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Archive for June 2nd, 2005

A minor mystery solved

Depending on the mood you’re in that day, cataloging a pamphlet with no author, no publisher, no place of publication, and no date, is either an exciting challenge or a real pain in the neck. Fortunately for me, almost everything that was published in 18th century Great Britain has a record in the English Short Title Catalogue, or ESTC. Looking up my title, Tears of Scotland, I was able to find out that it was written by Tobias Smollett, and probably published in Edinburgh in the late 1740s. That would make a respectable enough record right there, but my copy happens to have a little something extra that allowed me to make the record more complete.

Bibliographers use the term offsetting to describe what happens when a freshly printed sheet with still-wet ink comes into contact with another sheet, leaving a ghost impression of its text in mirror image. In a happy accident, a wet copy of the title page of a work called A letter to the Reverend Mr. G. Logan offset onto the Hyde copy of Tears of Scotland, which strongly suggests that they were printed at about the same time. Since the Letter does have an imprint, we can now be fairly certain that Tears was printed in Edinburgh in 1747. Thus does the store of world knowledge become exactly one fact bigger. I’m exhausted!

Published in:John Overholt |on June 2nd, 2005 |Comments Off on A minor mystery solved