4406 entries. 94 themes. Last updated December 26, 2016.

Bibliography Timeline


8,000 BCE – 1,000 BCE

The Word Bibliography is Derived from a Greek Word for Papyrus Circa 3,100 BCE – 3,050 BCE

The pith of the papyrus plant was used in Egypt at least as far back as the First dynasty, for boats, mattresses, mats and as a writing surface. The Egyptian word papyrus, meaning "that of the king," may indicate a Pharonic monopoly in the period.

"The English word papyrus derives, via Latin, from Greek πάπυρος papyros. Greek has a second word for papyrus, βύβλος byblos (said to derive from the name of the Phoenician city of Byblos). The Greek writer Theophrastus, who flourished during the 4th century BC, uses papuros when referring to the plant used as a foodstuff and bublos for the same plant when used for non-food products, such as cordage, basketry, or a writing surface. The more specific term βίβλος biblos, which finds its way into English in such words as bibliography, bibliophile, and bible, refers to the inner bark of the papyrus plant. Papyrus is also the etymon of paper, a similar substance" (Wikipedia article on Papyrus, accessed 01-03-2010).

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The Earliest Surviving Literary or Library Catalogues Circa 2,000 BCE

Two cuneiform tablets found at Nippur, (Mesopotamia; now Iraq) are inscribed with a list of Sumerian works of literature in no apparent order.  One has 68 titles, the other 48 works.  These represent the earliest surviving literary or library catalogues. 

Casson, Libraries in the Ancient World (2001) 4. 

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The Earliest Surviving Detailed Bibliographical Entries Circa 1,400 BCE

Collection catalogue tablet from the Hattusas Palace Archives. Hattusa, Turkey


Cuneiform tablets discovered at Hattusas (Hattusa), capital of the Hittite Empire in the Bronze Age, near modern Boğazkale, Turkey, contain detailed bibliographical entries.

"Each entry begins by giving the number of tablets that made up the work being recorded, just as modern catalogues give the number of volumes in a mult-volume publication. The entry identifies the work itself by giving the title, which may take the form of citing its first line, or by giving a capsule description of the contents. Then it tells whether the table marked the end of the work or not. At times the entry includes the name of the author or authors, or adds other useful information. . . . 

"In addition to noting missing tablets, the entries now and then provide information about shelving. There is an entry, for example, which in listing a work that happens to be in two tablets notes that 'they do not stand upright'; presumably, in the part of the palace holdings represented by this catalogue, most tablets were stored on edge while these two, exceptionally, lay flat. . . . The catalogue, it would seem, was of one particular collection that, to judge from the contents, was for use by the palace clergy. It would have been an invaluable tool: any priest who needed a ritual for a given problem, instead of picking up tablet after tablet to read the colophon if there was one, or some lines of text if there was not, had only to run an eye over the entries in the catalogue. It was a limited tool; the order of the entries is more or less haphazard (alphabetization, for example, lay over a millennium and a half in the future) and they give no indication of location. But it was, no question about it, a significant step beyond the simple listing of titles of the Nippur tablets. 

"The finds at Hattusas, in short, reveal the development of procedures for organizing a collection of writings. The palace holdings were certainly extensive enough to require them; the catalogue alone, representing as we have seen, just the clergy's working library, lists well over one hundred titles. . . ." (Casson, Libraries in the Ancient World [2001] 5-8).

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300 BCE – 30 CE

The Origins of Bibliography Circa 200 BCE

A digital recreation of the Library of Alexandria.

Around 200 BCE Kallimachos (Callimachus), a renowned poet and head of the Alexandrian Library, compiled a catalogue of its holdings which he called Pinakes (Tables or Lists). Supposedly extending to 120 papyrus rolls, this catalogue amounted to a systematic survey of Greek literature up to its time. It also represented the origins of bibliography. Only a few fragments survived the eventual destruction of the library, together with a scattering of references to it in other ancient works.

Callimachus’s bibliographical methods would not be out of place in a modern library; an analysis of the eight remaining fragments of the Pinakes shows that Callimachus

"1. divided the authors into classes and within these classes if necessary into subdivisions;

"2. arranged the authors in the classes or subdivisions alphabetically;

"3. added to the name of each author (if possible) biographical data;

"4. listed under an author’s name the titles of his works, combining works of the same kind to groups (no more than that can be deduced from the eight citations); and

"5. cited the opening words of each work as well as

"6. its extent, i.e., the number of lines" (Blum, p. 152).

"The Pinakes were neither an inventory nor an exhaustive catalog of the works in the library: they did not list all the copies of a work that the library owned and did not give an indication of how to locate a book in the library—actual access would have required consulting the librarian. The Pinakes built on preexisting practices of list making (including Aristotle's pinakes of poets), sorting (such as Theophrastus' doxographies sorted topically and chronologically), and alphabetizing, the principles of which were likely already understood although they had never been put to such extensive use before" (Blair, Too Much to Know. Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age [201] 17).

The surviving fragments of Kallimachos's Pinakes were first published in print in Hymni, epigrammata et fragmenta, edited by Theodor (Theodorus) J. G. F. Graevius et al. (2 vols, Utrecht, 1697). That edition included the first edition of the monumental 758-page commentary by Ezechiel Spanheim, and also incorporated the 420 fragments collected and elucidated by the English theologian, classical scholar and critic Richard Bentley, whose reading of these fragments represents “the earliest example of a really critical method applied to such a work" (Dictionary of National Biography). ". . . many even of his boldest conjectures have been completely confirmed by the papyri" (Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship 1300-1850, 154.) Among the other commentaries and notes assembled in Graevius's edition are those by Henri Estienne, Nichodemus Frischlin, Bonaventura Vulcanius, and Anne Dacier.

♦ Apart from his contributions to bibliography, Kallimachos is known in the history of books for his quip in Fragments (ed. Pfeiffer) 465 that a "big book is a big evil" (μεγα βιβλιον μεγα κακων), a statement that he made in defense of the short lyric and elegiac poems he wrote and favored over longer epic poems. This has also been translated as "A great book is a great evil."

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography. Its History and Development (1984) no. 1.  Blum, Kallimachos. The Alexandrian Library and the Origins of Bibliography. Translated by Hans H. Wellisch (1991).

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The Earliest Bibliographical Classification System Circa 53 BCE – 23 CE

The Seven Epitomes is thought to have been compiled by the Chinese astronomer, historian and editor Liu Xin (Liu Hsin) during the Xin Dynasty, circa 53 BCE to 23 CE. A by-product of a collation project commissioned by the Emperor Ch'eng Ti of the Han Dynasty, it was the catalogue of all collated books housed in the libraries of the Inner Court at the time, initiated under the supervision of Liu Xiang (Liu Hsiang). These had been recovered after the burning of the books under the rule of the First Emperor Qin Shi Huang in 213-206 BCE.

Although the original classification system no longer survives, Chinese bibliographers believe that the majority of its entries, in a much abridged form, and its original classification structure, have been preserved in the “Bibliographic Treatise” of the History of the [Former] Han Dynasty (Han shu “yi wen zhi”, compiled about a hundred years later. Scholars estimate that there were more than six hundred annotated entries in the Seven Epitomes arranged according to a carefully designed classification system. The title of the catalogue seems to suggest that the system consisted of seven epitomes (classes). However, the “Treatise” included only six classes (without “Ji lüe” or the Collective Epitome). Since the Seven Epitomes is no longer extant, scholars have not been able to reach a consensus regarding the nature and content of Ji lüe. One speculation that has been widely accepted is that Ji lüe was the collection of brief summaries now seen at the end of each of the six main classes and their divisions. Nevertheless, no one disputes that the classification in the Seven Epitomes was a six-fold scheme.

"There are six classes and divisions in the Seven Epitomes:

"1. Liu yi lüe (Epitome of the Six Arts) consisted of nine divisions, including one for each of the Six Classics (Odes, Documents, Rites, Music, Changes, and Spring and Autumn Annals), Analects of Confucius, Book of Filial Piety, and philology.

"2. Zhu zi lüe (Epitome of the Masters) consisted of ten divisions, including nine major affi liations of thought commonly known during the Warring States and an added affi liation of Novelists. "

3. Shi fu lüe (Epitome of Lyrics and Rhapsodies) consisted of fi ve divisions, including three styles of poetry and two other genres. "

4. Bing shu lüe (Epitome of Military Texts) consisted of four divisions (tactics, terrain, yin/yang, and military skills).

"5. Shu shu lüe (Epitome of Numbers and Divination) consisted of six divisions, including astronomy, chronology, fi ve phases correlative elements, divination, miscellaneous fortune-telling, and geomancy).

"6. Fang ji lüe (Epitome of Formulae and Techniques) consisted of four divisions, including medical classics, pharmacology, sexology, and longevity"  (Hurl-Li Lee, "Origins of the Main Classes in the First Chinese Bibliographic Classification" https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/hurli/www/Chinese/Lee_ISKO2008.pdf, accessed 01-11-2011).

Tsuen-Hsuin Tsien, "A History of Bibliographic Classification in China," The Library Quarterly XXII (1952)  307-324.

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30 CE – 500 CE

Claudius Galen Writes the First Auto-Bibliography Circa 190 CE

About 190 CE Roman physician Claudius Galen of Pergamon wrote two classified bibliographies of his own writings: Peri ton idion biblion [Latin: De Libris propriis liber, On his own writings] and Peri tes taxeos ton idion biblion [Latin: De ordine librorum suorum liber, On the arrangement of his own writings]. These are the first auto-bibliographical works which survived, and they may also be considered the first bibliographies of any kind which survived after the listings from the library of Alexandria by Kallimachos (Callimachus), which survived only in the most fragmentary form.

"The De libris propriis liber opens with a general introduction, in which Galen refers to the books falsely attributed to him. The main text is dvided into seventeen chapters, in which Galen arranges his works under such headings as commentaries, anatomical works, Hippocratic writings, works on moral philosophy, grammar and rhetoric, and so on. This bibliography apparently did not suffice as a guide to the five hundred or so works Galen had put out (many of them now lost), for he added a second one. This is the De ordine librorum suorum liber, of which second bibliography unfortunately only a fragment has come down to us" (Besterman, The Beginnings of Systematic Bibliography 2nd ed (1940) 3, nos. I & II).

Galen's bibliographies were first published in print in Part IV, ff.**1-6, of the editio princeps of his collected writings in Greek issued by the heirs of Aldus Manutius and Aldus's father-in-law, Andreas Asulanus, in Venice in 1525. They were revised and improved by Conrad Gessner for an edition published in Basel in 1562.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 2.

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The First Collection of Bio-Bibliographies 392 CE

In Bethlehem in 392 St. Jerome composed De viris illustribus, the title and arrangement of which he borrowed from Suetonius. Jerome's De viris illustribus is considered the first biographical work to stress bibliography.

De viris illustribus "contains short biographical and literary notes on 135 Christian authors, from Saint Peter down to Jerome himself. For the first seventy-eight authors Eusebius (Historia ecclesiastica) is the main source; in the second section, beginning with Arnobius and Lactantius, he includes a good deal of independent information, especially as to western writers" (Wikipedia article on Jerome, accessed 01-04-2008).

"It is a simple enumeration of titles under each author, in no particular order; sometimes the number of 'books' (chapters) is stated" (Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] No. 3).

De viris illustribus was first published in print by Günther Zainer of Augsburg in an undated edition thought to have been issued before 1473:  ISTC No. ih00192000.

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700 – 800

"Very Little That Was Recopied in the Crucial Ninth Century Was Subsequently Lost" Circa 790

The court library of Charlemagne at Aachen set an example for abbey and cathedral scriptoria throughout the Holy Roman Empire.

"The titles of classical books jotted down in a Berlin manuscript circa 790 have been shown to be a partial list of the library at Aachen. It is remarkable for the range and rarity of the authors represented—Sallust, Martial, Lucan, and Cicero, for example—some of whose books had scarcely survived the Merovingian period. Indeed, it is characteristic of many textual traditions propagated in Carolingian times from old (fifth- or sixth-century) manuscripts, with an intermediate stage. Very little that was recopied in the crucial ninth century was subsequently lost, and the diligent collecting of these earlier representatives themselves ensured the survival of many ancient codices in capitals and uncials.

"Many monastic libraries evidently relied upon copies taken from the palace library for their stock. Some such as Corbie on the Somme or St. Martin at Tours, seem to have benefited spectacularly from their close connection to the court. Other books would be bequeathed by wealthy patrons or procured from outside by persistent begging for loans such as Lupus, Abbot of Ferrières (south of Paris) in the mid-ninth century, engaged in for much of his life. Monastic and cathedral libraries also freely exchanged copies of works as they were needed, along regular routes of circulation. France, especially in the north and central areas, had the lions share of this general revival of learning in terms of numbers of books produced, but the old Irish monasteries in Germany — Fulda, Hersfeld, St. Gall-and more modern foundations such as the imperially favored abbey of Lorsch, south of Mainz, also housed and recopied large numbers of manuscripts old and new, some of them of great importance. Of the seven ancient Italian manuscripts on which the text of Virgil rests, at least four were preserved in Carolingian monasteries in France and Germany" (M. Davies, "Medieval Libraries," Stam (ed)., The International Dictionary of Library Histories I [2001] 105-6).

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800 – 900

Inventories of Ninth Century Libraries 833 – 835

"The evidence for the arrangement and contents of libraries in and before the ninth century is sparse. In the earliest times the numbers to be stored were small. As there was no pressing problem of storage or access, the need for elaborate finding aids did not arise. Between 300 and 400 manuscripts—most with two or more works within them—was a good-sized collection for a Carolingian monastery: St. Gall owned 395 codices in 835 and the Cologne cathedral had 108 in 833. From the most prolific scriptorium of the age, that of Tours, 350 manuscripts still survive. The oldest library catalogs, such as that of Fulda in the mid-eighth century, are no more than lists of titles, often imperfect and for the most part simple inventories of the books as they stood on the shelf. The order of the lists reflects the usual subject arrangement: Bibles first, followed by glosses, liturgies, patristic works, philosophy, law, grammar, sometimes with historical and medical works at the end, and classical works scattered among the relevant headings. The Lorsch catalogs of the earlier part of the ninth century are a good deal lengthier and more detailed, with 590 titles arranged in 63 classes. Since monasteries were places of education as well as worship, many of the classical texts and nearly all the grammatical works would have been used as school texts. Books were usually stored in cupboards, either in the church or in the cloister closest adjoining it, sometimes in the refectory (for communal reading) as well. The separate library room was, in general, a later development, but in an early ninth-century plan believed to be an idealized scheme of a monastery with a bibliotheca and scriptorium attached to the church, survives in St. Gall" (M. Davies, "Medieval Libraries" in D. Stam (ed.) The International Dictionary of Library Histories I [2001] 106).

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900 – 1000

The Earliest Universal Bibliography 988 – 990

From 988 to 990 Muhammad ib Ishaq (Abu al Faraj) called Ibn Abi al-Nadiim (Abi Ya'qub Ishaq al-Warraq al-Baghdadi), a bookseller, stationer and "court companion" of Baghdad, published Al- Fihrist, an annotated index of the books of all nations extant in the Arabic language and script.

The English translator of al-Nadim's work, Bayard Dodge, suggests that Al-Nadim, working in his father's bookshop, "wished to assemble a catalogue to show customers and to help in the procuring and copying of manuscripts to be sold to scholars and book collectors" (Dodge p. xxiii).  This was the earliest universal bibliography.

"It is reasonable to believe that when al-Nadim died the original copy of his manuscript was placed in the royal library at Baghdad, while other copies made by scribes about the time of his death were assigned to his family bookstore, where some of them were probably sold to customers who came to purchase interesting books. Farmer says: ' Yagut (d. 626/1299) averred that he used a copy of the Fihrist in the handwriting of al-Nadim himself. The lexicographer al-Saghani (650/1252) made a similar claim. Either of these autograph copies may have been in the Caliph's library, which was destroyed utterly in the sacking of Baghdad in 656/1258)' "(Dodge p. xxii).

This work did not appear in print until an edition of the Arabic text was issued by orientalist Gustav Flügel in Leipzig, 1871-72.

The text was first edited from the earliest manuscripts and translated into English by Bayard Dodge as The Fihrist of al-Nadim. A Tenth-Century Survey of Muslim Culture, 2 vols., New York, 1970. For the translation of part one Dodge used MS 3315 in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin:

"We know nothing about the history of the manuscript until it was placed in the library of the great mosque at 'Akka, when the notorious Ahmad Pasha-al-Jazzar was ruler there at the time of Napoleon Bonaparte. After the fall of Ahmad Pasha, the manuscript was evidently stolen from the mosque. It was probably at this time that it became divided, as the Beatty Manuscript includes on the first half of Al-Fihrist. In the course of time the dealer Yahudah sold his first half to Sir Chester Beatty, who placed it in his library at Dublin" (Dodge p. xxviii).

For the translation of part two Dodge used MS 1934 which "forms part of the Shahid 'Ali Pasha collection which is now cared for in the library adjacent to the Sulaymaniyah (Süleymaniye) Mosque at Istanbul. In the library catalogue it is described as 'Suleymaniye G. Kutuphanesi kismi Shetit Ali Pasha 1934" (Dodge p. xxx).

Dodge indicated that he believed that each separate portion represents half of the same manuscript made shortly after the death of al-Nadim.

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1000 – 1100

The Earliest Use of Catchwords Circa 1000

"Catchwords (that is the first words of the following quire) are found at the end of quires in Western manuscripts as early as c. 1000, and they were in widespread use by the twelfth century. In the thirteenth century the practice began of numbering the individual bifolia, often with a letter of the alphabet to designate the quire and an Arabic numeral, the leaf (a1, a2, a3. . .), and the individual quires of the book were also sometimes numbered in Roman numerals, especially early in the Middle Ages, usually in the lower outer margin of the last page" (Rouse, "Authentic Witnesses: Manuscript Making and Models of Production," Rouse & Light, Manuscript Production. Primer 6, published by Les Enluminures [2014] 2-3).

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1100 – 1200

The Codex Ebnerianus and Early Manuscript Scholarship Circa 1110

The Codex Ebnerianus, a Greek language illuminated manuscript of the New Testament, was probably written in Constantinople at the beginning of the 12th century during the Comnenian Period.

"Its full-page illustrations make it one of the finest of a large group of manuscripts which are the most important representatives of the Comnenian revival in pictorial art.

"The cycle of illustrations is unique among surviving Greek New Testament manuscripts in that it places author portraits and scenes connected with the authors at the beginning, not only of the Gospels, but also at the beginning of Acts and some of the Epistles" (Meredith, "The Illustration of Codex Ebnerianus", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes XXIX (1966) 419.

The codex is named after the Nuremberg diplomat, historian, scholar and patron, Hieronymus Wilhelm Ebner von Eschenbach who founded a library, the Bibliotheca Ebneriana, using his extensive collection. While the codex belonged to Ebner von Eschenbach in 1738 the scholar Conrad Schoenleben issued a pamphlet on it entitled Egregii codicis graeci Novi Testamenti manuscripti quem Noribergae servat vir illustris Hieronymous Gvilielmus Ebner. According to Roland Folter, Schoenleben's 44-page pamphlet with two illustrations was the first publication about a specific medieval manuscript, and also probably the first publication on a specific book in a private library.

