Paris and beyond

A Text By Any Other Name: Citing Primary Sources in Bibliography and Early Modern Studies

While researchers generally accept that incunabula vary widely within the print run of a single edition, Adrian Johns, Arthur Marotti, and David McKitterick (among others) argue that variation in states of correction, annotation, and binding found throughout the hand-press period can deeply influence our understanding of later works as well. Academics interested in rare printed works are frequently interested in tracking down specific books cited in the scholarly literature. Many scholars and publishers, however, continue to treat early modern books as interchangeable, employing modern conventions for the citation of an edition (i.e. Modern Language Association Style Manual or Chicago Manual of Style) rather than citing the specific copies they consult by unique identifiers such as shelfmarks. Scholars’ tendency to silently elide the use of electronic sources such as Early English Books Online (EEBO) or the Munich Digitization Center (DMZ) also leads some articles and books to obscure whether a work was viewed in person or through facsimile.

We received a grant from the Council on Library and Information Services to compile and analyze a bibliometric dataset to better understand current citation practices in bibliographical and early modern research. Our initial dataset contained 50 articles from SHARP’s own yearly publication, Book History, hand-coded to record all citations. This detailed dataset gave us a baseline to judge the completeness of JSTOR’s automatic citation identification processes, and begin identifying where gaps occurred. We then further analyzed 7,500 articles from six journals: Book History, Huntington Library Quarterly, Studies in Bibliography, Renaissance Quarterly, ELH, and The Sixteenth Century Journal.

Graph of Journal representation in full text dataset

The 2016 meeting of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing was an ideal place to present our preliminary findings from the project. Full results of our study will be published in the next few months as white papers, and we will be making the hand-coded and automatically-captured citation datasets freely available.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *