32 Visual Interpretation of the ISTC
The Atlas of Early Printing and the Material History of Data
The Atlas of Early Printing is an online resource built with GIS tools to depict the spread and development of printing during the incunable period in Europe. It has been online since 2008 and continues to be developed. The site uses data from the Incunabula Short Title Catalog (ISTC) and other sources, providing a visualisation of the databases from which the data is retrieved. The data being visualised is the result of many decades of cataloguing, arranging, publishing, and migrating; the work that followed was informed by material constraints and has left material traces. For the ISTC, an important period in the development of data formats was the work Margaret Bingham Stillwell undertook from 1924 to 1940 for the bibliography Incunabula in American Libraries, a Second Census. The data she gathered were meticulously coordinated through mailing campaigns and organised on cards, and then translated into print according to the publisher’s requirements. The decisions underlying Stillwell’s descriptions were migrated to Frederick Goff’s Third Census and eventually directly into the first version of the ISTC. The structures she developed serve as the foundation for modern efforts to expand beyond the limitations of the short-title format, and to provide the data for geographic and other visualisations.
Keywords: Frederick Goff • Incunabula • Data Provenance • Data Archaeology • Short Title • ISTC • Data Visualisation • History of Data • 15th Century Booktrade • Book History • Third Census • Second Census • Margaret Bingham Stillwell • GIS