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Resources for Book Studies

This page was created to support Book Studies courses and related activities.

Descriptive Bibliography

Bibliographical Description or sometimes called Descriptive Bibliography, or even “DesBib,” involves the identification and description of books as physical objects created in the production and distribution of texts.  In many ways, the work of a descriptive bibliographer involves "reverse-engineering" the production of a book.  This is necessary in order to accurately identifying a particular text along with variant copies.

According to Gaskell, the descriptive bibliography should include five parts:  1)  transcription of the title page; 2) a formula that is shorthand for the physical construction of the text--paper size, number and order of leaves; 3) technical notes on press figures, type, paper, plates; 4) accounting of the contents; and 5) other information on the book's history, citing copies examined by the bibliographer.

The Key Guides

Most people start with Gaskell and then move on to Bowers and McKerrow depending on your needs/level of interest.

Gaskell, Philip. A New Introduction to Bibliography: Corr. edn. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974 and New Castle: Oak Knoll Press, 1995.

Bowers, Fredson. Principles of Bibliographical Description. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1949 and New Castle: Oak Knoll Press, 1994.

McKerrow, Ronald B. An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students. Corr. impression. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1928 and New Castle: Oak Knoll Press, 1994.   

For beginners, read Belanger, Terry. "Descriptive bibliography," in Book Collecting: A Modern Guide, edited by Jean Peters. New York: R. R. Bowker, 1977, 97-115.

Other Resources

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