Is Bibliography Reactionary?

By Vincent Giroud.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

It is often taken for granted these days, in the academic world and in the world at large, that the Internet, which has revolutionized the way we conduct research, has rendered obsolete the study of books as traditional modes of textual transmission. This assumption itself rests on two related presuppositions: the first is that books are worth studying as bearers of text and that focusing on them as artefacts is of secondary interest; the second is that textual studies have nothing to learn from the material conditions of the transmission of a text, including the physical examination of books. This paper proposes to revisit the question by arguing, based on a variety of examples, that not only has descriptive bibliography considerably broadened the scope and depth of textual studies, but that, far from being a highly specialized field reserved for a a small coterie of antiquarians, it is fully consistent with the most topical debates on the instability of texts and the need to broaden the notion of “authorship.” It will further argue that the teaching of bibliography at the college and university levels is all the more recommendable since the Internet has not fundamentally altered the intellectual discipline required for textual studies: if anything, it has made it even more necessary.

Keywords: Descriptive Bibliography, Textual Studies

International Journal of the Book, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp.61-68. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.127MB).

Prof. Vincent Giroud

Professor, UFR Sciences du langage, de l'homme et de la société, Université de Franche-Comté, Besancon, France

Graduated in French and Classics from the École normale supérieure and the Sorbonne, Paris; MA in English Language and Literature, Oxford; PhD in Comparative Literature, University of Paris 10. Has taught at Oxford, Institut d’études politiques (Paris), Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, the Sorbonne. Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, 1987-2004. Randolph Distinguished Visiting Professor, Vassar College, 2004-5. Distinguished Visiting Professor, Bard College, 2005-6. Recent publications include: St Petersburg: A Portrait of a Great City (2003); The World of Witold Gombrowicz (2004); Futurism: from avant-garde to memory (with Paola Pettenella; Italian ed. 2004, English ed. 2006); A Catalogue of the Frederick R. Koch Collection at Yale University (2006); Picasso and Gertrude Stein (2007); Figures de l’Antiquité dans l’opéra francais (with Jean-Christophe Branger, 2008); Aspects de l’opéra francais de Meyerbeer à Honegger (with Jean-Christophe Branger, 2009). Forthcoming: A Short History of French Opera (2010). Associate editor, The Oxford Companion to the Book (scheduled for publication in January 2010).

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