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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  January 2011

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION January 2011

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Subject:

Cataloguing Discrepancies : The Printed York Breviary of 1493

From:

John Briggs <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 24 Jan 2011 23:55:59 +0000

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

This is the second in my occasional series of potshots taken at 
distinguished liturgical scholars, by means of quasi-reviews of their 
latest books. Today's victim is Andrew Hughes, Univerity Professor 
Emeritus in the the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of 
Toronto, and his book is:

Andrew Hughes (in collaboration with Matthew Cheung Salisbury and 
Heather Robbins), Cataloguing Discrepancies : The printed York breviary 
of 1493 (Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 2011) ISBN 978-1-4426-4197-6

Hughes is by origin a musicologist, and is best known for his books 
'Medieval manuscripts for mass and office: A guide to their organization 
and terminology' (2nd ed. 1986) and 'Late medieval liturgical offices: 
resources for electronic research (2 vols. 1994, 1996). Those books are 
noted for their scholastic eccentricities of organisation and notation 
which make them difficult to use. In the book under review for example, 
not only are the chapters divided into sections, sub-sections and 
sub-sub-sections, but the book is organised into numbered "paragraphs" 
which are used for all cross-references and indexing. These "paragraphs" 
may consist of one or more actual paragraphs, with varying amounts of 
useful content. <Paragraph>601, for example, reads in its entirety: "In 
the previous section we singled out several manuscripts and early prints 
for some of their especially important characteristics. Here we present 
a more general overview of these other sources." He invents his own 
terminology, such as "sungtexts" (p.xxii) and devises mysterious sigla 
for library holdings.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves: I shall state at the outset that 
this book should not have been published, and moreover that it should 
never have been written. It is characterised by hubris and 
ultracrepidation. Why was the book written? The reason is that funding 
bodies expect "outcomes" from research projects. This book represents 
not so much the results of a research project, as the wreckage of one. 
The author laments the difficulty of carrying out research on early 
liturgical books in North America, and vents his frustration at the 
inadequacies of the secondary reference materials he was forced to use. 
The book attempts to review the description and cataloguing by 
bibliographers of the work in the title, and uses this as a case study 
on which to base proposals for improved bibliographic descriptions of 
early liturgical books. "Our investigation began with a project to 
compile a checklist of early printed English Breviaries, mostly from the 
16th century, and to address the question as to why there were dozens of 
printings in less than a century. Heather Robbins and Andrew Hughes had 
been working on this issue for months, going steadily backwards, or at 
least, like Sisyphus, not progressing." (p.3) There was a good reason 
for this: Hughes and his doctoral student collaborators are experts in 
late medieval manuscripts, and were blissfully ignorant of all aspects 
of early printed books. On the evidence of this book, Hughes has 
successfully resisted all attempts to educate him about a totally 
different field with its own scholarship. He has published a paper 
taking issue with the rather innocuous concept of an "ideal copy" (there 
may be good arguments against it, but his own reasons are spurious.) He 
is resistant to the most basic of concepts in that field, such as 
"edition", "issue", "cancel" and "provenance". There are errors in his 
glossary definitions of "forme", "leading", "Pica, or Pye, or Pie", and 
"stone". He does not understand the concepts of "standing type" or the 
use of galleys - in fact, he has no real understanding of the production 
of early printed books.

He may not understand how modern books are produced. (His preface is 
dated 2006 - can such a slight book really have taken nearly 5 years to 
go through the press? I suppose it is easy if you fight your printers 
the whole way! The book was described as "forthcoming" in 2008, and 
"recent" in 2009.) His own book has xxii+192pp (+2 blank pp.) It has a 
sewn binding and seven sections: [a]-[d]^16,[e]^12,[f]-[g]^16. It is 
thus an octavo in 16s. The contents list has 11 numbered chapters, plus 
Notes [endnotes], General Bibliography, and Index. Turning to the book 
itself, however, the last three "chapters" (Appendices 1 to 3) do not 
have the "chapter numbers" on their first pages, although the numbers 
are incorporated into the respective "paragraph" numbers. Moreover, the 
first two "chapters" are "Preface" and "Lists, Principal Abbreviations, 
and References", with their pages numbered as preliminaries. The book 
proper starts with Chapter 3, after a second half-title page: (p.[1] is 
thus identical to p.[i]).

Chapter 3 is really introductory, and Chapter 4 is the most substantial 
in the book. There are only two complete copies of the 1493 York 
breviary, and a number of fragments. These are described and much play 
is made of the fact that the Bodleian copy lacks the last two leaves, 
which constitute a contents list, which he unhelpfully states is "too 
extensive to reproduce here" (it is not included either in Lawley's 
Surtees Society edition of 1880/1883 which transcribes the Bodleian 
copy.) But then follows a blunder of Biblical proportions: he states 
(p.27) that the textual colophon (which precedes a woodcut device) was 
omitted from the Bodleian copy (involving a change to the typesetting.) 
This is demonstrably false - and an alert reader should be able to guess 
how I know. The colophon is transcribed from the other (complete) copy 
on p.28, and the accompanying Plate 4.3 allows one to observes the 
multiple errors that have been made! (There is a different, and slightly 
better transcription on p.134.) The blunder about the missing colophon 
in the Bodleian copy is repeated in the specimen catalogue entry 
provided on pp.133-134 for the education of Bibliographers on how things 
ought to be done: needless to say, this work is completely vitiated, as 
no sane Bibliographer will now take him seriously.

