McKenzie 1986

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The book as an expressive form

Walter Greg: "What the bibliographer is concerned with is pieces of paper or parchment covered with certain written or printed signs. With these signs he is concerned merely as arbitrary marks; their meaning is no business of his"

using C. S. Peirce (Ross Atkinson), could argue signs in book for a bibliographer are merely:

  • iconic: representative, referential -- textual, descriptive and enumerative bibliography treat signs as miniature portraits of the whole
  • or indexical: point at something else; causal; printing acts like this for analytic bibliography -- the signs point to an order of printing, etc.
  • Atkinson's model doesn't account for history

as soon as one is "required to explain signs in a book, ... they assume a symbolic status. If a medium in any sense effects a message, then bibliography cannot exclude from its own proper concerns the relation between form, function, and symbolic meaning." (10)

we need history now more than ever -- with the rise of history of the book, all bibliography is becoming historical bibliography (12) (Greg's definition above now too limited)

new principle/definition: "bibliography is the discipline that studies texts as recorded forms, and the processes of their transmission, including their production and reception" (12)

  • "bibliographers should be concerned to show that forms effect meaning" (13)
  • not only technical but social processes of text's transmission (13)
  • what McKenzie's really doing: turning bibliography into history of the book

bibliography: "the study of the sociology of texts" (13)

broad definition of texts; includes maps, prints, music; "verbal, visual, oral, and numeric data" (13) -- "There is no evading the challenge which those new forms have created." (13)

etymology of "text": weaving, materials woven together; "the primary sense is one which defines a process of material construction. It creates an object, but is not peculiar to any one substance or any one form" (14)

etymology of "sociology": bringing social component, human interactions and motives, back into study of textual transmission; "alerts us to the roles of institutions, and their own complex structures, in affecting the forms of social discourse, past and present" (15)

"A 'sociology of texts', then, contrasts with a bibliography confined to logical inference from printed signs as arbitrary marks on parchment or paper." (15) [cf Greg quote above]

bibliography's connection with New Criticism; "scientific" status of bibliography; confined the book, put it in a vacuum (15-6)

  • has impeded bibliography as a discipline; neglected human agency

interested in looking at the non-verbal elements of the book as expressive

historians of the book can never avoid author-audience dynamic

"each reading is peculiar to its occasion, each can be at least partially recovered from the physical forms of the text, and the differences in readings constitute an informative history. What writers thought they were doing in writing texts, or printers and booksellers in designing and publishing them, or readers in making sense of them are issues which no history of the book can evade." (19)

Wimsatt and Beardsley's "Intentional Fallacy"

  • ironically begins with a misquoting of Congreve ("wrote" for "wrought"), which McKenzie skillfully unpacks to show that Congreve was saying exactly the opposite of what W/B want him to say
  • typography, punctuation, accidentals all play a role
  • "By reading one form of Congreve's text (1700/1710), we may with some authority affirm certain readings as his. By reading other forms of it (1946), w can chart meanings that later readers made from it under different historical imperatives." (122)
  • W/B may misrepresent, but "their misreading has become an historical document in its own right" (22)
"The history of material objects as symbolic forms functions, therefore, in two ways. It can falsify certain readings; and it can demonstrate new ones." (22)
"In the pursuit of historical meanings, we move from the most minute feature of the material form of the book to questions of authorial, literary and social context. These all bear in turn on the ways in which texts are then re-read, re-edited, re-designed, re-printed, and re-published. If a history of readings is made possible only by a comparative history of books, it is equally true that a history of books will have no point if it fails to account for the meanings they later come to make." (23)

Congreve in context of Jonson; McKenzie puts some historical flesh on the bones of his reading

"if the fine detail of typography and layout, the material signs which constitute a text, do signify in the ways I have tried to suggest, it must follow that any history of the book -- subject as books are to typographic and material change -- must be a history of misreadings. This is not so strange as it might sound. Every society rewrites its past, every reader rewrites its texts, and, if they have any continuing life at all, at some point, every printer redesigns them." (25)
  • e.g. typography of W/B's 1946 reading is typical of that period
"If a poem is only what its individual readers make it in their activity of constructing meaning from it, then a good poem will be the one which most compels its own destruction in the service of its readers' new construction. When the specification of meaning is one with its discovery in the critical practice of writing, the generative force of texts is most active." (26)

in other words, New Criticism contained folded within it the forces of its own destruction

