Rare Book School

RBS Home | Course Schedule | Admissions | myRBS | Support RBS | Contact RBS | Previous Years

Rare Book School
Preliminary Reading List

G-50. Advanced Descriptive Bibliography

Richard Noble


Preliminary Advices

It is especially important that all students should have immersed themselves in Bowers's Principles: as in the introductory course, chapters 5-7 will be our foundational text, but students should have some familiarity with the whole book. Bring your copy to class. Students should also be handy with Gaskell.

The further readings suggested below obviously do not constitute any sort of exhaustive list. They provide an overview of some key issues and ideas related to the practice and application of descriptive and analytical bibliography, and some elaborations of methods. Many of them contain a wealth of further references that students may want to follow up as their own interests dictate, beginning perhaps with further articles contained in the Bowers and Tanselle collections. In particular, those who can do so should find their way to the Web site of the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, where the entire run of Studies in Bibliography is now mounted. Here one will find fifty years worth of articles, many of them seminal texts of the discipline. (Not all of the articles have yet been through the process of correction that is required for scanned texts, so there are occasional glitches where optical character recognition has failed to recognize.)

SB = Studies in Bibliography
PBSA = Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America

The Principles and Bibliography

  1. Fredson Bowers. Principles of Bibliographical Description (Princeton 1949; rep 1994, with an introduction by G. Thomas Tanselle, by Oak Knoll Books).
  2. Philip Gaskell. A New Introduction to Bibliography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972; corr. ed. 1974; several subsequent British and American reprintings with minor corrections; paperback ed. published in 1995 by Oak Knoll Books).
  3. Both may be ordered from Oak Knoll Books.

    Further Principles

  4. Bowers, Fredson. "Purposes of Descriptive Bibliography, with Some Remarks on Methods", The Library, 5th ser., 8 (1953):1-22. Reprinted in his Essays in Bibliography, Text, and Editing (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1975); also in Readings in Descriptive Bibliography, ed. John Bush Jones (Kent, O.: Kent State University Press, 1974), pp. 12-41.
  5. ______. "Bibliography Revisited", The Library, 5th ser., 24 (1969):89-128. Reprinted in his Essays in Bibliography, Text, and Editing (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1975).
  6. Vander Meulen, David L. "The History and Future of Bowers's Principles", PBSA 79, no. 2 (1985): 197-219.
  7. Tanselle, G. Thomas. "A Description of Descriptive Bibliography", SB 45 (1992): 1-30.
  8. McKenzie, D. F. "Printers of the Mind: Some Notes on Bibliographical Theories and Printing-House Practices", SB 22 (1969):1-75.
  9. Tanselle, G. Thomas. "Bibliography and Science", SB 27 (1974): 55-89. Reprinted in his Selected Studies in Bibliography (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1979).
  10. Some Issues

  11. Tanselle, G. Thomas. "The Concept of Ideal Copy", SB 33: (1980):18-53.
  12. Meriwether, James B., and Joseph Katz, "A Redefinition of 'Issue'", Proof 2 (1972): 61-70. Reprinted in Readings in Descriptive Bibliography, ed. John Bush Jones (Kent, O.: Kent State University Press, 1974), pp. 196-205.
  13. Tanselle, G. Thomas. "The Bibliographical Concepts of Issue and State", PBSA 69, no. 1 (1975): 17-66.
  14. In Practice

  15. Tanselle, G. Thomas. "A Sample Bibliographical Description", SB 40 (1987): 1-30.
  16. ______. "The Arrangement of Descriptive Bibliographies", SB 37 (1984): 1-38.
  17. ______. "Title-Page Transcription and Signature Collation Reconsidered", SB 38 (1985):45-81.
  18. Vander Meulen, David L. Where Angels Fear to Tread: Descriptive Bibliography and Alexander Pope (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1988).
  19. Nuts and Bolts

  20. Tanselle, G. Thomas. "The Bibliographical Description of Paper", SB 24 (1971): 27-67. Reprinted in his Selected Studies in Bibliography; and in Readings in Descriptive Bibliography, ed. John Bush Jones (Kent, O.: Kent State University Press, 1974).
  21. Vander Meulen, David L., "The Identification of Paper without Watermarks: The Example of Pope's Dunciad", SB 37 (1984): 58-81.
  22. Tanselle, G. Thomas. "The Identification of Type-Faces in Bibliographical Description", PBSA 60 (1966): 185-202.
  23. ______. "The Bibliographical Description of Patterns", SB 23 (1970): 71-102. Reprinted in his Selected Studies in Bibliography (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1979).
  24. ______. "Non-Letterpress Material in Books", SB 35 (1982): 1-42.
  25. Sayce, R. A. Compositorial Practices and the Localization of Printed Books, 1500-1800: A Reprint with Addenda and Corrigenda (Oxford: Oxford Bibliographical Society, 1979). Originally published in The Library, 5th ser., 21 (1966): 1-45.