Adventures in Forensic Bibliography #6

Pre-Publication Purgatory, or, what bibliographies tell you about publishing that they don’t want you to know.

There isn’t much of a mystery here—more a curious discovery of a bibliographic nature.

Scholarly works on history don’t usually make use of internet resources. When it does happen, the current rules of citation often require that the author include a little statement to the effect that “when I looked on the Internets, back in April 2010, this page still existed. Otherwise, I make no claims to its continued existence in the electronic ether.”

When a book goes to the publisher, the diligent copy editors (cognisant of this mutable medium of the internet) will double check the entries, and usually the ‘accessed on’ date records the last time the copy editor checked that the link was still active and correct.

Those entries are a kind of bibliographic tree-ring for the book. Jennifer Feather’s Writing Combat and the Self in Early Modern English Literature, which appeared sometime in late December 2012 from the presses at Palgrave, has a terminus post… biblio of May 24, 2011 for all of its unstable online references.

That implies that the book was in the pre-publication process for another 6-7 months before it appeared in print. That’s not too bad as far as scholarly monographs go.

Other books that contain these little chronological clues can be harder to explain, even knowing the slow process of submission to publication in academic publishing. Robert W. Jones’ Bloodied Banners: Martial Display on the Medieval Battlefield (2010) has a few online sources in its bibliography, all dated no later than mid-2005. That’s a rather long time to sit in pre-publication.

At first, I considered this an error but it was a consistent one. I also thought it could have been a result of some delayed research. Maybe Jones collected all of that material around 2005, and the copy editors left it as it was when he submitted the manuscript.

However, there is nothing else in his bibliography post-dating 2005. Actually, the internet sources are the most recent content, and as a result we have a book published in 2010 that missed about 5 years of important writing in the exact same field (particularly Keauper’s HolyWarriors, and a raft of others).1

Some books take a long time to come to press, which is often acknowledged in the introduction or in some other way by the author or publisher. These things happen. But it’s rare to see such a long gap between submission and publication, and I have no idea what happened at Boydell that caused this spectacular delay.

I wish Jones had published this back in 2005-6, since I would have had more opportunity to see it. I found a section that was so relevant to a paper I submitted recently, I am sure my peer-reviewer’s report will express incredulity and dismay that I did not use it.

Well, if Boydell could somehow take all those savings from it’s new digital POD business model and say, knock down the prices a touch, I would have had the book much sooner.


1 – Richard W. Kaeuper, Holy Warriors: The Religious Ideology of Chivalry. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009). Other works I was surprised not to see in his bibliography included D. Simpkin, The English Aristocracy at War: From the Welsh Wars of Edward I to the Battle of Bannockburn. (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2008), John A. Lynn, Battle: A History of Combat and Culture. (New York: Basic Books, 2008). That’s just the stuff I know about from casual contact with his area of study.


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