Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

Sample Entries:

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

Help Documentation

by Marija Dalbello, revised by John Unsworth

In the LibGuide on 20th-Century American Bestsellers, you will find a list of sources that you may wish to consult in researching this assignment. Some of the same sources are listed below--generally, those that can be used live--but you really should have a look at that LibGuide.

An itemized list all the sources consulted, with indication of their usefulness for your assignment, needs to be submitted via Collab to the instructor when the assignment is turned in. Keeping such a log will also be useful as you proceed with your research, ensuring that you have checked the appropriate items and are keeping track of which ones have produced useful information and which haven't.

Note that all sources are limited in scope (timeframe, coverage, etc.) and that you will need to be aware of these limitations as you use the source. Most of the research questions will require consulting more than one source, comparing findings, etc. Also note that when you talk about things like sales figures, whether a book is in print, or other things that could change over time, in your entry you should time-stamp such assertions (e.g., "over a million copies sold as of 2017"). They won't always be true.

1. Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A:

Since your book was, by definition, a bestseller, it is nearly certain to have been issued in more than edition by its original publisher. Abebooks is a good place to start seeing what editions are out there, but a more authoritative source is Worldcat. Use advanced search, specify author and title in normal language order, search, choose an instance (edition) of the title you're researching, choose "view all editions and formats" and stand back. For a more recherché research experience, though, if your title is published before 1956, it could be useful to visit The National Union Catalog, which may highlight information lost in the noise of "all editions and formats.""

An "edition" is distinguished from an "impression" by the fact of being issued from a different setting of type (or plates). Because you cannot inspect all the copies that you will trace bibliographically, you will have to figure this information out from the information given in the bibliographic description. E.g. school edition, limited editions of different types, in addition to the edition aimed at the general public. Note that binding does not count as distinguishing feature, nor the minor difference in illustrations, cover art. But, if you have a significant difference in the number of pages, size of the book, or type of illustrations (e.g. a theatre edition with pictures from the play, and the line drawing illustrations), you have a different edition. You will need to supplement the information uncovered in the bibliographical sources, with book announcements in Publishers' Weekly. And, if possible, have your book with you to compare the edition aimed at the general public to some of these special editions (or their descriptions).

2. JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available:

The inclusion of images in your entry is optional, but it does increase the usefulness of your entry. For detailed instructions on how to prepare and upload scanned images, see the help page for Assignment 1, section 3

You can also add addtional 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, manuscript material, etc.

3. JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available:

See instructions for section 2, above.

4. How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

Your information for this question is likely to be non-definitive, but it could come from some combination of WorldCat,Publishers' Weekly, the National Union Catalogue, Abebooks, and other resources on the Bibliographic Description and Publishing History tabs in the LibGude for this course. Publishers Weekly, for example, will announce several printings and the number of issues in each printing, for a book that was continuously in demand. Try your best to find out how many impressions are issued by the original publisher.

5. Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A:

As under Question 4, you will need to make a census of as many editions that you can identify (by different publishers).

6. Last date in print?

Consult Amazon to see if an edition of the work is still in print. These days, especially with public domain works and print-on-demand, some titles will never be (technically) out of print, if you want them.

Note also if other books of this author are in print now, and use this information either in the Reception History (assignment 4), or the Critical Essay. The life of a bestseller is determined by the public concerns and literary taste of the period. Only some of these sources survive as steady-sellers.

7. Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

This information will be identified through your research in Publishers' Weekly or Bowker's Annual, most likely. For some of books, PW sales information will not be available. Hackett's 80 Years of Best Sellers is useful as well. Other sources for sales may include Tebbel's A History of American publishing and Mott's Golden Multitudes (on reserve).

8. Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

Same general advice here as for question 7, but don't panic if you can't find anything -- it is quite possible that you won't be able to find a definitive answer to this question. However, any partial information, if it is found (e.g., sales figures for a particular year or range of years) should be included here.

9. Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed):

To research advertising, you will need to consult the contemporary press; Publishers' Weekly is publishers' advertising publication and can be used for that purpose. Also check online searchable databases of historical newspapers available through Virgo.

10. JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available:

See instructions for section 2, above (you can use the advertisements published in the Publishers' Weekly where you will often find several consecutive ones -- announcing the book before its publication, when it is published, and for each subsequent printing).

11. Other promotion:

Sometimes, the advertisements will direct you to other sources or allow you to extrapolate about the advertising practices. Tebbel gives some note of the advertising practices for some of the publishers.

12. Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A::

From the searches of the bibliographies and catalogs, you will note that there were theatre productions, and film productions of this work. The sources specifically dealing with the performances in other media are:

  • James M. Salem's A Guide to Critical Reviews (these four volumes list musicals, drama, screenplays, and foreign drama productions)
  • Magill's Survey of Cinema
  • Magill's Cinema Annual
  • The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures in the U.S
  • The Film Index
  • and of course IMDB.

13. Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A:

Search WorldCat for translations; indicate the language of the translation in brackets, and give the standard bibliographic information for each translation. You may also search in the catalogs of various national libraries for translations (i.e., Bibliotheque Nationale, etc.).

14. Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A:

The information about serialization would be indicated in Publishers' Weekly, or in a Twayne's study of the author, or in a bibliography of the author's works (if one exists, it'll be in the Zs).

15. Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A:

Same general advice as for Question 1, above.

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