1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bibliography and Bibliology
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND BIBLIOLOGY. The word βιβλιογραφία was used in post-classical Greek for the writing of books, and as late as 1761, in Fenning’s English Dictionary, a bibliographer is defined as “one who writes or copies books.” The transition from the meaning “a writing of books” to that of “a writing about books,” was accomplished in France in the 18th century—witness the publication in 1763 of the Bibliographie instructive of de Bure. In England the new meaning seems to have been popularized by the Rev. Thomas Frognall Dibdin early in the 19th century, while Southey preferred the rival form bibliology, which is now hardly used. Present custom inclines to restrict the province of bibliography to printed books as opposed to manuscripts, and on the other hand recognizes as coming within its scope almost everything in which a book-loving antiquary can be interested, including the history of printing (see Typography), book-binding (q.v.), book-illustration (see Illustration) and book-collecting (q.v.). The present article is only concerned with bibliography as the art of the examination, collation and description of books, their enumeration and arrangement in lists for purposes of information, and further with the literature of this subject, i.e. with the bibliography of bibliography.
Examination and Collation.—Books are submitted to examination in order to discover their origin, or to test statements concerning it which there is reason to doubt, or to ascertain if they are perfect, and if perfect whether they are in their original condition or have been “made up” from other copies. The discovery of where, when and by whom a book, or fragment of a book, was printed, is the most difficult of these tasks, though as regards books printed in the 15th century it has been much facilitated by the numerous facsimiles enumerated under Incunabula (q.v.). In the article Book (q.v.) a sketch is given of the chief external characteristics of books in each century since the invention of printing. Familiarity with books of different ages and countries soon creates a series of general ideas as to the dates and places with which any combination of these characteristics may be connected, and an experienced bibliographer, more especially if he knows something of the history of paper, will quickly narrow down the field of inquiry sufficiently to make special search possible.
As regards the correction of mis-statements in early books as to their place and origin, glaring piracies such as the Lyonnese counterfeits of the octavo editions of the classics printed by Aldus at Venice, and the numerous unauthorized editions of works by Luther, professing to be printed at Wittenberg, have long ago been exposed. A different variety of the same kind of puzzle arises from the existence of numerous original editions with fictitious imprints. As early as 1499 a Brescia printer, in order to evade the privilege granted to Aldus, gave to an edition of Politian the spurious imprint “Florentiae,” and in the 16th century many controversial books printed in England purported to have been issued in German towns, or with pleasant humour, “at Rome before the castle of S. Angel at the sign of S. Peter.” Only a knowledge of the general characteristics which a book printed at such a place and such a time should possess will secure avoidance of these traps, but when suspicion has been aroused the whole story will often be found in such books as Weller’s Die maskirte Literatur der älteren und neueren Sprachen (1856-1867), and Die falschen und fingirten Druckörte (1864), Brunet’s Imprimeurs imaginaires et libraires supposés (1866), de Brouillant’s La Liberté de la Presse en France; Histoire de Pierre du Marteau, imprimeur à Cologne, &c. (1888); in the various bibliographies of Erotica and in Brunet’s Manuel de l’Amateur and other handbooks for the use of collectors. A special case of this problem of piracies and spurious imprints is that of the modern photographic or type-facsimile forgery of small books possessing a high commercial value, such as the early editions of the letter of Columbus announcing his discovery of the New World. Bad forgeries of this kind can be detected by the tendency of all photographic processes of reproduction to thicken letters and exaggerate every kind of defect, but the best of these imitations when printed on old paper require a specific knowledge of the originals and often cause great trouble. The type-facsimile forgeries are mostly of short pieces by Tennyson, George Eliot and A. C. Swinburne, printed (or supposed to have been printed—for it is doubtful if some of these “forgeries” ever had any originals) for circulation among friends. These trifles should never be purchased without a written guarantee.
