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The connection between the two books has been noted repeatedly. Bowers himself assumes his audience's familiarity with the earlier work and in his Foreword says that he will not touch on various materials “readily available in McKerrow's classic” (ix). Readers with access to the original dust jacket of Principles would find the connection reiterated. According to the flaps, “Principles of Bibliographical Description is intended to supplement and act as a companion piece to McKerrow's well-known Introduction to Bibliography; it covers a subject only briefly treated by McKerrow.” In reviewing Principles, F. C. Francis determined that “Professor Bowers's book should take its place beside McKerrow on every bibliographer's bookshelf,” and Curt Bühler envisioned similar cohabitation: “Bowers has done for technical description what McKerrow did for bibliographical investigation, and the `Principles of Bibliographical Description' will henceforth hold an honored place alongside `An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students.'” In


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an account that indirectly pays tribute to McKerrow's lucidity and Bowers's thoroughness, Donald Wing opened his review with a slightly different characterization of the relationship between the books: “Let it be said at the outset that this beautifully printed volume of five hundred pages is not a substitute for McKerrow's classic Introduction to Bibliography. That remains the undergraduate approach to the material. Mr. Bowers has gone on to a graduate seminar where only the initiate can fully follow.”[1]

Given the care that had gone into the preparation of these books, one would anticipate little need for post-publication revision. Each book had received the scrutiny and advice of many consultants, including the greatest bibliographers of the day. McKerrow acknowledged his friends W. W. Greg and A. W. Pollard as having pride of place for assistance, including for reading the entire book in manuscript or proof (vii). In a similar vein, Bowers pointed out “my paramount indebtedness to Dr. W. W. Greg's searching criticisms of a large part of the manuscript” (x-xi), and he dedicated the book to Greg. Bowers also had had the advantage of seeing the 1947 Rosenbach Lectures—by Bühler, James McManaway, and Lawrence Wroth[2]— before they were published (as Standards of Bibliographical Description, in the same year as Principles). Both Bühler and McManaway, meanwhile, acknowledged having had access to Bowers's manuscript earlier, while preparing their own. Their familiarity with Principles and Bowers's acquaintance with their reactions to it enabled him to answer their replies before their responses were actually in print. This he did throughout Principles, but specifically in Appendix III, where he addressed Bühler's concerns.

Nonetheless, readers who have imbibed the lessons of McKerrow and Bowers may be dubious that these books attained either their desired or their final forms on first publication. Suspicions might be reinforced by recollection of alterations in other well-known bibliographical works. Philip Gaskell's A New Introduction to Bibliography was first published by Oxford University Press in 1972 but then reprinted with corrections in England in


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1974 and in the United States in 1975—the latter in two different “second printings.”[3] G. Thomas Tanselle and David McKitterick have identified passages in some of Greg's best-known articles that changed between their original appearance and publication in his Collected Papers, and Tanselle has also observed how Bowers added footnotes (but marked them as newly inserted) when his essays were reprinted.[4]

Circumstances directly related to the McKerrow and Bowers books likewise encourage wariness in assuming that they attained their ultimate form on their first appearance. In a publication announcement for Principles, Princeton University Press acknowledged the challenge of getting the text right (and thereby called attention to the possibility that the challenge might not have been met adequately): it noted “the mechanical job of composition involving special type and other unusual problems.”[5] In reviewing the Introduction, George P. Winship noted McKerrow's willingness to modify what he had written earlier: “the quality in Mr. McKerrow's work which most surely inspires confidence,” wrote Winship, “is the matter-of-fact way in which he goes about demonstrating the mistakes in his own earlier Notes.[6] The earlier article Winship speaks of is McKerrow's “Notes on Bibliographical Evidence for Literary Students and Editors of English Works of the Six-


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teenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” written in the autumn of 1913 and published in 1914.[7] McKerrow is indeed forthright about changes he makes for the book: he acknowledges and corrects, for instance, “a bad blunder which I made in the original edition of these notes” (p. 40, n. 3).

Fine tuning after original publication is in fact a frequent characteristic of McKerrow's scholarship as well as of the treatment of his work by others. The “Notes” themselves acquired slight refinements between their periodical appearance and their issue as a separate. (Among the variants, the only clearly preferable reading occurs in the separate, suggesting that—for this instance at least—the separate contains the later state.[8]) McKerrow's first book, Eigo Hatsuongaku, was revised the year after its original publication in 1902.[9] The 1905 printing of The Gull's Hornbook, which he edited, identified itself as “in the main [only], a reprint of that issued last year”; and a cancel leaf was required for his 1907 edition of The History of Orlando Furioso 1594 to correct the spelling of his name (first given as “Robert”) in Greg's note on the back of the title page. When his five-volume edition of Thomas Nashe (1904-10) was reprinted “with corrections and supplementary notes” in 1958, the new editor, F. P. Wilson, noted that McKerrow himself had “printed corrections to his text on p. 484 of volume iv and p. 373 of volume v” and that “McKerrow also added explanatory notes as his edition was passing through the press” (5.373). Even the list by F. C. Francis that records most of these changes includes “revisions by the [new] compiler” when the record is reprinted with a collection of McKerrow's writings.[10]

