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Documenting the quest to track down everything written by (and written about) the poet, translator, critic, and radio dramatist, Henry Reed.

An obsessive, armchair attempt to assemble a comprehensive bibliography, not just for the work of a poet, but for his entire life.

Read "Naming of Parts."

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Henry Reed, ca. 1960


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I Capture the Castle: A girl and her family struggle to make ends meet in an old English castle.
Dusty Answer: Young, privileged, earnest Judith falls in love with the family next door.
The Heat of the Day: In wartime London, a woman finds herself caught between two men.


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All posts for "RichardDAltick"

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

15.12.2017


How to Make Bibliography Cards

Here's how it goes: I'm sifting through Google Book Search or Amazon's Search Inside the Book, and a reference to Henry Reed materializes out of the ether: maybe a footnoted quotation, or just a passing comparison to another poet. If it's something Reed himself wrote, I can usually recognize it by name. I'll check the bibliography online, and if the article or book doesn't already appear, I'll e-mail myself a link or the pertinent information. Later, I'll pull out my portable, plastic card file and fill out a new index card. I'm using colored cards to indicate items that I don't own.

Bibliography card

From Richard Altick's excellent and invaluable The Art of Literary Research (1963), the chapter entitled, "Making Notes":

For every book and article you consult, make out a bibliographical (three-by-five) slip. If your project is a fairly modest one, to be finished in one or two months' time, before your memory starts to fail, this point is not so important; in such a case, modify the rule to read "for every book and article in which you find information." But if you are working on a dissertation or book, it is extremely useful to keep a record of every source you examine, whether or not you take anything from it. A few months later, running across a reference to a certain article that sounds as if it might be valuable, you may forget whether or not you looked at it. Quick recourse to your file of bibliographical slips may save you, at the very least, the labor of hunting it down again in the library and, often, the trouble of re-reading it.

On the face of the bibliographical slip, copy the author, title, edition (if any is specified), place and date of publication, and (if it is a fairly recent book) the publisher. Or, if it is an article you are recording, note the author, title, periodical, volume number, year, and pagination. Always take this information from the source itself as it lies before you, never from any reference in a bibliography or someone else's footnote. Authors' initials and the exact spelling of their names, the titles of books and articles, and dates have a way of getting twisted in secondary sources. Play safe by getting your data from the original, and doubly safe by re-checking once you have copied down the information. On the face of the same slip—I use the bottom lefthand corner—record the call number of the book or periodical, and if it is shelved anywhere but in the main stacks of the library, add its location. If you have used the item at a library other than your headquarters, record that fact too ("Harvard," "Newberry," "Stanford"). These are small devices, seemingly unimportant, but in the aggregate they are tremendous timesavers if you are dealing with hundreds of sources and the storage space in your brain is reserved, as it should be, for more vital matters.

On the back of the bibliographical slip, I usually write a phrase or even a short paragraph of description and evaluation, again to refresh my memory two or three years after I have used the book. Since nobody sees these slips but me, I am as candid, peevish, scornful, or downright slanderous as I wish; if a book is bad, I record exactly what its defects are, so that I will not refer to it again or, if I have to do so, in order that I will remember to use it with extreme caution. If, on the other hand, it is a valuable book, I note its outstanding features. And I also record just what, if anything, it has contributed to the study on which I am engaged. Perhaps I also leave a memo to myself to re-read or re-check certain portions of it at a later stage of research, when conceivably it will provide me with further data that at this point I do not anticipate I shall need. Finally—and this is particularly recommended to students whose research requires them to scan large quantities of dull material, such as rambling four-volume Victorian literary reminiscences—I note the degree of exhaustiveness with which I inspected the item, by some such phrase as "read page by page" or "thoroughly checked index." Similarly, I recommend that you make a slip for every bibliography you have consulted, so that you can be sure you have not inadvertently overlooked it.