The Codex Ebnerianus is preserved in the Bodleian Library. According to Macray's Annals of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, A. D. 1598-A.D. 1867 p. 229, the Bodleian bought the Codex in 1820 from booksellers Payne and Foss. McCray also mentions that Schoenleben's pamphlet was incorporated by De Murr in his Memorabilia Bibliothecarum publicarum Norimbergensium published in 1788, part ii., p. 100. To that version De Murr added "thirteen well-engraved plates of the illuminations, binding and text. It was formerly bound in leather-covered boards, ornamented with gold, with five silver-gilt stars on the sides, and fastened with four silver clasps. This covering being much decayed, Ebner cased the volume in a most costly binding of pure silver, preserving the silver stars, and affixing on the outside a beautiful ivory figure (coaeval with the MS.) of our Saviour, throned, and in the attitude of benediction. Above the figure, Ebner engraved an inscription in Greek characters, corresponding to the style of the MS., praying for a blessing upon himself and his family" (McCray, p. 230). 

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1200 – 1300

The Arrangement and Cataloguing of Books Circa 1270

Humbert de Romans, Dominican scholar who promulgated the notion of arranging books by subject matter.

"The arrangement and cataloguing of books within the individual colleges and other university institutions were also influenced by the changes in book usage reflected in the union catalogs and location lists. In monastic institutions, book collections had traditionally been kept in book chests or armaria — though the individual volumes themselves doubtless were, for much of the time, parceled out among the members of the house. We find, however, in the writings of the Dominican Humbert of Romans, about 1270, instructions that books in the armaria should be physically arranged by subject matter, and that certain ones of them should be chained at lecterns for the common use of all, rather than being either locked away in a chest or loaned for the use of only one person. Before the end of the thirteenth century, both the Collège de Sorbonne in Paris and University College in Oxford had such a collection of chained books attached to reading benches. Early in the next century, about 1320, a member of the Sorbonne compiled a subject catalog of the hundreds of individual texts bound together in some three hundred chained codexes of his college. This development — arrangement of manuscripts by subject matter, affixing chains to selected books, an index of the content of a whole collection — corresponds in its way, in both purpose and inguenuity, to the making of concordances, distinction collections, subject indexes, and union catalogs; and it is in such a context that it should be considered. The common goal of all these devices was to facilitate access to desired information" (Rouse & Rouse, Authentic Witnesses: Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts [1991] 238-39).

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Foundation of the Library of the Sorbonne, and "Perhaps the Earliest Specific and Organized System of Book Arrangement in a Library" 1271

From a late 14th century copy of Richard de Fournival's 'Biblionomia.' A catalog of the section on philosophy, in which books are described by their dimensions. (View Larger)

In 1271 theologian Gerard d' Abbeville, a Parisian master and neighbor of Robert de Sorbon, bequeathed nearly 300 volumes of manuscripts to the Library of the Sorbonne. This gift became the core of the Sorbonne Library, and of the roughly 300 original volumes, 118 remain preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France today. d'Abbeville's bequest incorporated the library of Richard de Fournival, author of the library catalogue entitled Biblionomia. In his history of the manuscript collections from which the Bibliothèque nationale was formed, Le cabinet des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Impériale, Leopold Delisle characterized this catalogue as "one of the most curious monuments of the bibliographic art of the Middle Ages. The only manuscript which has survived of this small work is 'très-incorrect', and cannot be dated before the beginning of the 15th century. Having belonged to the Collège des Cholets, it is today part of the library of the Université de France at the Sorbonne...." (translation mine, from 518-19).

According to Delisle, Fournival used a garden metaphor to describe his library, in which the various branches of knowledge each have their plot, but beyond the metaphor Fournival described a specific classification scheme, coordinating desk or shelf letters or numbers with different kinds of letters and colors of letters. The first division of the library was devoted to philosophy, which Fournival further broke down into nine categories on eleven shelves, arranged partly according to volume size:

1. Grammar

2. Dialectic

3. Rhetoric

4. Geometry and Arithmetic

5. Music and Astronomy

6. Physics and Metaphysics

7. Metaphysics and Morals

8. Melanges of Philosophy

9. Poetry

The second division of Fournival's Biblionomia was devoted to what Delisle calls "sciences lucratives"--medicine, civil law and canon law.

The third division of the library was theology, i.e. texts and commentaries on the Holy Scriptures and writings of the fathers of the church.

Fournival's Biblionomia is "Perhaps the earliest specific and organized system of book arrangement in a library" (M. Davies, "Medieval Libraries,"  Stam (ed.) International Dictionary of Library Histories I [2001] 107).

Delisle pointed out that even though Fournival described the exact content of books in 162 volumes it is difficult to say for sure whether these volumes were ever assembled outside of Fournival's imagination. However, whether imaginary or not, Deslisle felt that the Biblionomia was "rich in valuable information for literary history" and he reprinted the Latin text of Biblionomia in Le cabinet des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Impériale II (1874) 518-535.

According to the Wikipedia article on Fournival, 35 manuscripts from his library remain preserved in various libraries, which would indicate that Fournival owned at least a portion of the works that he described in Biblionomia.

Ullman, The Library of the Sorbonne in the Fourteenth Century. The Septicentennial Celebration of the Founding of the Sorbonne College in the University of Paris. [1953] 38-39.

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Organization of the Sorbonne Library, and the Way it Was Physically Arranged 1290

"We have seen that the first catalog of the college [The Sorbonne] was classified; the text of the 1290 catalog provides a full view of this classification system. It was a system common to the intellectual world of the thirteenth century, namely, the Scriptures, glossed and postillated books; Peter Lombard's Sentences, and questions and summas on the Sentences, whole works on the saints and doctors of the Church; questions and distinctions of the master; and whole works of the ancient philosophers, followed by works outside the realm of theology and philosophy — medicine, the quadrivium, jurisprudence and perhaps vernacular writings. In this scheme, constructed for theologians, the works are arranged in descending order of their relative authority: Holy scripture, Doctors of the Church, modern masters, and ancient philosophers. This hierarchy of authority was detailed for example by St. Bonaventure: 'Sunt ergo libri sunt sacrae scripturae. . .; secundi libri sunt orignalia sanctorum, tertii, sententiae magistrorum, quarti, doctrinarum mundialium sive philosophorum.' It was only natural that this hierarchy also appeared in the organization of medieval book collections such as that at the Sorbonne.

"It has been suggested, furthermore, on the basis of the first catalog, that the books were grouped by subject and author in armaria similar to those described by Humbert of Romans ca. 1270, and that the classification of the catalog is a reflection of this arrangement. It is impossible, however, to judge on the basis of the catalog alone whether or not it reflects the physical arrrangement of the books themselves. We are fortunate in this instance to have collateral evidence which reveals the arrangement of certain books in the library just after the turn of the century.

"In 1306, Thomas Hibernicus, a fellow of the Sorbonne, unintentionally but effectively preserved a picture of the arrangement of the manuscripts of the major authors in the armaria, in the process of completing his Manipulus florum. This is a collection of extracts from the authorities grouped according to some 265 topics alphabetically arranged— abstinencia, abusio, acceptio, accidia, adiutorium, etc. Under some 265 topics the extracts appear in a set order without significant variation: quotations from Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, Gregory, Bernard, Hilary, Chrysostom, Isidore, and so on, concluding with the ancients. At the end of the Manipulus florum Thomas has appended a bibliography of 476 works, each with incipit and explicit, compiled from the Sorbonne's manuscripts. The authors in the bibliography are presented in virtually the same order as the extracts, works of Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, etc. The order preserved here, the order in which Thomas used the books, is apparently that of the grouping of the books in the armaria of the library. The order is virtually the same as the order of authors in the catalogs of 1290 and 1338, originalia Augustine, Ambrosii, Hieronimi, Gregorii, Bernardi, etc. The combined evidence of the 1290 catalog and the Manipulus florum certainly implies, if does not prove, that the organization of the catalog reflects the physical arrangement of the manuscripts in armaria" (Rouse & Rouse, "The Early Library of the Sorbonne," Authentic Witnesses: Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts [1991] 370-72).

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1300 – 1400

Medieval Union Catalogue of Manuscripts Circa 1320

About 1320 Oxford Franciscans compiled, on the basis of on-site surveys, the Registrum Anglie de libris doctorum et auctorum ueterum — a manuscript union catalogue of some 1400 manuscript books in England, Scotland and Wales. It listed the works of 98 authors owned by 189 monastic or cathedral libraries.

"Although none of these libraries is Franciscan, the master list is organized geographically according to the division of Great Britain into the custodiae of the Franciscan order. The three surviving manuscripts of the Registrum date from the beginning of the fifteenth century; it is nevertheless possible to establish from external evidence that the Registrum must date from the first or second decade of the fourteenth century" (Rouse & Rouse, Authentic Witnesses. Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts [1991] 237-38).

Registrum Anglie de libris doctorum et auctorum veterum. Edited with an introduction and notes by Richard H. Rouse and Mary A. Rouse. The Latin text established by R. A. B. Mynors (1991).

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The Second Catalogue of the Library of the Sorbonne 1338

The second catalogue of the library of the Sorbonne—the richest library in Christendom—was written in 1338. 

The library, divided into two parts, contained 1722 volumes. The first portion called the communis or magna libraria consisted of 330 volumes chained to the reading desks. The rest of the collection, designated the small library, consisted of 1090 volumes. About 300 volumes relisted from the prior catalogue written in 1290 were designated as missing or in circulation. The writer(s) of the 1338 catalogue

"furnished a large amount of information about each volume. He gives not only the contents, but also the name of the donor, the estimated value, and first words on the second leaf and on the next to the last leaf. This device, intended to help identification of books belonging to the Library and to prevent mutilation, is invaluable to us in trying to identify surviving volumes of the collection. Some professors kept out books on indefinite loan, like their successors today. Such books were appropriately called libri vagantes, 'strays' from the sacred precincts of the Library. It should be said that usually a money deposit was required of borrowers. We even have loan records of the Library during the fourteenth century. The appraisal of each book given in the catalogue was intended to facilitate payment for books lost by borrowers. Chained books were occasonally loaned but only after a faculty vote. There was even a rudimentary inter-library loan system. And that is not all: a union list of books in the monasteries of Paris was made as early as the thirteenth century for the use of the Sorbonnistes. The catalogue of the reference library is in two parts, a shelf-list and a classified catalogue" (Ullman, The Library of the Sorbonne in the Fourteenth Century. The Septicentennial Celebration of the Founding of the Sorbonne College in the University of Paris. [1953] 35-36).

"The collections of the other colleges of the period included no more than three hundred works. . . " (Martin, The History and Power of Writing [1994] 153).

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Henry of Kirkestede Compiles a Medieval Union Catalogue of Manuscripts Naming 694 Authors Circa 1350

About 1350 the Benedictine monk Henry of Kirkestede, prior of the royal abbey of St. Edmund at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, and traditionally known as Boston Burienis, compiled a union catalogue of manuscripts in English libraries entitled Catalogus de libris autenticis et aposcrifis. He named 674 authors and assigned to them about 3900 works.

Richard H. Rouse & Mary A. Rouse, eds., Henry of Kirkestede, Catalogus de libris autenticis et aposcrifis (2004).

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The High Point of Medieval Library Cataloguing 1389

"The high point of medieval library cataloguing is found in the three-part catalog of Dover Priory in England, made in 1389. Here every volume is listed and every tract identified, the tract's position within a volume entered by leaf number, the opening words (the incipit) of each quoted, and the whole rendered accessible by a shelf list and an alphabetical index of all the works in the library" (M. Davies, "Medieval Libraries" in D. Stam (ed.) International Dictionary of Library Histories I [2001] 107).

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John Whytefeld Compiles an Innovative Medieval Library Catalogue 1389

The manuscript catalogue of the library at St. Martin's Priory (Dover Priory) in Dover, England compiled in 1389 was innovative for several reasons. The catalogue, compiled by John Whytefeld, who was probably "precentor," the officer in charge of the library, was divided into three sections:

1. A shelf-listing by call number, the number representing a fixed location even to the location of the individual volume. These entries included short title, the number of the page in the book on which the call number was recorded, and the first words of the text on that page, as well as the number of leaves in the book and the number of works contained in the volume.

2. A section arranged by call number that provided the contents of each volume, with the opening words for each work, and the number and side of the leaf on which each tract begins.

3. A catalogue of analytical entries and an alphabetical listing, but with entries of the usual medieval type, some under author, others under title followed by author, with still other entries beginning with words such as liber (book), pars (part) or codex, with no importance attached to the entry word.

In The Ancient Library of Canterbury and Dover (1903) xc ff., E. R. James described Whytefeld's catalogue and reproduced sections one and two. He also reproduced in Latin Whytefeld's explanatory introduction to the catalogue. This was translated into English by J. W. Clark and published in The Care of Books (1901) 194-96. Because of the innovative, unusual, and complex features of his catalogue system Whytefeld undoubtedly recognized the need for a detailed explanation. I have quoted Clark's translation in its entirety:

"The present Register of the Library of the Priory of Dover, compiled in the year of the Lord's Incarnation 1389 under the presidency of John Neunam prior and monk of the said church, is separated into three main divisions. The object is that the first part may supply information to the precentor of the house concerning the number of the books and the complete knowledge of them: that the second part may stir up studious brethren to eager and frequent reading; and that the third part may point out the way to the speedy finding of individual treatises by the scholars. now although a brief special preface is prefixed to each part to facilitate the understanding of it, to this first part certain general notes are prefixed, to begin with, for the more plain understanding of the whole Register.

"Be it noted, then, first, that this whole library is divided into nine several classes (Distinctions), marked according to the nine first letters of the alphabet, which are affixed to the classes themselves, in such a way that A marks out to him who enters the first Class, B the second, C the third, and so on in order. Each of the said nine classes, moreover, will be seen to be divided into seven shelves (grades), which are also marked off by the addition of Roman numeral figures, following the letters which denote the classes. We begin the number of the shelves from the bottom, and proceed upwards so that the bottom shelf, which is the first, is marked thus, I; the second thus, II; the third thus, III; and so the number goes on up to seven.

"In additon to this, the books of the Library are all of them marked on each leaf with Arabic numberals, to facilitate the ascertaining of the contents of the volumes.

"Now since many of the volumes contain a nymber of treatises, the names of these treatises, although they have not always been correctly christened, are written down under each volume, and an Arabic numeral is added to each name shewing on what leaf each tract begins. To this number the letter A or B is subjoined, the letter A here denoting the first part of the leaf, and the letter B the second. The books themselves, furthermore, have their class-letters and also their shelf-marks inserted not only outside on their bindings, but also inside, accompanying the tables of contents at the beginning. To such class-letters a small Arabic figure is added which shews clearly what position the book occupries in the order of placing on the shelf concerned.

"On the second, third, or fourth leaf of the book, or thereabouts, on the lower margin the name of the book is written. Before it are entered the above-mentioned class-letters and shelf-numbers, and after it (a small space intervening) are immediately set down the words with which that leaf begins, which I shall call the proof of investigation (probatiorum cognitionis). The Arabic figures next following will state how many leaves are contained in the whole volume; and finally another numeral immediately following the last clearly sets forth the number of the tracts contained in the said volume.

"If then the above facts be securely entrusted to a retentive memory it will be celarly seen in what class, shelf, place and order each book of the whole Library ought to be put, and on what leaf and which side of the leaf the beginnings of the several treatses may be found. For it has been the object of the compiler of this present register [and] of the Library, by setting forth a variety of such marks and notations of classes, shelves, order, pagination, treatises and volumes, to insure for his monastery security from loss in time to come, to shut the door against the spite of such as might wish to despoil or bargain away such a treasure, and to setup a sure bulwark of defence and resistance. And in truth the compiler will not be offended but will honestly love anyone who shall bring this register—which is still faulty in many respects—into better order, even if he should see fit to place his own name at the head of the whole work.

"In the first part of the register, therefore, we have throughout at the top, between black lines ruled horizontally, first the class-letter in red, and, following it, the shelf-mark, in black characters (tetris signaculis). The again between other lines ruled in red, vertically: first, on the left a numeral shewing the place of the book in order on its shelf; then the name of the volume; thirdly, the number of the 'probatory' leaf; fourthly, the 'probatory' words in the case of which, by the way, reference is made to the text, and not to the gloss); fifthly, the number of leaves in the whole volume; and, lastly, the number of the treatises contained in it—all written within the aforesaid lines. In addition there will be left in each shelf of this part, at the end, some vacant space, in whcih the names of books that may be subsequently acquired can be placed."

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1450 – 1500

The Earliest Surviving Remnant of Any European Book Printed by Movable Type Circa 1452 – 1453

The Sibyllenbuch fragment, the oldest surviving piece of a European book printed with movable type, contains a portion of a German poem about the fate of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Sibyllenbuch fragment, also known as Fragment vom Weltgericht, a small portion of a leaf from an early printed medieval poem containing prophecies of the fate of the Holy Roman Empire, may be the earliest surviving remnant of any European book printed by movable type.  It was printed in Mainz using an early state of the DK font later used in the 36-line Bible. This state of the type was assigned by George D. Painter to the press of Johannes Gutenberg prior to his partnership with Johann Fust.

The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC no. is00492500) dates the Sibyllenbuch fragment to "about 1452-53," making it older than any other European document printed by movable type.

"The Sibyllenbuch fragment consists of a partial paper leaf printed in German using Gothic letter. It is owned by the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany. The fragment was discovered in 1892 in an old bookbinding in Mainz. The text on the fragment relates to the Last Judgment and therefore sometimes is also called “Das Weltgericht” (German for "Last Judgment"). The text is part of a fourteenth century poem of 1040 lines known as the 'Sibyllenbuch' (Book of the Sibyls) . . . . The British Library identifies the fragment as coming from a quarto volume, which is a book composed of sheets of paper on which four pages were printed on each side, which were then folded twice to form groups of four leaves or eight pages. From analysis of the location of the watermark on the fragment and the known length of the entire poem, it has been estimated that the complete work contained 37 leaves (74 pages) with 28 lines per page.

"The type face used in the Sibyllenbuch is the same as that used in other early fragments attributed to Gutenberg, an Ars minor by Donatus (a Latin grammar used for centuries in schools) and several leaves of a pamphlet called the Turkish Calendar for 1455 (likely printed in late 1454), and has been called the DK type after its use in the Donatus and Kalendar. Scholars have identified several different states of this type face, a later version of which was used in about 1459-60 to print the so-called 36-line Bible. For this reason, the various states of this type have collectively been called the '36-line Bible type.'

"Due to the 'less finished state of the [DK] font', scholars have concluded it was 'plausibly earlier than 1454', the approximate date of the publication of Gutenberg’s Bible. Although at one time some believed it dated to the 1440s, it is now believed to have been printed in the early 1450s. George D. Painter concluded that 'primitive imperfection' in the type face of the Sibyllenbuch indicated it was the earliest of the fragments printed in the DK type" (Wikipedia article on Sibyllenbuch fragment, accessed 07-10-2009). 

