Tag Archives: publishing

Sertor’s Conclave dell’anno 1774 revisited

The cataloging workflow works in mysterious ways.

Earlier this year, when Benedict XVI’s resignation triggered a papal conclave, I took the opportunity to write a post about Gaetano Sertor’s Conclave dell’anno 1774, two copies of which I had recently cataloged.  That very week, elsewhere in Collection Services, a manuscript of the libretto (Case MS V 461 .7743) landed on someone else’s desk.  The flurry of research by Alan and Jessica revealed nuances about the work’s history and publication that were necessary to distinguish its incarnations in our collection, which actually number five: the manuscript, an authentic edition, two counterfeit editions, and a French edition.

In the Bibliografia universale del teatro drammatico italiano, Salvioli and Salvioli attribute the work not to Sertor — who went to prison for its content — but to Prince Sigismondo Chigi.  They also go into detail about the distinguishing characteristics of the counterfeit editions.  The pictures below show our three Italian editions: Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775 (BLC 14); Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775c (BLC136); Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775b.  The French edition (F 46 .655 v. 23 no. 16), cataloged in January, is in our collection of Dutch pamphlets, also cataloged as part of the CLIR project.

Second counterfeit: Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775 (BLC 14); first counterfeit: Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775c (BLC136); authentic edition: Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775b


In contemporary wrappers. Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775 (BLC 14), Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775c (BLC136), Case oML 50.2.C66S47 1775b.

Notaries and the book trade

When 18th-century booksellers and publishers in France planned to publish a new title, it was not uncommon for them to request in prospectuses or advertisements for the proposed work that subscribers mail their subscription fee to a notary, who acted as an agent for the bookseller or publisher.

Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 1a no. 111

Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 1a no. 111

Many of these notaries aren’t listed in standard bibliographies or in lists of authorized name headings that we commonly use when making catalog records.  But I still wanted to include the names of these notaries in our records to make them accessible to researchers.  In my efforts to find a helpful reference resource, I stumbled upon ETANOT (ETAt des NOTaires de Paris).  Compiled by the Centre historique des Archives nationales, ETANOT is a database containing biographical and professional information on more than 3,000 notaries operating in Paris from the 15th to the mid-19thcentury.  In addition to full-text searching, you can browse by name, neighborhood, street name, and time period.

What is a book prospectus?

The Collection of publishers’ prospectuses, catalogs, and other materials at the Newberry Library contains, not unsurprisingly, a large number of book prospectuses.  A book prospectus is a description or advertisement with which a bookseller or publisher hopes to generate interest in a book that he or she proposes to publish.

The Newberry’s collection is comprised mostly of 18th-century French prospectuses, published during a time in which many booksellers and publishers offered books via subscription.  In some cases, the proposed work was never published, whether because of lack of interest or insufficient funds, or simply because it was never written.

Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 1a no. 6

Jean Bouillet’s Histoire generale des maladies, described in a 1737 prospectus entitled Plan d’une Histoire generale des maladies (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 1a no. 6), is one such example of a work never completed by its author.  (Cf. Michaud, J.F. Biographie universelle ancienne et moderne (Nouv. éd), V, p. 216.)


Some prospectuses have become complete works in themselves.  French geologist, diplomat, and historian Jean-Louis Soulavie published his Histoire philosophique du progrès des sciences en France (Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 1c no. 69) in 1783.

Case Wing Z 45 .18 ser. 1c no. 69

Intended to be a somewhat lengthy (37 p.) prospectus for a work that was eventually never published, it contains an introduction and summaries of the three parts of the proposed work.  A cursory Google search reveals that this prospectus has been cited many times, both in bibliographies on the Enlightenment and in scholarly works on the history or science in 18th-century France.

Time to get ephemeral

This month I joined the French pamphlet project, where I will be principally responsible for cataloging the Newberry‘s Collection of publishers’ prospectuses, catalogs, and other materials.  I have worked as a Cataloging Project Librarian at the Newberry Library since 2008.  I am adding this collection to two others that I am currently working on, one mostly cartographic and the other mostly theological.

Case Wing Z 45 .18

This collection consists of several hundred pieces of ephemera (prospectuses, catalogs, manuscripts, etc.) related to bookselling and publishing, mostly in 18th-century France. Cataloging such ephemeral objects is a special challenge. Authorship and publication information are not always readily apparent. I have been investigating the online catalogs of a few special collections libraries like the American Antiquarian Society to see how other libraries handle the subject analysis of publishers’ catalogs and prospectuses.  Once I have drafted a workflow and template records for myself, I will meet with curatorial staff specializing in printing history to ensure that I’m capturing information that will be useful to users of our collections and online catalog.