If it is one of the serial bibliographies of literary scholarship, such as the annual bibliography of studies in romanticism, record the precise span of years you've covered. If it is a subject bibliography, such as Poole's Index, list the individual entries under which you have looked ("Education," "Literature," "Reading") in case other possibilities occur to you later on. Once again, the whole idea is to save wasteful duplication of effort. Three or four minutes spent in making such a slip can save a whole day's work a year or two later.

For more on creating bibliography cards for a research project, here's an online style manual.



1513. Hodge, Alan. "Thunder on the Right." Tribune (London), 14 June 1946, 15.
Hodge finds 'dry charm as well as quiet wit' in "Judging Distances," but overall feels Reed is 'diffuse and not sufficiently accomplished.'


Noguchi-Stylin'

At last, progress. Most of the copies and printouts which had been languishing, unindexed, on the desk and coffee table have been filed in the open-shelf system; they were mostly Third Programme broadcasting schedules from the Times and Radio Times. True Noguchi-style, of course, wouldn't work for a bibliography, as sorting by author, title, and date is necessary to find a specific document. But I'm quite satisfied with the way the system works, and especially with the aesthetics: the orange-yellow of the envelopes against the black shelves.


I dipped into the box containing Reed's essays and poems copied from periodicals, but progressed only as far as titles beginning with "D", before my initial burst of enthusiam wore down. Labeling and stuffing one hundred envelopes at a stretch seems to be about the limit of my endurance.


One of the chapters in Altick's The Scholar Adventurers is "The Destructive Elements": describing the losses of many great works of literature, collections of personal letters, and irreplacable manuscripts to "fire, vermin, damp, and neglect." The passages describing the destruction of Sir Robert Cotton's collection of Anglo-Saxon literature is terrifying, and makes me wish I had purchased some sort of fireproof shelving, lest my paltry collection meet the same fate:

In 1700 the Cottonian Library was deeded to the nation; and after it was decided that Cotton House was too damp and ruinous for the preservation of the manuscripts the collection was transferred to Ashburnham House, which, besides being dryer and more spacious, was thought to be "much more safe from fire." Two years passed; then, early in the morning of of October 23, 1731, the city of Westminster was aroused by the alarm of fire at Ashburnham House. The first men on the scene saw the flames burning brightly inside the room where Cotton's fourteen book presses stood. Among the crowd which gathered were trustees of the collection, who broke into the burning house, ran to the presses, and feverishly threw hundreds of volumes from the windows. Among these rescuers was Richard Bentley, the Cottonian librarian and the greatest classical scholar of his time, who is reported to have raced from the flaming house "in his dressing gown, a flowing wig on his head, and a huge volume under his arm." He had chosen for salvation by his own hands the precious Alexandrian manuscript of the New Testament. Meanwhile other citizens were laboring at the hand pumps brought by the primitive fire brigade.

A few hours later, the portion of Ashburnham House that contained the Cottonian collection lay gutted. Of the 958 manuscript volumes in the library, about a hundred, virtually all irreplacable, were utterly destoyed; and hundreds more which survived were dreadfully charred and water-soaked. Some of these were restored with as much skill as was then possible, but there remained sixty-one bundles of damaged leaves, the sorting and repairing of which was to be delayed until the middle of the next century. Among the volumes which had escaped with minor damage was the unique manuscript of Beowulf, only the edges of which had felt the flames.

You'd think moving a precious library into a building named "Ash-burn-ham" would've given someone ironic pause, but. Here are excellent some accounts of the Ashburnham House fire and the miraculous survival of the Beowulf manuscript.



1512. Reed, Henry. "The Case for Maigret." Reviews of Maigret Hesitates and The Man on the Bench in the Barn, by Georges Simenon. Sunday Times (London), 2 August 1970: 22.
Reed reviews two translations of George Simenon's fiction.


