Offered on an irregular basis

MLIS and Dual MAS/MLIS: LIBR Core, recommended prerequisite LIBR 511
MAS: completion of MAS core and permission of the iSchool Graduate Advisor

GOALS: This course will familiarize students with the basic components of  descriptive bibliography,  “the close physical description of books” (Belanger), with special attention to conventions for describing books of the hand-press period.  The course will provide hands-on experience in the examination and description of early printed books.


Upon completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Understand the technology and practices involved in printing, illustrating and binding books in the hand-press period.
  • Understand the publishing process in the hand-press period and the difference between edition, issue and state.
  • Understand the concept of format and be able to write collational and pagination formulae that account for all the printed components of a book.
  • Understand how to create quasi-facsimile transcriptions.
  • Gain familiarity with important descriptive bibliographies and be able to evaluate their features and utility for scholars and rare book professionals.


  • Development of the printing press, letter founding, ink, paper, and bindings for books.
  • Processes of typesetting, imposition and presswork.
  • Organization of the early modern printing trade, including bookselling.
  • Identification of format in printed books (broadside, folio, quarto, octavo, duodecimo, etc.) and composing the collational formula and pagination statement.
  • Methods of illustration, especially the woodcut and engraving, and the integration of illustrations into the printed book.
  • The development of the title page, and how to record a title-page facsimile; other aspects of the printed book that require quasi-facsimile transcription.
  • The parts of a complete bibliographical description.
  • Model bibliographical descriptions; relationship of descriptive bibliographies to other forms, including library catalogues and short-title catalogues; online resources.