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Tanselle Introduction To Bibliography Maker

Last revised 29 June 2011

1. Guidelines for Editors of Scholarly Editions
1.1. Principles
1.2. Sources and Orientations
1.2.1. Considerations with Respect to Source Material
1.2.2. The Editor's Theory of Text
1.2.3. Medium (or Media) in Which the Edition Will Be Published
2. Guiding Questions for Vetters of Scholarly Editions
3. Glossary of Terms Used in the Guiding Questions
4. Annotated Bibliography: Key Works in the Theory of Textual Editing

1. Guidelines for Editors of Scholarly Editions

1.1. Principles

The scholarly edition's basic task is to present a reliable text: scholarly editions make clear what they promise and keep their promises. Reliability is established by

  • accuracy

  • adequacy

  • appropriateness

  • consistency

  • explicitness

—accuracy with respect to texts, adequacy and appropriateness with respect to documenting editorial principles and practice, consistency and explicitness with respect to methods. The means by which these qualities are established will depend, to a considerable extent, on the materials being edited and the methodological orientation of the editor, but certain generalizations can be made:

  • Many, indeed most, scholarly editions achieve reliability by including a general introduction—either historical or interpretive—as well as explanatory annotations to various words, passages, events, and historical figures.

  • Scholarly editions generally include a statement, or series of statements, setting forth the history of the text and its physical forms, explaining how the edition has been constructed or represented, giving the rationale for decisions concerning construction and representation. This statement also typically describes or reports the authoritative or significant texts and discusses the verbal composition of the text—its punctuation, capitalization, and spelling—as well as, where appropriate, the layout, graphic elements, and physical appearance of the source material. Statements concerning the history and composition of the text often take the form of a single textual essay, but it is also possible to present this information in a more distributed manner.

  • A scholarly edition commonly includes appropriate textual apparatus or notes documenting alterations and variant readings of the text, including alterations by the author, intervening editors, or the editor of this edition.

  • And finally, editors of scholarly editions establish and follow a proofreading plan that serves to ensure the accuracy of the materials presented.

1.2. Sources and Orientations

1.2.1. Considerations with Respect to Source Material

  • Is the date of the material known? For example, in William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, because the work itself bears no date, the date and its place in the author's oeuvre have to be inferred, and on such inferences other editorial decisions (decisions based, for example, on authorial intentions, which may vary over time) may depend. More generally, the location of a text in time and place may influence the editorial representation of a text.

  • Is there an author?La chanson de Roland, for example, took a specific written form after a long life as a heroic poem or poems delivered orally from memory. Folktales, which may or may not originate with individual authors, are usually known to editors only in forms that have been shaped by transmission through communities of performers and listeners. W. B. Yeats and Georgiana Yeats claimed to have taken dictation from the spiritual world. Sacred texts are often attributed to divine authors or divinely inspired human authors.

  • Is the author known? Authorship has been one of the most powerful and influential categories of textual criticism, where the "authority" of a text has often been determined by its convenient proximity to a known author writing in a specifiable time and space (traditionally, texts that come from an author's hand, such as an autographic manuscript, tend to have more authority in an edition than texts published after the author's death). When a text (for example, Lazarillo de Tormes) has no known author in the modern sense, or when authorship has been collaborative or communal, or when texts have taken shape over an extended period of time, editorial decisions must be based on other grounds.

  • Is there more than one author? For example, Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher collaborated in writing over a dozen dramatic works between 1606 and 1616, such as The Knight of the Burning Pestle; in addition to working together, these two writers also corrected and collaborated on texts with numerous other playwrights, including William Rowley, Philip Massinger, Thomas Middleton, and Ben Jonson, making it difficult, if not impossible, to assign authorship in some of these works to any one specific individual. Harriet Mill's role in the authorship of J. S. Mill's Autobiography might be labeled coauthorship; Theodore Dreiser sometimes revised his novels on the advice of a circle of family, friends, and associates. Max Perkins might be considered the coauthor of the novelists he edited as an employee of Scribner's—most notably Thomas Wolfe, whose published novels bear little resemblance to the manuscripts that Wolfe turned over to Perkins.

  • If there is an author (or authors), how far back in the process of authorship is source material available? For example, there are no surviving manuscripts or working drafts for the majority of Daniel Defoe's more than 250 works, including his novels, such as Moll Flanders and Robinson Crusoe. The editor must rely instead on printed texts produced during Defoe's lifetime as the earliest sources.

  • Does the author play any other roles in producing the object being edited? For example, Vladimir Nabokov translated his own early works from Russian into English, at a later point in his career; Blake printed and watercolored his illuminated books with the assistance of his wife, Catherine; Charles Dickens became his own publisher, first as an editor of Bentley's Miscellany, then as founder and editor of Household Words and All the Year Round.

