I’m interested in discussing how Library Science’s bibliographic theories intersect with the Humanities’ conception of creative works. In particular I would like to examine Library Science’s FRBR concept in this light.
FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) is a conceptual framework that has had a large impact within the Library and Information Sciences world, particularly in how bibliographic entities are conceived within a catalog system. Among other things, FRBR proposes a system of four inter-related abstraction that are designed to describe different parts of a creative endeavor’s whole. Work describes the creative idea behind a bibliographic entity, Expression describes the specific artistic form that realizes the work, Manifestation describes the physical form that that expression takes (a specific edition of a book), and Item describes one single instance of a manifestation (the particular book that you have in your hand).
For example: Shakespeare conceives of a Work he will call King Lear. He writes a manuscript of this work for performance. This is one Expression. Shakespeare’s original manuscript is, of course, lost, and our modern text derives from the text of the First and Second Quartos and the First Folio. As the versions in the quartos and the folio are significantly different, they too represent different Expressions of the same work. The version created by conflating these two versions would be yet another Expression. The Norton Critical Edition of the play would represent one Manifestation of it. And then, the specific copy of the Norton Critical Edition that sits on your bookshelf, and that you’ve marked up and spilled coffee on, is one particular Item.
As you can imagine, these concepts can become fairly muddled, and often create significant questions about any particular bibliographic entity (especially when dealing with something that has as much of history as King Lear): Does the Norton Critical Edition represent a whole new Expression considering the editor primarily uses the Folio text, while also integrating passages from Quarto I? Yes, it probably does. What about the critical material that accompanies the text, do those have their own Works and Expressions? Yes… well… possibly?
How do library systems built around these ideas work with scholars’ expectations for information retrieval systems? How extensive should these systems be? Could systems built around these concepts impose too rigid of a structure on the critical history of a creative work?
FRBR is a rather large and unwieldy topic within Library Science, and it would be unreasonable to expect a tremendously in-depth discussion about it within the context of THATcamp, but I believe thinking about it within the concept of humanities could yield an interesting discussion.