Monday, 29 June 2015

Bibliography: its importance for Devon

Bibliography: its importance for Devon

A search on the major internet search engines in June 2015 produced the following results:

PlaceGoogleBingYahoo
Devon 145,000,00016,000,00015,200,000
Exeter 54,600,00013,700,00013,800,000
Plymouth 193,000,00015,000,00015,200,000
Dartmoor 8,200,0005,500,0005,420,000
Brentor 119,00033,50034,700
Clyst Hydon 49,00061,10039,200
Wembworthy 32,800 8,6608,460

So, who needs bibliography? The following is based on notes prepared for a seminar on the bibliography of Devon held in Exeter in July 2015.

What is bibliography?

The study of books (the form of the word is similar to geography, the study of the earth). There are various branches of the discipline:

Enumerative bibliography

The listing of writings, normally printed books or articles, which aims at completeness within its defined area. It is important for researchers to know what has already been written on a subject. It is significant that in its modern form it developed during the Renaissance among humanist writers:

Conrad Gessner (1516–1565), the Swiss naturalist and bibliographer is generally regarded as the father of modern bibliography. In 1545 he published Bibliotheca universalis, supposedly a catalogue (in Latin, Greek and Hebrew) of all writers who had ever lived, with the titles of their works, etc. A second part, Pandectarum sive partitionum universalium libri xxi, appeared in 1548 which attempted a subject analysis of this material.

Exhaustivity is the aim. It is not a catalogue of books in one collection or used during the research for a specific book. For 500 years the printing press has provided a textual record of the achievements of the community and a full listing recognises this heritage and provides a guide to researchers and developers in all fields who wish to build on that achievement. For a county like Devon is a record that must be continuously maintained to record the publications of today, whether in printed or digital form. (Archives, iconographic, audio and video images also require recording but the techniques are different, although related). There are a range of enumerative bibliographies:

  • National bibliographies: British National Bibliography (1950+ now on web)
  • Book trade bibliographies: Amazon aims at complete cover of books in print.
  • Regional bibliographies: Devon bibliography.
  • Author bibliographies.
  • Subject bibliographies.
  • Genres: maps, prints.

Analytical bibliography

The forensic examination of books to assist in textual analysis. This was mainly developed by English speaking literary historians in Britain and America to study the transmission of text of major dramatists. Needs awareness of origin of copy (whether author's manuscript or earlier printed edition), methods of composition, of imposing pages for printing, making corrections (in press or by use of cancels), use of the printed or composed text (immediate sale, storage of unsold sheets for later sale, standing type, stereotype). Knowledge of printing house and book trade practices in the past can shed light on texts other than the early printed drama.

A local example is provided by The route book of Devon.

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1st ed [1845]. 356p. Includes the following maps:
Title: Route map of the roads of Devon (Batten and Bennet 121)
P. 1: Exeter (Batten and Bennett, Exeter 31 and appendix C)
P. 233; Plymouth Devonport and Stonehouse
The printers states in the introduction that most of the text went through the press in
1843, but a domestic affliction delayed publication until May 1845.

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2nd ed [1846]. 380,[14]p. . Includes the following maps:
Front: Route map of the roads of Devon (Batten and Bennet 121)
P. 3: Exeter
P. 265: Plymouth Devonport and Stonehouse
P. 378: Devonshire. (Batten and Bennet 122)
Inserts a trip on the railway into Route IX: From Exeter to Dawlish, Torquay and Dartmouth

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New ed. [1850]. 403p. Page 394 lists alterations during publication. Includes the following maps:
Front: Route map of the roads of Devon (Batten and Bennet 121)
P. 5: Exeter
P. 282: Plymouth Devonport and Stonehouse
End: Devonshire (Batten and Bennet 122 railway to Plymouth shown as solid line)
Last date in text relates to expected completion of basin and dock in Devonport in 1851.

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Another version [1856?]. 403p. [Copy examined lacks title-page.] Page 394 lists alterations during publication. Includes the following maps:
End: Devonshire (Batten and Bennet 128 - railways added Exmouth, Kingswear, Tavistock).
Also includes at least 22 vignettes dated 1853-1854 (Small vignettes nos 102-103, 106-111, 116, 123-125, 128, 130-134, 136-139) and Besley's handbook advertiser (Edition of Rowe's Perambulation of Dartmoor, published 1856 advertised)

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Another version [1869?]. 403p Page 394 lists alterations during publication. Includes the following maps:
Front: Route map of the roads of Devon (Batten and Bennet 121)
P. 5: Exeter (Batten and Bennett, Exeter 31 and appendix C – South Western Railway added)
P. 282: Plymouth Devonport and Stonehouse
End: Devonshire (Batten and Bennet 122 – railway to Seaton added)
Besley's handbook advertiser mentions Queen Victoria's visit 1856, Royal Albert Bridge, opened 1859, Way and Sons' stereoscopic views, probably 1860s, also evidence from railways to c. 1868 shown on inserted Devon map.

BUT The text of the last two versions is identical, even the title-page is unchanged, only the advertisements are altered. The 1850 setting of text was stored for more than 15 years. Shows need to compare different copies of same work. In Devon careful cataloguing had actually given misleading information.

Descriptive bibliography

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The detailed description of books. Aims to place each title within a context of a sequence of editions, issues and variants and describe the "ideal copy" of the text. Very detailed – quasi-facsimile transcription of title-page, format, collational formula (listing of printed signatures with note on how they are signed), pagination, technical notes on catchwords, press figures, typeface, watermarks, contents, etc – references to publisher's archives, correspondence, newspaper and periodical citations etc., location of copies.

The techniques were developed for incunabula, elaborated by analytical bibliographers for used with English literature of the 16th and 17th centuries. Library cataloguing is a much cut down version of this, sufficient to identify an edition and major reissues.

Historical bibliography

The study of the history of books, their production and dissemination. The emphasis was originally on the changing techniques of production and distribution, but also extended to the spread of printing and bookselling and the wider impact of the book on society. An outline history of the book in Devon is presented on this website.


Copyright © Ian Maxted 2015
This page last updated 29 June 2015