  • How many other people are involved in producing the object being edited, and what are their roles? For example, John Wilmot, the earl of Rochester, never published any of his works during his lifetime. Some of his poems were printed without his authority in songbooks and miscellanies, and they were widely circulated and preserved in manuscript copies. The subsequent posthumous editions gathered together many of these scattered pieces, but a modern editor must untangle the numerous variations found in the verses collected from these various manuscript and unauthorized printed versions. Another example would be the famously vexed case of James Joyce's Ulysses, drafted in longhand, typed by a typist, typeset by printers who spoke no English, and reset as many as five times, after Joyce's editing of page proofs.

  • Is it important, and is it feasible, to reproduce the material sources in facsimile as part of the edition? A facsimile reproduction of an author's manuscript (or diary, or letters, or draft of an unpublished poem or novel) may make it easier to follow the process of composition than any translation of the manuscript into typographic form. For example, recent editors of Emily Dickinson have argued that something important is lost when Dickinson's "jottings" on scraps of paper are translated to the more familiar form of printed poems. In principle, it would seem always desirable to reproduce the source material for a scholarly edition in facsimile, but in print editions it is often impractical, and even in electronic editions it may be too expensive, or it may be impossible for lack of permission.

1.2.2. The Editor's Theory of Text

Editorial perspectives range broadly across a spectrum from an interest in authorial intention, to an interest in the process of production, to an interest in reception, and editors may select a given methodology for a variety of reasons. In very general terms, one could see copy-text, recensionist, and best-text editing as being driven by an interest in authorship—but best-text editing might also be driven by an interest in the process of production, along with "optimist," diplomatic, scribal, documentary, and social-text editing. Social-text editing might also be driven by an interest in reception—as "versioning" and variorum editing might be. And, of course, an editing practice that is primarily interested in authorship might very well be interested in production or reception or both—any good editor will be aware of the importance of all these things. However, when an editor has to choose what to attend to, what to represent, and how to represent it, there should be a consistent principle that helps in making those decisions. See the CSE's "Annotated Bibliography: Key Works in the Theory of Textual Editing," below, for further information on editorial methods and perspectives.

1.2.3. Medium (or Media) in Which the Edition Will Be Published

The decision to publish in print, electronically, or both will have an impact on a number of aspects of the edition, on its fortunes, and on the fortunes of its editor. Some questions an editor should consider in choosing the medium of publication:

  • Is the source material itself manuscript, printed, electronic, or a combination of formats?

  • What is the desired or potential audience for the work? Is there more than one audience? Will one medium reach the desired audience more effectively than another?

  • What rights and permissions are required for publication, and do the terms differ by medium?

  • What kind of apparatus can the edition have, and what kind should it have?

  • Are there standard symbols or methods in a given medium for representing the typography, punctuation, or other textual features of the material being edited (Peirce's symbols, Shelley's punctuation, size-of-letter problems, spacing problems)?

  • What is the importance of facsimile material, color reproductions, multiple versions, multiple states, interactive tools in this edition?

  • Working with and from originals is of utmost importance; but some photographic, digitized reproductions make visible certain marks that have deteriorated and are no longer visible to the naked eye, even in the best light. If legibility has been enabled by the photographic or digitizing process, has that fact been explicitly noted to readers?

  • How important is permanence or fixity? How can these qualities be attained?

  • Alternatively, is there a possible benefit to openness and fluidity (for example, the certainty that new material will come to light)?

  • Is there a publisher willing to publish in the medium you choose?

  • How important is peer review (and if it is important, how will it be provided)?

2. Guiding Questions for Vetters of Scholarly Editions

Download the guiding questions.

Title vetted: ___________________________________________________
Edited by: ______________________________________________________
Date vetted: ____________________________________________________
Vetter: _________________________________________________________

For each question listed below, the vetter should enter Yes, No, or Not applicable as appropriate. Vetter should also indicate whether additional comment on this point is made in the attached report.




 See Report

 I. Basic Materials, Procedures, and Conditions



 Has the editor missed any essential primary or secondary materials?



 Has the editor accounted for the interrelations of all relevant texts?


 Have you tested the validity of the genealogy, stemma, or other account of the relevant texts against the collation data and included your findings in the report?



 Have all transcriptions been fully compared by the editor with the original documents, as distinct from a photocopy of those documents?


 If any transcriptions have not been fully compared with the originals, is there a statement in the edition alerting the user to that fact?


 Has someone other than the original transcriber carried out a thorough and complete check of each transcription, whether against the original or a photocopy of the original?


 Have you sampled the transcriptions for accuracy and included the results of that sampling in your report?



 Have all potentially significant texts been collated?


 How many times have the collations been repeated by different people?


 Have you sampled the collations for accuracy and included the results of your sampling in your report?

