Assignment 1: Bibliographic Description

Sample Entries:

Here are some entries you might want to look at as examples of successfully completed first assignments:

Help Documentation

by Marija Dalbello, revised by John Unsworth

The two most important pieces of advice for this assignment: First, read Chapter 3 of Williams & Abbott, on Descriptive Bibliography. Second, become acquainted with the excellent Library staff in Special Collections. You can walk in any time they're open, but you should also come informed about what you can and can't do there, so have a look at their "Planning a Visit" page before you set out to do hands-on research with the collection. These friendly experts can help you figure out if Archives and Special Collections hold a first edition of your book, or interesting other editions, or manuscripts, or other pertinent materials. We probably do, because UVa Special Collections are especially strong the purposes of this class thanks to the Clifton Waller Barrett collection and the Taylor Family Collection. You might even want to read their blog: Notes from Under Grounds, which includes some guest entries by students, like this piece on our Hobo Collection.

NB, on the chance that we don't have a first edition of your book, you do not need a first printing of a first edition to complete this assignment, just any printing of the first edition. You could conceivably a first edition of your book in the library's circulating collections, and in many cases you can buy a copy at a reasonable price on Abebooks. One way or another, though, you need to lay hands on a first edition for this assignment, because you have to provide a bibliographic description of that edition, using the categories identified by the assignment form, and deploying some specialized new vocabulary. An itemized list of all the sources consulted, with indication of their usefulness for your assignment, needs to be submitted via Collab no later than midnight on the day the assignment is due. More detailed help for each section of the assignment follows:

1. First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.):

Please provide a description for the first edition of the novel you are describing (the copy in hand), formatting the citation as follows:

Author's name (direct order). Title: Subtitle(s). Place: Name of Publisher, Date.

Additional information to include here:

  • copyright statement (who holds the copyright; if there are more than one copyright statements, list them all and identify those who hold it)
  • parallel first editions: National Union Catalog (green volumes found in every reference collection of a major library) will give you indication of the first Canadian edition, British edition, in addition to the first American edition that you are describing (published in the same year). You may also consult WorldCat. Privately printed first editions count as parallel first editions, for the purpose of this assignment, even if they precede the first trade edition.

In addition to resources listed on the LibGuide for this course, first editions can be identified using:

Edward Zempel, and Verkler, Linda A. First Editions: A Guide to Identification. 3rd ed. Peoria: Spoon River Press, 1995.
which should be on reserve, in Clemons, for this class.

You may also want to consult AbeBooks, or local used and rare booksellers like Heartwood Books, Blue Whale Books, or Frank Gilliam Rare Books.

2. First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

In the likely case that your first edition is published in cloth, without a simultaneous or staggered paperback edition, then here you just state that the first American edition is published in trade cloth binding; the description of the binding itself is included in Question 11. You may also choose to say the first edition is published in hardcover, rather than cloth, if your first edition is not cloth-covered, but is hard-back (for example, if it is bound in a hard cardboard cover).

3. JPEG image (of cover art from first edition, if available): The inclusion of images in your entry is optional, but it does increase the usefulness of your entry, in this assignment in particular, where you can provide an image of cover art, sample illustration, sample chapter page, and title page of your novel (in response to questions 7,9, and 13). With access and permission, you can use your phone's camera to take these pictures or (for cover art, especially) you may be able to find existing images online. Best of all, Special Collections has or can produce the images, during the course of the semester. Once you (or Special Collections) have created the digital image,

  • copy the file onto the computer where you will open the assignment (if you have the choice, a medium resolution is fine)

  • open the assignment form online

  • The "Choose File" buttons on the assignment form allows you to select the image that is saved on your computer

  • Once chosen, the file will be uploaded and linked to your entry when you submit the assignment form.

You can add additional illustrations with legends and commentaries in Add Supplementary Materials section, which allows you to add up to 5 additional images, with descriptions. Note that you need not limit yourself to illustrations, but can include documents (such as correspondence with Special Collections curator that helped you find the original manuscript, etc.)

4. Pagination:

The statement of pagination and should identify the total number of leaves, followed by a listing of all pagination sequences:

305 leaves, pp. [8] [i] ii-xv [xvi] xvii-xxiv 1-304 [2] 305-350 [2] 351-453 [2] 454-555 [556] [16]

The bracketed numbers are those that are not listed on the pages, but can be inferred because they are part of a pagination sequence. Pages that are unnumbered and are not implicitly part of a numbering sequence (for example, 8 unnumbered pages before the page that is explicitly or implicitly numbered i or 1) can be indicated as a total number in brackets (e.g., [8]), at the point they occur in the sequence of pages. Unnumbered plates facing particular pages are also listed in the statement of pagination (represented as [2] parts of the sequences above). They will be included in the pagination statement in the order in which they appear. Question 6 calls for identifying the authors, and the position of each plate in the item. Looseleaf endpapers (usually of a different paper stock, often of a different color, identifiable because they are identical to the paper glued to the inside of the front and back cover, if any) are properly part of the binding, not part of the printed matter in the book, and therefore they are not included in the leaf-count or in pagination. They should be noted in the section on binding, instead.

5. Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

Just note whether there is introductory material, describe the nature of the material briefly, and state its connection to the work. You may also indicate the presence of publishers advertisements bound with the work (at end), note what is advertised (series, etc.). Dedications, author's notes, etc. should be described here.

