University of Virginia Library


Tanselle's article also provides the best overview of the issues surrounding the debate over bibliography and science.


A receipt at the Folger Library in Hinman's hand indicates that he was reimbursed for the “transportation” of a stereoscope from “PIC.” There is nothing in the note or the rest of the file that identifies “PIC” (Hinman, Autograph). I have found no further information on Hinman's use or study of this device. However, stereoscopes were used in the interpretation of aerial photographs during World War II, though not to analyze before and after shots in the manner that Hinman explained. An aerial photograph taken from directly overhead presents a very unnatural view; because the objects pictured appear flat, they are difficult for a viewer to recognize. Military photo-analysts used the stereoscope to view two photographs, slightly offset from one another, taken consecutively along the line of flight or simultaneously from different cameras in the same plane. This created the 3-D effect that had made the device such a popular parlor novelty. It also gave the images contour and thus made them much easier for the analysts to interpret (Stanley 265-270). Neither Hinman nor anyone else ever mentioned the stereoscope as one of his influences. The principles behind the device have been used by his successors, and for more information on this as well as other applications see note 8.


In his 1947 report on the collator, Hinman stated that William Jackson told him that “such a device was nearly perfected at Harvard several years ago. Wartime shortages stopped work on it before it could be put into operation” (“Mechanized Collation: A Preliminary Report,” 105). On the face of it, this statement seems to suggest that yet someone else was working on mechanical collation before Hinman. We know about Willoughby and Bogeng, but neither was working at Harvard, nor were they stopped by wartime shortages. Jackson may have been referring to work that Harvard astronomers were doing with a blink comparator (about which more later in the essay) rather than the application of this technology to the study of books. William H. Bond, who was a graduate student at Harvard before the war, served with Hinman during the conflict, was a Research Fellow with Hinman at the Folger prior to their entering the service, and would return to Harvard after the war and eventually become head of the Houghton Library, is not aware of anyone working on a mechanical collator for bibliographical purposes at Harvard (Bond, Letter). Given Bond's location and his bibliographical interests before and after the war, it would have been very difficult for such efforts to have taken place without his knowledge of them.


There was another technique used by World War II codebreakers that is suggestive of mechanical collation. In their efforts to crack the Germans' famous Engima machine, British cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park overlaid perforated cards called “Jeffreys sheets.” The cards recorded different transmissions of the same message translated into perforations. By superimposing these cards on a light table, the codebreakers attempted to spot similarities in the encryption. This technique would have been known to some Americans. Though the assault on the Enigma machine was led by the British, several U.S. service personnel worked with them (Parrish, 112-113). It seems unlikely, however, that Hinman ever saw or used a Jeffreys sheet. According to a fellow member of his intelligence unit, American work on the Enigma machine was done by the Army, not the Navy. He also has no memory of this technique or anything like it in their unit. Their work involved Japanese, not German, code and relied largely on tools no more sophisticated than pencil and paper (Bond, Telephone, 20 July 2001). It is tempting to link this technique to Hinman. So tempting, in fact, that I feel compelled to raise it here largely for the purpose of ruling it out. There is, again, no evidence that Hinman knew anything about Jeffreys sheets, and unless luck or persistence reveals otherwise we must regard them as only coincidental.


For example, “The collating machine that supposedly `detects' these compositorial differences was a direct outcome of surveillance techniques in the Second World War” (Masten 8).


The blink comparator was itself preceded by an earlier device, the stereo-comparator, which operated according to the principles of the previously mentioned stereoscope. The two devices even share the same inventor in Carl Pulfrich. The blink was apparently an adaptation of the stereo-comparator and both were intended for the same purpose—the comparison of photographs of star fields taken on different dates. But whereas the blink, like the Hinman, utilizes the principle of the stroboscope and signals differences by apparent movement between two images viewed in rapid alternation, the stereo-comparator creates a 3-D effect when the images, viewed simultaneously, do not match. The idea behind the stereoscope would be put to use by some of the Hinman's successors, namely the Lindstrand Comparator in the 1970s, the McLeod Collator in the 1980s, and an even more recent device developed by Carter Hailey (Lindstrand; Zalewski; “Bibliographical Mirrors”). The blink-comparator did not supplant its predecessor. Both have been used effectively by astronomers, their relative merits sometime being the subject of friendly debate (Drummeter). Likewise in the bibliographical world the Hinman was not displaced by the Lindstrand or one of the other stereoscopic collators. Here, too, each device has proven useful, with some bibliographers preferring one over the others.


The source of the “rusty Erector set,” incidentally, was Giles Dawson's young son (Bond, Letter).


In the early 1980s, Paul R. Sternberg and John M. Brayer returned to the idea of “color differentiation.” They used digital technology to create composite images of pages from the same edition. Instead of distinguishing the differences between the pages by blinking or creating a 3-D effect, their method revealed variations by the use of color, either blue or red depending upon which of the images contained the difference. Though the method had its advantages (one being that since the images were stored in a computer they could be replayed at a later date and another that the technique could “equalize” the images if they were scanned or reproduced at different sizes), their approach was only feasible for the “close examination of a few particular images” and not for large-scale collation projects (Sternberg and Brayer 444). However, a far more serious problem, which is apparent from the illustrations provided with the article, was that the process communicated too much information. In addition to highlighting differences in printing, composite imaging highlighted all the differences—smudges, foxing, flyspecks, stray pen or pencil-marks, imperfections in the paper, etc. The Sternberg and Brayer method emphasized everything equally, and thus typographical differences could very easily be lost in a sea of blue and red. Neither Wyllie nor Hinman mentions this effect in their correspondence, but it is difficult to imagine that they did not also face the same challenge.

Sternberg and Brayer have continued their efforts to use digital technology for textual collation, and their most recent efforts are viewable on Sternberg's website (Sternberg). Displayed there are three different approaches to the problem, all of them developed using “off-the-shelf freeware.” One example uses color differentiation, another relies on the stereoscopic or 3-D effect, and yet another tries to recreate on the computer screen the same effect one observes when looking through the viewer of the Hinman. According to Sternberg and Brayer, the “mathematics” underlying each of the programs is still too cumbersome to make any of them practical, and they are now attempting to develop applications based on software of their own design (Sternberg). This technique, along with other descendants of and alternatives to mechanical collation, will be discussed at greater length in a future portion of this study.