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6.) Date

Where the date is printed on the title page or in the colophon, it is given in its entirety:



12 January, 1477

where the date is inferred within the text, it is given in parentheses: (1544)

where the date is unstated, but known by bibliographical reference, and accepted, it is shown in brackets:


Where the date is unknown, the book is given the annotation S,D. or "Sine Datum" (modern cataloguers often use N.D. or, "No Date"). In books whose bibliographical sources have assigned dates by samples of type, rubrication, inscriptions, watermarks, and cetera, those dates should be given in brackets:

[not before 1466]

[not after 13 May, 1460]

Modern books exhibit the peculiarity of showing copyright dates (which should be given in parentheses):

( 1950)

but should never be considered the printing date. Printing dates on Modern books are shown on the recto of the title page, or in the colophon.

7.) Imprint

Taken from the publisher's Imprint itself in Modern books (on the recto of the title page) (unless a separate printer is indicated on the copyright page, verso of the title leaf), from the colophon in Early books, from the Printer's Device, watermark or from confirmed type styles in very early examples.

Harcourt, Brace and World, Incorporated, publishers;

The Viking Press, publishers; The Haddon Craftsmen, printers;

Printed by William Tinsdale, for Bernard Binney, at the Sign of the Swan in Fleet Street;

Apud Iohannis Weisburgii (i.e. Johann[es] Weisburg), Impresse Iehan Petit (i.e. Jean Petit), for the Heirs of Claudii Riet~[um] (i.e. Claud Rjet);


with the device of Octavianus Scotus on the penultimate blank, in the second state


with the Horn Watermark 1a (Briquet ); Hain type 1a [3031], (hence) [Mainz] [apud: The Printer of the 42-Line Bible (Peter Schoeffer?)] (vide: Proctor: 56);

Where the Press is unknown, the book is given the annotation S.N. or "Sine Nomine."

8.) Format

Modernists have wrested the Format description from antiquarians, using it now as a sizing chart, as though all books were cut from the same size parent sheets (which today they pretty much are). Nonetheless, Format has only a little to do with the book's size. Printed sheets with a single fold produce Folio books; with two folds, they produce Quartos; with three folds, Octavos, and cetera. Whether using the Modernist description or the antiquarian cataloguer's designation, giving the book's dimensions - as well as spelling out the size if used - is recommended, unless you're cataloguing strictly for other dealers, e.g.:

Crown Folio F (or 2) (38 cm by 26 cm)

Demy-Octavo 8vo (20 cm by 14 cm)

Trigesimo-Segundo 32mo (14 cm by 9cm)

Sexagesimo-Quarto 64to (8 cm by 5 cm)

Modern practise likewise includes the measurements in inches as well as in centimeters. It should be noted here that any measurements given are those of the textblock, and not of the binding.

9. Collation, Foliation and Pagination

For Modern Books, in most cases, simply following the rules (i.e. if it's numbered, say so; it it's not, put it in brackets) will suffice. Modern collation and pagination are, for the most part, the same thing:

[i - viii] [1, 2] 3 - 366

for a book with four unnumbered preliminary leaves, one unnumbered leaf being pages one and two of the body text, and 366 total pages, the balance numbered.

Collating antiquarian books will give you a headache. Collating Early Printed Books will give you a migraine. Collating incunabula ain't no fun at all.

In all cases, the presence or absence of plates, as called for, prelims, exlims, appendices, advertisements, indices and anything else must be noted.

Books have feelings, and enjoy being handled. This is the reason we collate them. It has nothing at all to do with finding The Enormous Ketchup Stain on page 133, checking the bibliographical points, or realising too late that the last rebinder exchanged the ultimate blank for a leaf whose watermark doesn't match the integral text leaves. If we didn't collate them our clients would eventually find these things for us, and write us nice little notes comprised primarily of quarto words. Collating books is a pain; let's do it anyway; the books will enjoy it. When a book's been collated, and confirmed to be correct and complete, it may be noted as, "C & C" or, "Collated and Complete." We know it's complete when we check the collation in the bibliography and compare the two. After we've done so, we write:

conforms with Hanneman A18

(assuming the book is For Whom The Bell Tolls)


conforms to state 1a as Bruccoli A.8.I.a.a

(if it's The Beautiful And The Damned).

If there's no bibliography available, the book can be collated against the deposit copy in The Library Of Congress, right here, online. There are a million excuses for not collating a book; they all begin with the phrase, "I was too lazy to collate this book because...."

Collation Quiz:

Do you have to collate the books you sell? Nope.

If you sell an uncollated book to a customer, and they find a problem, do you have to take it back at your expense? Yep.

If you sell an uncollated book to a customer, and they pretend to find problem so as to send you their copy with The Enormous Ketchup Stain on page 133, will you know if they're telling the truth? Nope.

Do you have to take it back at your expense anyway? Yep.

Why? Because you didn't collate the book, and that's a (big) part of the job of being a bookseller.

If you sell an uncollated book with a problem to a customer, and they give you negative feedback, and tell all their friends about it, resulting in your losing business, is there something you can do to change that?

Nope; there is no time machine to allow for collating books once they've left the shop.

10. Edition Statement

The Edition Statement is the bibliographical description of the position the book holds in the publishing history of the text. Where the edition, impression or printing is stated, it's described,



so stated


as stated

First Edition, stated

Seventeenth Impression (May, 1940), stated.

Where an edition is inferred bibliographically, it's noted:

[First Edition]; conforms to Giles: 15a

Where binding colours, textural variances, collation anomalies d cetera are a part of the state or issue points, these should be clearly noted in the Edition Statement, and not buried in the Physical Description.

Yellow cloth variant; white wove paper; six pages of advertisements ending with The Law Of The Land; "listed," for, "lifted," line 16; page 21; conforms to Riley: 36, hence, the First Edition.

Where books are noted as First Edition Thus, owing to significant textural departures, new translations, new illustrators, or any number of addition reasons, give the reason for the designation:

First Colijn Translation, hence, First Edition, Thus

With annotations and addenda by Kermit The Frog; First Edition, Thus

First Printed examples of books derived from manuscripts are designated E. P. or, "Editio Princeps." E. P. is not, "a snooty bookseller's term for First Edition" - it's a specific designation afforded the first printed example from a manuscript in the author's original language, which predates the use of moveable type.

As to everything which comes after:

11.) Physical Description

12.) Condition Description

13.) Provenance

14.) Bibliographical Citation(s)

15.) Authorial Overview

16.) General Overview

17.) Edition-Specific Overview

it's pretty self-explanatory.

Cataloguing is easy - you choose a formula and a format with which you're comfortable, and stick to it. It becomes second-nature eventually.

Disclaimer: there will be lots of people who'll take issue - God knows, in a thousand different little ways - with the simple cataloguing system noted above. When they do, it should be borne in mind that antiquarian booksellers were using the above format several hundred years before you were born.

Addenda? I'm certain that many salient points were left out; feel free to annotate this general cataloguing overview as needed; what you see here are simply the bare essentials of a mediocre cataloguer. Then again, I ain't bein' paid for this anyway.

The old law remains - especially in physical description - when in doubt, spell it out.

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Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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