II. Textual Essay

 Principles and Methods


 If the edition under review is one in a series, have you examined textual essays and vetters' reports (if any) from earlier volumes?


 Does the textual essay provide a clear, convincing, and thorough statement of the editorial principles and practical methods used to produce this volume?


 Does it adequately survey all pertinent forms of the text, including an account of their provenance?

Publication History and Physical Description


 Does it give an adequate history of composition and revision?


 Does it give an adequate history of publication?


 Does it give a physical description of the manuscripts or other pertinent materials (including electronic source materials, if any)?


 Are ways in which photographic or digital reproductions manipulate the text (sometimes leading to greater legibility) plainly described?


 Does it give a physical description of the specific copies used for collation?



 Does the textual essay provide a convincing rationale for the choice of copy-text or base text or for the decision not to rely on either?


 Does it adequately acknowledge and describe alternative but rejected choices for the copy-text or base text?


 If there are forms of the text that precede the copy-text or base text, can they be recovered from the edited text and its apparatus?


 If not, is it practical, desirable, or necessary to make them recoverable?

Changes to the Text


 Does the editor give an adequate account of changes to the text made by authors, scribes, compositors, et cetera?


 Are such changes to the text reported in detail as part of the textual apparatus?


 If such changes are recorded but the record will not be published, has the decision not to publish it been justified in the textual essay?



 Is the rationale for emendation of the copy-text or base text clear and convincing?


 Are all emendations of the copy-text or base text reported in detail or described by category when not reported in detail?


 Are the emendations of the copy-text or base text consistent with the stated rationale for emendation?


 Do the data from collation support the editor's assertion of authority for emendations drawn from the collated texts?


 If the author's customary usage (spelling, punctuation) is used as the basis for certain emendations, has an actual record of that usage been compiled from this text and collateral texts written by the author?


 Have you sampled the edited text and record of emendations for accuracy, and have you included the results in your report?


 Are emendations recorded clearly, avoiding idiosyncratic or ill-defined symbols?

 Illustrations and Typography


 Does the essay somewhere include an adequate rationale for reproducing, or not, the significant visual or graphic aspects of the copy-text or base text?


 Are all illustrations in the manuscript or the printed copy-text or base text reproduced in the edited text?


 If not, are they adequately described or represented by examples in the textual essay?


 Are the visual aspects of typography or handwriting either represented in the edited text or adequately described in the textual essay?


 If objects (such as bindings) or graphic elements (such as illustrations) are reproduced in the edition, are the standards for reproduction—sizing, color, and resolution—explicitly set forth in the textual essay?

 III. Apparatus and Extratextual Materials

 Nature of Collation


 Has a full historical collation been compiled, whether or not that collation is to be published?


 Is the rationale clear and convincing for publishing a selective historical collation (e.g., one that excludes variant accidentals)?


 Does the selective collation omit any category of variants you think should be included or include any you think should be excluded?


 Is the historical collation to be published accurate and consistent?

Textual Notes


 Are the textual notes clear, adequate, and confined to textual matters?

Ambiguous Textual Forms


 Have ambiguous hyphenated compounds (e.g., "water-wheel") in the copy-text or base text been emended to follow the author's known habits or some other declared standard?


 Have ambiguous stanza or section breaks in the copy-text or base text been consistently resolved by emendation?


 Are both kinds of emendation recorded in the textual apparatus to be published?


 For words divided at the end of a line in the edited text and stanzas or section breaks that fall at the end of a page in the edited text, can the reader tell how these ambiguous forms should be rendered when the text is quoted?

Textual Apparatus


 Does the apparatus omit significant information?


 Can the history of composition and/or revision and/or the history of printing be studied by relying on the textual apparatus?


 Is the purpose of the different parts (or lists) in the apparatus clearly explained or made manifest?


 Is cross-referencing between the parts (or lists) clear?


 Is information anywhere needlessly repeated?


 Is the format of the apparatus adapted to the audience?


 Are the materials well organized?

Accuracy of Extratextual Components


 Does the historical introduction dovetail smoothly with the textual essay?


 Has the editor quoted accurately from the edited text in the introduction and the textual essay?


 Has the editor verified references and quotations in the introduction and the textual essay?


 Has the editor checked the author's quotations and resolved the textual problems they present?


 Have you spot-checked to test the accuracy of quotation and reference in the introduction, textual essay, and text, and have you included the results of that spot-check in your report?

Explanatory Notes


 Are the explanatory notes appropriate for this kind of edition—for example, in purpose, level of detail, and number?


 Is there a sound rationale for the explanatory notes, whether or not the rationale is to be made explicit anywhere in the published work?

IV. Matters of Production

State of Completion


 Did you see a final or near-final version of the edition or a substantial sample of it?


