Author Bibliographies

All major and numerous minor authors are the subject of at least one author bibliography. Because of their number, wide variation in quality, and ease of identification (in library catalogs, bibliographies of bibliographies, and serial bibliographies and indexes), individual author bibliographies are not listed in this Guide. (For a convenient list of separately published author bibliographies, consult Bracken, Reference Works in British and American Literature [M1357].)

Although it is generally the best place to begin extensive research on an author or specific work, an author bibliography, like any other reference work, must be used with due regard for its scope, limitations, and accuracy. As I point out in On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography (A30):

Several of these bibliographies are models of their kind: intelligent, accurate, thorough, efficiently organized works that foster scholarship by guiding readers through accumulated studies as well as implicitly or explicitly isolating dominant scholarly concerns, identifying topics that have been overworked, and suggesting needed research. Unfortunately, many are flawed in either conception or execution, and some are downright shoddy. (1)

Before searching out entries, users must study the prefatory explanation of scope and organization, become familiar with the index(es), and assess the accuracy of the work. A good bibliography will begin with a precise statement of what it includes and excludes, its chronological span, organization and content of entries, and relationship to other bibliographies. (Because many bibliographies are inexcusably vague about some or all of these matters, researchers will have no immediate way of determining how complete a work is.) An efficient, effective search of an author bibliography requires an understanding of the organization of entries and the nature of the index(es). For example, when searching for scholarship on a specific work in an author bibliography with sections for individual literary works, it is essential to know whether general studies are cross-referenced, accorded multiple listings, or accessible only through an index. Because judging accuracy is best accomplished through repeated use, researchers consulting a bibliography for the first time should search out reviews; unfortunately, too few author bibliographies are subjected to rigorous reviewing.

Because no bibliography is comprehensive and every one is outdated even before the last keystroke of the final draft is saved, researchers will also have to consult appropriate serial bibliographies and indexes listed throughout this Guide.