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Among the interesting conclusions that arise from this examination is that the latest reprints of “McKerrow” and “Bowers” are not based on the most correct texts. Principles was revised for the first Russell and Russell printing of 1962, with the corrections retained throughout that subedition. The St Paul's printings of the 1980s and 1990s, however, reproduce the original 1949 Princeton impression, with its various errors. The most reliable reprint would be based on one of the first four Russell and Russell printings, the ones bound in blue (the fifth suffers from a disappearing word on page 6). Puzzlingly, the St Paul's publishers show no awareness of the reprintings that come before their own. Each of their impressions provides on the copyright page some indication of previous ones, in a manner that increasingly suggests it is meant to be inclusive. The most recent statement, from 1998, reports the 1949 original and the St Paul's printings of 1986, 1987, and 1994. It also explicitly calls itself the fifth—rather than the tenth, as in fact it is. This preliminary analysis of Principles also points to kinds of information relevant to a fuller investigation of its printing history. For instance, it is clear from aberrant line spacing and residual text from the photographed copy that the 1962 Russell and Russell printing was reproduced lithographically, with reset text pasted across the original before it was photographed. That knowledge in turn may provide insight into the physical processes by which the original 1949 Princeton impression was manufactured. Machine collation of the 1949 and 1962 printings reveals horizontal movement of lines 1 and 2 against 3 through 6 of the note on page 48. This variation is unlikely to have resulted from the lithographic method used to produce the 1962 printing; it may instead appear because the copy of 1949 photographed for 1962 differs from the copies of 1949 that I have collated. Such a variation in turn probably would result only if the original impression was printed from type or Linotype slugs rather than from plates (either relief or planographic).[31]


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The latest impression of McKerrow's Introduction is not based on the best available text either, though at least here the reprint derives from a copy that incorporates the changes publicly introduced in 1928. According to statements on successive copyright pages, the latest impression is reprinted either “photographically” (printings 3 and 4) or “lithographically” (printings 5 through 12) from “sheets of the second impression.” (The thirteenth printing says simply “First published 1927| Thirteenth impression 1977”; it too descends from the 1928 revision, without acknowledging its ancestry.) Despite that account of later printings radiating from the 1928 one, a cursory identification of type damage throughout the series suggests that most new impressions derive from the immediately preceding one.

Future bibliographers will need to test that proposition (recognizing that different sections of a book may have been photographed from different copies), but at the least it is clear that, whatever their assertions, some printings are not prepared directly from that of 1928. In the partial word “pensate” that begins the final line on page 11, for instance, the upper half of the stroke of “s” has a bulge from the fourth printing on; in the pagination on page 79, the stem of the “7” is broken just below the bar in all printings beginning with the sixth; and in the first line of note 2 on page 223, the “ce” of “cancellation” is partly absent from the eighth printing on. It is conceivable that incredible coincidences have made anomalies arise identically and independently in a number of printings, but it is more likely—indeed, virtually certain—that instead of being based directly on the 1928 revised printing, subsequent impressions stem from the first or later ones in each of these series, either because an early one was photographed for later impressions or because negatives or lithographic plates were reused from one to the other. In at least one instance economic factors confirm the likelihood of such a genealogy. Beginning with the third printing and continuing through the twelfth, the book was bound in gatherings of eight leaves rather than four, and the printed signatures had to be changed from the first two impressions. It then made sense to base subsequent printings with the new binding structure on a printing that had the revised set of signatures, rather than to modify a copy from 1928 every time the book was reprinted.

But while not all later printings descend directly from the 1928 impression, it is also the case that not all of them derive (at least for all pages) from the immediately preceding one. The fourth printing does not repeat the third printing's “a” with the depressed shoulder in the “pensate” example (from the foot of page 11), for instance, nor are the fifth printing's anomalous instances of the number “7” (with large serifs at the upper left in the pagination for pages 78 and 79) or the extensive damage of the bottom of the “a” in “especially” (in the seventh line from the foot of page 118) duplicated in the impression that follows. Nor, for example, does the thirteenth printing follow the twelfth on page 115 in obliterating significant parts of “th” in “the”


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four lines from the bottom of the notes and of “Th” in “There” in the line below that.

