In ‘Cataloging, Reception, and the Boundaries of a “Work,”’ Creider states that the notion of a “work” is central to cataloging. Multiple viewpoints are considered throughout on the definition of a work, as well what the boundaries are between works, and if two works are indeed two separate works. Problems arise when catalogers are not able to determine, or agree upon, if an entity is an expression of an existing work, or a separate work unto itself.
Definitions of a work have come from a variety of sources, but most notably from the authors of Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records. FRBR defines a work as a “distinct intellectual or artistic creation” – a distinct idea. Since a work is simply an idea, no one encounters a work, but it is made accessible in physical form (expressions to manifestations). A physical document usually cannot perfectly encapsulate a complete version of a work, thus comes multiple slightly different expressions.
As to the importance of knowing what a work is, C.A. Cutter came up with principles of a catalog, some of which states that a catalog is to provide a user with what works are available, and to collocate different versions of a given work. Seymour Lubetzky researched the distinction between a work and its container, and claims that users are looking for works rather than a particular item. Creation of the FRBR model distinguishes where a work falls in the food chain of any given bibliographic entity: Work is at the top, then expressions of that work, then manifestations, then individual items.
Boundaries for works, particularly for similar works or revisions of a work, have been a point of contention among several distinguished authors. A FRBR report says that a new work results from “a significant degree of independent intellectual or artistic effort.” Patrick Wilson proposed in 1987 that any alteration of a text creates a new work. Carmela Vircillo Franklin examined a biography of a Persian martyr written in Greek, which was revised and translated multiple times. Are these translations new works, or editions of the work? Offering more confusion, current writing on textual criticism distinguishes between the work as conceived by the author (authorial intention) versus reader (reception). Creider says the state of the reception of the text is crucial to boundaries of a work. Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Second Edition (AACR2) rules frequently result in grey areas, such as rules 21.9-21 addressing a change in medium, like dramatizations of novels as a manifestation of the same work, though not with films or plays as they are treated as a change in genre.
Final thoughts: If Creider were to edit this paper, but edit it multiple times, would the ending paper be a different work? Creider says it depends primarily on whether the focus or basic organizational structure of the article has changed. In the case of his two similar websites with different content, he says there is no single factor to make a sufficient determination of if they are different works, or two editions of a single work. I gather from this alone, that a definition for work and setting boundaries, is still being let to everyone’s personal opinion of each. A formal body would need to make a final determination on the two and be adopted by a governing organization so it would be followed. Until then, it will remain the cataloger’s personal opinion of when a work is a new work or is an expression of an existing work.