Librarians, scholars, and an uproar
Nicholson Baker's 2001 plea for the preservation of original newspapers, books, and other documents which are being microfilmed or scanned -- and at times discarded once copied -- triggered fierce debate and fiercer cries of '"Foul!" This page of Textology.Googlepages.com is a start towards gathering in one place all the online resources about this debate over Preservation & Access. As Baker would be the first to note, many reviews of his book, interviews with him, and other documents in the debate are hidden away on subscription websites, or do exist any digital form whatsoever. An attempt will be made to list these, though gathering them up will take some time.
Several years before Nicholson Baker's Stentorian roar reached all the world's ears, two publications in the 1980s reached thousands of librarians and, in one case, millions of general readers. In 1989 Studies in Bibliography published what remains the defining scholarly article on the problems of "Reproductions and Scholarship." Its author, G. Thomas Tanselle was no demagogue or newcomer to the world of libraries and museums. "Reproductions and Scholarship" marked the twenty-eighth consecutive year that Tanselle published something of importance in Studies in Bibliography. For at least twenty of those years, his lengthy essay either broke new ground and established a new standard or even a new field of study. In 2007 his forty-fifth SB essay came, as usual, at the top of the Table of Contents. The details, and many of the articles themselves, can be read at Tom Tanselle Online : Textology.Googlepages.com
If in 1989 G. Thomas Tanselle's "Reproductions and Scholarship" was the scholarly essay that galvanized the world of Preservation and Access, it in 1988 that most librarians, college teachers, and the general public learned of one special case that today, some twenty years later, remains the most disconcerting case of scholarship gone amiss because of reliance on reproductions. And in case some librarians somehow missed uproar of the year before, Tanselle reminded them of them most tumultuous Bloomsday in what is now, a century of Bloomsdays:
- A prominent instance of scholarly work vitiated (among other reasons) by reliance on photocopies that exhibit such problems is Hans Walter Gabler's edition of Joyce's Ulysses. John Kidd has demonstrated that time after time the errors in Gabler's text can be explained by comparing the published facsimiles in The James Joyce Archive (1978-79) with the originals. Gabler prints "Captain Culler" at a point where Joyce's inscription on a surviving proof sheet clearly reads "Captain Buller", presumably because the high-contrast reproduction in The James Joyce Archive invents others. Kidd concludes that the Gabler edition "is a study not of Joyce's manuscripts but of inadequate facsimiles." makes a printer's pencil mark at this spot look something like a "C". [...] It is crucial for studying the development of Joyce's text to distinguish two types of black-lead pencil as well as the colors of both ink and lead markings; but the facsimiles do not permit such identification, and it is not provided by Gabler -- though he does try to record erasures and inevitably misses many and
- Tanselle gives more details in his footnotes: 23. [John Kidd,] "The Scandal of Ulysses," New York Review of Books, 30 June 1988, pp. 32-39. Another example from Joyce material, furnished to me by Kidd, illustrates the point that different facsimiles of the same material may read differently: the first page proof for page 153 of Ulysses is reproduced both in The James Joyce Archive (23: 115) and in Philip Gaskell's From Writer to Reader (1978), pp. 231, 242; in the former, where the photograph has a line around it, the word in the upper right corner appears to be "fivebarred", but in the latter, which shows the uneven edge of the proof, it seems to be "fivebarre".
- This "Scandal" of the classic version of Ulysses being withdrawn from the shelves of every bookstore in the world generated the same sort of mass media from 1988 and a dozen years thereafter. But no librarians were outraged at Kidd bringing the debate to the front page of the New York Times. There were gratified, rather, that scholars like Kidd and Tanselle were telling there colleagues to make the pilgrimage to libraries and archives -- however farflung -- to consult the originals. And, Tanselle, Kidd, and the librarians would add, make a second trip to verify all the transcriptions before the results are printed and offered to the selfsame libraries at a hundred or two hundred dollars a volume.
- The Joyce Wars Checklist features a few of the hundreds of articles, interviews, graduate theses, coference procedings and documentary films that erupted around the Ulysses: The Corrected Text.
(Penguin withdrew the edition -- permanently) . A fuller list will be posted in the Fall of 2007, so consider the current posting at Textology.Googepages.com just a taste. The flaming design of the Checklist webpage and the Scandal Letters webpage are meant to be a bit ironic, or camp. The exaggerate graphics mock the grand press claims made on behalf of the now deflated Corrected Text.
www+ = born-digital review, blog, e-zine, personal web page, publisher's puff ,
Nicholson Baker Fan Page www+ http://j-walk.com/nbaker/index.htm
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College and Research Libraries, November 2001, Vol. 62, No. 6. Book Review
Baker, Nicholson.Double Fold : Libraries and the Assault on Paper. New York: Random House, 2001. 370p. $25.95, alk. paper (ISBN 0375504443). LC 00-59171. [Signed at end :]—Harlan Greene, Charleston County Public Library, South Carolina Preservation Project. +