Over the past couple of weeks, my cataloging experience with END has taught me about the many aspects of library science. Finding a book that is rich in metadata (such as having a lot of marginalia, inscriptions, or paratext) is both the most ideal and the most undesirable thing I as a cataloguer has experienced. The cataloging process is painstaking, and to be frank, a tedious task that requires a good eye for detail. On the other hand, I genuinely worry about not catching every interesting bit of metadata. Though this process is made even more efficient by first and second reviewers, I find that there is a sense of personal fulfillment in being the first to find particularly strange pieces of information within the early novels.
One early novel that I was particularly fond of cataloging was “Laugh and be fat, or the merry companion”, which had no attributable author. The book was comprised of multiple short stories. Each story had a title and one that stood out the most was called “The willful drunkard; or, the shoemaker made a cuckold by the Devil”. I’m not surprised it was published anonymously because it contained such amusingly bawdy subject matter.
The only slight inconvenience I had when cataloging this book was putting the full title, “Laugh and be fat, or the merry companion; containing great variety of comical and diverting stories, a curious collection of poems, a select collection of epitaphs, a long string of out o'th' way conundrums and answers, and a choice collection of songs, sung at the public places of diversion”, into the “989” field. Other than that, “Laugh and be fat” was a joy to both catalog and read. It is a great example of British bawdy humor, which exists in stark contrast to the tediously repetitive and morally lofty Gothic narratives than I usually do.