When the edition to which a book belongs is known, further examination is needed to ascertain if it is perfect and in its original state. Where no standard collation is available, this can only be ascertained by a detailed examination of the quires or gatherings of which it is made up (see below). In the earliest books these are often very irregular. A large book was usually printed simultaneously in four or six sections on as many different presses, and the several compositors, if unable to end their sections at the end of a complete quire, would insert a single leaf to give more space, or sometimes leave a blank page, or half page, for lack of matter, occasionally adding the note “Hic nullus est defectus.” A careful examination of the text, a task from which bibliographers often shrink, and a comparison with other editions, are the only remedies in these cases.
If a copy contains the right number of leaves, the further question arises as to whether any of these have been supplied from other copies, or are in facsimile. Few collectors even now are educated enough to prefer copies in the condition in which the ravages of time have left them to those which have been “completed” by dealers; hence many old books have been “made up” with leaves from other copies, or not infrequently from other editions. These meddlings often defy detection, but proof of them may be found in differences in the height and colour of the paper, in the two corresponding leaves at either end of a folio quire both possessing a watermark, or in their wiremarks not corresponding, or (in very early books) by the ornamentation added by hand being in a different style.
When it has been ascertained that a copy contains the right number of leaves and that all these leaves are original, the last point to be settled is as to whether it differs in any respect from the standard collation. Owing to the extreme slowness of the presswork for the first two centuries after the invention of printing, there were more opportunities for making small corrections while an old book was passing through the press than there are in the case of modern ones, and on the other hand the balls used for inking the type sometimes caught up words or individual letters and these were replaced by the compositors as best they could. The small variations in the text noticed in different copies of the First Folio edition of Shakespeare, and again of Milton’s Paradise Lost, are probably to be explained by a mixture of these two causes. Where a serious error was discovered after a sheet had been printed off, the leaf on which it occurred was sometimes cut out and a new leaf (called a “cancel”) printed to replace it and pasted on to the rest of the sheet. Variations between different copies of the first edition of Herrick’s Hesperides which have puzzled all his editors are due to the presence of several of such cancels. Lastly, a printer when he had printed part of a book might wish to increase the size of the edition, and the leaves already printed off would have to be reprinted, thus causing a combination of identical and different leaves in different copies. The famous 42-line Bible of c. 1455, variously attributed to Gutenberg and to Fust and Schoeffer, and the Valerius Maximus printed by Schoeffer in 1471, are instances of editions being thus enlarged while passing through the press. As each book was set up simultaneously on several different presses, the reprinted leaves occur at the beginning of each of the sections.
It should be mentioned that there are books of which it is difficult to find two copies in exact agreement. Either to quicken presswork or to comply with trade-regulations made in the interest of compositors, in some books of which large numbers were required, e.g. the Paraphrases of Erasmus, the First Prayer-book of Edward VI., and the “Songs and Sonnets” known as Tottell’s Miscellany, each forme was set up two or more different times. The formes were then used at haphazard for printing, and both at this stage and when the printed sheets came to be stitched almost any number of different combinations might be made. The books named were all printed in the middle of the 16th century, but probably later instances could be produced.
Description.—The ideal towards which all bibliographical work should be directed is the provision in an accessible form of a standard description of a perfect copy of every book of literary, historical or typographical interest as it first issued from the press, and of all the variant issues and editions of it. When such standard descriptions shall have been made, adequately checked and printed, it will be possible to describe every individual copy by a simple reference to them, with a statement of its differences, if any, and an insistence on the points bearing on the special object with which it is being re-described. Only in a few cases has any approach been made to a collection of such standard descriptions. One instance which may be cited is that of the entries of the 15th century books in the Repertorium Bibliographicum of Ludwig Hain (1826-1838), which the addition of an asterisk marks as having been examined by Hain himself in the copies in the Royal library at Munich. The high standard of accuracy of these asterisked entries (save for the omission to note blank leaves at the beginning or end) has been so well established, and the Repertorium is so widely known, that in many catalogues of incunabula the short title of the book together with the number of Hain’s entry has been usefully substituted for a long description. Books printed at Oxford up to 1640 can be equally well described by their short titles and a reference to Mr Falconer Madan’s Early Oxford Press published in 1895. At present the number of works which can thus be taken as a standard is only small, owing partly to the greater and more accurate detail now demanded, partly to the absence of any system of co-operation among libraries, each of which is only willing to pay for catalogues relating exclusively to its own collections. It may be hoped that through the foundation of bibliographical institutes more work of this kind may be done.
