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The Collation

Detective Work: The Dutch Fingerprint (Part I)

Previous Collation posts may convince even the most skeptical reader that bibliographic work often requires detective work. In some cases, this may involve bibliographers to take fingerprints. Fingerprints are regularly used by bibliographers to find out whether or not two copies are printed from the same setting of type. Roughly speaking, identical settings in two copies mean that the copies originate in the same print run and may be part of the same edition. Different settings may indicate different editions or different states. These are  issues that matter when we want to understand the production, distribution, and reception of printed books. That is the reason why they turn up in retrospective bibliographies such as the Short Title Catalogue Netherlands (STCN), the Short Title Catalogue Flanders (STCV), or the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC). 

  1. See P.C.A. Vriesema, “The STCN fingerprint,” Studies in Bibliography 39 (1986): 93–100.
  2. In a small number of cases this part is lacking, e.g. when it is impossible to take a fingerprint of signatures, when there is no letterpress material in the book proper, or when the rest of the book is missing.
  3. There are also indicators for preliminary matter reading “a1” (first signature position in the prelims) and “a2” (last signature in the prelims), and indicators for end matter, reading “c1” (first signature position in the end matter) and “c2” (first signature position in the end matter). Positions “a1” and “a2” are only taken when preliminary matter is signed with different figures or alphabets than the book proper, and the same goes for positions “c1” and “c2.”