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Jerome's "De viris illustribus", the First Work to Stress the Bibliography Rather than the Biography of Eminent Writers 1467 – 1472

The first work about famous men (chiefly members of the Church) to stress bibliography rather than biography was the De viris illustribus by the Illyrian Latin Christian priest, theologian and historian Jerome  (Eusebius Sophronius HieronymusΕὐσέβιος Σωφρόνιος Ἱερώνυμος), composed in Bethlehem in 392, and its continuation by Gennadius of Massilia (Gennadius Scholasticus or Gennadius Massiliensis) compiled in 480. The work was written to prove that the Church had produced learned men.

According to Theodore Besterman, The Beginnings of Systematic Bibliography 2nd ed (1936) pp. 4-5, Jerome pointed out that his book ought to be titled De scriptoribus ecclesiasticis (On Religious Writers), rather than De viris illustribus (On Illustrious Men). However, the first title stuck. The two works first appeared in print in the first printed edition of Jerome's Epistolae edited by Theodorus Lelius. This edition, published without identification of place, publisher or date, is estimated by the ISTC (No. ih00160800) to have been published in Rome by Sixtus Riessinger "not after 1467". Still, the ISTC qualifies this with "Also recorded as [about 1466-67] and [not after 1470] and [Naples: Sixtus Riessinger, about 1473-74]". In this edition Jerome's bibliography occurpies 28 pages in the second volume, immediately followed by Gennadius's continuation, which occupies the following 16 pages. In February 2015 a digital facsimile of the second volume containing the works in question was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

 The two works were first published in print separately in another edition printed without place, publisher or date. Bibliographers identified this as issued in Augsburg by Günther Zainer before 1473; however a copy in the library of Roland Folter has the date [14]72 added by the rubricator indicating that the edition was available in 1472. ISTC No. ih00192000. 

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography, its History and Development (1984) No. 3.

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Peter Schöffer Issues the Earliest Surviving Book List Issued by a Printer June 1469 – September 1470

A portrait of Peter Schoffer.

Between June 1469 and September 1470 printer Peter Schöffer of Mainz issued a broadside offering for sale 21 printed books issued from 1458 to 1469.

"Sixteen of the items can be identied as products of Schöffer's own printing workshop in Mainz, while the rest probably were printed by Ulrich Zell in Cologne. All the works listed are in Latin, beginning with the edition of Bible co-produced by Fust and Schöffer in 1462, followed by theological, legal and humanist texts as well as a treatise dealing with merchants' contracts. The 13th book title, which has been cut off this copy, was certainly the Psalter edition of 1459, whose printing types are reproduced in a sample below the booklist. A note added by hand on the lower margin of the page indicates that the bookseller could be contacted in the in 'Zum wilden Mann', probably referring to a locality in Nuremberg.

"The advertisement is characteristic for the early phase of organised book trade. The intinerant bookseller — seldom the printer himself — travelled with an assortment of books wherever demand was to be found, leaving printed lists with a handwritten indication of where he was staying, for potential customers, the latter being mostly members of universities or monasteries, but also other citizens with some education. Such book lists contained no prices, since these were to be negotiated between the bookseller and the buyer" (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Medienwandel im 15. Jahrhundert (2009) no. 77).

Only a single copy of this broadside survived, from the library of physician and writer Hartmann Schedel.  It is preserved in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München (ISTC no. is00320950):

"It survived, albeit as binders waste cut in two halves and pasted printed side down on the inner cover of a manuscript (Clm 458) with astronomical-mantic texts which was owned by the well-known humanist of Nuremberg, Hartmann Schedel. At the end of the 19th century, it was discovered and removed from the book binding" (Wagner, op. cit.).

♦ In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the broadside was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

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The First Catalogue of the Vatican Library 1475

Under Pope Sixtus IV specific quarters were established to house the volumes of manuscripts and the archives that formed the nucleus of the Vatican Library. In 1475 the library prepared the first catalogue of its holdings as a manuscript for internal use in the library.

"When its first librarian, Bartolomeo Platina, produced a listing in 1481, the library held over 3,500 items, making it by far the largest in the Western world" (Wikipedia article on Vatican Library accessed 09-16-2010).

Among his other accomplishments, Sixtus IV built the Sistine Chapel

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The First Printed Bibliography of a Medical Author: Galen 1483

The extent of Galen's written work was so great that Galen himself felt the need to provide a bibliography organizing and explaining his own writings. This work, which Galen compiled in 190 CE, has been called the first auto-bibliography. Some of Galen's work survived through Arabic and Syriac translations rather than the original Greek. According to Theodore Besterman, The Beginnings of Systematic Bibliography, 2nd ed (1936) p. 3, an early bibliography of Galen's writings in Arabic was compiled in the ninth century by the physician and translator into Arabic and Syriac Hunain ibn Ishāq (Abu Zayd Hunayn ibn Ishāq al-Ibadi). In February 2015 the Al-Islam.org website stated that Hunain, who was known as Johannitius Onan to Latin readers, "translated 95 works of Galen from Greek to Syriac and 99 into Arabic." Hunain's bibliography of Galen's writings survived in two manuscripts, both of which were preserved in Istanbul when Besterman published; it was first published in print in German translation in 1925 and 1932. 

Considering the central importance of Galen's writings in medicine from the time he wrote well through the sixteenth and even the seventeenth century, and the need for physicians to make sense of such a large number of his texts, it does not seem surprising that the first printed bibliography of any medical author would be De divisione librorum Galeni by the fourteenth century Italian physician Gentile da Foligno (Gentilis Fulginas) who appears to have been the first European physician to perform a dissection on a human (1341). Gentile's very brief listing was first published in the collective volume, containing over ten short texts, entitled Articella su Opus artis medicinae edited by Franciscus Argilagnes  of Valencia, and published in Venice by Hermannus Liechtenstein on March 29, 1483. Among the other works published in that volume was the first printing (in Latin) of the Hippocratic Oath.

In February 2015 a digital facsimile of 1483 Articella was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link. ISTC No. ia01143000.

My thanks to Eugene Flamm for pointing out that the Articella of 1483 contains the first bibliography of a medical author and the first printing of the Hippocratic Oath.

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Filed under: Bibliography, Medicine

Johannes Trithemius Publishes the Earliest Subject Bibliography 1494

Responding to the challenges of organizing the rapidly growing body of information caused by the development of printing, Johannes Trithemius (Tritheim), abbot of the Benedictine abbey at Sponheim, completed his manuscript for the earliest subject bibliography, Liber de scriptoribus ecclesiasticis (A Book on Ecclesiastical Writings) in 1492. It was the first bibliography compiled as a practical reference work. In 1494 the work appeared in Basel at the press of Johann Amerbach.

The work " lists in chronological order 982 authors with about 7,000 titles, the number of chapters in each work and the incipit when known. An alphabetical list, arranged according to the authors' first names, serves as an index. The title of the book is somewhat misleading since the work is not restricted to ecclesiastical writers but also includes authors such as Dante, Poggio, and Sebastian Brant" (Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History & Development [1984] no. 7).

"The contrast between the feeble theological bibliographies of the manuscript age and this first attempt in the printing era is very striking” (Besterman, The Beginnings of Systematic Bibliography 7-8).

ISTC no. it00452000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from Universitäts und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt at this link.

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Pacioli Issues "Summa de arithmetica", the First Great General Work on Mathematics November 10 – November 20, 1494

Page from Summa de arithmetica geometria, proporzioni et proporzionalita at the Libarary for Humanitities and Social Sciences at the Kobe University. (Click on the image to view the full page opening.)

Title page of Summa de arithmetica geometria, proporzioni et proporzionalita. (Click on the image to view the full title page.)

Portrait of Luca Pacioli, traditionally attributed to Jacopo de' Barbari, 1495 (attribution controversial).  Please see the wikipedia article on Luca Pacioli.

Between November 10 and 20, 1494 Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli published at the press of Paganinus de Paganinis in Venice Summa de arithmetica geometria, proporzioni et proporzionalita. This was “the first great general work on mathematics printed” (Smith, Rara arithmetica, 56).

“[The Summa] contains a general treatise on theoretical and practical arithmetic; the elements of algebra; a table of moneys, weights and measures used in the various Italian states; a treatise on double-entry bookkeeping; and a summary of Euclid’s geometry. . . . Although it lacked originality, the Summa was widely circulated and studied by the mathematicians of the sixteenth century. Cardano, while devoting a chapter of his Practica arithmetice (1539) to correcting the errors in the Summa, acknowledged his debt to Pacioli. Tartaglia’s General trattato de’ numeri et misure (1556-1560) was styled on Pacioli’s Summa. In the introduction to his Algebra, Bombelli says that Pacioli was the first mathematician after Leonardo Fibonacci to have thrown light on the science of algebra. . . . Pacioli’s treatise on bookkeeping, ‘De computis et scripturis,’ contained in the Summa, was the first printed work setting out the ‘method of Venice,’ that is, double-entry bookkeeping. [Richard] Brown has said [in his History of Accounting and Accountants, 1905] that ‘The history of bookkeeping during the next century consists of little else than registering the progress of the De computis through the various countries of Europe” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography).

ISTC no. il00315000 points out the very unusual aspect of the edition that two re-issues of the first edition exist with some sheets reprinted. One of these is thought to date after 1509 and another after 13 August 1502. Nevertheless, these re-issues bear the original publication date.  

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of a copy dated 1494 was available from the Herzog Auguste Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel at this link

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Trithemius Issues the First Printed Bibliography on Secular Subjects 1495

In 1495 Abbot Johannes Trithemius (Tritheim) published Catalogus illustrium virorum Germaniae in Mainz at the press of Peter von Friedberg. A selective bibliography of German authors, listing 2000 works by 300 writers, including Trithemius himself, this was probably the first printed bibliography on secular subjects. 

ISTC no. it00433000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Herzog Auguste Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel at this link.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) No. 9.

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Filed under: Bibliography

1500 – 1550

A Census of Print Runs for Fifteenth-Century Books 1500

In March 2013 A Census of Print Runs for Fifteenth-Century Books by Eric Marshall White, Curator of Special Collections at the Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University, came to my attention. White's research, published in the form of a database, and prefaced by a scholarly introduction which documented prior work on the topic, was published on the website of the Consortium of European Research Libraries, www.cerl.org. From White's introduction I quote a few representative selections. White's footnotes, not included here, will be found in the PDF downloadable from the website:

"Many historians seeking to measure the impact of the ‘printing revolution’ in fifteenth century Europe have taken a quantitiative approach, multiplying the total of all editions by the number of copies in a typical edition. However, whereas the Incunable Short Title Catalog (ISTC) lists more than 28,000 fifteenth-century editions that are represented by surviving specimens, the number of lost editions will always remain indeterminate. The second factor in the equation – the typical or ‘average’ fifteenth-century print run – is just as indeterminate as the first, if not more so. Inevitably, the ‘editions × copies’ formula has produced estimates of fifteenth-century press production that range anywhere from eight million to more than twenty million pieces of reading material. Such irreconcilable results (in which the margin for error may be larger than the answer itself) only serve to demonstrate that any effort to arrive at a meaningful quantification of fifteenth-century press production will require a much more systematic analysis of the available data on print runs. The present study, a census of print runs for fifteenth-century books, takes a step in that direction by asking a much more basic question: what is the available data?"

"Historically, as several scholars have conceded, our knowledge of early print runs has been lamentably poor. However, this is not because data does not exist – the print runs of fifteenth-century books currently number more than 250 editions – but because the data has remained so unavailingly scattered throughout a vast literature dedicated to other questions. Consequently, even well-informed specialists have been able to call forth only a few familiar examples, such as the 37 fairly uniform print runs publicized in 1472 by Conradus Sweynheym and Arnoldus Pannartz at Rome,6 the seventeen print runs (including a spurious Breviarium) canonized in Konrad Haebler’s essential Handbuch der Inkunabelkunde, 7 or the 33 print runs recorded in the Diario of the Florentine press at San Jacopo di Ripoli (1476-1484). In 1998, however, the first truly extensive catalogue of fifteenth-century print runs, moving beyond the usual suspects, was compiled by Uwe Neddermeyer. Unfortunately, his table of “bekannte Auflagenhöhen” (known print runs) for the fifteenth century actually includes an undifferentiated mix of about 130 true print runs as well asseveral dozen inconclusive, speculative, or spurious entries. Therefore, because Neddermeyer’s list is not accompanied by the original documentation, one has to perform considerable research simply to verify which fraction of his data is truly useful. In contrast, each of the 250+ print runs listed in the present CERL-based census has been included on the basis of contemporary documentation. It is hoped that in the near future we will be able to provide transcriptions of these primary sources and citations of secondary literature for virtually all of the census entries."

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Printing Presses are Established in 282 Cities December 1500

 The 'Nuremberg Chronicle,' written in Latin by Hartmann Schedel and published in 1493, is represented by c. 1250 surviving copies, more than any other incunabulum.  (View Larger)

By the year 1500 printing presses were established in 282 cities.

"These are situated in some 20 countries in terms of present-day boundaries. In descending order of the number of editions printed in each, these are: Italy, Germany, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, England, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Portugal, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, Croatia, Montenegro, Balearic Islands, Hungary, and Sicily."

"The 18 languages that incunabula are printed in, in descending order, are: Latin, German, Italian, French, Dutch, Spanish, English, Hebrew, Catalan, Czech, Greek, Church Slavonic, Portuguese, Swedish, Breton, Danish, Frisian, and Sardinian."

"Only about one edition in ten (i.e. just over 3000) has any illustrations, woodcuts or metalcuts. The 'commonest' incunabulum is Schedel's Nuremberg Chronicle ("Liber Chronicarum") of 1493, with c. 1250 surviving copies (which is also the most heavily illustrated). Very many incunabula are unique, but on average about 18 copies survive of each. This makes the Gutenberg Bible, at 48 or 49 known copies, a rather common (though extremely valuable) edition" (Wikipedia article on incunabulum, accessed 12-01-2008).

The average print run of a 15th century printed book has been estimated by some methods of calculation as between 400-500 copies, with as many as 1000 copies, or more, of some books printed. By one method it was estimated that printers issued up to 35,000 different printed works of all kinds, including pamphlets and broadsides as well as books, with a total printed output somewhere around 15 to 20 million copies. Presumably no copies of certain publications—especially ephemera—survived.

♦ In January 2008 the Incunabula Short Title Database maintained by the British Library recorded 29,777 editions printed from moveable type, but not from woodblocks or engraved plates, before 1501. These included  "some 16th-century items previously assigned incorrectly to the 15th century." The number of true incunabula recorded in the database was  27,460— thought to be very close to complete coverage of the number of extant incunabula, which was estimated at 28,000.

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Symphorien Champier Publishes the First Medical Bibliography of Medical Literature and the First Medical History after Celsus 1506

Portrait of Symphorien Champier.

In 1506 French physician and writer Symphorien Champier published in Lyon De medicine claris scriptoribus in quinque partibus tractatus, as part of his Libelli duo. Champier's biographical study of famous medical writers included a brief listing of their writings which is considered the first published bibliography of medical literature after Galen's bibliography of his own writings, De libris propriis liber, which was written in the second century CE, but not printed until 1525, and the brief bibliography of Galen's writings which was first published in Articella seu Opus artis medicinae, edited by Franciscus Argilagnes (Venice, 1483). Champier's work has also been called the first history of medicine written after De medicina by the first century CE Roman writer Aulus Cornelius Celsus.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) No. 10.

(This entry was last revised on 02-22-2015.)

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Filed under: Bibliography, Medicine

Giovanni Nevizzano Issues the First Legal Bibliography 1522

In 1522 Italian jurist Giovanni Nevizzano issued Inventarium librorum in utroque iure hactenus impressorum in Lyon. This small work of 38 pages was the first bibliography specifically restricted to works on the law. "It was also intended to aid lawyers in obtaining these books from the bookseller" (Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] No. 11).

(This entry was last revised on 02-22-2015.)

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Robert Estienne Issues the First Surviving Publisher's Catalogue in Book Form 1542

 Robert Estienne, 16th Century Parisian scholar and printer, issued the first book-form publisher's catalog of which any copies survive in 1542.

In 1542 printer and publisher Robert Estienne issued from Paris Libri in officina Rob. Stephani partim nati, parti restituti & excusi. This was the first publisher's catalogue issued in book form, of which any copies survived.

"Estienne's publications are listed in alphabetical order, some under their authors, others under their titles; prices are added, but no dates given. The Paris printers, such as Estienne, Colines, Wechel, Chaudière, and Janot, pioneered this form of publisher's lists, and, between 1542 and 1550 issued more than a dozen of them, each surviving in only or or two copies" (Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] No. 13).

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Conrad Gessner Issues the First Universal Bibliography Since the Invention of Printing 1545 – 1555

 In 1545, Swiss zoologist and naturalist Conrad Gessner publishes the first 'universal bibliography,' cataloging about 12,000 titles in an attempt to control the 'labyrinth' of books and information which had arrisen since the invention of printing.  (View Larger)

At the age of 29, apparently after only three years of concentrated work, Swiss physician, bibliographer, naturalist and alpinist Conrad Gessner (Gesner) issued the first volume of his Bibliotheca universalis, sive catalogus omnium scriptorum locupletissimus, in tribus linguis, Latin, Graeca, & Hebraica: extantium & non extantium veterum & recentiorum. . . (1545) at the press of Christopher Froschauer in Zurich. Three years later Gessner issued an a subject index to the work, Pandectarum sive partitionum universalium libri XXI, in 1548-49. Froschauer published Gessner's Appendix: Bibliothecae supplementing the work in 1555. Coincidentally, two years before the Bibliotheca universalis, Andreas Vesalius had issued De humani corporis fabrica (1543), another massive work of scholarship and science, also at the age of 29.

The first "universal" bibliography published since the invention of printing, Gessner's Bibliotheca universalis was an international bibliography of authors who wrote in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, alphabetically arranged by their first names in accordance with medieval usage. Short biographical data preceded the lists of works, with indications of printing places and dates, printers and editors, where applicable. Gessner listed about 12,000 titles in the Bibliotheca universalis, expanded to about 15,000 in his Appendix. Though it was called "universal," Gessner intended his bibliography to be selective.

Escaping the Labyrinth

"The technique of book production had changed radically as a result of print, but problems of information had not been simplified. This moved publishers and scholars to develop tools equal to the new situation. But such tools did not prove completely adequate to the task of helping the reader faced with the problem of selection, a problem which had now become more complicated. The predicament suggested to Gesner an encompassing labyrinth made up of a multitude of books. He confessed the profound sense of freedom he experienced when he finished his massive work in 1545: 'In truth I rejoice and thank God because I have finally gotten out of the labyrinth in which I was trapped for almost three years' " (Balsamo, Bibliography: History of a Tradition [1990] 32).

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development  (1984) No. 14.

♦ Ironically Gessner, a physician, did not complete the intended medical section of his Bibliotheca universalis (liber xxi) and it was never published.

Besterman, The Beginnings of Systematic Bibliography 2nd ed (1940) 15-18.

