The recent “Archives Detective” article from the Pictorial Collections Department revealed modern tools and tricks used to identify unnamed photographs. This post provides the Imprints perspective on identifying books that lack vital cataloging information. Generally, books are some of the simplest items to catalog in Hagley’s collection. As a rule, they contain a cover, title page, publication information, page numbers, and other information a cataloger includes in a catalog record. Unfortunately, not all items follow these rules. What is a cataloger to do when this important identifying information was never provided by the publisher or, worse yet, was removed from the item before it ever came to Hagley?
One of the most elusive items I have recently encountered while cataloging was a small serial run entitled A-D: An Intimate Journal for Art Directors, Production Managers, and Their Associates (previously titled PM). Because the cover art (or lack thereof) on each of the sixteen issues in our collection varies so widely, a cursory glance is not necessarily enough to be confident these issues are even related to each other, let alone part of the same serial. Other than an artful display of the letters “A-D” (or “PM” in the earlier issues) on the front cover, most of these items do not follow the commonly accepted format.
Although in most cases catalogers do not have the time to actually read through each page of every item he or she catalogs, sometimes this practice becomes absolutely necessary. As I paged through each issue it finally became clear that the reason the cover of each issue looks very different is because each issue is designed by a different featured artist. If you look closely at the covers in the image above, you can usually find a signature or initials hidden in the artwork. The artist is introduced in the issue, and their designs are continued throughout.
Probably the most noticeable difference between this serial and many others is what I initially assumed was a complete lack of a title page, a component that usually contains most of the vital cataloging information. Paging through the issues, however, I found that the title page was not missing but placed in the middle of most issues. In one case, it was on page 46, in another it was on page 57, and in a select few it actually appears right after the front cover. As frustrating as this type of randomness is to a cataloger, the beautiful designs and unique placement of traditional elements make this serial both fascinating to look at and satisfying to catalog.
The next time you look through an item you have requested at Hagley Library, consider whether or not it was “easy” to catalog or if, like A-D, it has unique attributes that created an interesting challenge for the cataloger. One of a cataloger’s best resources is expert researchers, so if you have done your own detective work and can help us improve our catalog records, we welcome your expertise!
Molly Olney-Zide is the Cataloger is the Imprints Department of Hagley Museum and Library.
A-D: an Intimate Journal for Art Directors, Production Managers, and Their Associates. New York: A-D Publishing Co., 1934-1942. (IMPRINTS Z119 .A15)