 If you did not see final or near-final copy, were you satisfied with the state of completion of the materials you did see?



 Has the editor obtained all necessary permissions—for example, to republish any materials protected by copyright?

Publication Status


 If there is a publisher involved in producing the edition, has the publisher approved the content and format of the edition?


 Has the publisher approved the amount of time needed for proofreading?


 Has the publisher approved the requirements of the edition's design?


 Has the publisher approved cuing the back matter (textual apparatus and notes) to the text of the edition by page and line number (if this is a print edition) or by other unambiguous means (if this is an electronic edition)?


 Has the publisher approved the printer's or other production facility's copy requirements?



 Has ultimate responsibility for maintaining accuracy throughout the production process been clearly assigned to one person?


 Are the proofreading methods sufficient to ensure a high level of accuracy in the published edition?


 If the editor supplies so-called camera-ready copy to the publisher, will it be proofread?


 How many proofreadings are scheduled?


 How many stages of proof are there?


 When a new stage of proof is read to verify changes or corrections, is adequate provision made for ensuring that all other parts of the text have not been corrupted?


 Is there a provision in place for collation or comparison of the first correct stage of proof against the production facility's final prepublication output (e.g., bluelines from a printer or text as rendered for final delivery in an electronic edition)?



 If the edition—whether print or electronic—is prepared in electronic files, are those files encoded in an open, nonproprietary format (e.g., TEI XML rather than Microsoft Word or WordPerfect)?


 Will anyone other than the editor create or edit these files?


 Is the editor directly involved in encoding (e.g., in doing XML markup or in coding for typesetting)?


 If automated processes are applied to the text, is the editor checking the result for unintended consequences?


 If an index or search engine is to be used as part of the edition, will it be checked or tested in detail by the editor?

 Reproduction and Archiving


 Can the edited text be easily republished, excerpted, or repurposed?


 If the edition is printed, is it suitable for photographic reproduction? If it is electronic, does it provide PDF or other pretty-printing output?


 Will all electronic files used in producing the edition be archived?


 Will a correction file be set up and maintained for correcting the text after its initial publication?


 Is the current state of the correction file available to readers of the edition (on the Web, for example, or on request in printed form)?

V. Electronic Editions (see glossary for expansion of abbreviations)

User Interface


 Does the edition include help documentation that explains the features of the user interface and how to use them?


 Does the edition carry a clear statement of the appropriate reuse of its constituent elements, especially those protected by copyright or used by permission?



 Is the text of the edition encoded in an ISO standard grammar, such as XML or SGML?


 Is the XML or SGML applied using relevant community guidelines (e.g., the Text Encoding Initiative guidelines)?


 If the answer to the previous question is no, does the essay on technical methods provide a rationale for departing from community practice?


 Is the edition designed to make its underlying markup (rather than markup that results from a rendering process) available to the reader for examination?

ISO Standard


 Is character encoding in the edition done according to an ISO standard (e.g., Unicode)?


 Are rendering or transformation instructions (e.g., stylesheets) encoded in an ISO standard grammar, such as XSL?


 Does the edition use ISO standard formats (e.g., JPEG, PNG) for the distribution copies of its digital images?


 If there are time-dependent media elements in the edition (e.g., audio or video), are these encoded using ISO standard formats (e.g., MPEG/MP3)?

Distribution Copies


 Are the distribution copies of multimedia elements (image, sound, video) sufficiently high-resolution to allow close study?


 Are ways in which photographic or digital reproductions manipulate the text (sometimes leading to greater legibility) plainly described?


 Are the distribution copies of multimedia elements stored at reasonable file size, given the intended method of distribution?


 Are the sources for those distribution copies archived?


 Are those sources captured at a sufficiently high resolution to allow for the future derivation of higher-resolution distribution copies?



 Does the edition have, and does it validate against, a DTD or schema?


 Is the DTD or schema used in marking up the edition adequately documented (e.g., with a tag library)?


 If the edition includes one or more databases, is referential integrity enforced within the database(s)?


 Are the database schemas documented?


 Are the stylesheets (or other rendering instructions) documented as to their intended effect?

Software and Components


 Is there a definitive and documented method for determining what constitutes the electronic edition?


 Is there a definitive and documented method for determining whether all the constituent elements of the edition actually exist?


 Is technical, descriptive, and administrative metadata provided for all the components of the edition, using a library-approved schema (such as METS)?


 If any software has been uniquely developed for this edition, is source code for that software available and documented?


 Has a copy of the edition and its images, software, stylesheets, and documentation been deposited with a library or other long-term digital object repository?

