Libraries & Culture 38.4 (2003) 422-423
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A Bibliography of Printing, vols. 1-3. Compiled by E. C. Bigmore and C. W. H. Wyman. New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press; London: British Library, 2001. Vol. 1: A-L, xii, 449 pp.; vol. 2: M-S, vii, 412 pp.; vol. 3: T-Z, vi, 115 pp. $85.00. ISBN 1-58456-061-4.
Originally published between 1880 and 1886, A Bibliography of Printing has been the standard work on the subject ever since. The Bibliography is so comprehensive in its coverage of the subject that few pre-1885 works on printing are not included. Even today it is still the best source on the topic.
A Bibliography of Printing was produced by Edward Clements Bigmore and Charles William Henry Wyman from about 1873 to 1886. In February 1873 they announced their plan for the work and began publishing it in January 1876 in monthly installments in Printing Times and Lithographer. The first volume (A-L) was published in 1880, the second (M-S) in 1884, and the third (T-Z) in 1886, all by Bernard Quaritch.
Clearly underestimating the importance of the Bibliography, Quaritch produced only 250 copies of the three-volume set. It has been reprinted many times: in 1945, two volumes with enlarged type were issued by Philip Duschnes (New York); in [End Page 422] 1969 and 1974, single-volume sets with the original type were produced by Holland Press (London); and in 1978, Holland Press and Oak Knoll Press copublished the set, also in the original eight-point type, as a single volume.
This new edition, copublished by Oak Knoll and the British Library, uses the larger type of the Duschnes version and adds, for the first time, two indices: a sixty-six-page title index and a scant four-page subject and personal name index. The former is comprehensive and useful though not essential; between library union catalogs and Internet used-book sites, it is simple to find an author's name from the title of a work. The subject index, therefore, is potentially much more valuable. It is a shame, then, that it is so brief. A note at the beginning of the index states that "any such subject (Gutenberg, for example), which would have hundreds, if not thousands, of references has not been included in the index unless as part of a title, or as the main subject of the work" (3: 117). Though this is a reasonable consideration, the resulting index is too brief to be of great use. Even a cursory glance through the book, with an accompanying check of the index, reveals numerous topics that have not been indexed at all or that have been only partially indexed.
An engaging introduction by Henry Morris, of Bird & Bull Press, provides a concise history of the Bibliography. I have drawn on this useful essay, along with the original introduction, for details of its printing history. Also included is a facsimile of the original prospectus.
The decision to combine three volumes in one, though appealing at first thought, makes the Bibliography harder to use. At over a thousand pages in length, the resulting volume is too large to handle easily, and the original pagination has been used, with the front matter inserted at the beginning of the first volume as (unnumbered) pages ii-xxi and the index tacked on at the end as pages 117-87 of the third volume. For ease of use, it would have been nice to have a single set of page numbers.
A Bibliography of Printing, even after more than a century, is still a valuable work that every academic library and serious collector should own. However, those owning one of the earlier editions will not need to buy this version.
University of Denver