Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rotten Bibliographical Citations

Don't blithely accept other seller's listings for bibliographical data. Do  your own research.

I have a certain book. It is the First American edition of a title by a well-known English author. The World Catalog entries for this edition all cite the bibliography of said author. [You know how that looks: George Muffington-Davies, Jack Straw, an Uncivil Adventure. Boston. Sheffield, Shuffled, Surefire &Co. 1853 …. etc etc (Wright, A2) ]

At issue here is the presence of the publisher's advertisements in the back of the book. I have a copy with ads to 8 pages. Every listing I see describes the ads in the First Edition as being 16 pages, which follows what is found in World Cat; in fact, there is a copy catalogued in a university collection that is viewable on-line page by page, which shows 16 pages of ads.

I, for some reason, had a question in my mind about these ads and precedence, etc.  One of the differences within the ads is that the 16 page ads  include several more titles by said author, who died the year after this title was published.

Every one of the on-line listings for the First American Edition of this title (which was issued under a different title than the English edition) follow through with the same inaccurate information (or at least they have accepted incomplete data as well-enough) . It is obvious they have all referenced OCLC. And the OCLC entries cite the bibliography of this author, but wrongly.

Yesterday I went up to the college library, which just happens to have the bibliography in question (a very complete physical bibliography of this author's works), and read the entry.

There it is:  the bibliographer describes the First Edition  with publisher's advertisements of 8 pages.

No mention of 16 page advertisements at all.

One assumes that if a cataloguer cites a bibliography, that they have, in fact, actually read the bibliography and compared the book in hand against the bib.

Though we all necessarily from time to time look to World Cat as a reference, one must keep in mind that it is not infallible - for often World Cat is incorrect, or, at least frequently incomplete - this is to be expected as one of the unfortunate things that happen with such a huge undertaking, which is serviced by so many countless individuals.

But the dealers who have blithely accepted the Word Catalog entries, thinking that they have thus done the required research, and who are not so anonymously a cog in the machine … do we give them such a pass?

Do book dealers actually examine a book against a bibliography any more?

Likely many do , but - harrumph - obviously all too many do not.

And … what must those-who-do-not do when the collector checks his newly purchased treasure against the bibliography? Short of throwing themselves down upon their  pen, there is really only one correct course of action in the face of customer disappointment.

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