MLA Style Manual: WorldCat and Corporate Authorship Nonsense

In the preface of the new 3rd edition of the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (2008), David G. Nicholls, the chief compiler, refuses explicitly to claim authorship or editorship for the new edition: “I decided that the new edition should be considered a product of corporate authorship” (xxiii). The 3rd edition is a revision of the 2nd, which Nicholls credits to Joseph Gibaldi. The second edition was based on the 1st edition, a collaboration between Gibaldi and Walter S. Achtert (xxiii).

The publisher’s book designers respect Nicholls’s decision, and the title page, the spine, and the wrapper make no statement about authorship. The CIP, however, cites the 3rd edition as a “Rev. ed.” of Joseph Gibaldi’s 2nd edition. WorldCat and thus library catalogs, are powerfully influenced by CIP data. So WorldCat is having nothing of this corporate authorship nonsense. See http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/191090459 or page image below.

mla_style-worldcat

To librarians at least, the Romantic idea of authorship is indispensable: The author of the third edition is Joseph Gibaldi. Case closed. The early reviewers in literary journals, who must read the book, notice Nicholls’s insistence on corporate authorship. See Clawson in College Literature and Landeira in Rocky Mountain Review. In two or three years, as this revision filters out to all of the handbooks and style guides, I wonder what will happen. Will users of electronic citation software, who may rely on WorldCat, believe in what the electronic record tells them, that the 3rd edition of the MLA Style Manual participates still in Romantic authorship?

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