Sunday, March 21, 2010

Publication Date Debate

What does "publication date" or "date of publication" mean to you? To some people, it means the year that the book was printed. Usually this date can be found on the copyright page of the book.

The trouble with Grosset and Dunlap books is that the copyright page was seldom updated. What should be used? Do we use Farah's Guide for Nancy Drew books even though the dates given in Farah's Guide are not found in the book? Do we use the original copyright date as the date of publication?

To me, the "publication date" is more when the book was first published. This may not be correct, but that is how I see it.

I always use the copyright date in my listings as the "publication date" for the item specifics. I have been called out a few times on this in the past. I am currently discussing this with someone who disagrees with my use of that field. If a Nancy Drew book lists to Mirror Bay, then it was printed somewhere around 1972. We don't really know for sure, regardless of what Farah's Guide states.

The problem is that the Farah’s Guide “printings” are not actually print runs. For instance, there is no way that the first printing of Crossword Cipher according to Farah’s Guide was an entire print run. The book is too scarce. Typical print runs from the 1960s and 1970s had 10 to 15 thousand books in them. Farah has taken all of the differences he has found and made them different printings, when they are not from different original printings. A lot of his printings are actually printing anomalies and are subsets of actual printings. I am not against Farah’s Guide, but I have come to realize in recent years that his printings are not the actual printings. They are what he chose to call printings.

Should I identify the date of publication as 1972, even though that date is not in the book? What do you think? Is it misleading to place the original copyright date in that field? I do so because I have told people that the copyright date is an easy way to tell which text the book has. All Nancy Drew books with copyright dates of 1956 or earlier have the 25 chapter text. All Nancy Drew books with copyright dates of 1957 or later have the 20 chapter text.

I looked through some Nancy Drew listings. Pretty much everyone who does not own a Farah's Guide uses the copyright date. People who have a Farah's Guide use the Farah's Guide year. I guess I am the lone rebel who has a Farah's Guide but does not like to use it because I think it is too much trouble. Heh.

This should make for an interesting debate. Let me know what you think.


Keri said...

Over on LibraryThing (which I'm not sure if you're familiar with? but you might like to use it as a cataloguing database to keep track of your collection) there are two versions of "publication date".

The first version is attached to the "work", which is pretty much the basic text (an example would be the first text of "The Secret of the Old Clock", which can be found in many different editions, but does not include the revised text - that's a different work) - that publication date is the date the work was first published, no matter the format. Sometimes it gets attached to translations, so 1939 (eng.); 1942 (fr.) might be a possibility.

The second version is attached to the book (which is a specific version of the work, the copy that is on the shelf) and refers to the date when the book was published in that form. So while "The Secret of the Old Clock" work might have the publication date of 1929, a picture cover (with all 25 chapters, mind) would have a publication date of 195-whatever year it first came out.

Either way, the publication date refers to the first version of a particular format, not the date of a subsequent printing, unless there are significant differences in the printings - for a collector, the different ads listed might be enough to require a pub date that is linked to the printing date.

I like this method a lot, and it's the one I use when cataloguing my own books - I'm not concerned with different printings of my picture cover books, so I simply use the first year that the picture cover for a particular book was printed. But I don't use the copyright date, since that is more about the work and not the book.

Borrowed said...

Get the popcorn out for this one.

Jennifer White said...

Believe me, the popcorn has been ready since I published this post. :) I know this is going to be a hot debate. That's why people keep calling me out on how I choose to use the term. Today is not the first time I have been told that I am using the item specifics wrong.

I think the term is ambiguous, and I am really interested to read the responses.

Jennifer White said...

On the two definitions that Keri gave, I use the first definition which is why I do not believe that I am misleading anybody. Other people use the second definition, and some of those people think I am deceptive.

According to this site, the definition of "publication date" in part reads "[y]ear in which a book was published. The publication date can usually be found on the back (verso) of the title page."

That is the problem. Grosset and Dunlap books only have the original publication date listed on the copyright page. How is it wrong for me to use what is on that page?

According to this page, the publication date is the "[d]ate when an edition appeared on the market and when its physical existence can be assumed."

The word that jumps out at me is "edition," another word about which we tend to argue. Technically, all printings of ND #35 (copyright 1957) are first editions as they all have the same text, so 1957 is the year that the 1957 edition of #35 was published, which makes it the publication date.

If I put up a 1972 date as the publication date when that date does not appear in the book, some buyers will be confused. We can't win no matter what we do. Most buyers probably do not own a Farah's Guide, but this little matters. The information for how to tell the age of a Nancy Drew book is all over the internet on my website, Jenn's website, this blog, my eBay guides, and who knows where else.

I am hoping not to get flamed...

Jenn Fisher said...

I personally think there are some people who get their nickers way out of whack over some things and should learn to get a grip and just take it easy in this collecting field:) You know who I mean Jennifer :) We've seen and heard from them on the lists before. In general, if I heard someone refer to "publication date" I would think they meant when the book was first published.

Printing date would refer to each specific printing--as in, this book was printed in 1972. But was originally published in 1930.

The item specifics listing info might be better served by online places like eBay and Bonanzle to include an area for copyright date and then also a place for printing date as well if a seller happens to know the printing date--then they can fill that in.

But I never filled in item specific forms, as they tended to not work well for a lot of the series books--not enough specifics tailored to these books, so I just typically include all the relevant info in my descriptions of my listings--copyright, guide info if necessary, what the book lists to in every spot in the book or on the dj.

You're the last person who would be misleading--after all, you know what you're talking about and you are the one who typically takes the sellers who ARE misleading to task at your Blog--of course not every buyer knows that like we do here.

There are a lot of rotten apples out there unfortunately and we tend to find them in our collecting field from time to time. Not fun to deal with people who can't be polite. You know Nancy would always stifle a snarky retort to aggravating people most of the time, but I find it's hard to do that sometimes with people. Where's Hannah Gruen with her trusty broom when you need her? ;)


stratomiker said...

I stick with the original copyright date listed in the book. In most cases it is the only factual date you have. Dates listed in fan-made guides may be interesting, but they are not authentic, only surmised.

There is only one example of the Kingsport Press 'printing number' job labels shown in the guides, and it's marked as the 46th edition printing of Hollow Oak from May 18, 1960. The guide itself lists the two 1960 printings of that title as the 53rd and 54th printings - so you can see it's all a tad off (well, more than a tad). I'm sure that's why we don't see more of these job tickets and labels that guide makers claim they have - because the numbers just won't jive with their speculations.

This label (on page 353 of the latest Farah's) also states that 10,000 texts were printed but only 9,900 bound. Well, what about the other 100? These were most often bound sometime later with later boards and DJs or PC boards, which account for some of the anomalies always found where certain books just don't fit in with guide listings.

Publishing is not an exact science where everything is done to strict specifics such as those listed in fan-made guides. There are often many differences/variations in what the industry considers a 'printing' (the number of texts printed at one job time, some of which can possibly end up in different boards/DJs as the others).

The fan-made guides consider only books that look exactly the same as a 'printing', but that's not correct, only a perfect-scenario re-creation of what actually happens.