Richard Noble

G-50: Advanced Descriptive Bibliography

16-20 July 2012

1)    How useful were the pre–course readings? (Leave blank if you applied and were accepted late for the course, and thus did not get the list in time.)

1: Reading Bowers is very challenging. It is very difficult to understand everything in Bowers until one takes the course. 2: Bowers and Gaskell cover-to-cover are essential. Don't come without having re-read these books. The other readings are useful to understand the history of bibliography, and most certainly a recommendation, but you won't be sunk if you can't get to all of them. 3: The pre-course readings were great. 4: The pre-course readings are essential but difficult. Since this course has a pre-requisite, at least they are familiar. I did not do any additional preparations. 5: Useful. I practiced a bibliographical description before arriving. 6: The pre-course readings are most helpful. They provide a nice re-immersion into Bowers and illuminate the relevant issues in the field (as well as provide one nice example of how one creates a bibliography). I used the articles as "Bowers reading breaks" which was, mentally, a tremendous help. 7: Very pertinent. And all seem to have been landmark/critical pieces by prominent authorities in the field. 8: Extremely essential. Couldn't have done without them. A constant reference. 9: They are essential to this course.

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

1: Definitely, although a wordbook covering Bowers's principles written for a layperson would have been incredibly helpful. 2: Yes. The descriptive bibliography books are illustrative of trickier concepts in Bowers. These are definitely the books one would expect to encounter in a two-week bibliography course if descriptive bibliography were week one. 3: Of most use will be the Bowers introduction and collation chart, but the marked-up copies of articles and bibliographies will definitely reward additional study. 4: Yes. I always keep my RBS workbook and have referred to them in my work. 5: Yes! 6: Absolutely. Everything was (or will be) relevant and most useful. 7: Materials were very useful, particularly the Bowers index, gatherings counter, and example collations. 8: Yes. 9: Yes.

3) Have you taken one or more RBS courses before? If so, how did this course compare with your previous coursework?

1: Yes. I took Introduction to the Principles of Descriptive Bibliography with RN and DW last year. That class was my first experience with collation. I did not learn how to collate books properly until I took Advanced Descriptive Bibliography. 2: There is a good deal of homework outside of class. I stayed the full time each night (i.e., until 9:14) on all three nights this was an option. 3: This is my fifth course. It has been a number of years since I last attended and I am very impressed with continued strengthening ties with Special Collections (SC) at UVA, and with the physical grounds and new spaces, and with the staff and leadership. 4: Yes. It is a continuation/enlargement of Introduction to the Principles of Descriptive Bibliography so the structure and pace was familiar. The descriptive bibliography courses do seem more demanding than others I've taken, but that's not a bad thing. 5: Yes. Very similar to the Introduction to the Principles of Descriptive Bibliography class, but with more theoretical discussions. 6: Yes. Though my only other RBS course was Introduction to the Principles of Descriptive Bibliography—the workload was about the same. (Funny, though, that in spite of the workload, RBS still feels like vacation—I can't imagine what another course would be like!) 7: N/A. 8: The introductory course can't be beaten because of the Museum, however the introduction in this course of a project and a final presentation criticizing a piece of bibliographical work proved a great success too and a fine learning tool. 9: Yes, I took G-10 last year. This is an augmentation of what was learned in that course.

4)    What aspects of the course content were of the greatest interest or relevance for your purposes?

1: Collation and format. 2: The time with the books is of greatest interest and relevance. The instructors realized this was true of most of the students and graciously allowed us more time with the books than was scheduled originally. 3: I absolutely loved loved loved the opportunity to get up close and personal with such a motley assortment of odd (and extremely instructive) book structures. The homework and the labs were great complements to each other, with specific collations prompting usefully wide-ranging lab discussions. 4: I wanted to become more confident in collation so I was glad to get more experience doing that. It was good to have the opportunity to examine books as physical objects. 5: Being able, under the watchful eye of the instructors, to tackle difficult books. 6: The hands-on work with books and lab time for discussion is, without a doubt, the most relevant aspect of this course for me professionally. 7: Pretty much all we do is look at and describe old books. That's what we came for, and that's what we did. 8: Homework, labs, and discussions on bibliographies. 9: The homework.

