Some may remember OCLC Research's work (obsession?) with Tobias Smollett's The Adventures of Humphry Clinker. I believe it was Ed O'Neill that got us started with it, using it as an example of a work with a well defined text (it was Smollett's last novel and evidently never revised by him), but with many manifestations since it first appeared in 1771. It is an important early (picaresque epistolary) novel, and popular through most of the 19th century.
At any rate, we spent quite a bit of time with the bibliographic records in WorldCat that describe the various editions of Humphry Clinker and I recently happened upon a notebook that had printouts of 106 Humphry Clinker records as they were in WorldCat in August of 1988. The highest OCLC number in the group is just under 17 million, and we thought that was a lot (they are now nearing one billion). At any rate, 106 records isn't that many, so I thought it would be interesting to compare them to current WorldCat and our FRBR work clustering.
The first thing that struck me was how old fashioned the records look now. Comparing them to the current records, they have all been touched in some way. They now have many more subject headings and class numbers, RDA fields, typos corrected and quite few have been merged as duplicates.
Here's a summary of what I found, comparing them to the 'enhanced' version of WorldCat used for FRBR processing.
10 of the 106 records have been merged into other WorldCat records (properly as far as I could tell). All of the others except one are collected together in one FRBR 'work' and linked to the VIAF work record http://viaf.org/viaf/180810175. The one exception turns out to be bound with Smollett's Peregrine Pickle, and so qualifies as a collected work and currently is not linked to either one.
In fact, the FRBR cluster found an additional 14 records created before August 1988 that it considers Humprhy Clinker. Looking at them, they all either spelled Humphry as Humphrey, or didn't have the title in English. Evidently I didn't pull in the Humphrey Clinkers, either by design or oversight. In fact, back in the 1980's, our software wasn't sophisticated to find even small spelling variants such as Humprhy vs Humphrey, much less non-English versions.
As part of this retrospective, I pulled all the WorldCat records in the current Humphry Clinker work set: 730 records!
I mentioned earlier that all the records appear to have been 'touched' since 1988. To get some feel for that, I looked at the records' 040 field that shows who modified the record. The earliest 20 of the 1988 records had 14 modifications made to them, half by OCLC and half by other libraries. The earliest 20 in the current sample found almost 10 times that: 136 modifications, 85 of those made by OCLC.
In contrast, the most recent 20 records added to WorldCat have been modified 9 times, all by OCLC. Altogether, the 730 current records show 1,856 modifications, 1,502 of those by OCLC.
Of course, one of the most striking changes that WorldCat has undergone since 1988 is the addition of metadata in languages other than English. In fact, 301 of the 730 current Humphry Clinker records are non-Engish descriptions, altogether in 14 different languages: English, German, French, Danish, Polish, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Catalan, Swedish, Romanian, Hungarian, Slovenian, and Serbian.
Looking at the language of the books being described, 49 of the 730 were not in English, not counting the 15 'undetermined': German, Russian, French, Hungarian, Romanian and Danish. VIAF was able to find (or create) 8 non-English expression records.
The image at the top is by Isaac Cruikshank from the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.