"... good analytical bibliographers make catalogers look like a bunch of stoned performance artists at Woodstock."
A New Introduction to Bibliography by Philip Gaskell
New York : Oxford University Press, 1972
Librarianship may be the most anal retentive of all professions. Within librarianship the subfield of cataloging is often considered the most anal retentive of specializations. However, good analytical bibliographers make catalogers look like a bunch of stoned performance artists at Woodstock. This is the book which best explains what analytical bibliography is all about.
Gaskell (as it is known) is an astonishingly thorough one volume overview of almost everything about the transmission of printed text. It consists of only 438 pages, yet manages to cover book production from 1500 to 1950. Included are sections on printing type, composition, paper, imposition, presswork, warehousing, binding, decoration, the American and English book trades, machinery, etc., ad infinitum (it seems). The "Reference Bibliography" following various appendices thoroughly lists the resources to which one would refer for more indepth analysis (e.g., watermark catalogs, surveys of the book industry during historical periods, Stationer's Records ...).
The final section on "Bibliographical Applications" is probably the most complex, and also my favorite part of this work. It gives a fair overview, with examples, of bibliographic description of the kind one would find in the best antiquarian bookseller's catalogs.
This book is NOT a standalone resource for all aspects of analytical bibliography, though I can't imagine anyone working in this activity starting anywhere OTHER than with Gaskell. The only improvement would be an expansion to a 10 volume encyclopedia on the subject of analytical bibliography.
This was the textbook I used at UCLA for an Analytical Bibliography class which was a prerequisite for a class on Handpress Printing. It's not for wimps (UCLA, the Analytical Bibliography class, OR this work!). Hint: if you have no idea at all what the term "analytical bibliography" might mean you probably do not want to get this book (exception: if the book is required for your class in Analytical Bibliography!).