Technically, in this project Gessner was preceded by Muhammad ib Ishaq (Abu al Faraj) called Ibn Abi Al-Nadim who in 988 CE published the Fihrist, an index of the books of all nations which were extant in the Arabic language and script. Chronologically, Al-Nadim's work was the earliest attempt at a universal bibliography, but it did not appear in a printed edition until 1871-72, and had no influence on the development of bibliography in Europe.

(This entry was last revised on 05-21-2014).

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Conrad Gessner Issues the First General Subject Index 1548 – 1549

In 1548 Conrad Gessner (Gesner) issued from Zurich Pandectarum sive Partitionum universalium libri XXI. Pandectarum was the first general subject index, which Gessner intended as a key to his Bibliotheca Universalis (1545).

According to Ruth French Strout's "The Development of the Catalog and Cataloging Codes," Library Quarterly 26 (1956) 263 Gessner included in the Pandectarum

"instructions for the arrangement of books in a library, and he conceived of his system of classification for library as well as for bibliographical purposes. He even suggested that libraries use copies of his bibliogrpahies as their catalogues by inserting call numbers beside entries which represented their holdings, thus providing themselves with both an author and a subject catalogue."

This assertion I was unable to verify in June 2014, as no text of the Pandectarum was available online.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] no. 16).

Besterman, The Beginnings of Systematic Bibliography 2nd ed (1940) no. XVII.

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John Bale Issues the First National Bibliography, of Writers in England, Wales, and Scotland 1548

While in religious exile in Germany in 1548 John Bale, English churchman, historian, and controversialist, published Illustrium maioris Britanniae scriptorum hoc est, Angliae, Cambriae, ac Scotiae Summarium... ("A Summary of the Famous Writers of Great Britain, that is, of England, Wales and Scotland"). This was the first national bibliography, the first bibliography of British authors, and the first British literary biographical work.

"This chronological catalogue of British authors and their works was partly founded on the Collectanea and Commentarii of John Leland. Bale was an indefatigable collector and worker, and personally examined many of the valuable libraries of the Augustinian and Carmelite houses before their dissolution. His work contains much information that would otherwise have been hopelessly lost. His autograph note-book is preserved in the Selden Collection of the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It contains the materials collected for his two published catalogues arranged alphabetically, without enlargement on them nor the personal remarks which colour the completed work. He includes the sources for his information. He noted:

'I have bene also at Norwyche, our second citye of name, and there all the library monuments are turned to the use of their grossers, candelmakers, sopesellers, and other worldly occupyers... As much have I saved there and in certen other places in Northfolke and Southfolke concerning the authors names and titles of their workes, as I could, and as much wold I have done through out the whole realm, yf I had been able to have borne the charges, as I am not' " (Wikipedia article on John Bale, accessed 01-04-2009).

Probably intended to outwit restrictions on the importation of foreign books into England, the imprint of Bale's book reads "Ipswich: John Overton" even though the book was printed in Wesel, Germany, by Derick van der Straten.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) No. 15.

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1550 – 1600

Florian Trefler Builds upon Gessner's Library Classifcation Scheme 1560

Methodus exhibens per varios indices, et classes subinde, quorumlibet librorum cuiuslibet bibliothecae, breve, facilem imitabilem ordinationem published in Augsburg in 1560 provided an innovative scheme for library organization. Written by the Benedictine monk Florian Trefler, the small work attempted to address the difficulty of finding books in uncatalogued libraries in which there was no discernable order.

"He devised a scheme of classification and call numbers quite advanced for his time, in spite of the fact that one unit in the call number was made to represent the color of the binding. He advocated a five-part catalogue which consisted of an alphabetical author catalogue, a shelf list, a classified index to analytics, an alphabetical index to the classified index, and finally, a list of books which, for various reasons, were not kept with the main collection. Catalogues made according to Trefler's plan would have been far ahead of their time indeed. He had a comprehension of the value of providing more than one means of access to a book, something wholly unknown in his day. In another way, too, Trefler showed himself progrssive, i.e., in following Gesner's suggestion for the use of the Pandectarum as a library catalog. Trefler recommended that a checked copy of it be used as one section of his proposed plan for a catalogue, namely the subject index to analytical entries" (Stout, "The Development of the Catalog and Cataloging Codes," Library Quarterly 26 (1956) 263).

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Conrad Gessner Issues the First Bio-Bibliography: a Study of Galen's Writings 1562

Prologomena in Galenum, in tres partes divisa written by physician, naturalist, and bibliographer, Conrad Gessner (Gesner), and issued in volume one of Cl [audius] Galeni Pergameni [Opera] Omnia, quae extant, in Latinum sermonem convers published in Basel by Hieronymus Froben and Nicolaus Episcopius in 1562, was the first bio-bibliography.Gessner's study, which covered Greek editions, Latin editions, lost works, writers on Galen and a classified bibliography of Galen's writings, was also Gessner's most developed bibliography. The bio-bibliography occupies 37 unnumbered leaves, following the title to volume 1, and Gesner's two unnumbered leaves of dedication, dated February 1562. (α†4-6,β†6, γ†6, A†-C†6, D†4).

Besterman, Beginnings of Systematic Bibliography 2nd ed (1940) 19-20, no. XXIX.

(This entry was last revised in 08-15-2014.)

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Georg Willer Issues the First Catalogue of the Frankfurt Book Fair 1564

In 1554 Georg Willer, a bookseller in Augsburg, issued the first catalogue of the Frankfurt Book Fair. This was the first comprehensive book catalogue issued in Germany. The quarto pamphlet of 10 leaves listed 256 books under the title of Novorum Librorum quos Nundinae Atumnales, Francoforti Anno 1564 celebratae, Venales Exhibuerent.

"The catalogues of the Frankfurt Book Fair, initiated by the Augsburg bookseller George Willer in 1564, represent the first international bibliographies of a periodic character, attempting to list every six months all new publications issued in Europe, and they can be considered the prototype of today's Books in Print. The books are arranged by subject; for the first time, place, publisher, and date are always mentioned" (Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] no. 24). 

Breslauer and Folter noted that in 1984 there was no copy of the first edition of Willer's catalogue in the United States.

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Jeremias Martius Issues Possibly the First Printed Catalogue of Any Private Library 1572

Issued in 1572 by the Augsburg printer Michael Mangerus, Catalogus bibliothecae, the catalogue of the private library of the Augsburg physician, Jeremias Martius (c. 1535-1585), may be the earliest printed catalogue of a private library. 

Maclean, Learning and the Market Place: Essays in the History of the Modern Book (2009) 106.

(This entry was last revised on 03-03-2015.)

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Hieronymous Wolf, Librarian to Johann Jakob Fugger, Issues the First Printed Catalogue of a Portion of a Public Library 1575

In 1575 Hieronymous Wolf, humanist, and librarian to Johann Jakob Fugger, published Catalogus Graecorum librorum manu scriptorum Augustanae bibliothecae. Wolf's slim pamphlet of only 6 leaves listed 126 Greek manuscripts presented by Fugger to the City Library of Augsburg, Fugger's native city. It may be considered the first printed catalogue of a portion of a public library.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 25.

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François Grudé de la Croix du Maine Issues the First French National Bibliography 1584

In 1584 French scholar and bibliographer François Grudé de la Croix du Maine published in Paris Premier Volume de la Bibliothèque du Sieur de la Croix-Du-Maine. Qui est un catalogue général de toutes sortes d'Autherus, qui on escrit en François depuis cinq cents ans & plus.

This was the first French national bibliography.

"The authors, numbering three thousand, as the title states, are arranged in the aphabetical order of their first names, but a list of their surnames is given in the preliminaries. Their short biographies are followed by the lists of their works and bibliographical data, as far as known to the author. Vol. II, a subject index, and vol. III, Latin works by French authors never appeared as Grudé was assassinated [as a Protestant sympathizer in 1592.

"The work contains an auto-bibliography of several hundred works on French history of which none has survived, earning Grudé in some quarters the title of impostor" (Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] no. 29).

Grudé also included a proposal for a Royal National Library with a number classification system similar to the modern decimal classification system. On p. 511 of his book there is a woodcut which may be the earliest printed representation of a bookcase.

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Pascal Lecoq Issues the First Systematic Medical Bibliography 1590

In 1590 physician and bibliographer Pascal Lecoq (Paschalis Gallus) published in Basel at the press of Konrad Waldkirch Bibliotheca medica. Sive catalogus illorum, qui ex professor artem medicam in hunc usque annum scriptis illustraruntThis was the first systematic medical bibliography with an annotated list of 1224 authors who wrote in Latin, and lists of French, German, and Italian writers, and other material.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) No. 32.

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Israel Spach Issues the First Medical Subject Bibliography 1591

Nomenclator scriptorum medicorum. Hoc est: elenchus eorum qui artem medicam suis scriptis illustrarunt, secundum locos communes ipsius medicinae, written by physician and bibliographer Israel Spach (Spachius), and published in Frankfurt in 1591 was the first attempt at a medical subject bibliography. It was arranged under very broad subject headings with indexes of authors and subjects.

(This entry was last revised on June 21, 2014.)

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François Viète Issues the Earliest Work on Symbolic Algebra; A Tale of Two Printings 1591 – 1600

According to all the histories of mathematics and science, in 1591 French lawyer, Conseil du Roi, and mathematician François Viète (Franciscus Vieta) published a pamphlet that was the earliest work on symbolic algebra. This pamphlet was issued under two different titles: a version issued separately entitled In artem analyticem isagoge (Introduction to the Analytic Art), and  a version published as a collective work containing various later pamphlets by Viète entitled Opus restitutae mathematicae analyseos, seu Algebra nova. Both versions have been proposed as the first edition of the work, and I have not seen a published study providing evidence of priority of one version or the other.  

"Vieta’s greatest innovation in mathematics was the denoting of general or indefinite quantities by letters of the alphabet instead of abbreviations of words as used hitherto. It is true that arbitrary letters of the alphabet had been used to denote algebraic quantities in the thirteenth century by Jordanus Nemorarius and in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by Stifel and Regiomontanus in Germany and by Cardanus in Italy; but Vieta developed the idea systematically and made it an essential part of algebra. Known quantities were represented by consonants, unknown ones by vowels; squares, cubes, etc., were not represented by new letters but by adding the word quadratus, cubus, etc. Vieta also brought the + and — signs into general use, although they are found in some earlier German works and have been traced back to about 1480... This algebraic symbolism made possible the development of analysis, with its complicated processes, a fundamental element in modern mathematics” (Carter & Muir, Printing & the Mind of Man [1967] no. 103, citing the 1591 pamphlet version).

The title page of Viète's separately published pamphlet of 9 leaves issued from Tours by printer/bookseller, and Royal Printer for Mathematics Iametius Mettayer (Jamet Mettayer) stated in Latin "Seorsim excussa ab Opera restitutae Mathematica Analyseos, Seu, Algebrâ nova." (Separately issued from Collected Works on Mathematical Analysis or New Algebra). On the back of the title page of the pamphlet Viète had the printer list ten works that he planned to issue to complete the Algebrâ nova. Viète began the pamphlet with a florid dedication to his student Catherine de Parthenay, whom he characterized as a Melusine princess.

In 1593 Viète issued four more chapters of the work through the same printer at Tours, but not in the order listed on the verso of the title page of the Isagoge. They were:

2. Zeteticorum liber primus (-quintus). No place nor date (Tours, Mettayer, 1593). With 43 woodcut diagrams in text. 24 numbered leaves. - Adams V 726. - Issued without title-page. 

3. Variorum de rebus mathematicis responsorum, liber VIII. Tours, Mettayer, 1593. With printer’s device on title and 69 woodcut diagrams in text. 2 leaves (title and preface, dated May 1593), 51 leaves (numbered irregularly 1-49), 1 blank leaf. - Adams V 725 (‘Sigs. are confused’). 

4. Supplementum geometriae. Ex opere restitutae Mathematicae Analyseos, seu Algebra nova. Tours, Mettayer, 1593. With 30 woodcut diagrams in text. 1 leaf (title), 9 leaves (numbered 13-21). - Adams V 719 (II). - With ‘Errata in Supplemento’ on verso of last leaf (Hh1).

5.  Effectionum geometricarum canonica recensio. No place nor date (Tours, Mettayer, 1593). With woodcut border on title and 25 woodcut diagrams in text. 1 leaf (title), 7 leaves (numbered 2-7). - Adams V 719 (I).

And from Paris in 1600 he issued a sixth chapter:

6. De numerosa potestatum ad exegesim resolutione. Ex opere restitutae Mathematicae Analyseos, seu, Algebra nova. Paris, David le Clerc, 1600. 1 leaf (title), 35 leaves (numbered 1 and 3-36). - Adams V 718; Sotheran 5065. - Last leaf (S2) with ‘Errata quaedam animadversa’ at bottom of verso. 

The significance of most of these pamphlets is discussed in the article on Viète in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography.

Viète died in 1603 before he could have the final four chapters of the work published. After his death three more chapters were issued and one chapter was lost:

Ad logisticem speciosam, notae priores (1631)

De recognitione aequationum (1615)

Ad logisticem speciosam, notae posteriores (lost)

Analytica angularium sectionum in tres partes tributa (1615)

Since copies of the collective edition contain pamphlets issued between 1593 and 1600, it would be logical to presume that around 1600 Viète, or possibly his heirs, as the date of issue is uncertain and open to debate, probably issued a collected version of the six pamphlets listed above with title pages ranging in date from 1591 to 1600. Several copies of this collected version exist. According to Andrew Pressley, some, such as the Bodleian and Trinity College Cambridge copies, contain all six works; others contain varying numbers of the six. In the Opus restitutae version the title page of the Isagoge reads as a general title to the six pamphlets: Opus restitutae mathematicae analyseos, seu Algebra nova. On this title page Viète is characterized as "Fontenaeensis" (of Fontenay), and beneath the title the dedication of the whole work to Catherine de Parthenay is stated. However, the title page bears the same imprint and date as the separate pamphlet Isagoge version with the date of 1591.

A Possible Explanation

Viète is known to have had all of his books and pamphlets issued privately at his own expense for distribution to a small number of people. Perhaps because of their rarity, to the best of my knowledge, the bibliographical history of most of them has never been studied thoroughly. Because of the close similarity of the two issues of the Isagoge, the statement on the title page of the separate issue,"Seorsim excussa ab Opera restitutae Mathematica Analyseos, Seu, Algebrâ nova", has been interpretted by some as meaning "separately issued from the Opera restitutae", or as a kind of offprint from the edition with that title. Without further research this may be a valid interpretation. However, in November 2013 it was possible to compare some of the pages from the Opera restitutae version of the Isagoge with the digital version of the separate printing available from the Bibliotheque nationale de France. This clearly demonstrated that the two versions were printed from different settings of type. Because of the time and expense of hand typesetting, and the difficulty of reproducing new technical mathematics by typesetters, if a separate printing or offprint of a larger work was called for we might assume that a sixteenth century printer would have printed the separate version from the same setting of type. Also, as a rule of thumb, until the 18th century few, if any printers could afford to leave type standing after a text was printed, so we may conclude that the two different printings from two different typesettings were done at different times.

The existence of two different settings of type would support the argument that the Opera restitutae version of the Isagoge is a reprint produced for issue with the five other available chapters of the Algebrâ nova that appeared between 1591 and 1600 when they were offered for sale as a collective work. This presumes that by the time of issue of the Opera restitutae version the supply of the original 1591 printing (the Isagoge version) was exhausted and the printer attempted to reproduce copies very closely, even to the point of reproducing the original uncorrected errata, though he used a different woodcut headpiece on p. 4 and there are numerous subtle typographical differences in the text, indicating a new setting of type. It seems strange that the printer would reprint the text without correcting the errata, but if the author was not available to verify the changes, or if the author was no longer alive, the printer might have felt the need to leave the text exactly as in the original printing.

The argument that the separate edition is an offprint from the version issued with the collected edition would appear to be contradicted that the fact that it is clearly a different printing. Furthermore, because the Opera restitutae must have been issued between 1593 and 1600, or later, based on the dates of the internal title pages, the notion that the Isagoge was first published in the Opera restitutae would suggest that Viète somehow waited until after 1593 and possibly as late as 1600 or later to issue the Isagoge. This would contradict all the historical accounts which indicate that the Isagoge was issued in 1591, as the introduction to a planned longer work. Nevertheless, this interpretation is based upon incomplete research and may not be viewed as definitive. In November 2013 it was unknown whether any of the other chapters were reprinted for the collected edition, or whether they represented copies that remained with the printer after their issue between 1593 and 1600.

In September 2015 Andrew Pressley provided information on some of the copies of the Opus restitutae preserved in institutions. He also raised the possibility that copies of the Opus restitutae might contain one or the other printing of In artem analyticem isagoge. An appropriate step to take at this point would be to compare as many copies of the Opus restitutae as possible to determine whether the version with variant typesetting is consistent throughout that edition, or whether it might have been issued during the process of selling the collected version, should copies of the "original" printing have become exhausted sometime between 1593 and 1603. As Andrew Pressley pointed out, complete copies of the Opus restitutae were presumably assembled after 1600 and should contain the later issue of the Isagoge, but incomplete copies, which contain some but not all of the separate works, might, in theory, contain the earlier printing, if the earlier printing remained available from the printer at the time they were issued.

I would welcome comments or additional information on this problem.

(This entry was last revised on 09-20-2015.)

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Leiden University Library Issues the First Printed Catalogue of any Institutional Library 1595

Having been founded in 1587, Leiden University Library in 1595 issued the first printed catalogue of its holdings: Nomenclator autorum omnium, quorum libri vel manuscripti, vel typis expressi exstant in Bibliotheca Academiae Lugduno-Batavae (List of all Authors whose Books, Whether Manuscript or Printed, are Available in Leiden University Library). This was the first published catalogue of any institutional library.

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Filed under: Bibliography, Libraries

Andrew Maunsell Issues the First "Books in Print" 1595

In 1595 bookseller and bibliographer Andrew Maunsell published in London The First Part [the Seconde Parte] of the Catalogue of English printed Bookes. This was the first trade bibliography of English books, giving author, translator where applicable, a title full enough to ensure definite identification, format, and printer or bookseller and date. It listed those books printed in the preceding fifty to sixty years and which were still available from publishers and booksellers. The first part, consisting of 123 pages, listed theology-excluding anti-Reformation literature. The much shorter second part, consisting of 27 pages, listed "the Sciences Mathematicall, as Arithmetick, Geometrie, Astronomie, Astrologie, Musick, and the Arte of VVarre, and Nauigation; and also of Phisick and Surgerie."

In his Beginnings of Systematic Bibliography (2nd ed 1940) Theodore Besterman characterized Maunsell's work as the one in which a "a real technique of book-description is made use of for the first time" (p. 29). The Catalogue is also an alphabetical subject bibliography, with the larger subjects sub-divided and in each section works arranged alphabetically by author's surname—one of the earliest uses of the surname for indexing.

