Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bibliography is not for the Faint of Heart

One of the most fun aspects of studying books is determining how they are constructed and what makes them different from other books, even when printed at the same time by the same printer. That's one of the joys of bibliography. Another is identifying each physical book's idiosyncrasies or unique aspects so a collector or librarian can differentiate one edition from another. After all, you don't want to purchase two copies of the same title, unless there's a reason, such as collecting all the extant copies of Shakespeare's First Folio, as they do a the Folger Library http://www.folger.edu/  Here's a link to their current exhibition http://www.folger.edu/Content/Whats-On/Folger-Exhibitions/Ongoing-Exhibitions/The-First-Folio.cfm

As I consider what to talk about this week and next in my lectures, bibliography is top most on my mind. Of course, you will be putting together a brief analytical, descriptive bibliography with annotations, background, and more in your semester long project. But there's more to bibliography than that. The study of the book is the appreciation of the similarities and differences of editions, a growing familiarity with printing conventions, and a discovery of the construction of a text and text block. 

Scholars of the book vary in their interests. Some want to examine every issue, every extant copy of a title. Others want to gather together the corpus or works of an author to understand his or her growth as a writer. Still others are interested in the work of a specific printer or editor and how that individual influenced the profession. 

As  you study your author and book, you'll come to appreciate the work of bibliographers who study the minutia of texts, furthering scholarship. I challenge you to be creative in your study of the title you selected. Look beyond the printed and digital text, and explore the corpus of your author.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's all about the Prep

There's one more week until this Rare Book and Special Collections Librarianship course begins. That means I'm busy taping introductory lectures, re-reading the first week's articles, and putting the finishing touches on the course.
The syllabus is done and mounted in BB Learn and on my website http://www.mbkcons.com/Courses/Rare60665/RaresylFall2012.htm . Except for some tweaks, that is finished.

Now I get to focus on the course. I'm filled with excitement and trepidation about teaching this course online. Most of my colleagues think I'm crazy and I'm out to prove them.... wrong. No matter what this is going to be a challenging semester for myself and my students. 

What have I learned so far? There's never enough preparation time and, yes, as much time as I allow, the course will take. Discipline is the key to a successful course and online teaching experience. Oh yes, and there's never enough time to do everything I want, which is also true in a face-to-face course. 

Deep breathing and a few walks around the block are key to a truly successful course. So take a deep breath, get some sleep, and look for my next post.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Searching for examples

After many weeks and months of preparing this RB course, I'm finally ready to work on lectures and exercises. Since this is the first time I'm teaching the course online I had to make some adjustments and design some exercises to do at home. Knowing we'll have two days to work together definitely helps and will allow me to build on the shallow foundation of early lectures and exercises.

I'm off on a hunt for visual examples to share with all of you while I consider what aspects of RB and Special Collection Librarianship are most important. I spent much of yesterday (8/14) at NYPL looking at incunabula and thinking of how to describe the experience. These early printed books feel so different from others and look different as well. Each is a unique publication with errors and individuality. Even the book I looked at, printed in 1501, contained an unusual set of signature marks, and lots of variations in the running header. If the last sentence doesn't make sense, look at Carter's ABC for Book Collectors http://www.ilab.org/eng/documentation/30-john_carters_abc_for_book_collectors.html .

Carter is a wonderful glossary, dictionary, and example of a book wrapped into one. Most parts of the book are identified as well as parts of the page (Exercises we'll do as part of class). Within are definitions of terminology used to describe books. There are other glossaries and dictionaries we'll consult as part of the course, including the one in your text book An Introduction to Bibliographical and Textual Studies 4th Edition. 

As this course continues to evolve, I welcome feedback about how the lectures and readings fit together.  For now, I'll search for examples while you relax for two more weeks.