A standard description of any book must, as a rule, consist of the following sections, though in the case of works which have no typographical interest, some of the details may be advantageously omitted:—(a) A literal transcript of the title-page, also of the colophon, if any, and of any headings or other portions of the book serving to distinguish it from other issues; (b) Statements as to the size or form of the book, the gatherings or quires of which it is made up, with the total number of leaves, the measurement of an uncut copy or of the type-page, a note of the types in which different parts of the book are printed, and a reference to any trustworthy information already in print; (c) A statement of the literary contents of the book and of the points at which they respectively begin; (d) A note giving any additional information which may be needed.
Enumeration and Arrangement.—In the 18th and early 19th centuries there was a tendency, especially among French writers, to exaggerate the scope of bibliography, on the ground that it was the duty of the bibliographer to appraise the value of all the books he recorded, and to indicate the exact place which each work should occupy in a logical classification of all literature based on a previous classification of all knowledge. Bibliographers are now more modest. They recognize that the classification of human knowledge is a question for philosophers and men of science, that the knowledge of chemistry and of its history needed to make a good bibliography of chemistry is altogether extrinsic to bibliography itself; that all, in fact, to which bibliography can pretend is to suggest certain general principles of arrangement and to point out to some extent how they may be applied. The principles are neither numerous nor recondite. To illustrate the history of printing, books may be arranged according to the places and printing-houses where they were produced. For the glorification of a province or county, they are sometimes grouped under the places where their authors were born or resided. For special purposes, they may be arranged according to the language or dialect in which they are written. But, speaking generally, the choice for a basis of arrangement rests between the alphabetical order of authors and titles, a chronological order according to date of publication, a “logical” or alphabetical order according to subjects, and some combination of these methods. In exercising the choice the essential requisite is a really clear idea of the use to which the bibliography, when made, is to be put. If its chief object be to give detailed information about individual books, a strictly alphabetical arrangement “by authors and titles” (i.e. by the names of authors in their alphabetical order, and the titles of their books in alphabetical sequence under the names) will be the most useful, because it enables the student to obtain the information he seeks with the greatest ease. But while such an alphabetical arrangement offers the speediest access to individual entries, it has no other merit, unless the main object of the bibliography be to show what each author has written. If it is desired to illustrate the history and development of a subject, or the literary biography of an author, the books should be entered chronologically. If direction in reading is to be given, this can best be offered by a subject-index, in which the subjects are arranged alphabetically for speedy reference, and the books chronologically under the subject, so that the newest are always at the end. Lastly if the object is to show how far the whole field has been covered and what gaps remain to be filled, a class catalogue arranged according to what are considered the logical subdivisions of the subject has its advantages. It is important, however, to remember that, if the bulk of the bibliography is very large, a principle of arrangement which would be clear and useful on a small scale may be lost in the quantity of pages over which it extends. An arrangement which cannot be quickly grasped, whatever satisfaction it may give its author, is useless to readers, the measure of its inutility being the worn condition of the alphabetical index to which those who cannot carry a complicated “logical” arrangement in their heads are obliged to turn, in the first instance, to find what they want. It should be obvious that any system which necessitates a preliminary reference to a key or index rests under grave suspicion, and needs some clear counterbalancing gain to justify the loss of time which it entails. The main classification should always be that which will be most immediately useful to readers of the books. To throw light on the history of a subject and to indicate how far the field is covered are honourable objects for compilers, but should mostly be held subordinate to practical use. It is noteworthy also that they may often be better forwarded by means of an index or table than by the main arrangement. The history of Hain’s Repertorium Bibliographicum, which enumerates in an alphabetical arrangement of authors and titles some 16,000 books printed in the 15th century, is a good example of this. For sixty-five years it was of the utmost use for its accurate descriptions of individual books, but threw practically no light on the history of printing. In 1891 Dr Konrad Burger published an appendix to it containing an Index of Printers, since greatly enlarged in his index to Dr Copinger’s Supplement to Hain (1902). The form of the index enables each printer’s work to be seen at a glance, and the impetus given to the study of the history of printing was very great. But if the book had originally been arranged under Printers instead of Authors, it would have been far more difficult to use; its literary value would have been halved, and the record of the output of each press, now instantly visible, would have been obscured by the fuller entries causing it to extend over many pages.
