The Bibliographic Record
One extreme advantage of the ÆD over standard library catalog records is the amount of annotation you will probably encounter. Since the ÆD consists literally of pages of recognized respected bibliographies, many of these are designed to describe the book and its importance in great detail.
Let’s look at the ÆD’s bibliographic record a little more closely. There are the basic fields to describe an item: Author, Title, Description, Place Printed/Published, Year Printed, Size and Binding and Collation. In addition, the Æ Database uniquely has the following fields: Bibliographical Type, Comments, Bibliographic References, Price and Estimated Price and Year of Record.
Bibliographical Type refers to the type of source the record was extracted from. These can be either dealer catalogues, recent auction records, selected historical auction records, celebrated collections or bibliographic references. Knowing the Bibliographical Type will give you a better understanding of where the record came from. For instance, if you know that the book came from a celebrated collection, you are more likely to assume that it is a valuable book.
The Comments field can provide extra notes and comments about the historical/association value and relevance of a book or its author. Always check the comments field. The Bibliographic References field provides a list of other bibliographies which discuss the book. You know if you have Sabin or Howes in the Bibliographic References field that the book is considered classic Americana, for instance. Priceand Estimated Price will be used for auction records. This will give you invaluable information on what the asking price for a book was, and what the book actually sold for. If you then look at theYear of Record, you will be able to get an idea of the value of that book at the time it was sold, in relation to the inflation rate.
All bibliographies are not alike. So, it really pays to read each record that you find on a title to find the one that best describes your book. Take for example, Elizabeth Custer’s Tenting on the Plains or General Custer in Kansas and Texas. If I do a title search on the ÆD for this book, I get 12 results. Yet, each record is different. Sure, the author, title and date might be the same, but what about the content of the book? For this particular example, the Soliday Part B-274 record gives the basic information; author, title, date, size, collation and price. But look in the comments field of the Dorothy Sloan record 4-332. It reads: “Another of Mrs. Custer's books written to defend General Custer's honor, but succeeding more in giving a wonderful picture of life in Western army posts (including Austin) from a woman's point of view.”
In my particular case, it was very important to read the bibliographic description of a record in order to determine more about the author’s gender. Name such as "Leslie" and "Francis" were more commonly shared between the sexes in the nineteenth century. In addition, it is always helpful to read the information in the bibliographic references field. Not only will it provide more sources to check for a title, but also it also often includes a short content description of the book as well as comments on the scarcity or importance of the book.
Congratulations! You have now passed the first lesson in web and ÆD searching 101. Hopefully, you will come away from this sermon refreshed, inspired, and ready to embark on your topic at hand with your bag of internet and ÆD search tools. Try a few search engines and directories on your own, and become familiar with ÆD’s Bibliographic Record. If you find multiple records of the same title, go ahead and compare the records; select which one gives you the information that you need. You might just surprise yourself with how much you have learned in only your first try.