5)    Did the instructor(s) successfully help you to acquire the information and skills that the course was intended to convey? Was the intellectual level of the course appropriate?

1: Yes. The intellectual level of the course was very high. 2: Yes. In addition to being first-rate professionals, the instructors are also kind and helpful instructors who clearly are excited about this material. 3: Yes. The skills acquired by close examination of markedly different impositions from a wide range of times and places—it can't be overestimated how valuable this is in strengthening my abilities. There is another set of related but somewhat less tangible (but no less important) skills that are fostered in this course: the ability to collaboratively interrogate the cultural artifact. Those of us who work in cultural heritage institutions need such skills to succeed in our positions. 4: Yes. Yes. 5: Yes! Yes, yes, yes! 6: Yes to both. 7: Both RN and ES are absolutely knowledgeable about describing some books, and so were of immediate help during lab sessions. There was not much lecture time. 8: Sure. 9: Resoundingly, yes! Both RN and ES are exceptional instructors.

6) What did you like best about the course?

1: Collating books and getting to know my classmates on a personal level. 2: Getting a chance to work with really instructive materials under the tutelage of two of the most masterful practitioners of bibliography in the world is something we can't do anywhere else, and what I liked best. 3: The selection and analysis of books, where answers are in fact provided, but mistakes are treated more as teachable moments than as faults. Because these books have been selected to demonstrate what's hard, they can be used to interrogate Bowers and his practice. Which is delightful, especially since "the nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them"! 4: Meeting other people who are also interested in descriptive bibliography. Spending time in labs learning how I got it all (or somewhat) wrong! 5: Gaining further confidence and understanding of full bibliographical descriptions. 6: Hands-on work with books and discussion with the lab instructors and my small group. 7: Looking at books, books, and yet more books, and being with instructors with the level of expertise that ours have. 8: The hands-on experience. 9: The quality of the instruction.

7) How could the course have been improved?

1: Allow students more time to collate books. 2: On Wednesday I was questioning the utility of the presentation we were required to undertake, especially when it seemed as if we were going to do these analyses in lieu of examining more books. However, when RN changed the schedule everything fell into place. 3: More books! Could there be optional labs held early? i.e., before the opening of Alderman? Or held later, after Alderman closes? A week is far too short, and me: I can sleep when I'm dead. 4: The classroom was freezing and cramped. Could've used more table space. 6: I swear I think this course could be a two-week course—there were not enough hours in the day for all of the collating and discussing that I would most happily endure. 7: We did focus on collation to the point of exclusion of other parts of a descriptive bibliography. Obviously, things like typography and binding are served by other corners at RBS, but some wider focus on the bibliographic entry, other than the "report" on a descriptive bibliography of whose efficacy as an exercise I was unsure, would be good to see. 9: Perhaps adding another week?

8)    Did you learn what the course description/advertisements indicated you would learn?

1–9: Yes.

9)    Did you learn what you wanted to learn in the course?

1–5: Yes. 6: Yes. I feel very advanced, bibliographically. 7–9: Yes.

10)  How do you intend to use or apply the knowledge or skills learned in this course?

1: I will use the knowledge I have gained in this course in my book. 2: I will use this knowledge to analyze under-catalogued books in my institution's SC and for freelance appraisal work at an auction house. 3: I expect to be in a far better position to help establish page-level descriptive metadata approaches for digitization projects. 4: I hope to use these skills more often at work. 5: Both to help further scholarship and aid my library by doing bibliographical descriptions of rare books. 6: I will directly use the knowledge/skills I learned in examining and describing the physical elements of a book in my daily work (particularly cataloguing). 7: By becoming a rare books librarian, one would hope, but more imminently perhaps is a final Master's degree project in cataloguing rare books. 8: Apply it to my research.

11)  If your made any trips away from your classroom, was the time devoted to this purpose well spent?