In his dedication to "Worshipfull the Master, Wardens, and Assistants of the Companie of Stationers and to all other Printers and Booke-sellers in generall" Maunsell wrote of learned men that

"have written Latine Catalogues, [Conrad] Gesner, Simler, and our countrman John Bale. They make their Alphabet by the Christen name, I by the Sir name; They mingle Diuinitie, Law Phiscke, &c. together, I set Diuinitie by itselfe; They set downe Printed and not Printed, I onely Printed, and none but such as I have seene. . . Concerning the Books which are without Authors names called Anonymi, I have placed them either upon the Title they bee entiuled by, or else upon the matter they entreate of, and sometimes upon both, for the easier finding of them."

Maunsell then explained his cross-indexing system, and how it should be used throughout the work.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 36.

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Israel Spach Issues the Model for Subject Bibliographies 1598

In 1598 physician Israel Spach issued Nomenclator scriptorum philosophicorum atque philologicorum in Strassburg. Covering the works of over 4,000 authors arranged under 400 subject headings, including esoteric subjects like gladiatorial combat, glory, and sobriety, with an emphasis on contemporary writers, this was the most significant subject bibliography of the sixteenth century. It became a model for subsequent subject bibliographies.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] no. 39.

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1600 – 1650

English Book Owners in the 17th Century. A Work in Progress Listing by David Pearson 1600 – 1700

"English book owners in the seventeenth century
A work in progress listing

"How much do we really know about patterns and impacts of book ownership in Britain in the seventeenth century? How well equipped are we to answer questions such as the following?:

 What was a typical private library, in terms of size and content, in the seventeenth century?
 How does the answer to that question vary according to occupation, social status, etc?
 How does the answer vary over time? – how different are ownership patterns in the middle of the century from those of the beginning, and how different are they again at the end?

"Having sound answers to these questions will contribute significantly tour understanding of print culture and the history of the book more widely during this period. 

"Our current state of knowledge is both imperfect, and fragmented. There is no directory or comprehensive reference source on seventeenth-century British book owners, although there are numerous studies of individual collectors. There are well-known names who are regularly cited in this context – Cotton, Dering, Pepys – and accepted wisdom as to collections which were particularly interesting or outstanding, but there is much in this area that deserves to be challenged. Private Libraries in Renaissance England and Books in Cambridge Inventories have developed a more comprehensive approach to a particular (academic) kind of owner, but they are largely focused on the sixteenth century. Sears Jayne, Library Catalogues of the English Renaissance, extends coverage to 1640, based on book lists found in a variety of manuscript sources. The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland (2006) contains much relevant information in this field, summarising existing scholarship, and references to this have been included in individual entries below where appropriate.

"Evidence of book ownership in this period is manifested in a variety of ways, which need to be brought together if we are to develop that fuller picture. Lists of books once owned by particular people can be found in sale catalogues, private catalogues, wills, and other various
kinds of inventory. Many collections for which no such lists exist are witnessed to today by surviving books, with inscriptions, bookplates, armorial bindings, and numerous other kinds of copy-specific markings. Some collections survive entire, where they were bequeathed or
bought en bloc, while others were scattered and are much harder to reconstruct. Working from surviving books is bedevilled not only by the fact that owners did not always mark their books, but also by needing to remember that vast quantities of books have been destroyed
since the seventeenth century. There are many collections which once existed which we will never be able to recognise. The quantity of material in our libraries today is nevertheless sufficient to allow us to make significant advances in our knowledge of early book ownership,
if we can bring together that information.

"This list represents work in progress to construct a reference source on seventeenth-century English book owners, based on all these various kinds of evidence. It does not seek to cover Scottish and Irish owners, unless they were predominantly English-based. The aim is to focus 
on collections which were at least partly, if not entirely, formed within the seventeenth century and the list includes people who died between 1610 and 1715.

"The list draws largely on existing published work but also incorporates evidence of surviving books, taken mainly from sale and library catalogues. One of the challenges of this exercise lies in establishing criteria for inclusion, as regards size of collection. Is a private library of
this period interesting if it contains 50 books, 100 books, or 500 books? There is no simple answer to this; it depends on who the owner was, what the books were, and which part of the century it applies to. The list has been compiled on an essentially intuitive basis with the aim
of including people who did, or are likely to have, owned enough books to be worth noting in the context of developing that wider understanding. Refining and developing the list is part of the research process. We cannot list every individual who owned a Bible and a shelf of
devotional books, but a grocer who owned 50 books in 1620 may be at least as interesting as an academic who owned 500. The list does not include people who are likely to have been owners, but for whom there is no surviving evidence. A number of known users of armorial
binding stamps are included, together with users of bookplates, found the Franks collection, and known to have died before 1715 (these are both areas where other projects and  and directories are being worked on).

"The arrangement of the list should be self-evident, alphabetical by owners’ names, with some entries relating to families rather than individuals (this, again, is an area where more thought is needed as to how best to cope with collections built up over more than one generation). The references cited are not meant to be exhaustive; abbreviated references are expanded in the list at the end.

"One of the ways in which an online resource like this can be useful is by providing quick links to images of the kinds of provenance evidence which various owners left in their books, so that identifications can be verified (is this inscription I’m looking at the man I think it is, or another owner of the same name? etc). I have been gradually adding links to other websites which include useful images like this. One of the features of this latest version of the list is the addition of links to a number of other images of inscriptions and bookplates, which I have put onto Flickr. I will aim to augment this over time. The list also now includes links to the
database of British Armorial Bindings, begun by John Morris and completed by Philip Oldfield, and freely available on the web via the University of Toronto and the sponsorship of the Bibliographical Society. This major reference work contains details and images of all
known armorial binding stamps used by British owners not only in the seventeenth century, but from the earliest use of suecvh stamps in the sixteenth century through to the present day.

"I am sharing this list through bibliographical Internet sites partly because, imperfect and incomplete though it is, the list may already have enough data to be useful in various kinds of ways, and partly in the hope of stimulating responses and ideas as to how it should be developed. It may also be useful as a list of references and sources of further leads on particular owners. I will be very glad to have suggestions for names and references which should be added, or any other feedback from others who are interested in this area of book history as to how to take this project forward (many thanks to everyone who has already contacted me in this way, including Bob Fehrenbach, Peter Hoare, Philip Oldfield, Jeremy Potter, Renae Satterley and David Shaw). I am happy for any or all of the data here to beused in any ways that are helpful to fellow book historians though I would appreciate the source being cited where appropriate.

"David Pearson
Revised December 2013
Email drspearson@dsl.pipex.com" (The Bibliographical Society Electronic Publications 2007 [latest version December 2013], accessed 11-30-2014)

In November 2014 Mr. Pearson's bibliographical listing, including many links to other websites, was available from The Bibliographical Society at this link.

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Fray Juan Bautista Issues the First Bibliography Published in the New World 1606

In 1606 Franciscan Fray Juan Bautista published A Jesu Christo S.N. ofrece este Sermonario en lengua mexicana in Mexico, En casa de Diego Lopez Davalos. This was the second collection of sermons published Nahuatl (Aztec) prefaced with a two-page list of previously published works by Bautista. The listing of books was the first bibliography published in the Western Hemisphere.

"On signature **iii (recto and verso) is a list of 'las obras que hasta agora ha impresso el auctor' ('the works that until now the author has had published'). The list is not in chronological order nor is it alphabetical by title; nonetheless it is a bibliography and supplies us with information now known only because of its inclusion here. Of the 17 items listed, several have failed to survive in any known copy, including the second part of this sermonario: at the time of publication of part one 'de la sequnda parte esta ya impresso gran pedaço' ('of the second part a large piece is already printed')" (Szewczyk & Buffington, 39 Books and Broadsides Printed In America Before the Bay Psalm Book [1989] no. 19).

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Bernhard von Mallinckrodt Coins the Term Incunabula 1639

In 1639 Bernhard von Mallinckrodt, dean of Münster cathedral and a noted book collector, issued a pamphlet from Cologne entitled De ortu et progressu artis typographicae (Of the Rise and Progress of the Typographic Art) to mark the bicentennary of the invention of printing by movable type in Europe. Mallinckrodt's work, which defended the priority of Johann Gutenberg, included the phrase prima typographicae incunabula (the first cradle of printing, or more loosely, the infancy of printing). This was the origin of the term incunabula, still used to describe books and broadsheets printed before 1500— the arbitrary cut-off date that Mallinckrodt selected. Today the term incunabula (singular: incunabulum) is typically applied to imprints before 1501.

According to Ohly, "Das Inkunabelverzeichnis Bernhard von Mallinckrodts," Westfälische Studien, Alois Bömer zum 60. Geburtstag, Degerling & Menn, eds. (1928), as cited by Libreria Alberto Govi, Catalogue 2013, no. 99, at his death Mallinckrodt  possessed a library of nearly 5500 works, including about 200 incunabula from over 100 printers.  

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1650 – 1700

John Dury Writes the First Book on Librarianship in English 1650

The first English book on “library economy,” or library management, was a series of letters that Scottish minister and writer, John Dury, Keeper of the Royal Library from the death of Charles I until the Restoration, wrote on library and educational reform to his friend, the German-British polymath and educational reformer Samuel Hartlib. Hartlib published them in London as The Reformed Librarie Keeper in 1650. 

"One of the ways in which both Dury and Hartlib wished to promote educational reform and further knowledge was by exploiting the facilities of public libraries in London, Oxford, and Cambridge more efficiently. Dury expressed the hope that the work of the librarian might be as ‘a factor and trader for helpes to learning, a treasurer to keep them and a dispenser to apply them to use, or to see them well used, or at least not abused’ (Turnbull, p.257). The Reformed Librarie-Keeper printed various proposals for the organization and use of libraries, which Dury had originally advanced in 1646. It was published together with Dury’s plans for a reformed school in 1650. In that year, Dury was appointed keeper of the library of St James’s Palace (formerly the King’s Library), which was in a state of disorder. He installed new bookcases and urged that the trustees for the selling of the late king’s goods should draw up an inventory of the books and medals, both measures being intended to make the library usable to the public. A few years later, Dury and Henry Langley unsuccessfully proposed Hartlib for the post of Bodley’s Librarian.  

"As storehouses of learning, in which great strides had already been made to establish accurate classifications, libraries had the potential to be ideal embodiments of the Ark. But the poorly-funded libraries of interregnum England were too chaotic in organization and too inaccessible for ordinary readers to be able to fulfil the role in which Dury and Hartlib had cast them" (Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, "Hartlib Circle," http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/gatt/catalog.php?num=67, accessed 01-30-2012).

"In Dury's first letter we learn that the library keeper's only responsibility was to safeguard the collection. To do this, a man (note: not a woman) did not need to be particularly well educated. The pay was low, commensurate with the skill-level required for the job. Dury describes the service provided by "factors and traders," educated men who profited by traveling throughout Europe searching for books suitable for various collections. Dury faults that system because he believed that the "factors and traders" were more interested in profit-making than in learning. (He then kindly defends these men by pointing out that, after all, they have to make a living.) His idea was to enhance the job of the library-keeper to include the role of the trader. In order to do this, the position of library-keeper would have to provide enough pay to attract educated men. If the library wanted men who were broadly educated and interested in the advancement of learning, Dury suggested the pay scale, which then ranged between 50 and 100 Pounds a year, be raised to 200 Pounds. He recommended that potential employees be tested in order to prove they are familiar enough with the various disciplines of the day to accurately maintain the library catalog.  

"Dury felt that having trained library keepers was essential if libraries were to be made open to the public. The library-keeper's job would be extended to include recommending and annually defending additions to the collection before the faculty of the University. The library-keeper was to correspond with experts in every science throughout Europe (expenses to be paid by the University). The library keeper was also to be the reference person regarding the collection, in order to assist scholars. In addition he was to continue the role of safeguarding the collection, which, in a public library, meant overseeing collection use and maintaining the library catalog.  

"Dury notes that the catalog would need to be created first, however. He suggested that the catalog be arranged by subject matter, then divided by language. The catalog he had in mind would also contain a pointer to the physical position of the book within the library. That system would be designed well enough to allow for the growth of the collection. Moreover, an annual list of additions to the collection would be printed. The entire catalog would be printed and circulated to other libraries in Europe every three years (or more often if the library grows faster than expected). He also proposed that the University keep books that the library has acquired, by gifts or purchase, even if the faculty couldn't use them, as; "there is seldom any book that does not contain something useful." He suggested keeping them in a separate collection and creating a list that was indexed by subject and arranged alphabetically by author.

"Dury's second letter offers an argument to be used in defending the cost of establishing his proposed library before the British Parliament, which he thought should supply the necessary funding. He bases his argument on Christian moral grounds, reminding us that in his day the separation of church and state was not a popular idea. Dury saw the library as a place that would nourish the spirits of men. He criticizes private libraries as serving those that "pride themselves in the possession of that which others have not," men who "covetously obstruct the fountains of life and comfort." He complains that this "dilates the light of knowledge and the love of the grace and goodness in the hearts of all men." He argues that library should be "communicating all good things freely to others." He goes on to argue that the university library, by proving useful to scholars in other nations, would encourage them to adopt similar policies for their own libraries, thus bringing honor to England. Finally, he warns that if the library is administered without relation to Christ's teachings, the endeavor is likely to lead to strife, confusion, and pride"(http://people.lis.illinois.edu/~chip/projects/timeline/1651robins.html, accessed 01-30-2012).

(This entry was last revised on 03-16-2014.)

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The Earliest Bibliography of Bibliographies 1664

In 1664 French Jesuit geographer, historian, and bibliographer Philippe Labbé issued the first bibliography of bibliographies: Bibliotheca bibliothecarum curis secundis auctior accedit Bibliotheca Nummaria 

"It is basically an alphabetical list, arranged by authors' first names, followed by eight intricate subject indices, among them one of publishers' and booksellers' catalogues. Appended is a very useful numismatic bibliography" (Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] no. 62).

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Joachim Johann Maders Issues the First Anthology on Libraries and Library Science 1666

In 1666 Joachim Johann Mader published the first anthology of texts on libraries, archives and "library science": De bibliothecis atque archivis virorum clarissimorum libelli et commentationes. Cum praefatione  de scriptis et bibliothecis antediluvianis. 

"The work is prefaced by his account of antediluvian libraries—those of Adam, Noah, etc., and then follow several monographs from such authors as Justus Lipsius, Franz Schott, Fulvio Orsino, Michael Neander, and pieces on the Vatican and Escorial libraries"  (Catalogus Catalogorum [Predominantly Post-1900]. Part III of the Private Library of Hans P. Kraus. Catalogue 190, H. P. Kraus [company,] no. 538).

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The First Bibliography of Rare Books 1676

In 1678 philologist and bibliographer Johann Hallervord published the first bibliography of rare books issued with the book collector in mind: Bibliotheca curiosa in qua plurimi rarissimi atque paucis cogniti scriptores in Königsberg and Frankfurt. Hallervord (1644-1676) mentioned more than 2800 authors, and included information on anonymous and pseudonymous works. As the son of a bookseller, and probably a scion of the Hallervord family of publishers in Stettin, Hallervord had access to important  public and private libraries in Königsberg and in the Baltic regions, on which he was able to base his research.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 75.

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Newton's Principia Mathematica 1687

In 1687 Isaac Newton published Philosophia naturalis principia mathematica in London through the efforts and expense of astronomer Edmond Halley.

We probably know as much about the printing history of Newton's Principia mathematica as of any book of the seventeenth century.  The definitive scholarship on the writing and printing of the Principia appears in I. B. Cohen's Introduction to Newton's "Principia" (1971), and in Koyré‚ and Cohen's variorum edition of the Principia (1972), which also contains William B. Todd's definitive bibliography of the first three editions.  Other useful research on this work was conducted by A. N. L. Munby nearly forty years ago.  Munby's and Todd's observations may be summarized here. The original printer's manuscript in the hand of Newton's amanuensis, Humphrey Newton, still exists, as do various copies of the first edition with Isaac Newton's autograph corrections.  The expenses of publication of the first edition were borne by Edmond Halley, as neither Newton nor the Royal Society had sufficient funds, and booksellers, who in those days often acted as publishers, typically refused to risk their own money on esoteric scientific books.  Halley also edited the work and saw it through the press, reporting his progress to Newton in a series of letters which are preserved at Cambridge. 

Having paid for the edition himself, Halley sent out presentation copies at Newton's direction and also sent Newton twenty copies for his personal use.  Halley decided to market the book by placing copies on consignment with various booksellers, and he sent Newton forty copies, some bound, some in sheets, which he asked Newton to "place in the hands of one or more of your ablest booksellers to dispose of them." Munby observed that many of the bindings of the two-line imprint issue were similar, suggesting that Halley may have had many of the copies bound at one shop.

Munby researched the significance of the two states of the title page of the Principia, concluding that the more commonly found state, with the title page uncancelled and the so-called two-line imprint, reflects Halley's initial sales strategy of placing the work on consignment with many booksellers ("apud plures Bibliopolas").  The state with the three-line imprint, including the name of the bookseller, Samuel Smith, reflects Halley's decision to turn over a significant portion of the edition to Smith, probably for foreign distribution.  The antiquarian bookseller Heinrich Zeitlinger of Henry Sotheran Ltd., first made the useful observation that many of the copies with the three-line "Smith" imprint were exported to the Continent.  Smith was known to be very active in the import and export of books, and Munby stated that he knew of only two "Smith" copies in contemporary English bindings.  

From his bibliographical analysis of the first edition Todd concluded that the edition was divided between two compositors, one setting the first two books, the other setting the third.  "The first compositor, however, was allowed too few sheets and too many foliations, a circumstance which necessitated his signing a supplementary gathering *** and paging it 377-383, 400."  Todd identified typographical variants which seem to be randomly distributed throughout the edition and are thus not indicative of any priority.

Todd also described the distribution of watermarks in the Principia: "The text paper exhibits a water-mark of a fleur-de-lis within a coat of arms (Heawood 626) only in preliminaries and certain sections in the earlier portion of the books, indicating perhaps that the signatures so distinguished are of later, revised settings printed off at the same time.  All copies have this water-mark in P-2K; some have it also in A, F-G, M-O, 2M-2N."  The distribution of watermarks appears to have nothing to do with the distribution of the variants listed above.

In estimating the size of the first edition Munby acknowledged that the work went out of print quickly and was already difficult to obtain in December 1691, when Nicholas Fatio de Duillier discussed a new edition in a letter to Christiaan Huygens.  Extrapolating from the partial census figures available in 1952, Munby conjectured that at least 150 copies of the work were then extant, concluding from this and from the book's relatively common appearances in the sale rooms that "the whole edition cannot have comprised less than three hundred copies, and the figure may well have been a hundred more than this."  The plentiful sales records in the forty years since Munby's account would certainly corroborate the higher estimate. Copies with the three-line imprint are much rarer than those with the two-line, suggesting that the so-called "Smith" copies may only have comprised  between seventeen and thirty-three percent of the edition. 

Newton's personal copy of the first edition of the Principia, with Newton's autograph corrections for the second edition, is preserved at the Wrenn Library, Trinity College, Cambridge.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1586. Cohen, Introduction to Newton's Principia, ch. IV.  Munby, "The two titlepages of the distribution of the first edition of Newton's Principia," Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 10 (October 1952).  Todd, "A bibliography of the Principia.  Part I: The three substantive editions," in Koyré‚ & Cohen, Isaac Newton's Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica II,  851-853.

