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Manuscript Studies
Medieval and Early Modern

I.ii. Four Branches of Bibliographical Study

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There are four main divisions to the study of bibliography.

Analytical bibliography studies the processes of making books, especially the material modes of production, including the practices of scriptorium or printing shop. One of the purposes of analytical bibliography is to understand how the processes of material production affect the nature and state of the text preserved in the book.

Descriptive bibliography involves describing books in a standard form, including technical descriptions of the format and make-up of the book; this is especially important for manuscripts and early printed books, where each physical copy of a book is likely to be a unique version of the text. Descriptive bibliography is obviously a product of and also a contributor to analytical study, having to do with efficient and standard ways to communicate the results of analysis.

Textual bibliography attempts to establish the "state" of a text, especially in terms of the various versions that are extant, and analyzing who (author, editor, compositor, printer, etc.) was responsible for particular variants. Textual bibliography is obviously part of the process of preparing a scholarly edition of a text, though its significance is certainly not limited to editors.

Enumerative bibliography lists documents, produces catalogues and bibliographies and similar research tools, "enumerating" different categories of texts.

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[ Course Notes: Introduction ] | [ I. Towards a definition of "manuscript studies" ] | [ I.ii. The four branches of bibliographical study ] | [ I.iii. Topics in the social history of texts ] | [ II. Diplomatics ] | [ III. Codicology ] | [ III.ii. Decoration and Illumination ] | [ IV. Paleography ] | [ IV.ii. Historical Notes ] | [ IV.iii. Writing Implements ] | [ IV.iv. Letter Formation ] | [ IV.v. Special Characters in English Manuscripts ] | [ IV.vi. Scribal Abbreviations ] | [ IV.vii. Punctuation ] | [ IV.viii. Paleographical sample: William Herebert, OFM (early fourteenth-century England) ] | [ Herebert sample, with transcription ] | [ Herebert sample: enlargement of full page reproduced at high resolution ] | [ V. Textual analysis (James E. Thorpe) ] | [ V.ii. Scribal error ] | [ V.iii. Kinds of edition ] | [ V.iv. Examples of over emendation on insufficient grounds ] | [ VI. Linguistic competence (an example): An Outline History of the English Language ] | [ VII. Libraries and archives: ] | [ VII.ii. British Library Manuscript Collections ] | [ VII.iii. Bodleian Library Manuscript Collections ]

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© 1998 Stephen R. Reimer
English; University of Alberta; Edmonton, Canada
All rights reserved.
Created: 26 Nov. 1998; Last revised: 2 Dec. 1998

email: Stephen.Reimer@UAlberta.Ca
URL: http://www.ualberta.ca/~sreimer/ms-course.htm