Opportunities for intentional and inadvertent changes in Introduction and Principles multiplied as the books were reprinted. The accompanying chart lists the impressions that I have identified—fourteen of McKerrow and ten of Bowers. The printings are numbered consecutively at the left of each


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column; superscripts indicate the sequence within a family of printings, or within what Bowers calls a “subsidiary edition” or “sub-edition.”[11] The pattern of these reimpressions reiterates the link between the two books that was noted immediately when Principles first appeared: reflecting but also propelling trends in scholarship, these books often have come forth in tandem over the past half century.

Printings of McKerrow's Introduction and Bowers's Principles

McKerrow, Introduction   Bowers, Principles  
1 Oxford1, 1927 
2 Oxford2, 1928 
3 Oxford3, 1948 
4 Oxford4, 1949  1 Princeton1, 1949 
5 Oxford5, 1951 
6 Oxford6, 1959 
7 Oxford7, 1960 
8 Oxford8, 1962  2 Russell & Russell1, 1962 
9 Oxford9, 1964  3 Russell & Russell2, 1963-64? 
10 Oxford10, 1965  4 Russell & Russell3, 1965-71? 
11 Oxford11, 1967 
12 Oxford12, 1972  5 Russell & Russell4, 1972-75? 
13 Oxford13, 1977  6 Russell & Russell5, 1977 
7 St Paul's1, 1986 
8 St Paul's2, 1987 
14 St Paul's1/Oak Knoll, 1994  9 St Paul's3/Oak Knoll, 1994 
10 St Paul's4/Oak Knoll, 1998 

The publishing history of these two works has not always been clear even to those who have written about them. An article surveying the career of McKerrow half a century after the appearance of Introduction mentions only the uncorrected 1927 impression in its checklist of his works; the latest edition of a renowned guide to literary terms gives only the date of the tenth printing of McKerrow's “classic work on bookmaking and printing,” citing the book as “rev. 1965”; and the publishers of the recent tenth printing of Bowers's Principles identify it as the fifth.[12]


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After the corrected impression of McKerrow's Introduction in 1928, that book was not reprinted again until two decades later—almost as if nudged back into public view by the appearance of Bowers's Principles (which was distributed in England by the Introduction's publisher, Oxford[13]). The Bowers book was listed by Books in Print (but identified there as Principles of Bibliographical Criticism) as “in press” in 1948 and 1949, and it was published on 30 December 1949.[14] In the same era (from 1948 to 1951), Introduction underwent three printings. The heyday of both books spanned the 1960s. From 1959 through 1972, Oxford University Press reprinted McKerrow seven times. When Oxford redesigned the jacket in 1959, Principles appeared on the back panel atop a newly added list of “Some OXFORD Books”, where it remained for the printings of 1960 and 1962 as well. Principles therefore seems to have been available in England as late as 1962, but in 1960 it dropped from the American Books in Print. As if now spurred by the popularity of McKerrow, the scholarly reprint firm Russell and Russell reprinted the Bowers book in New York four times in this period, beginning in 1962. Russell and Russell produced a fifth impression shortly thereafter—in the same year (1977) that Oxford released a thirteenth printing of Introduction. The Bowers book reappeared as a new subedition in printings from St Paul's Bibliographies in 1986 and 1987, but McKerrow's Introduction was not further reprinted (perhaps because it was incorrectly perceived to be superseded by Gaskell's New Introduction to Bibliography of 1972) until it and Principles were published as companion volumes by St Paul's and Oak Knoll Press in 1994. Principles was reprinted as part of this subedition in 1998, the same year that a Spanish translation of McKerrow's Introduction appeared.[15] The renewed interest in Principles reflected in the printings of the late 1980s and the 1990s was meanwhile mirrored by a 1991 Japanese book, Akira


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Takano's Yōsho no hanashi (“A Story of European Books”). It was “Based on Bowers's Principles of Bibliographical Description,[16] but by also drawing on McKerrow (directly adopting, for instance, his illustrations of pairs of leaves from pp. 167 and 169, which now appeared on pp. 19 and 21), it reemphasized the natural connection between the two works.