There is a discussion of the format of the breviary (octavo) and its 
size. Juggling millimetres, centimetres and inches causes him to make an 
arithmetical blunder and state (p.32) that "we can estimate that the 
printer's forme might have been some 160 x 110 centimetres." He 
continues sanguinely, "This is not an extravagant size either for the 
stone (the imposition table) or the press itself." Actually, it is - and 
his own main reference guide to bibliographical matters helpfully 
states: "Chases ... for most of the hand-press period were of a standard 
size ... namely about 56 x 46 cm. over all ..." (Philip Gaskell, A new 
introduction to bibliography (1972), p.78.)

He discusses the structure of the breviary: the book is foliated (rather 
than paginated) and the Temporale, Kalendar, Psalter and Common are in 
the first part of 35 numbered octavo signatures (the last in 12 rather 
than 8, having an extra half-sheet), which gives 284 folios. The 
foliation then skips to 301 for the start of the Sanctorale, which is in 
22 *lettered* octavo signatures (the last again a 12.) This structure 
has understandably confused cataloguers, who have mostly got it wrong. 
Hughes constructs an elaborate theory on these errors, postulating 
missing reprints and that space has been left for inserting extra 
liturgical material. He is dimly aware (p.40) that printers preferred 
letters as signatures, and that the Sanctorale may have been printed 
first - but fails to draw the obvious conclusion. He gets excited by 
errors in foliation in signature 35, but his explanation (pp.35-38) is 
completely marred by a failure to understand how the printing process 
was undertaken. (He just doesn't have the knowledge to wonder if 
typesetting was seriatim or by formes.) There is an embarrassing 
misunderstanding of "standing type" (pp.45-48 - illustrated by examples 
which are nothing of the sort, and an irrelevant illustration of an 18th 
century compositor's stick.) A discussion of errors in running headlines 
is illustrated by a diagram (fig.4.5, p.51) which is wrong (it is 
incompatible with fig.4.3).

There is no mention that the colophon and running headlines were printed 
in red (as were the rubrics, of course), and no discussion of the 
complexities of colour printing. There is no discussion of what the 
breviary was printed on, but after several mentions of "parchment" it 
dawns on you that Hughes is unaware that early liturgical books could be 
printed on anything other than parchment! (I have no idea whether both 
copies, and also the fragments, were printed on vellum or parchment, but 
I certainly wouldn't like to try printing an octavo in two colours on 
it!) Consequently, his model catalogue entries have no provision for the 
print medium - something which will cause Incunabulists to raise their 
eyebrows, as they spend their lives chasing chainlines and watermarks in 
paper.

There is a discussion (p.50) of galleys - where he flatly refuses to 
believe what Gaskell tells him, but fails to notice that the Breviary is 
printed in two columns, which has some bearing on whatever point he was 
trying to make.

Chapter 5 "The Liturgical Context" gives an all too brief (8 pages) 
discussion of feasts in the Use of York before veering off into a 
discussion of the role of the compositor and the question of stop-press 
revisions. For the latter, Hughes is aware of the most recent work and 
modern techniques, but not apparently of the venerable work of Charlton 
Hinman with optical collators. Chapter 6 briefly discusses manuscript 
breviaries of the Use of York, and tantalisingly dangles the suggestion 
of a manuscript sourse - or at least a manuscript tradition - for the 
printed breviary. Just one and a half pages are devoted to the other 
printed breviries.

Chapter 7 springs to life with an illustrated harangue (justified, it 
would seem) on the deficiencies of the UMI microfilm, the ISTC-sponsored 
microfiche, and the EEBO online digital text of the 1493 breviary. The 
pointlessness of discussing these alternative media in a printed book 
doesn't seem to have occurred to Hughes. Chapter 8 (7 pages) consists of 
Recommendations and Conclusions. (You will unsurprised to learn that an 
expert in late medieval liturgical manuscripts recommends that copies of 
early printed liturgical books should be catalogued as if they were 
manuscripts.)

In some ways, the remaining three "chapters" (Appendices 1 to 3) are 
more substantial than the rest of the book, and seem to have been 
contributed by his collaborators, but they have their own oddities. 
Appendix 1 has detailed inventories of the two surviving copies (which 
barely differ, don't forget) correlating them to the microfilm, 
microfiche, and online digital editions. Appendix 2 ("The sources of the 
York Office") describes all manuscript and printed breviaries and 
antiphonals. The only illustration here is not identified as Plate 9.1 
(although both the index and list of illustrations do so) apparently 
because someone realised that it is in "Chapter 10"! Appendix 3 
("Resources for Early Printed Books") is a bibliography which partially 
overlaps with the General Bibliography. For example, Alan Coates et al., 
'A catalogue of books printed in the fifteenth century now in the 
Bodleian Library' (2005), referred to in the text, is included in 
Appendix 3 but not the General Bibliography. On the other hand, the work 
referred to in the text only by the siglum ELB.1924 (don't ask!) is to 
be found in neither (and it isn't indexed) - it can be found buried in 
Appendix 2 (p.130) where it is identified as A.W. Pollard (ed.), 
'Catalogue of breviaries printed in the XVth century now in the British 
Museum' (1924).

The index, presumably computer-generated and to a scheme of Hughes' own 
devising, requires two pages of explanation but still has foibles - I 
have noticed at least one mistake, so it has presumably been re-keyed!

I suppose we can just dismiss the book as an old man's foolishness - but 
his doctoral students should really have taken their names off it. Who 
else might we blame? Some of the usual suspects are named in the 
acknowledgements, but presumably Hughes has a strong personality and is 
quite capable of brushing aside any criticism from those trying to help 
him. One is left with a sense of the cosmic irony of a book devoted to 
cataloguing discrepancies perpetrating a discrepancy in its own 
catalogue entries - but Canadians, like their cousins in what was once 
the rest of British North America, don't "do irony".

John Briggs

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