BAL is the common abbreviation for the Bibliography of American Literature compiled by Jacob Blanck, and published in nine volumes beginning in 1955, with Volume 9 bearing a 1991 date. Jake died in 1974 and Michael Winship became the driving force behind the completion of the work.
BAL, also called "Blanck" by some catalogers, is published under the auspices of the Bibliographical Society of America and is a primary bibliography of hundreds of American authors who wrote fiction, history and poetry from the beginning of America until the early part of the twentieth century. BAL lists first editions, important reprints and references for its included authors, as well as first appearances of text in publications by other authors. It is a primary bibliography so magazine appearances are not included. References and annotations concerning false attributions, where appropriate, are included for each author. Each volume contains a general list of references, location symbols of libraries that hold copies of the books described, and illustrative targets of binders cloth in common use in the nineteenth century. Blanck's bibliographic entries provide adequate information to distinguish edition, state, and issue of all first editions. Reprints, and appearances in books by others, are listed in a more abbreviated form. BAL includes appearances in sheet music, pamphlets, leaflets, and even such obscure items as patriotic envelopes issued during the Civil War, if the constituted the first printed version of an author's text. An explanation of the rational for inclusion and exclusion of material can be found in Volume 1 of the set.
BAL restricts its list to authors of "belles-lettres" and excludes authors primarily noted for juvenile literature, technical and scientific authors, and textbook writers. Within its scope, BAL is essential because it accurately defines editions, bindings, and scarcity by providing locations. Collectors, including special collections librarians, who collect these authors use it as their guide, along with specific author bibliographies where one exists. Intended primarily as a scholarly reference, BAL is found on the shelves of every book dealer who specializes in antiquarian American literature as well as in every library with significant literary holdings. The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, and Studies in Bibliography from the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, publish corrections and additions to BAL so prudent catalogers check these periodicals before making dramatic claims about items they hold or are offering for sale.
The Bibliography of American Literature by Jacob Blanck is a set of nine volumes, Volume 1 of which provides a lengthy, detailed preface outlining the genesis, scope, and plan of the work. Below are two partial entries, 3414 and 3415, for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the British first edition, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the first American edition. (I have deleted some material for my own purposes, but it can be seen in full in Volume 2 under "Clemens.") The article, "The," is not part of the American first edition. The depth of these descriptions should provide the answer to why this work is so important to the cataloguing of American literature.
Blanck states in the preface that some argument may be made for the exclusion of some authors and the inclusion of others. The best answer to that, I think, is you have to draw the line somewhere. The list of authors is highly subjective and there fore personal while the work itself is objectivity itself. Let me read the preface and I will say more if it is useful.
3414. THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN (TOM SAWYER'S COMRADE) ...
LONDON CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY 1884 ...
<i>-xvi, <1>-438; publisher's device, p. <439>. Illustrated. 7 3/8" x 4 15/16". <A>-I, K-U, X-Z, AA-EE8, FF4. S cloth: red. White paper end papers printed in ochre with a leaf pattern. Inserted at back: Publisher's catalog dated October, 1884. Note: The sheets occur in two states of unknown sequence:
A: The gatherings are sewn in the conventional manner with thread.
B: The gatherings are saddle-stitched with wire staples.
Announced PC Oct. 15, 1884. Advertised in Bkr November, 1884, as shortly. Advertised in Ath November 22, 29, 1884, as immediately. Listed Ath Dec. 6, 1884. Listed in Spectator (London) Dec. 6, 1884. Received at BMu Dec. 10, 1884. A cheap edition (boards, pp. 294) listed by Ath June 26, 1886. The Montreal (Dawson) edition was issued on Dec. 10, 1884; this on the basis of Charles L. Webster's copy, in the possession of Mr. Franklin J. Meine, inscribed by Webster: This copy of Huckleberry Finn was issued Dec. 10th, 1884 at Montreal and is the first copy of the Canadian edition ever sold. Chas.. L. Webster Publisher. The Canadian edition was copyrighted in the name of Chatto. For first American edition see next entry.
3415. ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN (TOM SAWYER'S COMRADE)...BY MARK
TWAIN...NEW YORK; CHARLES L. WEBSTER AND COMPANY. 1885.
<1>-366; blank leaf; see note below regarding this final blank leaf. Portrait frontispiece inserted; see note below. Illustrated. 8 7/16" x 6 9/16". <1>-10, <11>-238. See note below regarding leaf 238. S cloth: blue; green. Pale peach end papers. Flyleaves. Also available in library (i.e., sheep) binding, sprinkled edges; and, half morocco, marbled edges. Copies in cloth with gilded edges are occasionally seen. The earliest prospectus seen offers the book in green cloth; a later prospectus offers the book in both blue and in green cloths. Both prospectuses offer the book in leather.
Note: The following typographical changes have been noted:
Based on an examination of a set of pre-publication sheets (CWB), pre-publication prospectuses and copies of the published book, the following appears to be a correct statement of the evolution of the title- leaf:
1: Copyright notice dated 1885. Noted only in the prospectus and in a set of advance sheets (in CWB). No copy of the published book has been seen, or reported, with the copyright notice dated 1885.