The broken phial: non-book texts

Milton, Areopagitica; books have "a potencie of life" since "they preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and extraction of that living intellect which bred them ... a good book is the pretious life-blood of a master-spirit, imbalm'd and treasur'd up on purpose to a life beyond life" (qtd on 23)

violl -- in Greek, meant broad, flat vessel like saucer; in 17c came to be known as small glass bottle, possibly through scientific experiments (transparent, need to be able to peer into the material inside)

  • "heightens the idea of enclosure, of the text as contained, determined, stable, of the author within, both clearly visible and enduringly present" (23)
  • possibly pun on music, "harmony" of texts
  • book as "sacred but expressive form, one whose medium gives transparent access to the essential meaning" (24)

other tradition of writing as corrupting the pure inner voice of speech (24-5)

writing has indeterminate status in Saussurian linguistics; thus "meaning is not what is meant, but what we now agree to infer" (26)

formalized languages (e.g. typographic) have "suffered an exclusion from critical debate about the interpretation of texts because they are not speech-related" (26)

ex. of Sterne, Tristam Shandy -- marbled page offered as asemic text (27-8)

  • if they reproduce them at all, modern editions copy one image -- all the same -- opposite of original effect, in which all papers were by necessity different

textual criticism -- no longer any solid reason for choosing one version of a text to edit over another; "the old idea that we should respect an author's final intentions no longer compels universal assent" (29)

can "have it both ways" by providing multiple versions in facsimile, then implying the reader can combine to create their own version (30)

Aristotle: history records what was, poetry records what ought to have been; textual critics as poets involves "an act of creation" (30)

have to think about ways to use bibliographical principles in non-book forms (31)

  • Aboriginies -- landscape as text
  • maps (35-8)
  • comic strips (40)
  • theatrical productions (41)

tree image, borrowed from Panizzi; "What seem to be the different branches, each with its own luxuriant foliage, are the several media in which texts are stored and transmitted. But the single, hidden stem, the source of the animating principle which flows in each different branch, is the text." (42)

The dialectics of bibliography now

earlier two lectures gave two different concepts of "text": 1) "authorially santioned, contained, and historically definable", 2) "always incomplete, and therefore open, unstable, subject to a perpetual re-making by its readers, performers, or audience" (45)

in 1) text is a bibliographical fact; bibliography can tie together all studies of the text "by commanding the one term common to all inquiry -- the textual object itself"; "bibliography can be an essential means by which we recover the past" (45)

examples of Locke and Joyce; Joyce using where the pages fall numerically as significant in Ulysses (46-50)

"The ostensible unity of any one 'contained' text -- be it in the shape of a manuscript, book, map, film, or computer-stored file -- is an illusion. As a language, its forms and meanings derive from other texts; and as we listen to, look at or read it, at the very same time we re-write it." (50)
  • text-book: "each student makes his or her own text" (50)

bibliography is:

  • "committed to the description of all recorded texts" (51) and "thereby enables the discovery of any possible relationship there might be between any one text and any other text -- whenever, wherever, and in whatever form" (51); "bibliography is the means by which we establish the uniqueness of any single text as well as the means by which we are able to uncover all its inter-textual dimensions" (51)
  • "because it is bibliography's job to record and explain the physical forms which mediate meaning, it has an interpretive function which complements and modifies any purely verbal analysis" (51)
  • it "impartially accepts the construction of new texts and their form" (51)
  • "concerned specifically with texts as social products" (52)

print "only a phase in the history of textual transmission" -- many other "texts" communicate (52)

example of Citizen Kane (53-9)

new media forms changing our personal archival practices -- buying object vs. buying time (60)

McKenzie wants "to find the continuity of these forms with past forms, of our new libraries with past libraries in their traditional function as collectors, conservators, classifiers and communicators" (60)

"It is too seldom remarked that library systems influenced computing in the devlelopment of its capacity to process basic catalogue functions by symbolic listing, selection, and arrangement. It should also be remembered that it was not the sophistication of computing in its early stages which biased its use towards science, but its limited memory and therefore its inability to handle the complexity and range of verbal language as distinct from combinations of the numbers 0 to 9. only as its memory systems have grown has the computer changes its nature from blackboard to book. It has at long last become literate and qualified to join other textual systems." (61)

bibliography can advocate for the public preservation of non-book texts