tended to prefer closer examinations of more difficult volumes - six books, then, was a lot...books w/easy collations were welcome if only to spend more time on more interesting examples. 8. The labs were fabulous - wish that we had a bit more time (we were often tempted to stay longer). HH possesses an impressive understanding of the mechanical processes underlying the printing of text. I was most grateful for her in-depth comments on gripper marks, paper weights, and inking practices. Thank you! David Whitesell: 9. Labs were painful and humiliating in the kindest possible way (no humiliation came from DW or my fellow students), and intensely interesting and enlightening. Very successful in short, and DW is a wonderfully informed and kindly teacher. 10. Labs were excellent. My only suggestion - and this is just my own area where I feel somewhat inadequate - is that you do a little more with interpreting chain lines and watermarks, especially in determination of format, because I still find that quite difficult sometimes. 11. The format and collation labs were great. We had the opportunity to work on each book individually during homework, then we got together in lab and went over the material together. DW is a wonderful and generous instructor. 12. Very successful! And inspiring! 13. The labs were the highlight of the course. Hands-on experience reinforced and clarified concepts covered in readings and lectures. 14. Very successful. Lab instructor was knowledgeable, patient, clear in explanations. Longer lab sessions would have been good.
6) What did you like best about the course?
1. Fondling, examining, handling, and generally molesting actual books. There’s no substitute for it. 2. I especially enjoyed the tangible aspects of the course - the paper lab, the collating exercises, having a chance to try printing on a press, everything that I wouldn’t learn about the book as object by reading about the book as object. 3. The labs. It was extremely satisfying being able to apply all of the pre-course readings into a hands-on experience. The printing press demonstration proved a close second. 4. I liked how it was structured so that we were in small groups for the high-detail portions of the course. 5. No single thing - they all work together to make the seemingly incomprehensible actually make sense. 6. The homework and talking about it in the lab. 7. Homework and labs - no substitute for actually working with books and familiarizing myself through examples. 8. What struck me most about the course was the tools it provided: this is an over-achiever’s dreamland, and if you want to look at every leaf and sewer’s mark, you probably won’t be the only one doing so. Operating within the rigorous and very exact model of Bowers’ collational formulas, the class affords a wonderful amount of intellectual freedom; one is encouraged to be creative in finding better and more useful ways in reconstructing the physical processes underlying the physical book. The hands-on research is thus a most exciting opportunity to play Sherlock Holmes, book detective! 9. Homework. 10. Labs. 11. I liked finding out what I didn’t know and what I did know. The instructors and students at the school are wonderful. The homework was difficult to do because of being tired and overwhelmed, but it is absolutely necessary. 12. Homework and labs and lectures. 13. As stated above, the labs were great. 14. Museums, homework, labs. Chance to use actual materials with [a] wide variety of issues.
7) How could the course as a whole have been improved?
1. The lectures at times seemed rather unnecessary, as much of the material covered might have been better explained in a structured (i.e., instructor-led) Museum. Likewise, the final lecture summarizing the history of Desbib at times devoted too much to restatement/quotation. Perhaps assigning a preliminary article (Printers of the Mind?) would better clarify the state of the field or enable a class discussion. 2. The lectures could - I hesitate to suggest this - focus on reading assignments (articles, examples, &c.) to center the classes more clearly on particular topics? Also perhaps a discussion session? 3. The Museum sections could have been shortened or reconfigured to allow for more lab time. Also, I’d recommend making the printing press demo a required part of the course. 4. Perhaps a little better/closer connection of lecture and content to lab topic. Also, I would have liked the instructors to go a little more into what are and are not meaningful clues to a book’s structure, and the implications of such clues, i.e. what they mean. Sort of like what DG said about paper early on. (If there are other kinds of clues that could yield fruit.) 5. More flexibility between Museum and homework time. 6. I sometimes felt over-scheduled and thus had to forego one extracurricular activity or another because I either had to eat or had to rest or both. I think the extracurricular activities will have to wait for when I take a course with less homework than Desbib. But I really liked the homework. Also, my group had the huge free period on the first day - but I wonder if there’s a more profitable way to fill that space. We weren’t quite sure what to do yet. 7. Prefer four hard, finely-worked descriptions rather than six. It was helpful, for example, to have books with rather expected/uninteresting collations but erratic pagination as homework on “pagination” day. 8. Suggest movies to watch during the “free”periods. Any recommendations would be better than none! 9. See first question. Lectures would have been better if there had been reading to do before-hand, but it’s simply not possible to do more reading on the spot, and adding to the preliminary reading list probably wouldn’t fly...10. I guess this really hinges on what one considers descriptive bibliography to be. I professionally am not concerned with type, so that section, while mildly interesting, was not of as immediate practical relevance as, say, more labs. But I understood that in the broader world of Desbib, type is a topic that should be covered. 11. I thought the transcription class and lab were unnecessary. Either do a lab with the instructor or do a lecture, not both. My time was not well-spent at that time. I thought Richard Noble and David Gants made a great teaching team but by Friday afternoon the “cult of Bowers’ is getting pretty thin. 14. Sometimes the slot allowed for eating/bathroom runs was a bit tight!