Both of these observations—that later printings are not derived directly from that of 1928, and that they also do not always descend from the immediately antecedent impression—are manifested by the 1994 St Paul's printing. The description of its text on the copyright page is on the model of that in the Oxford impressions: “St Paul's Bibliographies... reissued the 1928 text... in 1994.” It is first of all clear that this printing, the fourteenth, was not produced from the preceding one. The thirteenth, the first to have gatherings of sixteen leaves, has no signatures; the fourteenth, also in sixteens, seems likewise intended to have no signature markings, but vestiges of them remain from an earlier printing. The letter “H” appears at the foot of page 97, and in some copies a smudge, the slight evidence of the signature “F,” is visible under the word “for” at the foot of page 65. (As McKerrow pointed out, “we sometimes find that the compositor in setting up the reprint forgets that he has to alter the signature” [p. 194]). The fourteenth printing therefore comes from one that has those signatures—that is, from the third through the twelfth impressions. The range of possible sources is further reduced by the recognition that at line 7 of page 263 the St Paul's printing follows the sixth through twelfth impressions in omitting the “os” of “imposition” (the thirteenth printing restores these letters, albeit in a different font). The exact source of St Paul's is pinpointed by a particular page number that inexplicably appears in four different positions throughout the various printings. The “2” of “291” sometimes falls under the “e” of “printer” in the previous line—4.2 mm below it (from base line to base line) in the first seven printings, and 5.8 mm down in the eighth. After that, it occurs under the final “r”—5.6 mm below in the ninth and tenth printings, and 5.0 mm below in the eleventh through thirteenth. In the St Paul's impression the numeral is 5.8 mm below the “e”. This fourteenth printing clearly was produced from the eighth impression, an inference confirmed by the great number of “hickeys” or dirt spots that are present uniquely and identically in the two printings.[32] The best existing form of the book to use for a reprint would indeed have been the second impression (modified by inclusion of two elements from the first printing: the original Figure 9 from page 35, and, less importantly, the pagination from page 113). Progressive type damage, resulting in the disappearance of certain characters, means that impressions starting with the third are less adequate, those beginning with the sixth less acceptable yet, and those from the eighth on least desirable of all.

In his review of Principles in the journal that McKerrow founded, Herbert Davis avouches that for “the student of textual problems,” bibliographical concern with late reprints “with which the author can have had nothing


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to do” is “sheer waste of time.”[33] Davis's assertion begs many questions even for the audience he speaks of—including how one might determine that the author in fact had nothing to do with the reprints. For readers of McKerrow's Introduction and Bowers's Principles his generalization is especially problematic, for it would seem to preclude close examination and resulting insight into the only forms of the books that most of them will encounter. What case studies like the current ones can do is to help readers of these works see particular authors and printers going about their tasks and understand better what the books are and why they are so. But such examinations also have application for all readers. Besides suggesting ways in which books might be read and studied, they provide reminders of the nature of verbal works and of how they develop, and they underscore the need to read critically at the most fundamental level, assessing the very symbols on the page.


After this article was set in type I was able to locate and consult correspondence about Principles between Bowers and the Princeton University Press.[34] These letters provide additional evidence for a number of points established by analysis of the book itself, and they cast light on several related topics as well. They also reveal that the idea behind the current paper— analyzing Principles by its own standards—is not original. On 27 March 1948 Bowers proposed to a Princeton editor, Mariam Brokow, that the book include a bibliographical note describing its gatherings and typography according to the methods the volume espoused. (Such a note was not included.)

The correspondence illuminates the conceptual genesis of the book, in particular its relationship to McKerrow's Introduction. Many of Bowers's exchanges were with Datus C. Smith, Jr., director of the Press and the person who on a visit to Charlottesville in April 1946 had urged Bowers to submit his developing manuscript for the Press's consideration, even though it was only (as they then underestimated) seven-eights complete. On 3 November of that year Bowers wrote Smith,

I don't pretend to be McKerrow—and the book is not a competitor of his since the subject is different—but if I'm lucky it will be a standard reference book for some time to come. Some day when I know enough I'm going to do a new McKerrow—in fact the present job started originally as a chapter in the proposed opus.

