Kerry Hammond recently attended a four part series of classes at her local used book store, The Printed Page Bookshop. Each class taught a different topic about rare books, preservation, and collecting. Here are her notes from Class Three: Bibliographies. We're running her notes on these classes every Wednesday this month.
The definition of bibliography that we are using here, in terms of book collecting, is: the history or systematic description of books, their authorship, printing, publication, editions, etc. They are basically books about books. The older the book, the more important the use of a bibliography. These reference books identify the different characteristics of a book, including bindings, editions, and printings.
The most commonly used bibliographies are those that detail a single author’s work. They are used to determine the value of a book, whether or not it’s a specific addition, and will even list a specific anomaly in a book, such as a typo in an edition that was later changed for subsequent printings.
Bibliographies use specific terminology related to the description of a book, such as size and type. You may see octavo, quarto, and folio. These terms will be used when a book is listed for sale. Reading through a bibliography can get very technical, and one online resource is the University of Virginia Rare Book School. There are links online to lectures you can listen to that may help.
Next class: Building Your Collection