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One of the principal problems with which descriptive bibliography has to contend arises from the fact that books are made up of smaller units, each with its own separate history. The book as a whole may be regarded as a unit by the bookseller or the book-buyer; but, as with other manufactured products, its component parts are the units at earlier stages of production. Variations can therefore easily occur among copies of what is supposed to be the same "book," as a result of differences in the manufacturing history of the component parts or differences in their placement in the finished product. Bibliographers have given a great deal of attention to this problem in connection with the letterpress sheets in books and have classified the variations that may occur into those that produce "issues" and those that produce "states."[1] Mixtures of sheets from different impressions or of gatherings with canceled and uncanceled leaves are difficulties that bibliographers are accustomed to thinking about in a formal way.

Much less theoretical discussion has been devoted to the similar problems that are likely to occur when engravings, lithographs, and other materials produced separately from the letterpress sheets are intended to be bound with those sheets to form completed books. It is perhaps natural that variations among copies of the plates used to illustrate an edition of a work, or variations in the placing of those plates in different copies of the edition, have not generally been taken up in conjunction with variations in letterpress sheets. Inserted plates do seem to be further removed from the sheets than, say, a cancel leaf (or a whole cancel gathering) that was likewise printed separately from the rest of the sheets and inserted. One reason, of course, is that they normally result from a fundamentally different process of reproduction. When illustrations and


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text are produced by the same process—as when wood blocks are used with type (both relief processes)—there is no necessity for printing the illustrations separately and inserting them. But when, for example, engravings are to be combined with a text printed from type, the illustrations and text must be produced separately, since one results from an intaglio process and the other from relief. They would not only be printed on different kinds of presses but perhaps even in different printing shops and on different grades of paper. Furthermore, inserted plates, if their content is visual rather than verbal, represent not merely a different medium of reproduction from the text but a different medium of expression as well. They also often have a life independent of the text they are combined with in a particular edition. However, despite the natural tendency to think about inserted plates as a separate question from the complexities associated with the letterpress, it is important in a bibliographical context to see the plates as but another example of a larger problem: the potential for variation produced in books by the joining together of discrete elements, whether they are gatherings, cancels, plates, or publishers' casings. Plates may indeed have an independent existence and be treated by art historians as separate entities. But when they are included in books as part of the publisher's conception of what the books are to consist of,[2] bibliographical descriptions of those books must take them, and any variations associated with them, into account.

In some books, of course, it is hardly appropriate to call the non-letterpress portions "insertions," for they may constitute the bulk of the books. A volume showing an artist's work in the form of engravings, or an atlas of engraved maps, or a tune-book of engraved music, for instance, might have a letterpress preface. Such books are likely to be discussed and described by art historians, cartographic historians, and musicologists, who bring to the task the traditions and vocabularies of their own fields, often derived from thinking about the engravings as separate pieces. That their language is sometimes different from that of bibliographers accustomed to dealing with printed books may be an inconvenience but is perhaps not a serious matter, since usually one can quickly learn to make the necessary adjustments. What is more important is that terminology reflects an underlying approach to the material; bibliographers and cartographers, for instance, may find themselves talking


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at cross purposes, even when they think they know how the other group uses certain words, because they may not share a single conceptual framework. There has in recent years been some discussion among both cartographers and musicologists about the classification and description of books in their fields, and there has been a somewhat longer tradition of concern with bibliographical description on the part of those concerned with illustrated botanical and zoological books. Illustrated books in general have always received a certain amount of attention, but I think it is fair to say, judging from booktrade activity and library exhibitions, that interest in them has never been higher than it is at present. The moment seems propitious, then, for encouraging interdisciplinary discussion of the problems of bibliographical description that are common to all books with plates. A consolidated approach will produce sounder advances and be of greater benefit to all who deal with books than a situation in which each field considers the problem independently. In this spirit, I should like to discuss what seem to me the two major questions: the first, more theoretical and conceptual, is what relation individual plates, with their own states and variations, have to the variant issues of the books in which they appear; the second, more methodological, is what considerations are involved in devising a system for recording the non-letterpress elements of a book in a bibliographical description. Much of what is said will have had its origin in thinking about books that join engravings and letterpress; but the principles involved ought to be applicable to any books that bring together materials produced by different graphic processes.