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The First Attempt to Collect and Organize the Literature of Early Printing 1688

Cornelis a Beughem's Incunabula typographiae s. catalogus librorum scriptorumque proximis ab inventione typographiae annis ad annum Christi MD inclusive in quavis lingua editorum, published in Amsterdam in 1688, was the first attempt to comprehend and organize the collected literature of early printing, and the first use of of the term incunabula in the title of a book on the history of early printing. Beughem cited approximately 3000 titles. Beughem, a bookseller and city counselor at Emmerich, in the Duchy of Cleves under the rule of the Electors of Brandenburg, and author of several bibliographies, has been called the foremost bibliographer of the 17th century

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The First Independently Published Bibliography of Mathematics 1688

In 1688 bookseller and city counceller in Emmerich, Cornelis a Beughem issued Bibliotheca mathematica et artificosa novissima. . . conspectus primus. This was the first independently published and comprehensive bibliography of mathematics, limited to books published from 1551 onward. Pages 465-526 contained a bibliography of atlases.

Bibliotheca mathematica was one of a series of bibliographies Beughem issued through the Amsterdam firm Janssonius-Waesberghe, listing books published throughout Europe in the relevant subject area during the second half the seventeenth century in any language, whether first or revised editions. Beughem's bibliographies were distinguished from earlier bibliographies by their arrangement by author, and by their limited chronological coverage to the present and the immediate past. Bibliographia mathematica followed bibliographies by Beughem of law and politics (1680) and medicine and physics (1681). 

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 84.

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The First Book Catalogue Published in America 1693

The first book catalogue published in North America was the auction catalogue of the library of the non-conformist minister and natural philosopher Rev. Samuel Lee (1625?-91) issued in Boston by bookseller Duncan Cambell (d. 1702). It is known from a single surviving copy preserved in the Boston Public Library:

The library of the late Reverend and learned Mr. Samuel Lee. Containing a choice variety of books upon all subjects; particularly, commentaries on the Bible; bodies of divinity. The works as well of the ancient, as of the modern divines; treatises on the mathematicks, in all parts; history, antiquities; natural philosophy [,] physick, and chymistry; with grammar and school-books. With many more choice books not mentioned in this catalogue. Exposed at the most easy rates, to sale, by Duncan Cambell, bookseller at the dock-head over against the conduit.

"Bookseller's catalogue: 1200 short author entries, in Latin and English, arranged (not entirely consistently) by subject, within subject by language (either Latin or English), and within language by format. The subject headings are divinity (by far the largest); physical books (medicine and science); philosophy, cosmography & geography; mathematical, astrological and astronomical books; history, school authors; juris prudentia, miscellanie, and three miscellaneous lots of consecutively numbered entries"(Winans, A Descriptive Checklist of Book Catalogues Separately Printed in America 1693-1800 [1981] no. 1).

ESTC System No. 006467597; ESTC Citation No. W19259.

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The First Country-Wide Printed Union Catalogue of Manuscripts 1697

In 1697, the year of the death of English astronomer and scholar Edward BernardCatalogi librorum manuscriptorum Angliae et Hiberniae in unum collecti cum indice alphabeticum was issued from Oxford at the Sheldonian Theatre, in two folio volumes. Listing around 30,000 manuscripts, this was the first printed attempt at a union catalogue of manuscripts for a country—England, including Ireland, the conquest of which had been completed by the British in 1691.  Centuries earlier in the Middle Ages union catalogues of manuscripts had been compiled in England. About 1320 Oxford Franciscans had compiled, on the basis of on-site surveys, the Registrum Anglie de libris doctorum et auctorum ueterum — a manuscript union catalogue of some 1400 manuscript books in England, Scotland and Wales, and around 1350 the Benedictine monk Henry of Kirkestede, prior of the royal abbey of St. Edmund at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk—traditionally known as Boston Burienis, compiled a union catalogue of manuscripts in English libraries entitled Catalogus de libris autenticis et aposcrifis

Bernard had worked on the catalogue for years when in 1692

"a movement started in Oxford to follow up the catalogue of printed books in Bodley with a catalogue of the manuscripts there and in college libraries. Dr. Edwards, Principal of Jesus, approached the curators of the Clarendon Press, who accepted the proposal. The scheme was enlarged to include the collections in Cambridge and in cathedral libraries and finally in private libraries. Cambridge kept aloof; only four colleges sent their catalogues, and the University Library and the remaining colleges were represented only by a reprint of the lists made by Thomas James in 1600. Bernard was in ill health and died on 12 January, 1697, while the book was still in the press" (Simpson, Proof-Reading in the Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries [1970] 189, see also 190-94).

Though the printed catalogue identified Edward Bernard as the only author, it was actually a cooperative venture compiled by several scholars. Arthur Charlette, Master of University College, Oxford, seems to have been in charge of gathering information for the catalogue. However, the most significant contributor other than Bernard was probably the Harleian librarian, palaeographer and scholar of Old English Humpfrey Wanley. Wanley researched holdings of collectors in England whose libraries needed to be included, and was the author of four catalogues of holdings within the union catalogue: (1) the Free School at Coventry, (2) Basil Fielding, 4th Earl of Denbigh (3) St. Mary's Church, Warwick, and (4) John Ayres. Wanley also compiled the index to the entire work, wrote the Preface and corrected some of the proofs. References to Wanley's work on the catalogue appear in his letters. See Letters of Humfrey Wanley, Palaeographer, Anglo-Saxonist, Librarian, 1672-1726, Edited by P. L. Heyworth (1989). 

The catalogue is notable for containing the holdings of numerous significant private collectors as well as institutional libraries. Among the better-remembered collectors whose manuscripts are recorded are Samuel Pepys, John EveynWilliam Laud, Thomas Bodley, John Leland, Roger Dodsworth, Richard James, Robert Huntington, and Antony Wood. The crucial holdings of Sir Robert Cotton were not included in Bernard's catalogue because just one year earlier Thomas Smith's Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum bibliothecae Cottonianae had been issued in identical format by the same printer. My copy of Bernard's catalogue was bound at the time with Smith's catalogue of the Cottonian library at the back of its second volume. It would appear that the two works were intended to supplement one another. 

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A Visionary Library Cataloguing Scheme That Was Not Realized 1698

In 1684 the librarian of the Bibliothèque du roi in Paris, Nicolas Clément, completed a catalogue in manuscript of the library according to a classification system of Clement's design. He classified manuscripts by language, format and materials within formats. Printed books he arranged in 23 classes by a letter of the alphabet. This basic system, known as "lettrage Clément," was maintained by the Bibliothèque nationale de France until 1999.

By 1688 the growth of the collections in the Bibliothèque du roi made Clément's catalogue inadequate, and he and his staff embarked on the project of compiling a new one, which was eventually completed in 1714. In an attempt to create a more useful catalogue in 1698 Danish scholar Fredéric de Rostgaard proposed a new method for arranging a library catalogue in a letter to Clément. This was published as a pamphlet entitled Projet d'une nouvelle methode pour desser le catalogue d'une bibliotheque selon les matieres avec le plan. Relatively few copies were printed but the pamphlet appears to have undergone two editions in 1698. The second, augmented edition was reprinted by Johann David Köhler in Sylloge aliquot scriptorum de bene ordinanda et ornanda bibliotheca studio et opera (1728). Rostgaard's scheme never seems to have been implemented; however, it may be summarized as follows:

Rostgaard called for a subject arrangement subdivided chronologically and by format. His goal was to organize the catalogue so that authors writing on the same subject and all editions of the same work were found together. These goals he proposed to achieve through a printed catalogue. Printing the catalogue of a large institutional library was itself a radical idea in the seventeenth century as the Bibliothèque du roi and other institutional libraries traditionally maintained their catalogues in manuscript volumes, which had to be consulted in the library.

Rostgaard illustrated examples of his cataloguing scheme in his pamphlet, showing the spread of two facing pages divided into four parallel columins, each column containing books of a certain format arranged so that books of various formats published on a certain subject within the same year would appear opposite one another in parallel columns. He also called for a secondary arrangement in which books which entirely concern a subject appear before those in which only a part concern a specific subject.

At the end of his proposed catalogue Rostgaard provided instructions for an alphabetical index of subjects and authors, with authors entered by surname. He expected works bound together to have separate entries for each title, and expected the word order of titles as found on the title page of each work to be preserved in the catalogue. Whenever authorship of anonymous works was known he expected that to be identified in the catalogue

Strout, "The Development of the Catalog and Cataloging Codes," Library Quarterly 26 (1956) 254-275.

Delisle, "Notice sur les anciens catalogues des livres imprimés de la Bibliothèque du roi," Bibliothèque de l'école des chartes," 43 (1882) 165-201.  

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A Universal Bibliography, but Only for "A and B" 1699

Pandectae Brandeburgicae Continentes I. Bibliothecam. . . Auctorum inpressorum [!] & Manuscr. partem. . . nomina plurimorum, Anonymorum, Pseudonymorum & c. explicata. . . II. Indicem materiarum praecipuarum, of which only the first volume (A-B) was issued by Christoph Hendreich in Berlin in 1699, was an attempt to produce a universal author bibliography of books and manuscripts. It was named for Frederick William, the Great Elector of Brandenburg, whom Hendreich served as librarian. The first volume covering letters A and B listed 50,000 works by 15,000 authors, reflective of the significant growth in recorded information by the end of the seventeenth century. The author, who died in 1702, did not live to complete any further volumes.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 92.

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1700 – 1750

The Bigot Sale, the First Book Auction Conducted in Paris for Which a Catalogue was Printed July – December 1706

The sale by auction of the Bigot family library was conducted by booksellers Jean Boudot, Charles Osmont and Gabriel Martin over the remarkably long duration of five months from July to December, 1706. Prior to this auction several auction catalogues for private libraries were printed in Paris but the libraries were sold privately before auctions could occur. The Bigot sale was in five parts comprising 450 manuscripts and over 15,000 printed books. It was the first book auction conducted in Paris for which a catalogue was published and the first of the 125 auctions conducted by Gabriel Martin, which, over the course of 25 years, established Paris as the leading center for book auctions.

Bookseller, publisher and writer Prosper Marchand organized and catalogued the sale for Martin and Osmont. One of the ways in which the sale was notable was in its introduction of the classification scheme which divided information into five great divisions that Marchand borrowed from the seventeenth century astonomer, scientific intermediator, and librarian, Ismaël Boulliau (Bullialdus). Gabriel Martin promoted this scheme, which originated in the seventeenth century, and may have first been applied in the catalogue of the library of Jacques Auguste de Thou, the Catalogus Bibliothecae Thuanae (1679). The scheme categorized information into the following subject areas: theology, jurisprudence, sciences and arts (initially called philosophy in this catalogue), belles-lettres (humane letters), and history. Book auctions in France would follow this scheme throughout the 18th century, and in the early 19th century Jacques Charles Brunet elaborated on this basic scheme in his Manuel du Libraire et de l'amateur de livres (1810). See Berkvens-Stevelink, Prosper Marchand: la vie et oeuvre (1987) 11-22.

The published auction catalogue was entitled Bibliotheca Bigotiana; seu, Catalogus librorum, quos (dum viverent) summâ curâ & industriâ, ingentique sumptu congressêre vir clarissimi DD. uterque Joannes, Nicolaus, & Lud. Emericus Bigotii, domini de Sommesnil & de Cleuville. . . . 

The Library was begun by Jean Bigot in the early 17th century, and continued by his son, Louis-Emery. It eventually passed to Robert Bigot, sieur de Monville, and was sold at his death in 1706. The library included that of Jean-Jacques de Mesmes, for whom Gabriel Naudé had written Avis pour dresser une bibliothèque in 1627. 

At the auction the abbé de Louvois purchased many books for the Bibliothèque du Roi. "This was Gabriel Martin's first catalogue, and according to Bléchet, Jean-Pierre Nicéron was an editor" (North, Printed Catalogues of French Book Auctions and Sales by Private Treaty 1643-1830 in the Library of the Grolier Club [2004] no. 12).

The Bigot manuscripts were purchased for the Bibliothèque du roi. Over 150 years later they were catalogued by Léopold Delisle as Bibliotheca Bigotiana Manuscripta. Catalogue des manuscrits rassemblés aux XVIIe siecle par les Bigot, mis en vente au mois de juillet 1706, aujourdhui conservé aux Bibliothèque nationale (1877).

Albert, Recherches sur les principes fondamentaux de la classification bibliographique. . . . (1847) 17-19.

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White Kennett Issues the First Bibliography of Americana 1713

White Kennett, Bishop of Peterborough, England, issued Bibliothecae Americanae Primordia. An Attempt Towards Laying the Foundation of an American Library, in Several Books, Papers, and Writings, Humbly given to the Society for Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. . . . Published in London in an edition of 250 copies in 1713, this was the library of the first collector of historical documents on the continent of North America. It was also the first bibliography of Americana, carefully listing in chronological order books, charts, maps, and documents with a detailed alphabetical index.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 93.

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Johann Christian Koch Issues the First History of Library Classification Systems 1713

Schediasma de ordinanda bibliotheca issued in Leipzig in 1713 by the German minister and writer Johann Christian Koch, appears to be the first history of systems for organizing libraries, or of library classification systems. On the title page of this book Koch characterized himself as pastor in "Pago Lentz prope Haynam."  He was identified by Google books as "Superintendent in Bischofswerda," a small town in Germany at the western edge of Upper Lusatia in Saxony

I learned about this relatively obscure work from the introduction to Johann David Köhler's Sylloge aliquot scriptorum de bene ordinanda et ornanda bibliotheca (1728).

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Henrich Gottleib Titz Writes about the Theuerdanck: Probably the First Monograph on a Single Rare Book 1714

In 1714 Heinrich Gottleib Titz as respondent and author, supervised by German historian Johann David Köhler at Universität Altdorf, published a thesis in Altdorf bei Nürnberg entitled Disquisitio de inclyto libro poetico Theuerdanck. This dissertation may be the first monograph on a single rare book, in this case the Theuerdanck of 1517.

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Johann David Köhler Issues the First Anthology of Library Classification, Organization and Cataloguing Schemes 1728

Sylloge aliquot scriptorum et bene ordinanda et ornanda bibliotheca published in Frankfurt in 1728 was the first anthology of library classfication, organizational, and cataloguing schemes. It was edited by German historian and university librarian at Altdorf bei Nürnberg Johann David Köhler. In this anthology Köhler reprinted several treatises, which were presumably little known and difficult to find:

Jean Garnier, Systema bibliothecae collegii Parisiensis Societatis Iesu, Paris, 1678.

In this plan for arranging the library in the Collège de Clermont, Garnier proposed four general classes: Theology, Philosophy, History and Law.

Fréderic de Rostgaard, Projet d'une nouvelle method pour dresser le catalogue d'une bibliotheque selon les matieres avec le plan. Seconde edition augmentée de quelques articles tres-necessaires & mise en meilleur ordre. Paris, 1698.

Giusto Fontanini, Dispositio catalogi bibliothecae Josephi Renati Imperialis S.R.E. Diaconi Cardinalis S. Georgii. Secundum scientiarum, facultatum, artium et rerum classes. Rome, 1719.

Daniel William Moller, Commentatio de technophysionameis sive Germanice von Kunst-und Naturalien-Kammern. Altdorf, 1704.

Johann Jacob Moser, Bibliotheca manuscriptorum maxime anecdotorum eorumque historicorum. Nuremberg, 1722.

Issues of Köhler's work were published with and without the final text by Moser.

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Thomas Osborne Issues "The British Librarian", the First Periodical Published in English on Rare Books & Manuscripts 1737 – 1738

From January to June, 1737 London rare book dealer and publisher Thomas Osborne published six issues of The British Librarian: Exhibiting a Compenious Review or Abstract of our most Scarce, Useful and Valuable Books in all Sciences as well in Manuscript as in Print. The six issues were collected and republished as a book in 1738. The British Librarian was the first periodical published in English on rare books and manuscripts, and it may be the first periodical on these topics in any language, as the antiquarian book trade was beginning to become organized around this time. Notably, the earliest recorded full-fledged rare book catalogue— as distinct from an auction catalogue— was also issued in 1738.

The anonymous author of the periodical, William Oldys, included descriptions of unique manuscripts, of examples of early printing such as several works printed by William Caxton, and of other works which were considered rare and collectable at the time. He sometimes included details of bindings, and of private collections. While Oldys' descriptions lean toward the verbose, and there is a certain lack of analysis, the periodical provides valuable insight into how rare books were appreciated and marketed in the first half of the eighteenth century. It is especially helpful since, as Oldys remarks, booksellers' catalogues and library catalogues of this period were primarily listings, and almost never annotated.

William Oldys devoted his life to antiquarian and bibliographic pursuits, compiling valuable notes on Langbaine's Dramatick Poets (1691), writing an important "Life" of Sir Walter Raleigh (published in the 1736 edition of Raleigh's History of the World), and amassing a library of historical and political works. In 1731 Oldys sold his library to Edward Harley (1689-1741), second Earl of Oxford probably the greatest English collector of printed books and manuscripts of his time. From 1738 to 1741 Oldys served as the Earl's librarian, but had to give up the post upon his patron's death. In 1742 The Earl of Oxford's immense library of printed books was purchased by bookseller Thomas Osborne, publisher of The British Librarian and one of England's first rare book dealers. Osborne hired Oldys and Samuel Johnson to prepare a descriptive catalogue of the Harleian collection prior to its sale; the resulting Catalogus bibliothecae Harleianae was issued in four volumes plus a supplementary fifth volume of books from Osborne's stock, between 1743 and 1745. Oldys and Samuel Johnson also worked together on The Harleian Miscellany, an annotated reprint of selected tracts and pamphlets from the Harleian library edited by Oldys and Johnson, and published by Osborne.

After the death of Harley ", . . Oldys worked for the booksellers. His habits were irregular, and in 1751 his debts drove him to the Fleet prison. After two years' imprisonment he was released through the kindness of friends who paid his debts, and in April 1755 he was appointed Norfolk Herald Extraordinary and then Norroy King of Arms by the Duke of Norfolk" (Wikipedia article on William Oldys, which derives material from the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica).

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Johan Adam Schmid Issues the First "Full-Fledged Antiquarian Bookseller's Catalogue" 1738

In 1738 German bookseller Johann Adam Schmid issued from Nuremberg the first "full-fledged" antiquarian bookseller's catalogue describing books which were significant, rare and desirable to collectors, with printed prices listed for each book:

Bibliotheca anonymiana, sive catalogus bibliotheca locupletis, Raritate, selectu, Ligatura Librorum splendidissimae. . . cum Notis literariis perpetuis aequissimoque Librorum pretio.

The anonymous owner of the collection was Adam Rudolph Solger, deacon of St. Lawrence's, Nuremberg, and later head of the Nuremberg church administration and librarian of the City Library. Solger sold his first library, of which this is the catalogue, after being stricken by the death of his daughter. Blogie V, col. 745.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) No. 99.