As publication of Principles approached and the complexity of the undertaking became clearer, Bowers reiterated his plans: “I've something in mind


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in the distant future about rewriting McKerrow for Princeton if Datus doesn't lose his shirt on me this time” (Bowers to Brokow, 26 June 1949). Bowers never did get to that project, though his vision of what such a book would require seems to lie behind his disappointment with Philip Gaskell's A New Introduction to Bibliography. In “McKerrow Revisited” (PBSA 67.2 [Second Quarter 1973], 109-124), Bowers concludes his review of Gaskell by pointing out that “it is deceptive to call it a New Introduction as if it were intended to act as a replacement for McKerrow.”

Much of the correspondence points to the special typographical difficulties posed by the volume. The book apparently was the responsibility— and the achievement—of the Press's designer, P. J. Conkwright, who, according to a letter of 7 November 1946, preferred dropping the definite article from the proposed title The Principles of Descriptive Bibliography. A couple of weeks after publication Smith wrote Bowers, “The printing of this book was surely a challenge to all of the people engaged in the enterprise, and although we certainly would not want something of that sort to be going on around here every week, it was a stimulating experience for all of us” (13 January 1950). Smith noted that charges for Author's Alterations exceeded the amount to which Bowers was entitled without charge ($263.25) by $174.68 —and that the Press would absorb the cost: “we feel that in the case of this book many of the alterations were a function of the typographic improvisation, and a natural part of the whole job of producing a book of this sort.” Bowers insisted on paying anyway, eliciting this response from Smith on 19 January:

Your note of January 17 establishes publishing history. We have received letters in the past from authors in which they say they are damned if they will pay the cost of Author's Alterations, the nature of which they profess not to understand, but we have surely never before had a letter from an author requesting the privilege of such payment.

Bowers's petition was denied.

One of the most important revelations of the correspondence is that Bowers himself was responsible for the alterations in Principles. Corrections had been on his mind almost from the start: on 5 December 1950 he wrote Smith, “In case you plated the book and on some future occasion ever run off more copies, for God's sake give me a chance to mend a few places, especially one where a line of type dropped out and another got repeated after I'd OK'd page proof!” When Russell and Russell decided to reprint the volume, Bowers responded to the invitation of Gordon Hubel at Princeton to make changes; in a letter of 12 December 1961 he listed the points I have identified above, except for the mispositioned page number on 12.

The file also casts light on a number of other matters raised in the present article. Lawrence Wroth had identified himself to Bowers as a reader of the manuscript for the Press; the file reveals that the other reader was René Wellek. According to letters of 14 September 1946, each was paid $25. Bowers had recommended Francis R. Johnson and James M. Osborn as evaluators; according to a letter from Smith to Harold Munger at the Press on


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3 April 1946, Bowers seems to have advised against asking William A. Jackson. The Press nonetheless approached Jackson and Henry Bartlett Van Hoesen, both of whom declined the undertaking. Jackson's letter of 3 May 1946 added a skeptical note: “I cannot refrain... from saying that I have my doubts as to whether any system of descriptive bibliography can be made standard even were it demonstrably the best.”

The comment about Principles by Victor Hugo Paltsits (cited in note 1) was indeed not from a review but from a solicited statement Paltsits submitted on 1 August 1949 after reading galley proof; another Paltsits quotation appeared in a full-page advertisement for Principles on the back cover of Antiquarian Bookman for 21 January 1950. On 25 September 1949 Bowers encouraged the Press to send advance review copies to two major English publications, The Library and Times Literary Supplement. Because three days later the Press mailed page proof to Earle P. Walbridge, editor of PBSA (in the hope that his journal might report on the book along with or even before its review of Bühler, McManaway, and Wroth's published Rosenbach lectures), it would seem likely both that advance copies were in fact sent to the two London periodicals and that these copies too were in the form of page proof. The discrepancy between the references in F. C. Francis's Library review and the text of the published book might then be explained by the fact that he was using a pre-publication form of the work.

On 21 June 1949 Miriam Brokow wrote Bowers about the “linotype schedule,” thus corroborating the method of production that seems clear from the physical evidence in the book. A few weeks after publication Datus Smith noted to Harold Munger (on 13 January 1950) that two thousand copies of Principles had been printed, at a cost of about $5900.