doctoral student Carter Hailey, right, shows his new, simpler
collator, one of four kinds of devices used to compare different
copies of texts. Kathleen Ferguson Jump, left, an editor in
the Darden School who is taking a bibliographical studies
course from English professor David Vander Meulen, sits at
an earlier machine. University Professor and rare books expert
Terry Belanger, center, demonstrates the first collator, built
by U.Va. alumnus Charlton Hinman. Behind them, another U.Va.
doctoral student, Dave Gants, uses the fourth type of collator.
reflections: Bibliographical devices reveal which edition is which
By Kathleen Ferguson Jump
not a trick with mirrors, but truth revealed by mechanical devices,
called collators. They allow a person to compare two copies of
a book in detail -- character by character -- to discover typographical
differences that may shed light on the history of the text, the
book's production and the historical period in which it was printed.
In the field of bibliographical study, which examines the physical
qualities of books as objects, no modern invention has been more
helpful than the mechanical collator.
from dull, this activity is like the "thrill of the chase"
for bibliographic scholars. In a detective-like way, they use
tangible evidence to accumulate clues to get closer to the minds
and actions of those who manufactured books, perhaps several hundred
years ago. "It is a historical exercise accumulating historical
data to see a pattern. Sometimes it is just one clue, other times
it is an accumulation of clues that provides different parts of
a puzzle to lead to a discovery," says English professor
David Vander Meulen.
Since the first one was introduced in the early 1950s, three more
models, increasingly compact and transportable, have been designed,
but they remain rare or uncommon machines. All four types of collators
were together in the same room for the first time in the history
of bibliographical studies Nov. 4 in the Special
Collections Reading Room at Alderman Library.
first collator was built by Charlton Hinman, who earned a Ph.D.
from U.Va. in 1941 and was a student of long-time English department
chair Fredson Bowers, an international figure in the field of
bibliographical studies. In 1948, he established one of the world's
major bibliographical journals, "Studies in Bibliography,"
which continues to be published today.
Hinman collator uses electrical lights and mirrors to "converge"
two texts into one, highlighting variations between the copies.
Hinman got the idea for the device after working in naval communications
intelligence in World War II, where he analyzed superimposed aerial
photographs of enemy installations to see if they had been bombed
collating models use the same principle of mirrors but have become
more compact and affordable -- spurred by the needs of scholars
who carry their devices into libraries around the world. The Lindstrand
Comparator seems to have been first introduced in 1970, followed
by the McLeod Portable Collator in the early 1980s. (Traditionally,
the machines have been named after their inventors.) The newest
collator was recently designed by U.Va. doctoral student Carter
Hailey, who created the device to assist his study of Piers Plowman,
printed in 1550.
The Special Collections Reading Room owns a Hinman Collator and