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Bernard de Montfaucon Issues the First Continent-Wide Union Catalogue of Manuscripts 1739

In 1739 French scholar and Benedictine monk Bernard de Montfaucon published Bibliotheca Bibliothecarum Manuscriptorum nova in Paris. A catalogue of all the manuscript collections in France and Italy with which Montfaucon was familiar, plus small sections on manuscripts in libraries in Germany, Netherlands and England, this 1669-page work in 2 folio volumes was the first attempt at a continent-wide catalogue of manuscripts. Its emphasis was on medieval and Renaissance texts.

Montfaucon began with a list of all the libraries, institutional and private, for which he published holdings. These included the well-known collections and those of medieval monasteries such as Bobbio, Corbie and Fulda, but also including lesser-known monastic libraries. Then he published a 250-page index of authors and codices.  The work then listed the manuscript contents of libraries by country beginning with Italy and the Vatican Library. The work ended with another 160-page index of authors and "rerum" (things). The comprehensive indices make it possible to locate manuscript texts by author and subject. As such it remains the most useful tool for checking the distribution of manuscript texts in European libraries, and their survival in institutions up to the first third of the eighteenth century.

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 175, note.

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Johan Christoph Wolf Issues the First Bibliography of the History of Printing 1740

Monumenta typographica, quae artis hujus praestantissimae originem, Laudem et abusum posteris produnt by the German Christian Hebraist, polyhistor, and book collector, Johan Christoph Wolf, was posthumously published in Hamburg by Christian Herold in 2 thick volumes in 1740. In this work Wolf reprinted roughly 50 texts of varying lengths and significance to do with the history of printing and typography, some of which are very obscure and difficult to find elsewhere. He prefaced the set with a 96-page bibliography of the history of printing— the first bibliography on this subject. That such a specialized bibliography could extend to 96 pages by 1740 is a reflection of the amount of scholarly interest in the history of printing that had developed in the 200 years since Gutenberg's invention. A special feature of Wolf's bibliography was his thematic index indicating, among other things, which authors believed that Laurenz Janszoon Coster was the inventor of printing, and those who credited Gutenberg, indicating that this was still a major topic of historical pre-occupation at the time.

Bigmore & Wyman, A Bibliography of Printing III, 91-92 list all the separate works published in the set, but appear to confuse the author with the German mathematician philosopher Christian Wolff

According to the Wikipedia, the author of Monumenta typographia, Johan Christoph Wolf, collected a library of 25,000 volumes.

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1750 – 1800

Edme-François Gersaint Issues the First Significant Catalogue Raisonné in Western Art History, on Rembrandt's Prints 1751 – 1828

Catalogue raisonné de toutes les pieces qui forment l'oeuvre de Rembrandt by Edme-François Gersaint, P.-C.-A. Helle, and Jean-Baptiste Glomy published in Paris in 1751 was  the "first catalogue raisonné in Western art history" (Sylvia Hochfield, "Rembrandt: Myth, Legend, Truth", ARTnews 7/01/06 accessed 09-29-2011). The primary author, Marchand-mercier Gersaint, immortalized by L'Enseigne de Gersaint (Gersaint's Shop Sign) painted by Jean-Antoine Watteau, was an art dealer, the leading auctioneer in Paris of art objects and natural history specimens, and a scholar and connoisseur. He compiled his catalogue from the collection of Dutch painter and writer Arnold Houbraken, of Amsterdam, which had previously been the property of Jan Six, an intimate firend of Rembrandt and the subject of more than one portrait by the artist. Toward the end of the work, in a chapter on doubtful attributions Gersaint addressed the connoisseurship issues involved in distinguishing Rembrandt's work from that of his pupils. He also included a chapter on portraits and other pieces etched after Rembrandt by other masters

After Gersaint's death in 1750, Gersaint's widow turned over the manuscript of the unfinished catalogue to Helle and Glomy who augmented this compilation by examination of a number of collections in France, and published the catalogue in duodecimo format one year later. An English translation of the catalogue appeared in London in 1752 as A Catalogue and Description of the Etchings of Rembrandt Van-Rhyn, with some Account of his Life. To which is added, A List of the best Pieces of this Master

Publication of Gersaint's catalogue stimulated further research. A supplement to Gersaint's catalogue by printmaker Pieter Yver, based on the collection of M. van Leyden, which had been culled from those of Houbraken, Halling, Maas, Moewater and De Burgy, and which was the largest known collection of Rembrandt at the time, was published in Amsterdam in 1756.  Austrian scholar and artist Adam Bartsch issued a new, revised edition of the catalogue in Vienna in 1797.  In 1796 Daniel Daulby, celebrated in his own lifetime as perhaps the greatest British collector of Rembrandt etchings, issued from Liverpool a new English edition entitled A Descriptive catalogue of the works of Rembrandt ... compiled from original etchings. In 1824 Le Chevalier de Claussin published a revised and expanded edition of the Gersaint catalogue, and in 1828 he published a supplement to that work.

Glorieux, À l'Enseigne de Gersaint: Edme-François Gersaint, marchand d'art sur le Pont Notre-Dame (2002). 

Michel, Le Commerce du tableau à Paris dans la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle (2007).

(This entry was last revised on 05-25-2014.)

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A Typographic Masterpiece, John Baskerville's First Book & the First Book Printed Partially on Wove Paper May 5, 1757

The first book, part of which was printed on wove paper (velin) invented by English papermaker James Whatman, was the edition of Virgil's Bucolica, Georgica et Aeneis printed in Birmingham, England by writing master, typographer and printer John Baskerville. The edition was advertised for sale in the London Press on May 5, 1757. Because Whatman could supply only enough wove paper for part of the edition,

"the first 28 sheets (A-2E) were printed on an unwatermarked wove paper, the remainder (2F-3H, Π-b) on an unwatermarked laid paper. At some time after the change from wove to laid paper a number of sheets and individual leaves were cancelled, those in the wove sections being identifiable through the cancellantia being printed on laid paper. Some of these cancels are found in nearly all copies of the book, some in only a few" (Gaskell, John Baskerville: A Bibliography [1959] no. 1).

The wove paper Whatman produced for this edition was a preliminary form:

"Apropos of the claim . . . that Baskerville's quarto Virgil of 1757 is printed on the first known specimen of western wove paper, it can be said without hesitation that the characteristics of this paper are unique. It is quite unlike the more successful wove papers that followed in having unmistakable wiremarks and flaws" (Balston, The Whatmans and Wove (Velin) Paper [1998] xxxv). 

Baskerville's Virgil of 1757 was his first publication, a project which he began in 1754, after he had made a fortune manufacturing japanned goods. Some authorities consider it Baskervile's finest work. The edition became famous for its typography, and overall design. 

"In this Virgil, his first book, the 'amateur' Baskerville shows an assurance one would have expected from a highly experienced master . . . His use of his own, freshly created type, with its balance between the subtlety of the earlier printers' designs and the harsh new French types, is exemplary. . . The skill seen here is especially remarkable, for such simplicity, even minimalism, was revolutionary. It was a defining moment in bookmaking, ridding it of the irrelevant, flowery decoration . . . The repercussions were to be felt not only in Britain, but in continental Europe, and even in America." (Bartram, Five Hundred Years of Book Design, 70-71).

Though book historians draw attention to the first use of wove paper in the first Baskerville edition of Virgil, there is no evidence that Baskerville was especially interested in this innovation in paper. Most of his later books were printed on the traditional laid paper. Besides the innovative typography and book design involved, Baskerville's first edition of Virgil was also known for the "glazed" surface of the paper. The exact method by which Baskerville glazed or hot-pressed his book-paper was a trade secret that Baskerville never revealed. As a result, extensive research by historians of printing and paper has been devoted to possible techniques involved; see Balston, op. cit (1998) 27-28, 217-224.

Eventually after the first edition of his 1757 4to Virgil was sold out, Baskerville published a second edition, produced in facsimile to the first. The precise date of this second edition, called by some a "forgery," is unknown, but it has been estimated to be around 1770. Among the ways it can be distinguished from the first edition is that is printed entirely on laid rather than wove paper. Determining the original printing from the early facsimile edition also requires attention to subtle bibliographical details cited in Gaskell's bibliography referenced above.

Pardoe, John Baskerville of Birmingham, Letter-Founder & Printer (1975).

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Voltaire Issues "Candide, ou l'Optimism" Anonymously and Secretively 1759

In 1759 French philosophe François-Marie Arouet, who wrote under the pen name Voltaire, pseudonymously published the satirical novella Candide, ou l'Optimisme, traduit de l‟Allemand de Mr. le Docteur Ralph secretly in Geneva, Switzerland. The work was first printed at the press of printer and bookseller Gabriel Cramer. Probably within days, editions were also published in Paris, Amsterdam, London and Brussels.

Immediately after its secretive publication, the book was widely banned because it contained religious blasphemy, political sedition and intellectual hostility hidden under a thin veil of naïveté. Attempts at censorship undoubtedly backfired, and promoted sales. Twenty different editions of the work dated 1759 have been identified. Of those, four with 299 pages, are considered the earliest. It is estimated that 20,000 to 30,000 copies of the work were sold during its first year, making it a resounding bestseller.

"The bibliographical history of this book has been exasperatingly complex and confused, and, until recently, virtually insoluble. The cumulative analyses of Ira Wade, Giles Barber, and Stephen Weissman, however, finally succeeded in resolving the matter conclusively. The 1759 Cramer edition containing 299-pages, with the points detailed below, has been given priority: the misprint 'que ce ce fut' on p. 103, line 4 (corrected in later editions to 'que ce fut'); the incorrect adjective 'precisement' on p. 125, line 4 (corrected in later editions to 'precipitamment'); with Voltaire‟s revisions on p. 31, where an unnecessary paragraph break was eliminated, and p. 41, where several short sentences about the Lisbon earthquake were rewritten. Finally, as in all of the few known copies of the Geneva printing, Chapter XXV (signature L) does not contain the paragraph critical of contemporary German poets, which Voltaire decided to drop while the book was being printed. Ten copies of the first issue are known, of which seven were bound without the final leaves N7, a blank, and N8, instructions to the binder concerning the cancellation of two pairs of leaves (B4 and B9 and D6 and D7)" (James J. Jaffe, list prepared for the New York Antiquarian Book Fair April 11, 2011, no. 124). 

The true first state is very rare, though it is likely that a few more than ten copies exist.

Barber 299G. Bengesco 14 34. Morize 59a. Wade 1. Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) No. 204. For the influence of Candide in the history of economics see Reinert, How Rich Countries Got Rich . . . and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor (2008) XIX-XXII.

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The First Book Printed Entirely on Wove Paper October 6, 1759 – 1760

The first book printed entirely on James Whatman's wove paper, which had been invented by Whatman circa 1756, and first issued in Baskerville's quarto Virgil published in 1757, was English Shakespearean critic Edward Capell's Prolusions; or, Select Pieces of Antient Poetry. . . . This work was beautifully printed in London by Dryden Leach and completed, according to his colophon, on October 6, 1759.  It was issued by publishers J. and R. Tonson, with a title page dated 1760. By 1759 Whatman's wove paper was substantially improved over that used in the Baskerville Virgil.

Capell's book is notable in bibliography for including the first quasi-facsimile transcriptions of title pages of printed texts referenced.

The work was also the first modern edition of many of the early literary pieces it republished.

Balston, The Whatmans and Wove (Velin) Paper (1998) xxxiv, 85-86.

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Bookseller Guillaume François de Bure Begins "Modern" Rare Book Cataloguing 1763 – 1782

"Modern" rare book cataloguing, with researched descriptive annotations, originated between 1763 and 1782 with the publication by antiquarian bookseller and bibliographer Guillaume François de Bure (Debure) of Bibliographie instructive; ou traité de la connoissance des livres rares et singuliersContentant un Catalogue raisonné del la plus grande partie de ces Livres précieux, qui ont paru successivement dans la République des Lettres, depuis l'Invention de l'Imprimerie, jusques à nos jours; avec des Notes sur la différences & la rareté actuelle, & son dégré plus ou moins considérable: la maniere de distinguer les Editions originale, d'avec les contrefaites, avec un Description Typographique particuliere du composé de ces rare Volumes, ou moyen de laquell il sera aisé de reconnoître facilement les Exemplaires, ou mutilés en partie, ou absolument imparfaits, qui s'en recontrent journellement dans le Commerce, & de les distinguer surrement de ceux qui seront exactement completes dans toutes leurs parties. Disposé par order de Matieres & des facultés, suivant de systême Bibliographique généralement adopté; avec un Table générale des Auteurs, & un systême complete de Bibliographie choisie.

This main work appeared in 7 volumes. Volumes 8 and 9, published in 1769, consisted of Supplement à la Bibliographie instructive, our Catalogue des Livres  du Cabinet de feu M. Louis Jean Gaignat. This was the auction catalogue of Gaignat's collection written and published by de Bure. More than a decade later, in 1782, de Bure issued a tenth volume, also subtitled verbosely:

"Contenant une Table destinée à faciliter la recherche des livres anonymes qui ont été announcés par M. de Bure le jeune dans sa Bibliographie instructive & dans le Catalogue de M. Gaignat, & à suppléer à tout ce qui a été omis dans les tables des ces deux ouvrages, précédée d'un discours sur la science bibliographique et sur les devoirs du bibliographe; et accompagné de courtes notes servant de correctif à différens articles de la Bibliographie, & d'additions à quelques-uns de ceux dans lesquels les noms des Auteurs Anonymes n'avoient par été dévoilés. 

De Bure organized his reference work, and the Gaignat auction catalogue, according to the basic five categories originally promoted by Gabriel Martin in the pioneering Bigot sale in 1706. Among the many notable features of the Bibliographie instructive, it was the first to identify and describe the Gutenberg Bible. De Bure's extensive description first appeared in Volume 1, Théologie (1763) pp. 32-40. In 1769 he provided a dealer's description of the same work in Volume One of the Gaignat sale catalogue, Supplement à la bibliographie instructive, lot 16, pp. 6-7.

Roughly one hundred years after the Bibliographie instructive was published Brunet II, 552-53 wrote of this work: 

"une production tout à fait neuve et assez remarkable à l'époque où elle parut: aujourd'hui même elle peut encore être consultée utilement pour plusieurs articles qui n'ont pas été décrits autre part avec autant de détails que là. Ce catalogue donne d'ailleurs une idée exact du goût qui dominait alors parmi des amateurs de livres rare et précieux."

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) No. 107.

My thanks to Jean-Paul Fontaine for pointing out the correct reference for De Bure's first description of the Gutenberg Bible.

(This entry was last revised on 06-15-2014.)

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The First Catalogue of the British Museum Library is Published 1787

The British Museum published the first catalogue of its library, Librorum impressorum qui in Museo Britannico adservantur catalogus, in 1786.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 109.

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André-Charles Caillot Issues a Bibliographical Guide to Antiquarian Bookselling and Collecting, with a Pioneering Exposition on Rarity 1790 – 1802

In 1790 antiquarian bookseller and publisher André-Charles Caillot published in 3 volumes Dictionnaire bibliographique, historique et critique des livres rares,

précieux, singulier, curieux, estimés et recherchés qui n'ont aucun prix fix, tant des auteurs connus que de ceux qui ne le sont pas, soit manuscrits, avant & depuis l'invention de l'Imprimerie; soit imprimés, et qui ont paru successivement de nos jours, en François, Grec, Latin, Italien, Espagnol, Anglis, & c. Avec leur valeur. Réduite à une just appréciation, suivant les prix auxquels ils ont été portés dans les ventes publiques, depuis la fin du XVIIe. Siecle jusqu'à présent. Auxquels on a ajouté, des observations & des Notes pour faciliter la connoissance exact & certaine des Editions originales, & les Remarques pour les distinguer les Editions contrefaits. Suivi d'n Essai de Bibliographie, où il est traité de la Connoissance & de l'Amour des Livres, de leurs divers degrés de rareté, & c. &c. Ouvrage utile et nécessaire A tous Littérateurs, Bibliographes, Bibliophiles, & à tous ceux qui veulent exercer, avec quelques connoissances, la Librairie ancienne et moderne.

In the introduction to their work the authors, who are not identified, explain how they were influenced by the Bibliographie instructive; ou traité de la connoissance des livres rares et singuliers issued by antiquarian bookseller Guillaume de Bure in 9 volumes from 1763 to 1769. They also provided a 10-page listing of the catalogues of about 100 auction sales of rare books that took place mainly in Paris from 1708 onward, together with the printed catalogues of a few private libraries, including the Catalogus Bibliothecae Thuanae (1679), from which they compiled their work. 

Perhaps the most notable feature of the work was the Essai de bibliographie, ou De la connissance & de l'amour des Livres, de leurs divers degrés de rareté, de la maniere de les classer, & de l'ordre de leurs facultés published on pp. 484-524 of volume 3.  This is one of the earliest discussions of the qualities of rarity in books, discussing the difference between absolute and relative rarity. By absolute rarity the authors meant books which were published in very small numbers, suppressed, or censored. By relative rarity they meant books which are sought after, collected or in demand even though they may be more or less common. In a footnote on p. 492 the authors referred to increased numbers of printers, lost morality, and increased production of scandalous, libellous or obscene literature as a result of the French Revolution.  In the Essai de bibliographie the authors also presented their refinement and expansion of the five basic subject categories under which information was organized in France since the beginning of the eighteenth century

In 1802 antiquarian bookseller and bibliographer Jacques Charles Brunet published a fourth and supplementary volume to this work. In the preface to that volume Brunet stated that the authors of the work, which was published by Caillot without attribution of authorship, were the abbé R. Duclos and the bookseller-publisher André-Charles Caillot.

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François-Xavier Laire Writes the First Catalogue of Incunabula Resembling Modern Bibliographies 1791

The first catalogue to describe 15th century printed books in bibliographical detail resembling modern bibliographies was the catalogue of the library of Archbishop of Sens Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne written by his librarian François-Xavier Laire. Laire's catalogue, issued in 2 volumes in Sens in 1791, and entitled Index librorum ab inventa typographia ad annum 1500 chronologicè dispositus cum notis historiam typographico-litterarium illustrantibus, described the composition of each book, its collation, etc.

Loménie de Brienne owned 1,332 incunabula, including 4 block books, 2 copies (both on paper) of the Gutenberg Bible, the 1459 Fust & Schöffer Psalter, and a copy of the first Durandus, the last two of which were on vellum. Besides his career in the church, Loménie de Brienne became finance minister to Louis XVI, and was instrumental in the downfall of the ancien régime by his attempts to find accomodation to the French Revolution. Financial reverses caused by the revolution forced him to sell his collection, and the catalogue states that the collection was to be sold en bloc, but if no buyer could be found after 6 months, the collection would be dispersed at auction. The sale occurred in Paris in March 1792, and owing to the political disruption that impacted all French libraries at the time, the results must have been mixed. Loménie was arrested at Sens on 9 November 1793, and died in prison in 1784, either of an apoplectic stroke or by poison.

Bigmore & Wyman I, p. 415. Pollard & Ehrman 212. 

(This entry was written in the Mediterranean near Crete on the Oceania Riviera on 06-10-2015.)

