Saturday, October 27, 2012

Re: [RDA-L] First issue vs. latest issue

Posting to RDA-L

This is a provocative discussion. I agree with what you say, but I would like to make the following observation

On 26/10/2012 22:30, Heidrun Wiesenmüller wrote:
<snip>
James Weinheimer wrote:
It occurs to me that we have the concept of *the* title of an item but as we see here, there are problems with choosing a single title and there always have been. Why do we have to pick one as being *the* title? We always have but perhaps matters could be reconsidered. New systems allow novel possibilities. Let's imagine something rather blasphemous and almost impossible to conceive of in a card environment: that 245a and b could be repeatable. As a result, all 246s (and 740s?) would be equal titles to what is in the 245 now. This would mean that when there is more than one title, there is not *the* title of an item but different titles of equal worth. And each 245 could have its own note explaining where it comes from, as they do now, perhaps in a subfield i, as in the 246.
For retrieval, it certainly doesn't (or shouldn't) matter which title you use. But I'm not so sure about display. Would we really do our readers a favour if we presented all titles as having equal worth (perhaps in an alphabetical or random order)? I think most users would agree that a title on the title page is more authoritative than e.g. one on the spine. If those responsible for the resource wouldn't have wanted us to associate it primarily with this version of the title, they wouldn't have put it in the most prominent position.
</snip>

Not disputing this, but I do wonder if our idea that the title page is the most "prominent" is based more on historical circumstance and not what the public thinks is most important. I am sure that all on this list know the history of the title page, the half-title page, etc. that the title page originally served the purpose of the splashy cover that we have today, in the days when books were sold unbound, and had those magnificent title pages. Originally, the title page was to help sell the book. (Here is a nice one from a very famous chess book: http://www.sg1871loeberitz.de/fotoreports/fotoreports11/selenus_gr/titelblatt.jpg)

The title page does not serve that purpose today; publishers put the same emphasis and care on p.1 of cover, or the jacket, because they know the cover is what is most important to the public and then they do relatively little with title pages. When I was first learning to catalog, I was surprised to find that catalogers said that the title page title, which you could find only after leafing through a few pages into the book, was the most important one and actually called it "prominent"(!). In my eyes, it was anything but. Before I cataloged, I never really looked at the title page of the book.

I honestly do not remember when I was a student and made a citation for a bibliography in a paper, if I copied the title off of the cover or took it off of the title page. I suspect I took it from the cover because it would have been to difficult to hold the book open while I wrote or typed.

Later when I first started considering the catalog idea of "prominent", I remember thinking that perhaps the most prominent part of a book for the public is the spine, since that is the first thing they see and is the real access point into the book. When a book is too skinny to have a spine title, it is a lot harder to find on the shelf.

Of course, if the original jacket or cover has been discarded and people are stuck looking at library binding, then it blows my cover title theory to pieces.... Nevertheless, I think it would be so useful to cataloging, especially at this pivotal moment, to do at least some research on the public to find out how they relate to these assumptions that have been handed down to catalogers, sometimes from the earliest days.

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