8) If you attended the Sunday and/or Monday night lectures, were they worth attending?
1. Yes, but the first day of Desbib is so exhausting that as good as the Monday lecture was, it simply became yet another thing to do. 2. The lecture was lots of fun - I went to be polite and came away happy I’d gone, surely preferable to the opposite! 3. The Monday night lecture was certainly worth attending, although it was difficult fitting in the homework and eating dinner. 4. Yes. 5. I attended both and yes, they are worth attending. 6. Yes, I found them interesting, and it was nice to see the Rotunda. I didn’t feel like I had time to see the Jane Eyre exhibition that the lecture was about, though.7. Absolutely - though it was a squeeze with homework. 8. Both the Sunday and Monday lectures were wonderful to hear. TB and John Buchtel were wonderful and articulate and most entertaining to watch - their arguments, persuasive as always. 9. TB [is] always worth hearing - for the style alone. John Buchtel enthusiastic but a bit lightweight - his thoughts on pedagogical possibilities interesting. 10. Sunday was. From a Desbib perspective, even though the Monday lecture was interesting, I’d have preferred to use that time for homework. 11. Absolutely! 12. Sunday, I don’t know, not present. Monday [drawing of unhappy face]. 13. The Monday night lecture was interesting and certainly worth attending. Unfortunately I could not attend on Sunday. 14. Monday night lecture was wonderful.
9) If you attended Museum and Video Nights, was the time profitably spent?
1. I did homework! 2. Too busy with homework! 3. N/A. 4. Yes. 5. N/A. 7. Spent on homework and/or in the emergency room. 8. I spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights engaged doing homework for the class. Beware: you will want a good supply of note paper and pencils and a lot of patience for the homework! 10. Since we had Museums as part of class, I did not attend Museum Night. 12. Yes. 14. Yes; I do wish the Museums for Day One (Case Studies) could also have been out on the extended time.
10) Did you get your money’s worth? Any final thoughts?
1. Be prepared for an incredible amount of work, including several twelve-hour days. The work is very rewarding, but it is exhausting! 2. Yes, and more. My only advice for other students: do your reading beforehand! (and try to find the baby pictures of Bowers in the downtown bookstores!). 3. Definitely got my money’s worth. Do the readings - especially Chapter Five of Bowers. 4. Yes. 5. Yes. 6. I thought the experience was great overall. I would definitely come to RBS again. 7. Yes. Do the reading well enough to have it make sense and come together on the first day so you are prepared for the homework. There is no time for hand holding. 8. Absolutely! This course is fantastic. RN and DG are a fantastic team - RN always eloquent and brilliant. Also experienced - one can almost see the dust of 500 years on his shoulders. DG was able to go into great detail about practical ways of gathering and publishing data related to production practices. Again, the two (DG and RN) were very good at pacing the lectures so that there was an excellent balance to the presentation of the materials. Thanks for making this happen! This was a most enlightening experience. 9. Yes! Advice: try working out a few collational formulae before you come, if you can have access to hand-press books. 10. Definitely a worthwhile learning experience. I hope to do it again. 11. Yes, I did get my money’s worth. I hope to attend again. What I have said to others is that this course kicked my butt - and it was worth it. 12. Yes. Highly recommended. 13. Yes. 14. Absolutely. My only advice would be to do the reading, don’t panic when it makes little sense, and then let it fall into place when you begin work.
Number of respondents: 14
Leave Tuition Housing Travel
Institution Institution Institution Institution
gave me leave paid tuition paid housing paid travel
0% 57% 50% 43%
I took vaca- I paid tui- I paid for my I paid my own
tion time tion myself own housing travel
7% 7% 36% 29%
N/A: self- N/A: Self- N/A: stayed N/A: lived
employed, re- employed, with friends nearby
tired, or had retired, or or lived at
summers off exchange home
7% 29% 7% 7%
There were seven rare book librarians (50%); one archivist/manuscript librarian (7%); one general librarian with some rare book duties (7%); one full-time student (7%); and four students with “other” occupations (29%): “Acquisitions librarian with some rare book handling (not processing) duties,” “personal interest and exploring career change,” “non-professional in manuscripts unit,” and “Curator.”