Analytical bibliography is the minutely detailed study of the production, manufacture, and distribution of books. It is the most anal retentive
sub-discipline within that most anal rententive discipline called librarianship
. The current (2002) description for the Library Science
course in Analytical Bibliography at UCLA
states that analytical bibliography studies:
"... the book as a physical object and its relationship to transmission of the text. History and methods of analytical bibliography, with particular emphasis on handpress books. Printing processes as related to bibliography and librarianship."
In 1991 this was considered a graduate level research methodology
course, and was a pre-requisite for taking the only course in handpress printing
. The equivalent coursework in the health sciences would be the study of anatomy
. Analytical bibliography is the anatomical study of books, with a subsequent understanding of the mechanisms by which text comes about and is transmitted.
To perhaps better understand what the above definition REALLY means, here's a very brief example of a typical analytical bibliographic analysis (caveat: there is no typical analysis). The case in question involves two copies of a work held by the Special Collections of the UCLA libraries in the early 1990's. The work in question was a preliminary publication of the Catechism following the deliberations of the Council of Trent under Pope Pius V between 1562 and 1563. The two copies were published in 1566 by Paolo Manuzio. The short question the analysis was to answer was - are these two different works, different editions of the same work, or the same work? The library catalog record for the two volumes of this work was listed by UCLA's ORION2 online catalog thus:
Catholic Church. Catechismus Romanus. Italian.
Catechismo, cioe istrvttione, secondo il decreto del Concilio di Trento,
a' parochi / pvblicato per comandamento del santiss. s.n. papa Pio V.
& tradotto poi per ordine di S. Santità in lingua uolgare dal reuerendo
padre frate Alesso Figliucci ...
PUBLISHED/DISTRIBUTED: In Roma : Paolo Manuzio, 1566.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: 606,  p. ; 16 cm. (8vo)
NOTES: Publisher statement from Renouard. Pages 607-
608, 640 are blank. Aldine device on t.p. Woodcuts: printer's device, initials.
References: Renouard. Annali delle ed. aldine, 1953, p.200.
An initial rule of thumb as to whether or not a work is a new "edition" refers to the amount of change from one work to another. For handpress works, if more than ten percent of the type has been re-set then the new item is considered a separate edition. The initial analysis is thus to compare two works page for page and letter for letter. The William Andrews Clark Memorial Library (UCLA) used to have a huge machine upon which two works could be set up simultaneously for such comparisons. One would turn each page, then with an optical mechanism flip quickly back and forth to determine if even a single font slug had been reset on a page. Generally, poor graduate students set up two works side by side and just turn the pages, looking from one to the other. With the advent of computer scanning, such analysis has become simplified. In any case, though there were some changes in the type as it was set, it was far less than the ten percent threshold for defining the two volumes as distinct editions. The preliminary conclusion was that these were different printings of the same edition (which is indeed an extremely anal retentive distinction!).
The analysis of watermarks is another technique applied within bibliographic analysis. There are a number of watermark catalogs which can be used to determine the provenance ascribed to a specific watermark. In this case, the watermarks were indeed slightly different. This is not unusual since screens used for papermaking were made by hand in the 1500's. Also consider that different batches of papers can be used for a printing. In any case, watermark analysis indicated no anomalies between the two volumes.
Further analysis involves a study of the book as a physical object. Note that in the catalog record listed above that some of the results of such analysis are included. The record notes to "those in the know
" that the book being studied is 16 cm. high, is of octavo
size (indicating the folding of the original paper sheet), consists of 34 unpaginated pages, and 606 paginated with pages 607, 608 and 640 all blank. The title page (t.p.) has the distinctive trademark
(device) of Aldus Manutius
as a woodcut
with initials (probably A.M.). The note about "Renouard" directs researchers to a contemporary work (1953, p. 200) used to establish the provenance
of this specific book. Even the novice can see that it is printed on vellum
An interesting sidenote: vellum is nigh indestructible. Those of us taking on the analysis of these two volumes were given free reign to handle them directly, even though their age was over 400 years. Colleagues working with items from the 1800's were not allowed such access, since later paper producing techniques have introduced acids into the paper causing brittleness and fragility requiring the most delicate handling.
The historical analysis puts such results as obtained above into context. If there are historical records as to techniques and materials used in a certain time and place, the provenance of a book can be more confidently established. Conversely, analysis of an item which does not fit into the existing historical records of technique and production may actually cause a modification of that same historical record.
The analysis of works such as these is not bounded as indicated. That is, there are endless techniques of historical analysis, forensic
analysis, and textual analysis that can be applied to determine information about a work. In fact, the entire process of analytical bibliography is unbounded. There is no single question to answer, rather, endless questions revolving around "how," "where," "why," and "by whom?"
Sources and Resources:
Briquet, C.M. Les Filigranes: Dictionnaire Historique des Marques du Papier dès leur apparition vers 1282 jusqu'en 1600, second edition. New York: Hacker Art Books, 1966 (ISBN 157898001X)
Gaskell, Philip. A New Introduction to Bibliography. New York : Oxford University Press, 1972 (ISBN 0198181507 )
Mckerrow, Ronald Brunlees. An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students. Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1927 (OCLC Number 498708).