The Bibliography of Bibliography.—The zeal of students of early printing has provided the material for an almost exhaustive list (see Incunabula) of the books printed in the 15th century still extant. Of those printed in the years 1501-1536 there is a tentative enumeration in the continuation of Panzer’s Annales Typographici (1803), and materials are gradually being collected for improving and extending this. But the projects once formed for a universal bibliography have dwindled in proportion as the output of the press has increased, and the nearest approaches to such a work are the printed catalogue of the library of the British Museum, and that of the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris, now in progress. Of books of great rarity unrepresented in these catalogues a fairly sufficient record exists in Brunet’s Manuel du libraire, the bibliographical collections of Mr W. C. Hazlitt, the Bibliographer’s Manual by Lowndes, and the other bibliographical works enumerated in the article on book-collecting (q.v.). When a universal bibliography was recognized as an impossibility, patriotism suggested the compilation of national bibliographies, and the Bibliotheca Britannica of Robert Watt (Edinburgh, 1824) remains an extraordinary example of what the zeal of a single man could accomplish in this direction. Quérard’s La France littéraire (Paris, 1827-1839), while it gives fuller titles, is much less comprehensive, embracing mainly books of the 18th and early 19th centuries, and only such of these as appeared to the compiler to be written by “savants, historiens, et gens de lettres.” In the works of Heinsius (Allgemeines Bücherlexikon, 1700-1815, Leipzig, 1812-1817), and Kayser (Bücherlexikon, 1750, &c., Leipzig, 1834, &c.) Germany possesses a fine record of her output of books during the last two centuries, and since the organization of the book-trade, contemporary lists of books, with résumés and indexes issued at intervals, exist for most European countries. For the period before these became of importance in England much bibliographical material has been collected in the Catalogues of English Books printed up to the end of the year 1640, issued by the British Museum in 1884, by the John Rylands library, Manchester, in 1895, and by the University library, Cambridge, in 1900-1906. A similar record of the rich English collections in the Bodleian library, Oxford, remains a great desideratum. While these substitutes for a universal author catalogue have gradually been provided, similar contributions to a universal subject catalogue have been made in the form of innumerable special bibliographies compiled by students or bookmen interested in special subjects or departments of literature. The most important of these are enumerated in the bibliographical notes appended to articles in this Encyclopaedia, but many attempts have been made to compile separate catalogues of them.
- Some bibliographers prefer to use double strokes to avoid confusion with the old-fashioned long commas. Others use a single stroke to indicate the space between two lines and increase the number of strokes where the space left is wider than this.
- It may be noted that some confusion is caused in descriptions of books by the word “sheet,” which should be restricted to the original sheet of paper which by folding becomes folio, quarto, &c., being applied also to the double-leaf of four pages. A word specially appropriated to this is greatly needed, and as gatherings of two, three, four, &c., of such double-leaves are known technically as duernions, ternions, quaternions, &c., the double-leaf itself might well be called a “unit.”
- Here specify the page measured.