1: N/A. 2: Yes. We visited  David Vander Meulen (DVM) at the SC to hear from him firsthand about his analysis of The Dunciad, and to witness collating machines in action. 3: Yes, the trip to SC is very useful, as was the conversation with DVM. 4: Yes. I enjoyed listening to DVM (a real bibliographer at work!) and seeing the collators. 5: Yes. Being able to talk with DVM and seeing a collator in action was nice. 6: (SC/Hinman Collator/DVM session)—yes! This was a fantastic session—one of my favorites. 7: It was beneficial to see the collators at the SC, and the talk from DVM was informative (overly!) 8: It was, most certainly. DVM's presentation of his research and finds on the edition of Pope's Dunciad was fascinating. And operating the mechanical collators, too!

12) If you attended the optional evening events (e.g., RBS Lecture, Video Night, RBS Forum, Booksellers' Night) were they worth attending?

2: I attended two lectures; both were excellent. 3: Yes, absolutely. All of these were worth attending and I learned quite a bit from these outside activities. 4: I always enjoy the lectures. 5: Mostly. Sue Gosin's (SG) talk about paper seemed to focus more on using paper for art than for books. Stuart Bennett's (SB) talk about publisher bindings was fantastic. 6: Yes—I attended all—they were all well worth attending. I particularly enjoyed SB's lecture. 7: Lectures were very worthwhile.

13)  We are always concerned about the physical well-being both of the RBS teaching  collections and of materials owned by the UVA's Special Collections. If relevant, what suggestions do you have for the improved classroom handling of such materials used in your course this week?

1: N/A. 2: None. RBS does an excellent job balancing preservation and access. 4: No. It seems to be under control. 6: The foam cradles were very helpful when examining the books, though I noticed that the books with spines that were coming off (particularly the cloth-bound books) seemed to snag on the foam. 7: You can't get anything better than these "Schwartz frames" [Schwartz supports (RBS-made foam book cradles)]? 8: Instructions as to how to nestle books on cradles—not all books require same angle of opening.

14)  Did you get your (or your institutions) money's worth? Would you recommend this course to others?

1: Absolutely (on both counts)! 2: Yes, 100%. The RBS experience is singular, and this class is the logical extension of Introduction to the Principles of Descriptive Bibliography for those students who want more books at the end of week one. 3: Yes, and yes. 4: Yes. Yes! 5: Yes—yes. 6: Oh yes. And then some. 7: Yes, and yes. Particularly since more and more library schools (including the one at my institution) are doing away with this kind of course work. 8: Yes. Yes.

15)  Any final or summary thoughts, or advice for other persons considering taking this course in a future year? (If you have further RBS praise or concerns, or if you have suggestions for a new course, please contact Amanda Nelsen [] or Michael Suarez [].)

1: Thanks for another wonderful experience! 4: Do not be afraid! I survived—you will too! 5: I hope to return next year. 6: None! Thanks to all for your hospitality, knowledge, and enthusiasm. 7: [written in Greek – ed.] "The man who does not suffer, does not learn."

Number of respondents: 9





Institution gave me leave


7 (78%)


I took vacation time




N/A: self-employed, retired or had the summers off


2 (22%)


I am self-employed

Work has nothing to do with RBS course






Institution paid tuition


6 (67%)


Institution paid tuition ___%




I paid tuition myself


3 (33%)


Exchange or barter




N/A: Self-employed, retired or scholarship





Institution paid housing


6 (67%)


Institution paid for ___% of housing




I paid for my own housing


3 (33%)


N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home







Institution paid travel


5 (56%)


Institution paid ___% of my travel




I paid my own travel


4 (44%)


N/A: lived nearby







There were two antiquarian booksellers (22%), two librarians with some rare book duties (22%), one cataloguer (11%), two other ("I digitized and occasionally do bibliographical descriptions of rare books," "seeking employment") (22%), one full-time student working towards M.L.I.S. (11%), one full or associate university professor (11%)


How did you hear about this course?


RBS Website

3 (33%)


2 (22%) (previous stays at RBS, Harry Ransom Center)


Word of mouth

3 (33%)

RBS faculty or staff recommendation

1 (11%)


Where did you stay?

Brown College: 4 (44%)

Cavalier Inn: 1 (11%)

Courtyard Marriott: 1 (11%)

Red Roof Inn: 2 (22%)

Other: 1 (11%) (Residence Inn)