Bibliographical Society

Just Published! Essays in Bibliographical History, by G. Thomas Tanselle

EBH-djcoverThe history of every field of scholarly inquiry is a part of intellectual and cultural history, and the essays gathered here attempt to illustrate that point, from a variety of angles, in relation to bibliographical scholarship. In the first section, there are six broad retrospective pieces, surveying bibliographical history from the vantage point of several institutional anniversaries: the seventy-fifth and hundredth birthdays of the Bibliographical Society of America, the hundredth of the Grolier Club and the Bibliographical Society (London), and the fiftieth of the Osler Library and The Book Collector. The wide purview of these pieces provides the context for the sixteen essays in the second section, each of which is more narrowly focused.

Two of them deal with individual periodicals (Studies in Bibliography and the Bibliographical Society’s News Sheet) and two with the development of descriptive bibliographies (of American authors and eighteenth-century books). Other essays cover the writing of publishing history, the theorizing about the scientific nature of bibliography, the recording of copyrighted books, the indexing of bibliographical periodicals, and the preserving of booksellers’ catalogues. One takes up the production of a major reference work (the ESTC), and another the role of a single locality (Indianapolis) in book history. The Grolier Club is the subject of two contrasting styles of history:  a journalistic account of current events (the Club’s centenary festivities) and a retrospective investigation of a bibliographical activity (the mounting of exhibitions as practiced at the Club). The fiftieth anniversary of the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia also receives journalistic treatment. Textual criticism and scholarly editing have a place here because they are so intimately tied to the study of the physical objects that transmit texts. The two essays on textual matters explore, first, the traditions of scholarly editing and, second, how those traditions have been applied or misapplied to visual and aural works. A final essay, serving as an epilogue to the volume, discusses bibliographical history as a field, defining it, surveying previous work to build on, and suggesting the value of producing more such work.

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