September 13, 2011
What is Book History? What is Bibliography?
- Bibliography - pertains to one book (falls under book history)
- Works cited “bibliography” vs. bibliography
- Categorization, organization of books
- Bibliography - organization of how the book was printed, how the book was made --> how
does that change how we view the book?
- Atext’s materiality informs and complicates the was we read and interpret the words inside it
- Does it matter which edition/version you read a book? (e.g. first set of editions; on a Kindle vs.
- The book as an object contains information in its physical form
- Bibliography - came before book history
- B.H. = who printed it, how much it cost = more recent
- “What the bibliographer is concerned with is pieces of paper or parchment covered with certain
written or printed signs. With these signs he is concerned merely as arbitrary marks; their mean-
ing is no business of his.” (W.W. Greg, qtd. in Mackenzie 9)
- Extreme example of bibliography - the text, the words don’t matter => rather, how is it made?
- In many ways, bibliography is removed from text
- What can a book tell us even if we don’t read it? When it’s from (how it’s bound), who it’s
written for (children’s etc), what language it’s in…
- The cover image presents different impressions about the text, affects how the reader views the
book, expects from the book (Wuthering Heights -- e.g. the “Twilight” cover: This is Bella and
Edward’s favorite book ⎯ marketing aspect)
Bibliography Without Reading
- What kind of book is it? (novel, cookbook, reference text, etc.?)
- Does this book have pictures?
- Is this book expensive?
- What kind of person might read this book? - Is this a book for a specialized audience?
- You can’t tell a lot from a book by just feeling it -- you can learn a lot about when it was pub-
lished (gilt edges), notes in the margins, coffee stains on the book -- you can tell who owned it
- Recently the meaning of bibliography has expanded to mean: “The study of books, including
their texts (i.e. printed word), materials (physical book), history, production, and distribution;
also, an account, list, or description of books or works (like a bibliography/works cited).”
(Williams and Abbott 143)
- Things happen around the book: who reads it, how much author is paid: affects the text + mate-
rial output (how it’s manifested, who it’s marketed to -- type of paper, cost, pictures or not, need
footnotes or not)
- Social, political, economic factors affect how the book is produced
The Sociology of Texts
- Authors don’t write books: there is a series of physical processes that lead form author’s idea to
the book in the reader’s hand
- There are also social forces that affect which book reaches which reader (sometimes the wrong
material reaches the wrong audience: i.e. a children’s book reaches an adult)
- There are social, human processes: many people with agency making decisions along the way -
human interactions go into producing the book
- Books are physical objects and social objects
- Book ≠ jus