3. Glossary of Terms Used in the Guiding Questions

The glossary was drafted by Robert Hirst and subsequently revised and expanded by the committee.

accidentals: A collective term invented by W. W. Greg and now widely used to mean the punctuation, spelling, word division, paragraphing, and indications of emphasis in a given text—things "affecting mainly its formal presentation," as he put it ("The Rationale of Copy-Text," Studies in Bibliography 3 [1950–51]: 21). Greg distinguished between the accidentals of a text and its words, or substantives (q.v.). Accidentals and substantives are conceptually important for Greg's rationale of copy-text, which assumes that authors are more proprietary about their words than about their accidentals, while typesetters and other agents of textual transmission (copyists, typists, proofreaders, copyeditors) are the reverse. For this reason, at least for an edition aimed at preserving the author's accidentals as well as substantives, the rationale for choosing a copy-text is first and foremost that, of the available texts, it is the most faithful to the author's accidentals and contains the fewest changes to them by other hands. It is therefore often the first or earliest text in a line of descent, but any author who carefully revised the accidentals (say, in the second edition) might oblige an editor to choose that text rather than an earlier one.

authority: A property attributed to texts, or variants between texts, in order to indicate that they embody an author’s active intention, at a given point in time, to choose a particular arrangement of words and punctuation. Authority therefore always derives from the author, even when author is defined and understood as coauthor, collaborator, or a collective (like the vorticists). Where the author is unknown or uncertain, authority will need to be argued. It is even possible to invert the usual pattern and assign authority to agents who produce variants commonly regarded as unauthoritative, such as typesetters, proofreaders, or reprint publishers—though one hesitates to call such agents "author." However defined, the author produces texts or variants that have authority. Some reprints may be said to have "no authority" because the author had no role in producing them. On the other hand, texts that were set from copy revised by the author are said to contain "new authority," meaning that some of their variants arose from the author's revision. The authority of a holograph manuscript is usually greater than any typesetting of it, but the manuscript's authority at any given point may be superseded if the typesetting incorporates authorial changes—a case of "divided authority."

base text: The text chosen by an editor to compare with other texts of the same work in order to record textual variation among them. Its selection can be to some extent arbitrary, or it can be selected because it is (among the available texts) simply the most complete. Unlike a copy-text (q.v.), it is not assigned any presumptive authority and may not even be used to construct a critical text, serving instead only as an anchor or base to record textual variants.

collation: Comparison. A collation is either the record of the substantive and accidental differences between two or more texts or the act of comparing two or more texts for the purpose of documenting their differences.

copy-text: The specific arrangement of words and punctuation that an editor designates as the basis for the edited text and from which the editor departs only where deeming emendation necessary. Under W. W. Greg's rationale the copy-text also has a presumptive authority in its accidentals (that is, the editor will default to them wherever variant accidentals are "indifferent"—meaning not persuasively authorial or nonauthorial). But copy-text may also designate texts for which no later variants are possible or anticipated. It is now commonplace to designate a manuscript letter that was actually sent as a copy-text for a personal letter. In such cases, emendations of the copy-text would normally consist not of the author's subsequent revisions but solely of elements in the original manuscript that the editor could not, or elected not to, represent in the transcription. Contrary to certain common misconceptions, copy-text does not mean the copy an editor or author sends to the printer, and it need not represent the "author's final intention." Indeed it is more likely to be the author's first draft than the author's final printed revision of a text. Its selection is based on the editor's judgment that the authority of its accidentals is on the whole superior to other possible texts that could be chosen for copy-text.

digital object repository: A means of storing, retrieving, and administering complex collections of digital objects. If the repository is to meet the needs of scholarly editions, it should have a secure institutional basis (like a university research library), and it should have a commitment to long-term preservation, migration, and access. For an example, see http://fedorarepository.org/. 

DTD (document type definition): The set of rules that specifies how the SGML or XML grammar will be applied in a particular document instance.

emendations: Editorial changes in the copy-text or base text. These changes may be made to correct errors, to resolve ambiguous readings, or to incorporate an author's later revisions as found in printed editions or other sources, such as lists of errata, assuming for the moment that the editorial goal is to recover the author's textual intentions. Different editorial goals might well call for emendations of some other kind, but they would all still be editorial changes to the copy-text or base text and would under normal circumstances be reported as part of the editor's accounting of the handling of available evidence.

end-of-line hyphens:

For "Works Cited" lists, see Citation.

"Bibliology" redirects here. For the theological study of the nature of the Bible, see Biblical theology.

Bibliography (from Greek βιβλίον biblion, "book" and -γραφία -graphia, "writing"), as a discipline, is traditionally the academic study of books as physical, cultural objects; in this sense, it is also known as bibliology[1] (from Greek -λογία, -logia). Carter and Barker (2010) describe bibliography as a twofold scholarly discipline—the organized listing of books (enumerative bibliography) and the systematic description of books as physical objects (descriptive bibliography).


