“A Cataloger’s View of Authorship” by Arnold S. Wajenberg

Wajenberg’s piece provides an interesting look at the difficulties of determining authorship for various resources produced in a variety of situations. Quite early on in cataloging history, defining exactly what constitutes authorship became problematic. Cutter offered a definition of author which would “in the narrower sense [to apply to]…the person who writes a book; in a wider sense it may be applied to him who is the cause of the book’s existence by putting together the writings of several authors (usually called the editor, more properly called the collector). Bodies of men (societies, cities, legislative bodies, countries) are to be considered the authors of their memoirs, transactions, journals, debates, reports, etc (22).” This definition was not found to be a perfect fit, however, and so many cataloging theorists continued to explore the topic. Wajenberg notes Lubetzky’s simpler definition – anyone who “produces a work” (22) – but shows that “produces” can be a highly ambiguous word. Instead, the author found Carpenter’s investigation, with its conclusion that authorship can never be defined from the production of the work, as more realistic. From this the article turned to look at special problems with determining authorship, particularly to do with “diffuse” or “multiple” authorship. These include translations (how could an author be responsible for a version of his work in a language which did not exist when he wrote?), motion pictures (a tremendous number of people are involved in the “production”), and printed material (such as technical or scientific works produced by a number of collaborators). In conjunction, he presents the interesting problem of Racter, the computer program which generated the book The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed. This unique origin creates problems for catalogers trying to assign access points. In view of these problems, Wajenberg points out that catalogers should be interested in the bibliographic universe, nothing else, and proposes his own definition of authorship: “an author of a work is a person identified as an author in items containing the work, and/or in secondary literature that mentions the work” (24). The article proceeds to discuss the implications of this definition. Although the definition is not meant to exclude corporate bodies, Wajenberg has never found them to be useful or important to catalog users, and so admits that he would just as well leave them out. Finally, he finishes with example of problematic cataloging, in which the attributed author of an English drama is revised between editions of a reference work. Wajenberg asserts that the concientious cataloger will change or make notes to that effect while cataloging the new edition of the material.

I found this piece to be interestingly written, clear, and concise. Also appealing is the fact that it was written by an author with proven expertise in his field. I do wonder, however, if there is a similar piece that is somewhat more recent? Although many of the questions touched upon are the same, it is of considerable age for a reference article.

Advertisements