2: The title-leaf is a cancel. Copyright notice dated 1884.
3: The title-leaf is conjugate with <1>7. Copyright notice dated 1884.
The illustration captioned Him and another Man is listed as at p. 88.
2: The illustration noted is listed as at p. 87 where it does, in fact, appear.
1: The eleventh line from the bottom reads: ... with the was...
2: The eleventh line from the bottom reads: ...with the saw...
1: The leaf is conjugate with leaf 183. The engraving is in the original state. The line indicating the fly on Silas Phelps's trousers is a quite definite curve. In this original state the leaf has been seen only in early prospectuses and in leather bound copies of the published book.
2: The leaf is conjugate with leaf 183. The engraving is in the original state but defaced; whether by accident or design is not known although Mark Twain was convinced that the defacement was deliberate. The blemish is such that the engraving is ribald. Thus far noted only as an excised leaf; in a prospectus; and, in the CWB set of advance sheets. No examined copy of the published book has the defaced plate.
3: The leaf is a cancel. The engraving has been re-done and the line indicating the fly on Silas Phelps's trousers is, with slight variation, a straight vertical line.
4: Same as 3 but the leaf is conjugate with leaf 183.
The folio occurs as follows:
1(2?): With the final five lacking, thus: 15
2(1?): With the final five present but set above the line of the first, thus: 155
3: With the final 5 replaced but, being larger than the first, it extends below the line of the figures that precede it, thus: 155 In this form the folio has been seen in copies of the book printed as late as 1891.
Thus far no copy of the New York, 1885, edition has been seen with signature mark 11 present on this page.
This leaf, the final one in the book, occurs either as a blank; or, excised or pasted under the terminal end paper. In all examined copies of the book bound in cloth, and showing the earlier form of pp. <13>, 57, 155, the leaf has been excised or pasted under the terminal end paper. It is present as a blank leaf in all examined copies of the book bound in publisher's leather; and, in all examined copies of the book showing the later form of the pages indicated.
THE PORTRAIT FRONTISPIECE
This is an insert. It occurs in several states but the following sequence has been established:
1: With the imprint of the Heliotype Printing Company. The tablecloth, or scarf, on which the bust rests is clearly visible. In this form the frontispiece may have gone through two or three more printings; or, possibly, it may have been printed from multiple plates. Printed in black.
2: With the imprint of the Heliotype Printing Company. The tablecloth, or scarf, is not visible. The statement Karl Gerhardt, Sc., has been added to the finished edge of the shoulder. Printed in black.
3: With the imprint of the Photo-Gravure Company. Tablecloth, or scarf, not visible. Karl Gerhardt, Sc., on the finished edge of the shoulder. Noted in greenish-blue-black; blackish-brown; lavender.
Note: It must be emphasized that the portrait frontispiece is an insert and as such has no relation to the sheets of the book. Johnson suggested that the frontispiece of Huck also occurs as a cancel but this appears to be an error. No copy examined or reported has the Huck frontispiece in cancelled state. The London (Chatto & Windus) edition, see preceding entry, was listed Ath Dec. 6, 1884. The Montreal (Dawson) edition appears to have been issued on December 10, 1884; see publication note under the preceding entry. The Leipzig (Tauchnitz) edition was issued in printed wrapper dated January, 1885. The New York edition: The title was deposited for copyright Dec. 3, 1884. BA received a copy on March 9, 1885. Mr. Frank C. Willson owns a copy inscribed by an early owner March 10, 1885. Listed PW March 14, 1885. NYPL has a copy inscribed by the author March 31, 1885.
I would like to clarify Gene Freeman's excellent description of the Bibliography of American Literature (which I own). That is his statement that it excludes authors primarily known for juvenile literature. For those like myself who specialize in or carry a large selection of children's books, I will list a few of the authors that do appear in the BAL:
Louissa May Alcott
Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Alice (& Phoebe) Cary
Samuel L Clemens (Mark Twain)
James Fenimore Cooper
Mary Mapes Dodge
John Fox, Jr
Joel Chandler Harris
James Whitcomb Riley
Susas B Warner
Kate Douglas Wiggin
This is only a few of the 270 authors covered. There are also such notables as JK Bangs, John Burroughs, Longfellow, Poe, Thoreau, etc. A real blessing when trying to determine editions.
Ms. Stewart makes a good point here; however, she includes in her group, >Samuel L Clemens (Mark Twain)
Mark Twain is definitely not known primarily as a children's author, especially among the audience for whom the BAL is intended. Twain himself will tell you Huck's book is not for children. And then there is the matter of "On the Science of Onanism," "The Mammoth Cod," and the more well-known "1601." In all reality, Tom Sawyer's chronicle is about the only book Twain ever wrote that could be called a child's book, but again, even Twain warns against this when he tells us the book is to remind adults of what "queer enterprises" they engaged in when they were Tom's age.