6. Illustrated? If so, by whom?

Your illustrations may be plates inserted on glossy paper stock, reproduced from drawings or as illustrations inserted in the novel. Describe them in terms of the type (plate, vignettes, illustrated end papers), indicate where they are found (e.g., on p. vi, facing p. 304), the type of illustration (drawing, photographic, etc.), the chromatic features (black and white, sepia, color). You may also include any information about the nature of illustrations. You should list captions found with the plates and any other textual information found with the plates. For example:

Sepia plates facing p. 304, 350, and 453 are illustrated by Frederic Miller; vignette illustrations on p. vi, and [556]. Maps on end papers.

7. JPEG image of sample illustration, if available:

See instructions for Question 3

8. General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?):

Note the following: size of the page and size of the text (measure the height and width of the text to convey the sense of the margins). You may add your subjective response to the readability features which objectively depends on size of margin, type wear, cracking, spacing between the lines, type size). Also indicate the position of the illustration and legend on the plates.

Express the size of type by measuring 20 lines of text in millimetres (20 lines is an arbitrary unit taken by bibliographers), and classify the type faces as roman. You will get a measurement followed by R (for roman typeface), e.g. (78R which means that the book is printed in roman type, 20 lines of which measure 78 millimetres in depth). NB: "roman" here does not refer to a particular typeface, but rather to a whole family of fonts--the alternative family is Gothic. Almost all printed books produced after the 16th century use a roman typeface.

You may go on to further describe typography. You will note any description of type in the book itself (verso of t.p., colophon). If that information is not available, using Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography (1972, 9), you can identify whether you have serif or sans serif type and whether there are differences in the typographic presentation of the text, chapter headings, title pages, legends for plates. You may use find online tools for designers, like Linotype's Font Identifier or Identifont useful in identifying (or at least narrowing down) typefaces.

9. JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available:

see instructions for Question 3

10. Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?):

The simplest description of paper will indicate color (white, almost always), smooth or glossy (smooth, almost always), straight or deckle edge (and the edge may not be the same on the top/bottom vs. the side).

More particularly, your books may be on wove paper (with even, granulated texture), which does not have chainlines and wiremarks. You need not indicate the paper size which was used for folding the gatherings, but if your book is made of paper with imitation chain lines to make it look like laid paper, please note that.

Note the texture of the paper, coloring (and discoloration, if you can compare two copies in different state of preservation). Please note if book consists of different paper stocks. So, if your plates are on glossy stock, which differs from the paper used in the rest of the book, note this here. Also note the preservation state of the paper of the examined copy here (foxing, stains, tears).

The most comprehensive reference book on paper is: E.J. Labarre's Dictionary and Encyclopaedia of Paper and Paper-Making. Christopher Biermann, Handbook of Pulping and Papermaking, chapter 7, "Paper and its Properties" helpful: it is on the Collab site for this course.

11. Description of binding(s):

For the description of the binding, please note the features of the binding, and note if you have a dust jacket, if anything is laid in (publishers' notice, errata leaf, etc.) which is integral to this edition. All the notes that are copy-specific should be given in Question 15).

Describe the binding in terms of the material, color, ornamentation, addressing

  • Material (probably cloth; optionally, you may find the grain type in Gaskell's A New Introduction to Bibliography (1972, 241-244)

  • Color (use colors listed in Gaskell's A New Introduction to Bibliography (1972, 238) which is based on ISCC-NBS Bureau of Standards scheme); only refer to hues, value modifiers (lightness), and neutral shades; omit chroma modifiers (saturation) and value and chroma combinations (lightness features). Do not use the abbreviated forms.

  • Stamping (use colors as listed above; add bind and gilt). If the binding is signed (e.g., DD would be stamped to indicate Decorative Designers), note the initials in your description.

  • Illustrations: If you have (colored, paper) illustrations pasted on blocked binding, note this. Indicate the staining of gilting of the edges (top, front, all; in red, dark blue) or gilt).

  • Endpapers (note if illustrated, on colored paper, indicate the color).

  • Transcribe information found on the spine, front and back cover. You do not need to follow the conventions for title-page transcription here, though you might indicate whether text is vertical or horizontal on the spine.

12. Transcription of title page:

Transcribe both the recto (front) and the verso (back) of title page, in two sections. Follow the rules of transcription set out in Gaskell's A New Introduction to Bibliography.

13. JPEG image of title page, if available:

see instructions for Question 3

14. Manuscript Holdings

Manuscripts of living authors may be in the possession of their authors or publishers or collectors or archives. Manuscripts of dead authors are likely to be in someone's collection or archive, but not always--bestselling authors don't always leave an archival trace. So, how to proceed? First, consult ArchiveGrid. If that fails, check Google (try "[your title]" "finding aid"). You could also write the (living) author, or--if everything else has failed--you could @AskArchivists on Twitter.

15. Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

Add here the transcription of the colophon (if applicable), any copy-specific information, and other notes on the physical description of the item that you cannot fit elsewhere. You may use this space to provide a more detailed description of the dust-jacket, including text (blurbs, etc.) on the flyleaf, front or back.

Copy-specific information refers to any inscriptions or items added to this copy. Note if the copy is inscribed copy, dedication copy. Transcribe the inscription as found, with dates and where found (on free front end paper, flyleaf, title page), etc. You may include the call number for the copy you are consulting, if it is in UVa's Special Collections.

You may include your own comments as to the significance of the inscription, or copy specific features. These features may indicate the patterns of reading, link the book to previous owners, or indicate the transaction in which this book is involved (e.g. presented for Christmas), which is also informative as to the physical interaction of the reader with the book. You may also note library stamps or processing information, if applicable. This information is known in bibliographic description as information on provenance.

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