The word bibliographia (βιβλιογραφία) was used by Greek writers in the first three centuries AD to mean the copying of books by hand. In the 12th century, the word started being used for "the intellectual activity of composing books". The 17th century then saw the emergence of the modern meaning, that of description of books.[2] Currently, the field of bibliography has expanded to include studies that consider the book as a material object.[3] Bibliography in its systematic pursuit of understanding the past and the present through written and printed documents describes a way and means of extracting information from this material. Bibliographers are interested in comparing versions of texts to each other rather than in interpreting their meaning or assessing their significance. [4]

Bibliography as a field of study[edit]

Bibliography is a specialized aspect of library science (or library and information science, LIS) and documentation science. The founder of documentation, Paul Otlet, wrote about "the science of bibliography".[5][6] However, there have recently been voices claiming that "the bibliographical paradigm" is obsolete, and it is not today common in LIS. A defense of the bibliographical paradigm was provided by Hjørland (2007).[7] The quantitative study of bibliographies is known as bibliometrics, which is today an influential subfield in LIS. [8][9]

Branches of bibliography[edit]

Carter and Barker (2010) describe bibliography as a twofold scholarly discipline—the organized listing of books (enumerative bibliography) and the systematic description of books as physical objects (descriptive bibliography). These two distinct concepts and practices have separate rationales and serve differing purposes. Innovators and originators in the field include W. W. Greg, Fredson Bowers, Philip Gaskell, G. Thomas Tanselle.

Bowers (1949) refers to enumerative bibliography as a procedure that identifies books in “specific collections or libraries,” in a specific discipline, by an author, printer, or period of production (3). He refers to descriptive bibliography as the systematic description of a book as a material or physical artifact. Analytical bibliography, the cornerstone of descriptive bibliography, investigates the printing and all physical features of a book that yield evidence establishing a book's history and transmission (Feather 10). It is the preliminary phase of bibliographic description and provides the vocabulary, principles and techniques of analysis that descriptive bibliographers apply and on which they base their descriptive practice.

Descriptive bibliographers follow specific conventions and associated classification in their description. Titles and title pages are transcribed in a quasi-facsimile style and representation. Illustration, typeface, binding, paper, and all physical elements related to identifying a book follow formulaic conventions, as Bower's established in his foundational opus, The Principles of Bibliographic Description. The thought expressed in this book expands substantively on W. W. Greg's groundbreaking theory that argued for the adoption of formal bibliographic principles (Greg 29). Fundamentally, analytical bibliography is concerned with objective, physical analysis and history of a book while descriptive bibliography employs all data that analytical bibliography furnishes and then codifies it with a view to identifying the ideal copy or form of a book that most nearly represents the printer’s initial conception and intention in printing.

In addition to viewing bibliographic study as being composed of four interdependent approaches (enumerative, descriptive, analytical, and textual), Bowers notes two further subcategories of research, namely historical bibliography and aesthetic bibliography.[10] Both historical bibliography, which involves the investigation of printing practices, tools, and related documents, and aesthetic bibliography, which examines the art of designing type and books, are often employed by analytical bibliographers.

D. F. McKenzie extended previous notions of bibliography as set forth by W. W. Greg, Bowers, Gaskell and Tanselle. He describes the nature of bibliography as "the discipline that studies texts as recorded forms, and the processes of their transmission, including their production and reception" (1999 12). This concept broadens the scope of bibliography to include "non-book texts" and an accounting for their material form and structure, as well as textual variations, technical and production processes that bring sociocultural context and effects into play. McKenzie's perspective contextualizes textual objects or artifacts with sociological and technical factors that have an effect on production, transmission and, ultimately, ideal copy (2002 14). Bibliography, generally, concerns the material conditions of books [as well as other texts] how they are designed, edited, printed, circulated, reprinted, collected.[11]

Bibliographic works differ in the amount of detail depending on the purpose and can generally be divided into two categories: enumerative bibliography (also called compilative, reference or systematic), which results in an overview of publications in a particular category and analytical or critical bibliography, which studies the production of books.[12][13] In earlier times, bibliography mostly focused on books. Now, both categories of bibliography cover works in other media including audio recordings, motion pictures and videos, graphic objects, databases, CD-ROMs[14] and websites.

Enumerative bibliography[edit]

An enumerative bibliography is a systematic list of books and other works such as journalarticles. Bibliographies range from "works cited" lists at the end of books and articles, to complete and independent publications. A notable example of a complete, independent publication is Gow's, A. E. Housman: A Sketch, Together with a List of His Classical Papers (1936). As separate works, they may be in bound volumes such as those shown on the right, or computerized bibliographic databases. A library catalog, while not referred to as a "bibliography," is bibliographic in nature. Bibliographical works are almost always considered to be tertiary sources.

