Thursday, September 15, 2011

Levy versus Bowers on Collections

In the last essay, I presented a list of authorized separate editions of Hoyle through 1747. I noted that Thomas Osborne sold Hoyle's works at 1s. each or "5s. the whole bound." The "whole bound" refers to a collection of works which were also separately published. When we start looking at these books in the next essay, interesting complications will arise. But before that, there is a theoretical question—how should these be treated bibliographically?

They are not separate editions—they are the same setting of type as the separate publications. I believe they are separate issues, and with that view, I find myself at odds with the bible of descriptive bibliography, Principles of Bibliographical Description (Princeton University Press, 1949) by Fredson Bowers. This essay, then, will defend my view against that of Bowers.

Bowers describes the general problem of collections as follows: published separately but later collected in a nonce edition with a general title-page and published together, with their original title-pages still intact, are for convenience often referred to as 'issued in the collected edition,' but nevertheless they are not re-issues and would not be listed as such in a bibliography. (p90)
In fact, Bowers would argue that the Osborne collections of Hoyle makes a weaker case for inclusion in a bibliography because they lack a general title page—they are simply the individual treatises bound together with the original title pages. The importance of a change in title page is central to Bowers's view of issue:
We must take it as a fundamental assumption that, except in the most uncommon circumstances, sheets will not be re-issued without a change of title-page. Unless a different title-leaf is is substituted, we must presume that the book in its altered form was not separately issued at any one time but was added to existing stocks during continuous sale. It is impossible to set up any standards for issue which have any likelihood of uniform and logical application unless the title-page is taken as the prime evidence. (p78, emphasis in original)
At the risk of challenging the gospel, I disagree with Bowers and feel that Osborne's collected volumes of Hoyles are important books and should be listed in a bibliography as separate issues. While a changed title page is certainly evidence of separate issue, it is really the publisher's intention to create a separate book that determines issue. Bowers agrees with that definition, as one of his criteria for issue is: must comprise a different form of the book planed for sale as a separate publishing venture from the normal issue as a consequence of altered makeup. (p77)
The collections do have altered makeup and, as is evident from his October 26, 1745 advertisement, Osborne sold them separately at a different price. To me this is separate issue and it will be listed as such in my bibliography.

Bowers is however quite rigid in what he will accept as evidence of the publisher's intention. He would reject my reliance on the advertisement, claiming that collateral evidence, that is evidence apart from the physical book, cannot be considered in descriptive bibliography:
The entrance of a book in the Stationers' Register under the name of an author, or public advertisement of the book as his, is in a collateral sense a bibliographical fact, but it is not a fact in the analytic sense. Except in very special circumstances no examination of the book as a material object can prove the truth or falsehood of such statements; hence they are not truly bibliographical because they cannot be demonstrated by bibliographical methods. (p32-3)
I think that Bowers is just being dogmatic here—he doesn't justify his assertion. Collateral evidence is merely a different sort of proof from the physical and must be evaluated carefully. Certainly I have seen plenty of advertisements for books that were never published or advertisements that disguised the author or publisher. Although collateral evidence is not from the physical book, it can teach us about the physical book and is thus bibliographical. Further, as well shall see in the next essay, in the case of the Osborne collected Hoyle, the evidence of the advertisements is supported by the physical evidence of the books. 

I've corresponded about this issue with Patrick Spedding, a bibliographer whom I greatly respect. He is the author of A Bibliography of Eliza Haywood; his blog is listed on my blog list at right. He too disagrees with Bowers and lists collected editions of previously published works his the Haywood bibliography rather than relegating them to notes. [Aside: I particularly like the Haywood bibliography because Hoyle's first publisher Francis Cogan also published many of her works!]

Armed with logic against dogma and with the support of a respected bibliographer, I am prepared to ignore Bowers's bible and will discuss the Hoyle collections as separate issues in the next essay. They are both complex and interesting. Stay tuned!

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