Primary material in a bibliography (bleg)

This is a shame-faced bleg in lieu of more enlightening content. I feel like a real grown-up academic wouldn’t have to ask this sort of question, and I am actually going to ask it of a relevant editor too, but just now I could use some feedback. One of the things that’s keeping me quiet is that, save the maps about which a worrying silence still reigns, the Book is ready to go, and by way of wrapping up the package and amassing the final word count I’ve been doing the bibliography. Once it’s done, mind, we’ll find I’m over the word limit then it won’t be ready to go any more for a while, but for now, the editor says assemble so I’m assembling.

The style-sheet I’ve got wasn’t designed for people who do charter work. In fact, it could have used more design, full stop. They want subdivisions as follows:

  • Unpublished primary sources
  • Published primary sources
  • Official documents and publications
  • Newspapers and periodicals
  • Contemporary books and articles
  • Secondary sources
  • Unpublished theses

I can’t imagine what this would do for someone who worked on reception: put everything in all of “primary sources”, “contemporary books and articles” and “secondary sources”? But that’s not my problem. I know that the division between ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ material is often so thin as to be unhelpful to make (unlike some), and that everything’s a source for something, but I’m pretty clear what is primary material for me in this book and what isn’t, and that’s quite frankly what matters in my book’s bibliography. The problems are less conceptual and more administrative. Here are some of them.

  1. Unpublished primary sources. Most of mine are series of charters, and one is a collection of charters. All of them have manuscript shelfmarks though (or at least, I can reference the series and the individual collection), so sense seems to be to sort by that. What do I sort by? Archive name? Geographical location? I’m currently going with the latter, but I’m not sure about it.
  2. Some published primary sources, for example the Astronomer’s Vita Hludowici imperatoris, have an author (even if it’s a pseudonymous one) and a title even before we get to edition details. Some, for example, the letters of Gerbert of Rheims, don’t really have a title except one I make up. And some things, like Dolors Bramon’s De quan erem o no musulmans: textos del 713 al 1000 are collections of about fifty different authors and titles, none of which are in any useful sense really edited here rather than just excerpted. The style sheet would like me to treat Tremp’s edition of Astronomer and Bramon’s collection differently because of that author name. So even if I sort by author where present, and editor where not, Bramon’s entry will start with the title and so it won’t be clear why it’s there. Do I instead sort by the title here? If so why not throughout? Because that would be madness, you say, except for the reasons I just gave… It would be simpler to sort by editor throughout, but again, the styling will obscure the sort order and make it hard to find things. Any ideas?
  3. I currently have a separate section for charter editions within Published Primary Sources because of course they are all collections of diverse authorships, sometimes unknown. (I am disregarding any point of view that says they’re Official Documents, and if you ask why it will be a long answer.) Here it makes sense to sort by editor, but the style sheet wants me to put title first. It makes no sense to sort by title conceptually, but actually given that I mainly use sigla in the footnotes that are derived from titles, that would probably actually help. The sigla however are listed elsewhere, and to save space I’ve used editor and short-title format in that list. Should I go back on this, or what?
  4. A lot of my primary material is printed as appendices in secondary works. Some of it’s even worse than that: Prosper Bofarull’s Los Condes de Barcelona Vindicados is a nineteenth-century masterwork of comital genealogy and charter-hunting, and where he thought a charter relevant he excerpted it or even edited it whole, inline in the text with no number beyond the pages he was on. Quite a lot of the stuff he used came from an archive that burnt down while he was sorting the book out (Santa Maria de Ripoll) so is the only text. I cite this work both as primary source, because of those documents (with a sigil), and as secondary work. Does it go in both sections with different formatting? Does it, since it is definitively a secondary work, only go in the latter, and then do people have to work that out when it’s not in primary sources? Halp ect. And the same for the stuff with appendices. If I only use them as source repositories, it could be argued that they should go in as primary sources, but they’re still secondary works and so should be formatted differently. This, again, will mess with clarity of sort. Oh, people.
  5. I have an unpublished thesis to cite, obviously, but also an unpublished archaeological report. Where does that go then, eh?
  6. Lastly, though I basically have the answer to this as far as I’m concerned, they don’t have any position on online material. I’m going to include some whether they like it or not: these days that’s sometimes the only site reports you get, and in the case of, for example, Santa Margarida de Martorell, it’s quite enough. But I think it must probably have its own pariah section (just like in the RAE as was…) at the end. I’d much rather include it just like any other form of secondary work, with a last mod. and accessed date of course, but such a decision seems to mess with their ideas about what’s published and what isn’t. Come on people, this must have come up before now…

When I faced these decisions for the thesis, I decided that it was all stupid, disobeyed the rubric and put everything in one list by the editor or author who’d actually published the version I was using. So Astronomer got indexed under Tremp, but I thought that was better than introducing crazy anomalies. But short of doing the same again and mostly ignoring house style, which I understand is deprecated, I don’t see how to avoid the crazy anomalies this time and I’m not sure which ones are craziest…


5 responses to “Primary material in a bibliography (bleg)

  1. Two suggestions:

    Copy the format of the existing book most like your own. Or…

    Just do it the way you thinks most makes sense.

    More an art than a science, as someone said.

  2. How about a subcategory that indicates the hybrid nature of those appendices and Bofarull
    (“Secondary Works Which Contain Full Charter Texts” or something like that) as a part of the Published Primary Sources, and then list the work again as a regular secondary source if you’ve used it as a secondary source. (That’s taking into account the possibility that you’ve used a book only as a reference for the actual text, and ignored anything the author actually said for himself, in which case you’d list it only the first time through. And if you used the book only as a secondary source without making use of the charter texts published within, then cite it only as a regular secondary source.)

    Or as an alternate, what of a separate list of charters cited with bibliographical information for the appropriate archive, published collection, Bofarull text, etc.

  3. Kishnevi, that latter comes under the well known heading of “had I but space enough and time…”. It’s what I’d like to do, and what I as a reading scholar would find most useful, but it would take another five or six pages. Your former suggestion may be the best compromise. And Prof. Muhlberger, the book most like my own, which is Adam Kosto’s Making Agreements in Medieval Catalonia, did exactly what Kishnevi suggests in her second paragraph, and as I say it’s just not viable within the space I have. I’m already 6,000 words over the series limit… I’d like to treat it as art rather than science but we’ll have to see what the editors think.

  4. Unpublished sources (this is standard):
    Place, Name of Archive or Library, Shelfmark.


    – British Library, Add. Ch. 46778
    – The National Archives, C66/169

    Or with abbreviations – BL and TNA, in these cases. I’ve never used Catalan archives so I don’t know correct form for those.

    The other bits you have been given to worry about esentially affect modernists; e.g.
    official documents and government publications = things like White Papers. You can forget about those, just as you can (presumably) forget about newspapers. Your series editor should read through your list and may give you a bit of advice; if so, all you need to do is to accept it gracefully. You will be able to do things differently when you publish something else somewhere else.

  5. Dr Barrow, many thanks for the considerate advice. In fact, I have by luck or judgement adopted the method you suggest for manuscript sources, I must have soaked it up somewhere. A lot of this is going to have to rest with the series editor, but I suppose that’s what they are involved to do. Hopefully, as you say, the second book will in various ways come easier (I’m intending it to be a lot shortr, for a start).

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