Enumerative bibliographies are based on a unifying principle such as creator, subject, date, topic or other characteristic. An entry in an enumerative bibliography provides the core elements of a text resource including a title, the creator(s), publication date and place of publication. Belanger (1977) distinguishes an enumerative bibliography from other bibliographic forms such as descriptive bibliography, analytical bibliography or textual bibliography in that its function is to record and list, rather than describe a source in detail or with any reference to the source's physical nature, materiality or textual transmission. The enumerative list may be comprehensive or selective. One noted example would be Tanselle's bibliography that exhaustively enumerates topics and sources related to all forms of bibliography. A more common and particular instance of an enumerative bibliography relates to specific sources used or considered in preparing a scholarly paper or academic term paper.

Citation styles vary.

An entry for a book in a bibliography usually contains the following elements:

  • creator(s)
  • title
  • place of publication
  • publisher or printer
  • date of publication

An entry for a journal or periodical article usually contains:

  • creator(s)
  • article title
  • journal title
  • volume
  • pages
  • date of publication

A bibliography may be arranged by author, topic, or some other scheme. Annotated bibliographies give descriptions about how each source is useful to an author in constructing a paper or argument. These descriptions, usually a few sentences long, provide a summary of the source and describe its relevance. Reference management software may be used to keep track of references and generate bibliographies as required.

Bibliographies differ from library catalogs by including only relevant items rather than all items present in a particular library. However, the catalogs of some national libraries effectively serve as national bibliographies (de), as the national libraries own almost all their countries' publications.[15][16]

Descriptive bibliography[edit]

Fredson Bowers described and formulated a standardized practice of descriptive bibliography in his Principles of Bibliographical Description (1949). Scholars to this day treat Bowers' scholarly guide as authoritative. In this classic text, Bowers describes the basic function of bibliography as, "[providing] sufficient data so that a reader may identify the book described, understand the printing, and recognize the precise contents" (124).

Descriptive bibliographies as scholarly product[edit]

Descriptive bibliographies as a scholarly product usually include information on the following aspect of a given book as a material object:

  • Format and Collation/Pagination Statement – a conventional, symbolic formula that describes the book block in terms of sheets, folds, quires, signatures, and pages
According to Bowers (193), the format of a book is usually abbreviated in the collation formula:
Broadsheet: I° or b.s. or bs.
Folio: 2° or fol.
Quarto: 4° or 4to or Q° or Q
Octavo: 8° or 8vo
Duodecimo: 12° or 12mo
Sexto-decimo: 16° or 16mo
Tricesimo-secundo: 32° or 32mo
Sexagesimo-quarto: 64° or 64mo
The collation, which follows the format, is the statement of the order and size of the gatherings.
For example, a quarto that consists of the signed gatherings:
2 leaves signed A, 4 leaves signed B, 4 leaves signed C, and 2 leaves signed D
would be represented in the collation formula:
4°: A2B-C4D2
  • Binding – a description of the binding techniques (generally for books printed after 1800)
  • Title Page Transcription – a transcription of the title page, including rule lines and ornaments
  • Contents – a listing of the contents (by section) in the book
  • Paper – a description of the physical properties of the paper, including production process, an account of chain-line measurements, and a description of watermarks (if present)
  • Illustrations – a description of the illustrations found in the book, including printing process (e.g. woodblock, intaglio, etc.), measurements, and locations in the text
  • Presswork – miscellaneous details gleaned from the text about its production
  • Copies Examined – an enumeration of the copies examined, including those copies' location (i.e. belonging to which library or collector)

Analytical bibliography[edit]

This branch of the bibliographic discipline examines the material features of a textual artifact – such as type, ink, paper, imposition, format, impressions and states of a book – to essentially recreate the conditions of its production. Analytical bibliography often uses collateral evidence – such as general printing practices, trends in format, responses and non-responses to design, etc. – to scrutinize the historical conventions and influences underlying the physical appearance of a text. The bibliographer utilizes knowledge gained from the investigation of physical evidence in the form of a descriptive bibliography or textual bibliography.[17] Descriptive bibliography is the close examination and cataloging of a text as a physical object, recording its size, format, binding, and so on, while textual bibliography (or textual criticism) identifies variations – and the aetiology of variations – in a text with a view to determining "the establishment of the most correct form of [a] text (Bowers 498[1]).


A bibliographer is a person who describes and lists books and other publications, with particular attention to such characteristics as authorship, publication date, edition, typography, etc. A person who limits such efforts to a specific field or discipline is a subject bibliographer."[18]

A bibliographer, in the technical meaning of the word, is anyone who writes about books. But the accepted meaning since at least the 18th century is a person who attempts a comprehensive account—sometimes just a list, sometimes a fuller reckoning—of the books written on a particular subject. In the present, bibliography is no longer a career, generally speaking; bibliographies tend to be written on highly specific subjects and by specialists in the field.

