|Beautiful books: Special collections from John Hopkins University, via Flickr|
It's been a while since I covered rare books as part of my librarianship degree (about 4 years, give or take), so when this was advertised I signed up straightaway. Although I don't deal with rare books - the curatorial assistant takes away any of mine which qualify and put them in the rare books department, which is fair, I guess - I do work alongside them, and it's good to have a refresher in case I can ever help out there.
Liam Sims took the course - he's been a rare books cataloguer quite a while now. I have to say, I was *really* ill that day, and very tired having been up most of the night, but went in anyway. I struggled to stay awake for some of it, but that was because I was ill - so Liam, if you see this, and remember the woman dozing off in the corner, trust me, there was good reason, and I'm very sorry!
First we covered book manufacture, which remained principally the same until about the mid-18th century. It's aspects of this that can give us clues to a book's age, place of manufacture and so on.
|Making paper from stuff: Monselice z22 by Zyance via Wikimedia Commons|
Paper is made from linen rags, or whatever they could use - it's boiled up in a vat, and turns into "stuff" (yes, that's actually the term). Then a frame with wooden slats one way, metal wires another, and overall covered in a fine mesh is pushed into the stuff. Pull it out, let it dry and you have paper! The wires create what's called "chainlines", and you might also see a watermark stamped into the paper - these both help identify information about where and when the paper was made.
|Old paper with watermark via Public Domain Pictures|
Printing was done with moveable type by putting a line of text together on a "composing stick" (these medieval chaps believed in calling a spade a spade), upside down and back to front. They were kept in cases - the upper case contained the capitals, and the lower case contained the little letters (hence "upper case" and "lower case"). They'd be arranged with the most common letters in the middle, kind of like Dvorak for typesetters. Type, fonts, and styles varied widely according to the time and the location.
|Missionary Printing Press, by Brigade Piron via Wikimedia Commons|
If there were illustrations, these would be either woodcuts, which were relief images (like a potato print, so you'd cut away everything but the image you wanted to create), or engravings, which were etched into a metal plate, then the plate would be covered in ink and wiped off so the ink only remained in the etching, which was then pressed firmly onto the page.
|Woodcut of an alchemist, Wellcome Collection via Wikimedia Commons|
Binding is an interesting one, because books often didn't come bound. The idea was that you could make sure your books matched, so you'd get them bound yourself. These books came in paper bindings. Liam glossed over this area somewhat, because he said the terminology for describing bindings isn't very standardized.
We then took a trip to the University Library's Historical Printing Room. They run courses here in printing, which sounded really interesting - when I don't spend half my evenings babysitting it might be quite fun to try.
The next half of the course was "Rare books cataloguing in a nutshell". Liam claimed that there's no mystery to rare books cataloguing, but it is more detailed than for modern books. It lies somewhere between a full bibliography and a modern book record (good examples can be found at ESTC). He mentioned a couple of points: "entered" means roughly the same as published, and edition is very important, as there may be several editions released in the same year (he gave an example of a Rousseau book which had 3 editions published in the same year).
So in MARC, headings are broadly the same, but there are a few differences, including transcription conventions, descriptive conventions, and levels of detail. Use ellipses (...) for unnecessary information. Include at least the first five words of the title and the alternative title, plus as much as possible of the rest. Omit mottoes, dedications and postnomials and similar, e.g. if "by Richard Bentley, DD, DLitt, Master of Wherever", then write "by Richard Bentley ..." (not "by Richard Bentley.").
If the book is by "anonymous" but you know the author, rather than putting it in square brackets in the 245 field, it goes in a 500 $a Anonymous. By Richard Bentley.
For edition statements put them exactly as they appear, no abbreviations, thus Third edition, corrected, and not 3rd ed., corr.
If the imprint is known but not on the title page then it goes in square brackets: . If it's in Roman numerals then write it thus: MDCCCLXVI .
For pagination/foliation, unnumbered pages are counted and the number put in square brackets thus: , 250, .
599 is the MARC21 field for copy-specific information, e.g. 599 $a Imperfect: title page missing. $5 UkCU. Here might also be where you add information about inscriptions, bookplates - I'm afraid here's where I was really suffering and may not have taken down this information correctly. But former owners/donors go in 700 with a $e (and a $5).
|An example of a catchword, which is the first word on the next gathering. UV and catchword aehdeschaine via Flickr|