Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Bibliography of Bibliography

Joseph Sabin - A Bibliography of Bibliography, or a Handy Book about Books Which Relate to Books (1877)

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Yes, I'll admit this is for very specialized interests.  It's exactly what the title promises - about 150 pages listing bibliographies.  Sotheby's The Typography of the Fifteenth Century, Joseph Smith's Bibliotheca Anti-Quakeriana, Disraeli's Quarrels of Authors, Dibdin's Bibliographical Decameron, Botfield's Notes on the Cathedral Libraries of England - so much effort on works that have mostly vanished except to historians and whatever we would call antiquarians today.  And though few will dispute the utility and power of our online world we've lost information with the decline of such bibliographies just as we have with the disappearance of card catalogs.  (This isn't the only work like this - there are similar meta-bibliographies by Paul Ford (1889) and Askel G. S. Josephson (1901).)

Joseph Sabin (1821-1881) was an industrious bibliographer and publisher.  He was born in England but immigrated to the U.S. in his late 20s, living briefly in Philadelphia before settling in New York City.  He worked in auction houses before running his own bookstore, catering to collectors.  He even had some Shakespeare First Folios, unthinkable today.  (The Folger No. 2 was purchased from his son.) He published a magazine The Bibliopolist for a few years and reprinted some rare books.  His son and grandson followed in his path as rare book dealers.