G-10b. Descriptive Bibliography: The Fundamentals (10 hours) - Advance Reading List
The following two works are the foundational texts for this course and provide the background necessary for understanding what the formulary describes. Please have a copy of Bowers on hand during class.
Gaskell, Philip. A New Introduction to Bibliography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972; corrected ed. 1974; several subsequent reprintings with minor corrections; paperback ed. published in 1995 for $39.95 by Oak Knoll Press.
Gaskell describes the processes that produce the books we set ourselves to describe, and some parts of Bowers are virtually incomprehensible without some knowledge of these processes. One possible strategy would be to read all of Gaskell through quickly, then return to the more technical sections, especially those describing type, paper, and printing procedures of the hand-press period.
Bowers, Fredson. Principles of Bibliographical Description. Princeton, 1949; reprinted 1994 (with an introduction by G. Thomas Tanselle) by Oak Knoll Press for $39.95.
Begin by reading the foreword, chapter 1, and Tanselle’s introduction (if you have the Oak Knoll edition). Then go right on to chapters 5, 7 (pp. 269-284), and 12 (pp. 427-438), which cover the basics of the formulary. See also the “Digest of the Formulary” (pp. 457–462). At first encounter they may prove hard to understand. Don’t despair: we will cover the key aspects in class, but you MUST read these chapters ahead of time in order to benefit fully from the course. Once you have an actual book in hand to describe, things become much clearer, so please try to have several pre-1850 books available to practice with during (or immediately after) the course week. If you have time, read as much of the rest of the book as you can, especially pp. 113–123, 255–268, and 285-311. Gaskell offers a concise explanation of format and collation (pp. 321–335), though he deviates from Bowers at several points.
The Anatomy of a Book: I. Format in the Hand-Press Period. Written by Terry Belanger and directed by Peter Herdrich. 1991. 30 minutes. Available on YouTube.
The Making of a Renaissance Book. 1969. 22 minutes. Available on YouTube. An excellent visualization of the hand-press period punchcutting, typefounding, and printing processes described in Gaskell.
Admitted students may request a set of facsimile practice materials from RBS by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note: The workbook will be made available online, and the facsimile practice materials are not a required component of this course. Students who do wish to purchase these materials should be advised that orders placed fewer than two weeks in advance of the course may not arrive prior to the course. Students located outside of the United States must contact RBS for international shipping rates before sending payment.
If you can, it would be helpful to review the workbook and practice with the facsimile sheets, bringing any questions you have to class.
Belanger, Terry. “Descriptive bibliography.” In Book Collecting: A Modern Guide, edited by Jean Peters, pp. 97–115. New York: R. R. Bowker Company, 1977.
This article provides a useful overview of the field and its practice. (The excerpt available on the website of the Bibliographical Society of America omits the part of the essay that is immediately relevant to this course.)
Carter, John. ABC for Book Collectors. London: Hart-Davis, 1952. 9th edition, revised by Nicolas Barker and Simran Thadani. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2016.
The 8th edition (2004) is available free of charge as a PDF. An elegant and witty guide to essential terminology. Use any later edition.
Here is a sample basic bibliographical description of the sort recommended by Bowers:
Feijoó y Montenegro, Benito Gerónimo. Theatro crítico universal. Nueva impresion. Volume IV. Madrid: Imprenta Real, 1773.
4°: a-b8 c4 A-2G8 [$4(-c3,4) signed]; 260 leaves, pp. [I-II] III-XL, 1-478 [479-480] [misprinting 155 as 551, 176 as 276, 272 as 172, and 394 as 294]
Click here for more sample bibliographical descriptions.