The exact dates of the five known Russell and Russell printings are hard to pin down, but details from the title and copyright pages provide useful clues. The two impressions that seem the earliest are those that have the publisher's city and name in separate lines on the title page and that print the copyright information, including the statement “Reissued, 1962,” at the top of the next page. In the other three impressions the imprint information appears in a single line and the copyright details move to the foot of the page, where they read largely the same except that Russell and Russell is then called “A Division of Atheneum Publishers, Inc.” Atheneum acquired Russell and Russell in 1965;[17] the copies without the ownership declaration therefore seem to have come before that, an inference supported by the fact that one of them has the date 1962 on the title page. This printing is in fact the only one in the subedition to have a date in the imprint, and it generates the surmise that, as the sole impression that can be linked indisputably with the year of the first reprint, it might indeed be that first reprint. Unless hitherto unrecognized printings exist, the other impression without the reference to Atheneum—and hence also implicitly published before 1965— would have been the second printing. At the other end of the series, the latest Russell and Russell printing is almost certainly the one bound in brown cloth (instead of the blue cloth with which the others are covered). Its copyright page again says “Reissued, 1962” but adds “Copyright renewed, 1977, by Princeton University Press”; it presumably appeared in 1977 or shortly thereafter. (I purchased my copy of this printing in November 1979.)

What then must be the intermediate printings of the subedition, the third and fourth of those that have been identified (both of them bound in blue, both with the copyright information at the foot of the page), can be distinguished by whether or not they include an ISBN number on the copyright page. That system for identifying books was approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1970,[18] and in 1973 Russell and Russell first added the number to its entry for Principles in Books in Print. My copy of the printing without an ISBN designation is signed and dated “1971” by a previous owner; the lack of other marks of ownership or


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of use may be signs that he bought it new that year. The printing with the ISBN code, on the other hand, was available in December 1975, when Terry Belanger purchased a copy for the Book Arts Press. Those benchmarks make it plausible that the third printing of this subedition appeared between 1965 (the year Atheneum acquired Russell and Russell) and 1971, and the fourth during the years from 1972 through 1975.[19]

A full bibliographical analysis of these books would be interesting and productive, as even a cursory inspection suggests. For example, the volumes and dust jackets of McKerrow's Introduction offer a case study in the design and production methods of the Oxford University Press over half a century, and through their changing list of cities in which the Press had an office they even suggest the course of world events. The book in which McKerrow offers the general rule that “the handsomest edition of a book is the first” and in which he points out that the “tendency of reprints has at all times been toward the saving of expense in production” (p. 184) provides its own evidence for his observations as it gradually abandons paper with chain lines, removes the second color from its jacket, and reduces its height. The latter change—one that underscores McKerrow's point about the benefits that arise from “the comparison of several copies” (p. 230)—occurs during the binding of the fifth printing: the large copies (9″ high) have only their top edge trimmed, whereas the shorter (8⅝″) and presumably later ones, with a higher publisher's price, are smooth on all edges. The original size is partially restored beginning with the tenth printing, though the subsequent volumes never fully regain the height of the early ones. The pattern of dress is similar for Bowers's Principles, whose colored title-page cartouche becomes black in all reprintings and whose original dust jacket diminishes to brown wrapping paper on the Russell and Russell impressions.[20] (Currently both books are sold only in paper covers.) The overall consistency of these patterns makes variations from them suggestive; that the second Russell and Russell printing


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of Principles has the thickest paper and finest-grained cloth of the subedition, for example, may hint that this impression rather than the one with the title-page date is the true first printing. The Bowers and McKerrow books also provide other fascinations to the bibliographical eye. It is interesting, for instance, to ponder the industrial procedures that resulted in alternating paper stocks in the 1986 Principles, or to watch the Oxford printers address the problem of how best to impose a book whose leaves in some impositions did not add up to full regular gatherings (the Oxford impressions of McKerrow have been variously gathered in fours, eights, and twelves).

The selective but extensive examination that follows is not intended as a full printing or publishing history; rather, it focuses on a particular physical feature of these books, their texts, in an attempt to answer some basic questions about changes that occurred.[21] Curiosity compels identification of McKerrow's unspecified corrections and additions, and a similar inquisitiveness prompts investigation of whether the printings of Principles that imply similarity with each other really do have the same texts. The incentive for these questions is practical as well: readers need to know whether some forms of the book should be consulted instead of others—and, indeed, whether certain ones should be used as the basis for reprints. Knowing what has been modified also helps in the actual reading of these books. The existence and nature of changes first of all provide assistance in understanding the relative care these authors exercised at various stages (and thereby contribute to assessing their overall credibility). The alterations may also reveal the development of the authors' thought, and those determined to be authorial also signal for the reader elements that likely reflect specially considered judgments. By reiterating to readers the possibility that a text may exist in different forms, this kind of analysis also provides a more general lesson in reading, for it reminds those who come to texts that the need to test all things includes the necessity of assessing critically even the typographical symbols that they have in front of them.