RDA-L Quick survey of cataloger’s judgement: Dates

Posting to RDA-L

On 9/22/2015 4:19 AM, Deborah Fritz wrote:
Thanks to everyone who responded to my quick survey on cataloger’s judgement for dates. My specific purpose was to get feedback on whether the date associated with the edition statement (because of the propinquity of the data, and the presence of the colon) was part of the edition designation or part of the date of publication, since I have seen it given both ways.
The results are (with some overlap):
9 votes:
Designation of Edition: First mass market edition
Date of Publication: May 1993

9 votes:
Designation of Edition: First Mass Market edition
Date of Publication: 1993

1 vote:
Designation of Edition: First mass market edition May 1993
Date of Publication: 1993
Just to let you know, I agree with the first option:

* that the date is not part of the edition designation; although shows dates that are part of the edition designation: e.g. “Rev. Ed. 10/2/82” and “Draft, May 2000”. I feel that in those examples, the date is necessary to differentiate between two possible edition designations that would otherwise be the same. Whereas in my example, the designation is quite specific enough to stand on its own.
* that the date is a date of publication, because catalogers have traditionally been instructed to consider a date associated with an edition statement to be the date that the edition was published. * that the date should be given as the date of publication “as given” (, and so the month should be included
* and, that it is a good idea to also add the copyright date when it is available

Does this mean that another item with e.g.
“First Mass Market Edition: June 1993”

and everything else is exactly the same (which I have seen a lot in my experience), would be a separate edition and need a new record? Or do we reconsider at that point and decide that it is a date of printing? Maybe it’s even a serial!!?? (Just kidding!)

I think that if I had an item that said “June 1993”, and I saw a record with “May 1993” I would just consider it a copy, and I have actually done this–if everything else is the same, of course.

I agree that if it says “Draft” or “Rev. ed.” or something, we are dealing with a different edition/manifestation.

I am reminded of the German “… unveränderte Auflage” (unchanged edition) e.g. http://lccn.loc.gov/2012357155 with “16., unveränderte Auflage” which always drove me crazy. Here are potentially sixteen records for an unchanged item.

I have personally never seen a better discussion of “edition” than in the classic “ABC for book collectors” by John Carter. It’s rather long but very useful: (this is from the 8th edition, by the way)

Strictly speaking, an edition comprises all copies of a book printed at any time or times from one setting-up of type without substantial change (including copies printed from stereotype, electrotype or similar plates made from that setting of type); while an impression or printing comprises the whole number of copies of that edition printed at one time, i.e. without the type or plates being removed from the press.

In most books before 1750 the two terms in effect mean the same thing, for the printer normally distributed his type [i.e. put it back in the type cases so that it could be reused–JW] as soon as possible after it had been printed from; and if more copies were wanted he reset it, thus creating a new edition. For in the printing houses of those days labour was cheap, type metal expensive and printing presses few. Moreover, from 1586 the legal limit of the number of impressions to be taken from one setting of type required the text to be set twice contemporaneously, a phenomenon insufficiently noticed. In the third quarter of the 18th century, however, London printers began to reprint best-sellers from standing type, usually several impressions in quick succession; and indeed at all periods new impressions have often been described in imprints and advertisements as new editions.

With the increase of mechanisation in the nineteenth century practice moved steadily towards the modern system, whereby type or plates are kept ‘standing’ (as the phrase is) in case reprints are called for; and the edition, in its strict sense, might therefore be subdivided into a number of different impressions, which might or might not be adequately differentiated. Thus a ‘tenth impression’ printed from the same type-setting five years after the first, would still be part of the first edition – and so, for the matter of that, as Professor Bowers and other pundits have warned us, would a photolithographic or xerographic off-set impression printed five hundred years after the first.

This presents the first edition collector with a prospect of the most frightful anomalies – in theory. And sometimes, it is true, the difficulties are real ones both to him and still more to the bibliographer. But the majority of these are solved in advance, for all but pedants, by the sensible convention that first edition, unless qualified in some way, shall be deemed to mean first impression of the first edition. This has been taken for granted for so many years that it hardly needs saying. And the term impression, in the sense here discussed (see IMPRESSION for others), seldom needs to be used at all by the ordinary cataloguer. [“Cataloguer” here does mean a library cataloger but someone who works for a rare book dealer where there are different requirements–JW]

This description is dated now but the anomalies he mentioned have become even more frightful when we consider that we are no longer dealing just with standing type and different impressions, but with computer files printed in various ways, XML files with multiple XSL transformations, so that one line of code can transform a million XML files instantaneously into a million new file types or can add entire sections from another XML file, and this can be done based on someone’s personal preferences. All of this may be output physically or just displayed virtually on screens of various sizes, so that a file may look one way on one screen and quite different on another.

I think that catalogers will eventually have to do a complete reconsideration of “edition”.