The term bibliographer is sometimes—in particular subject bibliographer—today used about certain roles performed in libraries[19] and bibliographic databases.

Non-book material[edit]

Systematic lists of media other than books can be referred to with terms formed analogously to bibliography:

Arachniography is a term coined by NASA research historian Andrew J. Butrica, which means a reference list of URLs about a particular subject. It is equivalent to a bibliography in a book. The name derives from arachne in reference to a spider and its web.[20][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^"bibliology". The Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). 1989. 
  2. ^Blum, Rudolf. Bibliographia, an inquiry into its definition and designations. Translated by Mathilde V. Rovelstad. Chicago, Ill.: American Library Association; Folkestone, Kent, England: Dawson, 1980. p. 12. ISBN 0-8389-0146-8.
  3. ^Studies in Bibliography. http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/bsuva/sb/
  4. ^O'Hagan Hardy, M. (2017). Bibliographic enterprise and the digital age: Charles Evans and the making of early American literature. American Literary History, 29(2), 331-351.
  5. ^Otlet, P. (1903). Les sciences bibliographiques et la documentation. Bruxelles, Institut international de bibliographie.
  6. ^Otlet, P. (1903). "The science of bibliography and documentation"2. In Rayward, W.B. (trans. and ed.), (1990), International organisation and dissemination of knowledge: Selected essays of Paul Otlet. FID, Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  7. ^Hjørland, B. (2007). "Arguments for 'the bibliographical paradigm'. Some thoughts inspired by the new English edition of the UDC", Information Research, 12(4) paper colis06. [Available at http://InformationR.net/ir/12-4/colis06.html]
  8. ^McKenzie, D. F. (1999). Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  9. ^Gow, A. S. F. A. E. Housman: A Sketch. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print
  10. ^Fredson Bowers, "Four Faces of Bibliography" Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada 10 (1971):33-4.
  11. ^Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography (2000).
  12. ^Belanger, Terry. "Descriptive Bibliography" Bibliographical Society of America, 2003. Excerpted from Jean Peters, ed., Book Collecting: A Modern Guide (New York and London: R. R. Bowker, 1977), 97–101.
  13. ^Harris, Neil. Analytical bibliography: an alternative prospectus. Chapter 1. Definitions of bibliography, and in particular of the variety called analyticalArchived 2007-10-12 at the Wayback Machine.. Institut d'histoire du livre, 2004.
  14. ^Harmon, Robert B. Elements of bibliography: a simplified approach. Rev. ed. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1989. p. 4. ISBN 0-8108-2218-0.
  15. ^"National Bibliographic Register". Ifla.org. The Hague: International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. Retrieved 1 December 2017. 
  16. ^"National bibliographies and books in print". Help for researchers. British Library. Retrieved 1 December 2017. 
  17. ^Bowers, Fredson (1974). Bibliography (2nd ed.). pp. 978–981. 
  18. ^Reitz, Joan M. (2010). "Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science". abc-clio.com. 
  19. ^"MLA Field Bibliographers". mla.org. Retrieved 2013-10-08. 
  20. ^Staff (2007). Encyclopedia Of Information Technology. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 28. ISBN 81-269-0752-5. 
  21. ^McKenzie, D. F. (2002). Making Meaning: Printers of the Mind and Other Essays. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Blum, Rudolf. (1980) Bibliographia. An Inquiry in Its Definition and Designations, Dawson, American Library Association.
  • Bowers, Fredson. (1995) Principles of Bibliographical Description, Oak Knoll Press.
  • Duncan, Paul Shaner. (1973) How to Catalog a Rare Book, 2nd ed., rev., American Library Association.
  • John Carter; Nicolas Barker (2004). "Bibliography". ABC for Book Collectors (8th ed.). Oak Knoll Press and British Library. ISBN 1-58456-112-2. 
  • Gaskell, Philip. (2000) A New Introduction to Bibliography, Oak Knoll Press.
  • McKerrow, R. B. (1927) An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • Schneider, Georg. (1934) Theory and History of Bibliography, New York: Scarecrow Press.
  • National Library of Canada, Committee on Bibliography and Information Services for the Social Sciences and Humanities, Guidelines for the Compilation of a Bibliography (National Library of Canada, 1987). N.B.: This is a brief guide to accurately practical bibliography, not a study concerning more precise and systematic bibliography.
  • British Museum. Department of Printed Books (1881). Hand List of Bibliographies, Classified Catalogues, and Indexes Placed in the Reading Room of the British Museum for Reference. London: Printed by William Clowes and Sons. 
  • Robinson, A. M. Lewin (1966) Systematic Bibliography; rev. ed. London: Clive Bingley

External links[edit]

Bibliographer workplace in Russia

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