A Scholarly Adventure, Part I

My most recent adventure begins with, of all things, an online newsletter. Each Thursday, the Librarians' Internet Index, a librarian-selected and -organized catalog of the Web, publishes a list of websites new to their index: "New This Week." In last week's news, there is an entry for a 1999 exhibition by the University of Delaware's Special Collections: The Frank W. Tober Collection on Literary Forgery.

Tober was a chemist by profession, but his interests extended to the study of history, stamp and coin collecting, and a special fascination with the process, results, and detection of literary forgery.

The collection at the University of Delaware Library includes items relating to some of the greatest forgeries of the literary world, including the Ossian poet hoax, the fake Rowley poems, pamphlets forged by Wise and Buxton, and the bogus "Butterfly" books, among others.

A title in the section on "General Material on Forgery" caught my attention: The Scholar Adventurers, by Richard D. Altick (New York: Macmillan, 1950). The book is described as an examination of 'literature's most famous research puzzles,' which immediately piqued my curiousity. I tapped the title into our university's catalog and viola! I had a copy.

The catalog also revealed that the book is the first part of a trilogy which also contains Selective Bibliography for the Study of English and American Literature, and The Art of Literary Research.

I've read the first couple of chapters of the Adventurers, and I can easily say it is the most entertaining book about the pursuit of rare books and personal letters, forgers, and librarying I have read since Perez-Reverte's The Club Dumas, filled with thrilling anecdotes of discovery which take place in musty attics and library file drawers. But it was a few snippets from The Art of Literary Research which inspired my scholarly adventure. Before I even checked it out from the library, I turned to the chapter titled "Making Notes," and found all my labors instantly affirmed and validated:

For every book and article you consult, make out a bibliographical (three-by-five) slip. If your project is a fairly modest one, to be finished in one or two months' time, before your memory starts to fail, this point is not so important; in such a case, modify the rule to read 'for every book and article in which you find information.' But if you are working on a dissertation or book, it is extremely useful to keep a record of every source you examine, whether or not you take anything from it. A few months later, running across a reference to a certain article that sounds as if it might be valuable, you may forget whether or not you looked at it. Quick recourse to your file of bibliographical slips may save you, at the very least, the labor of hunting it down again in the library and, often, the trouble of re-reading it (p. 195-96).

In essence, that is exactly how I decided to proceed, more than a year ago, with my own project. Here, at last, is a research barometer by which I can measure the progress of the bibliography, and acquire new tricks of the trade. For example, Altick suggests using 3x5 slips of high-quality bond paper instead of index cards, since they take up less room. And he recommends typing each entry, instead of writing them by hand, for clarity. Oh, to live in a world where we each still have a manual Underwood typewriter on our desk. At least I have one benefit which Altick did not: an SQL database.

This long, holiday weekend, Altick's authority and enthusiasm inspired me to undertake an adventure that I had originally planned for over the Winter Break, but which, out of laziness and fear, I had ultimately eschewed in favor of cable television and take-away dinners. On Friday, I took the opportunity to revisit Library of Congress, and re-baptize myself in the purifying white light of a photocopier.

(To be continued....)



1511. William Phillips, and Philip Rahv, eds. New Partisan Reader: 1945-1953 London: Andre Deutsch, 1953. 164-171.
Collects Reed's poem, "The Door and the Window," published in the Partisan Review in 1947.



1st lesson:

Reed, Henry (1914-1986). Born: Birmingham, England, 22 February 1914; died: London, 8 December 1986.

Education: MA, University of Birmingham, 1936. Served: RAOC, 1941-42; Foreign Office, Bletchley Park, 1942-1945. Freelance writer: BBC Features Department, 1945-1980.

Author of: A Map of Verona: Poems (1946)
The Novel Since 1939 (1946)
Moby Dick: A Play for Radio from Herman Melville's Novel (1947)
Lessons of the War (1970)
Hilda Tablet and Others: Four Pieces for Radio (1971)
The Streets of Pompeii and Other Plays for Radio (1971)
Collected Poems (1991, 2007)
The Auction Sale (2006)


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