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Henri Grégoire Proposes a National Bibliography of France 1793 – 1794

French Catholic priest and revolutionary leader Henri Grégoire (Abbé Grégoire) published Instruction Publique. Rapport sur la bibliographie, delivered at the Convention nationale, seance du 22 Germinal, l'a 2 de la République. I have two different typeset versions of this pamphlet in my library, both of which consist of 16pp.  That with the colophon: DE L'IMPRIMERIE NATIONALE on the last leaf would appear to be first.

Grégoire believed that a French national bibliography would furnish material for :

1) a new history of France

2) a dictionary of pseudonymous and anonymous literature

3) a new geneological table of human knowledge

4) paleography of the French language, "which will be from now on the language of liberty."

By exchanging duplicates of rare and very expensive volumes, including specifically incunabula printed on vellum, the Bibliothèque nationale could be completed. (p. 11)

Abbé Grégoire hoped that the French government would sponsor this project, which it did not.  Had it done so, this would have been the first government-sponsored national bibliography.

Grégoire also condemned the recent destruction of libraries during the Revolutionary violence, and celebrated the arrival in Paris of a copy of Titus Livius, Historiae Romanae decades, edited by Joannes Andrea Bussi, bishop of Aleria. Venice: Vindelinus de Spira, 1470.  ISTC No.: il00238000. To Grégoire the copy was notable not only because of its rarity but because during a seige a bullet broke through its covers and margins without damaging the text (Grégoire p. 11).

An English translation of Grégoire's work was published in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin Bache in 1794: National Convention. Report on the means of compleating and distributing the National Library Made in the name of the Committee of Public Instruction, the 22d germinal, second year of the Republic. (April 11, 1794.) 

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Gottfried Erich Rosenthal Issues the First Comprehensive Bibliography of Technology 1795

Meteorologist and instrument manufacturer Gottfried Erich Rosenthal published Litterature der Technologie das ist: Verzeichniss der Bücher, Schriften und Abhandlungen, welche von den Künsten, den Manufackturen und Fabriken, der Handlung, der Handwerkern und sonstigen Nahrungszweigen, als auch von denen zum wissenschaflichen Betriebe derselben erforderlichen Kenntnissen aus dem Naturreich, der Mathematik, Physik und Chemie handeln.

Rosenthals' work was the first comprehensive bibliography of technology, containing about 20,000 references in European languages and Latin, but seemingly nothing in English. It shows the build-up of techical literature by the early stages of the Industrial Revolution.  It is particularly useful for the numerous references to early journal articles on specialized subjects.

This work was also issued as the final part of Jacobssons technologisches Wörterbuch oder alphabetische Erklärung aller nützlichen mechanischen Künste, Manufacturen, Fabriken und Handwerker (1781-95).

Petzhold p. 727.

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Pierre-Simon Laplace Issues "Traité de méchanique céleste" 1799 – 1827

French mathematician and astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace published Paris Traité de méchanique céleste in 5 volumes with several supplements from 1799 to 1827. This work was "a treatise on celestial mechanics in the tradition of Newton’s Principia. Here Laplace applied his mathematical theories of probability to celestial bodies and concluded that the apparent changes in the motion of planets and their satellites are changes of long periods, and that the solar system is in all probability very stable. He gave methods for calculating the movements of translation and rotation of heavenly bodies and for resolving problems of tides, from which he deduced the mass of the moon” (Dibner, Heralds of Science [1980] no. 14). Laplace’s system of celestial mechanics (a term he coined) marked an advance over that of Newton, who had posited the necessity of a Deity in the universe to correct planetary irregularities; Laplace on the other hand, when asked by Napoleon why his system contained no mention of the Creator, replied “I had no need of such a hypothesis.”

The bibliographical makeup of Mécanique céleste is among the most complex of science classics; see Horblit and the Norman library catalogue for collations and paginations. Two issues of Vols. I-II exist, one with the imprint of Crapelet and Duprat alone and the French Republican date “An VII”; and one dated “1799” with the additional imprint reading “Berlin: chez F. T. de la Garde, Libraire,” printed for European distribution. The third volume contains a single separately paginated supplement (“Supplément au Traité de mécanique céleste . . . présenté au Bureau des Longitudes, le 17 août 1808”); the fourth volume has two separately paginated supplements (“Supplément au dixième livre du Traité de mécanique céleste. Sur l’action capillaire” and “Supplément à la théorie de l’action capillaire”). The fifth volume’s supplement,  (“Supplément au 5e volume du Traité de mécanique céleste . . .”) appeared in 1827. It is not unusual for sets to be lacking one or more of the supplements. Vol. V, comprising a series of addenda to the first four volumes, appeared twenty years after Vol. IV; according to Laplace’s “Avertissement” to this volume, each of its five books was issued separately in the month indicated on its part-title.

Horblit, One Hundred Books Famous in Science no. 63. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1277. Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 252.

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1800 – 1850

The First Catalogue of the Library of Congress is Published April 1802 – October 1803

The first catalogue of the Library of Congress was a ten-page pamphlet issued in April 1802: Catalogue of Books, Maps, and Charts, Belonging to the Library of the Two Houses of Congress. This listed the original collection according to size: folios, quartos, octavos, and duodecimos, with estimated values for each, followed by nine maps and charts. 

In October 1803 the first supplement appeared: Supplemental Catalogue of Books, Maps, Charts, Belonging to the Library of the Two Houses of Congress. This 7-page pamphlet listed 180 volumes added since April 1802.

Sabin 15560 & 15561.

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Joseph Jérôme de Lalande Compiles the First Major Chronological Bibliography of Any Science 1803

Subject bibliographies are most commonly arranged by author. Bibliographie astronomique; avec l'historie de l'astronomie depuis 1781 jusqu'à 1802 by French astronomer and writer Joseph Jérôme de Lalande, published in Paris by the Imprimerie de la République in 1803, was prefaced by a vast 660-page often annotated chronological bibliography of the literature of astronomy. Lalande acknowledged that he was dependent for the earliest literature on references in Johann Frideric Weidler's Bibliographia astronomica. . . . (1775), a pioneering work which he frequently cited. Weidler followed a chronological arrangement, and it is probable that Lalande found it convenient as well as useful to improve and build upon Weidler's work. Lalande's chronological order in his brief first section on books composed "before the discovery of printing" was somewhat shakey, with entries from the ancient world inexact and sometimes out of chronological sequence in the first three pages. But by around the time of Cassiodorus, which Lalande set a bit inaccurately at 530 CE, Lalande found himself on firmer chronological ground. Once he passed to printed books he assumed greater authority, and many of his thousands of entries indicate that he examined the actual edition himself, and commented on the contents, reflecting an extraordinary familiarity with the a high percentage of the vast historical literature of astronomy.

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Filed under: Bibliography, Science

The First Practical Manual on Antiquarian Bookselling 1804 – 1805

In 1804-05 printer and bookseller Martin-Sylvestre Boulard wrote, printed, and published the first practical manual for antiquarian booksellers, entitled Traité élementaire de bibliographie, contenant la manière de faire les inventaires, les Prisées, les Ventes Publiques et de classer les Catalogues. Les bases d'une bonne Bibliothèque et la manière d'apprécier les livres rares et précieux. Ouvrage utile à tous les bibliographes et particulièrement aux Bibliothècaires et aux Libraires qui commencent in Paris in An XIII of the French revolutionary calendar (1804-05).

Janssen, "The Oldest Practical Manual for the Antiquarian Bookseller," Bulletin du Bibliophile (1997) 367-74.

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Brunet Compiles "Manuel du libraire," "The Best and Last of the General Rare Book Bibliographies" 1810 – 1865

Having previously published in 1802 a fourth and supplementary volume to Caillot and Duclos' Dictionnaire bibliographique, historique et critique des livres rares, in 1810 French antiquarian bookseller Jacques Charles Brunet issued in 3 volumes the Manuel du libraire et de l'amateur de livres, contenant

1.* Un Nouveau dictionnaire bibliographique, Dans lequel sont indiqués les Livres les plus précieux et les Ouvrages les plus utiles, tant anciens que moderns, avec des notes sur les différentes éditions qui ont été faites, et des remarques pour en reconnaitres les contrefaçons; on y a joint des détails nécessaires pour collationner les Livres anciens et les principaux Ouvrages à Estampes; la concordance des prix auxquels les éditions les plus rares ont été portées dans les ventes publiques faites depuis quarante ans, et l'évaluation approximative des Livres anciens qui se recontrent fréquement dans le commerce de la Librairie;

2.* Une table en forme de catalogue raisonné, Où sont classés méthodiquement tous les Ouvrages indiqués dans le Dictionnaire, et de plus, un grand nombre d'Ouvrages utiles, mais d'un prix ordinaire, qui n'ont past dû être placés an rang des Livres précieux

Brunet continued to revise and expand this encyclopedic guide during the rest of his life, completing the fifth edition in six volumes published from 1860-1865. Three supplementary volumes by booksellers Pierre Deschamps and Pierre Gustave Brunet were published from 1870 to 1880. This encyclopedic reference for antiquarian booksellers and collectors contained annotations concerning the scholarly and commercial value of rare books that in some cases remain unsurpassed in the early 21st century. More significantly it provided bibliographical, scholarly, and price information in one convenient, authoritative reference that was and often remains, invaluable for antiquarian booksellers, collectors, bibliographers, and librarians.

One of the many ways in which Brunet's work was useful and influential was in his expansion of the then-traditional classification scheme for information used in France since the beginning of the 18th century. This classification scheme, which divided information into five great divisions, originated in the seventeenth century, and was promoted by the first great book auctioneer in Paris, Gabriel Martin, who first employed it in the Bigot sale in 1706. The scheme, which was expanded in Catalogus librorum bibliothecae Joachimi Faultrier digestus a Prospero Marchand (1709), categorized information into the following subject areas: theology, jurisprudence, sciences and arts (initially called philosophy), belles-lettres (humane letters), and history. Thomas Hartwell Horne summarized Marchand's system in his Outlines for the Classification of a Library (1825) 3:

"The system of Prosper Marchand, an eminent Bookseller of Paris during the former part of the eighteenth century, is developed in his preface to the catalogue of the Library of M. Faultrier. Marchand first considers the different orders, according to which a Bibliographical System may be formed, viz. The natural order, the order of nations, the order of languages, the chronological order, and the alphabetical order. He then exhibits his plan, which he divides into three primary chapters, to comprehend the several classes of Books. To these he prefixes Bibliography, by way of introduction, and subjects Polygraphy as an appendix. The three primary chapters or fundamental classes are— Human Science or Philosophy, Divine Science or Theology, and the Science of Events or History. Philosophy is divided into two parts— Literae Humaniores or the Belles Lettres, and Literae Severiores, or the Sciences. The system of Marchand had many admirers when it first appeared, but it has been superceded by that of De Bure. . . ."

Marchand's preface to the Faultrier catalogue, incorrectly dated 1704, was translated into French and published in Claude-François Achard's, Cours elémentaire de bibliographie vol. 2 (1807) 100-106. In January 2015 I acquired from Librairie Paul Jammes in Paris a variant separate printing of Marchand's 52-page introduction to the Faultrier catalogue, with the addition of an index in very small type printed on its last leaf. This undated pamphlet, presumably issued in 1709, was entitled Epitome systematis bibliographici, seu Ordinis recte distribuendi Librorum Catalogi. My copy is bound in a volume with other works and may be lacking a separate title page, if one was issued. By comparing the online version of the complete catalogue with my version of the introduction, I have concluded that they were issued by the same printer, using the same typeface and the same ornamental head and tailpieces, but from a different setting of type. Most notably, on the first page of my version, Prosper Marchand identifies himself as the author, which he does not do in the full Faultrier catalogue. The index added to the text of my copy does not appear in the version that prefaces the Faultrier catalogue.

In Brunet's time Marchand's basic scheme, as modified by De Bure and others, was still used in French library cataloguing schemes, limiting the utility of subject cataloguing. In the third volume of his Manuel Brunet published Ordre des principales divisions de la table méthodique des ouvrages cités dans le nouveau Dictionnaire Bibliographique. This divided the traditional five subject categories into numerous sub-categories and divisions within those sub-categories. This he followed by listings of significant books in each of the categories and sub-categories in the classification scheme.

Breslauer & Folter,  Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) No. 118.

(This entry was last revised on 02-21-2015.)

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George Watterson Issues the First Extensive Catalogue of the Library of Congress November 1815

In November 1815 George Watterson, Librarian of Congress, published Catalogue of the Library of the United States. To Which is Annexed a Copious Index, Alphabeticaly Arranged. This work of 170 pages and 32 pages of index, was printed for Congress by Jonathan Elliot and issued from Washington. It represented the catalogue of the library of Thomas Jefferson, the foundation of the Library of Congress.

"In it each entry was numbered, not serially, but with the number corresponding with Jefferson's shelf-mark. This number was also inserted in the bookplate, purchased from William Elliot in October 1815, and pasted into each volume. The manuscript catalogue written by Jefferson and submitted to Congress for the purposes of the sale (through Samuel Harrison Smith) in 1814, seems to have been the 'fair copy of the Catalogue of my library' which he had made in 1812. This was later taken away by George Watterson and has now disappeared . . . [Another] catalogue was originally written by Jefferson in 1783, and is so dated by him on the fly-leaf; it was added to and supplemented continuously until the time of the negotiations for the sale in 1814' - Sowerby.

"The present catalogue differs dramatically in arrangement from Jefferson's original system of classification. Jefferson had organized his library according to a system derived from Book 2 of Francis Bacon's ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING. Beginning with Bacon's three categories of knowledge (memory, reason, and imagination), Jefferson devised forty-four classes or 'chapters.' Within chapters, the books were arranged sometimes analytically, sometimes chronologically, or both, and were subjected to further classification by size. While this method served Jefferson well and offered illuminating intellectual bridges between diverse fields, Watterson recognized the difficulty the average patron might have in accessing the books for which he might be searching. To remedy this problem, in the present catalogue Watterson arranged the catalogue alphabetically within each chapter by first word of the title without being prejudiced towards definite and indefinite articles. Both Watterson and Jefferson realized the imperfections of this new system, but once in place it proved too large a task to rectify it" (William Reese Company, online description, accessed from ILAB website 07-21-2009).

In 1820 Congress published Supplement to the Catalogue of the Library of Congress. This 28-page pamphlet listed approximately 700 titles acquired since the acquisition of Thomas Jefferson's library, with a focus on travels and voyages, the sciences, and European history. Sabin 15566.

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"The Book of Life: A Bibliographical Melody" 1820

In 1820 printer John Johnson, who would later be known for his Typographia (1824), issued fifty copies on paper and two on vellum of a poem entitled The Book of Life; A Bibliographical Melody. These copies Richard Thomson presented to the members of The Roxburghe Club on June 17, 1820. In 2013 I obtained an edition of the poem printed at the Feathered Serpent Press by Susan Acker and presented to the members of the Roxburghe Club of San Francisco and the Zamorano Club of Los Angeles by William P. Wreden in October 1990. The text reads as follows:

THE BOOK OF LIFE; A Bibliographical Melody

THAT Life is a Comedy oft hath been shown,

By all who Mortality's changes have known;

But more like a Volume it's actions appear,

Where each Day is Page, and Chapter a Year.

'Tis a Manuscript Time shall full surely unfold,

Though with Black-Letter shaded, or shining with Gold;

The Initial, like Youth, glitters bright on its Page,

But its Text is as dark—as the gloom of Old Age.

Then Life's Counsels of Wisdom engrave on thy breast,

And deep on thine Heart be her lessons imprest.


Though the Title stand first it can little declare,

The Contents which the Pages ensuing shall bear;

As little the first day of Life can explain

The succeeding events which shall glide in its train.

The Book follows next, and delighted we trace,

An Elzevir's beauty, a Guttemberg's grace;

Thus on pleasure we gaze with as 'raptured an eye, 

Till cut off like a Volume imperfect—we die!

The Life's Counsels of Wisdom engrave on thy breast,

And deep on thine Heart be her lessons imprest.


Yet e'en thus imperfect, complete, or defaced,

The skill of the Printer is still to be traced;

And though Death bend us early in life to his will,

The wise hand of our Author is visible still.

Like the Colophon lines, the Epitaph's lay,

Which tells of what age and what nation our day;

And, like the Device of the Printer, we bear

The form of the Founder, whose Image we wear.

The Life's Counsels of Wisdom engrave on thy breast,

And deep on thine Heart be her lessons imprest.


The work thus completed it's Boards shall enclose,

Till a Binding more bright and more beauteous it shows;

And who can deny, when Life's Vision hath past,

That the dark Boards of Death shall surround us at last.

Yet our Volume illumed with fresh splendours shall rise,

To be gazed at by Angels, and read to the skies,

Reviewed by it's Author, revised by his pen,

In a fair New Edition to flourish again.

The Life's Counsels of Wisdom engraved on thy breast,

And deep on thine Heart be her lessons Imprest.

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The First "Leaf Book" 1827

In 1827 English bibliographer Thomas Frognall Dibdin published the fourth and last of his editions of his An Introduction to the Knowledge of Rare and Valuable Editions of the Greek and Latin Classics in London. By this time Dibdin had expanded his work from its original 8vo edition (Gloucester, 1802) which consisted of only 63 pages, to a two-volume work of nearly 1200 pages. The work was expected to be a commercial success with 2000 copies issued on regular paper and 250 issued on large paper.

An innovative feature of the book was that all copies of both versions had pasted to p. 166 of volume 1 a proof leaf, printed on one side only, for William Pickering's very small format (32mo) Diamond Classics edition of the Greek New Testament (1828), making this the first "leaf book."

de Hamel & Silver, Disbound and Dispersed: The Leaf Book Considered (2005) p. 107, Checklist *0.5.

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The First Illustrated Antiquarian Bookseller's Catalogue 1829

In 1829 English antiquarian bookseller John Cochran of London issued A Catalogue of Manuscripts, in Different Languages, on Theology; English and Foreign History; Heraldry; Philosophy, Poetry; Romances; the Fine Arts (Including Calligraphy and some Splendid Persian Drawings;) Sports; Alchemy, Astrology, Divination; &c. &c. of Various Dates, from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Century, Many of them upon Vellum, and Adorned with Splendid Illuminations. To Which is Added a Small Collection of Manuscripts in the Oriental Languages; with an Appendix Containing a Few Printed Books, Some of them with Manuscript Notes and Autographs of Eminent Persons. This catalogue, written by John Holmes who was later assistant keeper of manuscripts at the British Museum, listed 650 items, each with annotated descriptions, some quite extensive. Presented in a cloth binding with printed paper label on the spine, this antiquarian bookseller's catalogue was the first to include illustrations of items offered for sale— a folding engraved frontispiece and five additional lithographed plates. The lithographs are all dated May 1829.

A.N.L. Munby, Connoisseurs and Medieval Miniatures 1750-1850 (1972) 123 mentions Holmes and Cochran's catalogue in the context of a discussion of collecting by Bertram, the Fourth Earl of Ashburnham.

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The Earliest Known Printed Dust Jacket (Now Lost) 1832

The earliest known printed detachable paper covering for a book is for The Keepsake . . . 1833 published by Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green & Longman in London, 1832. This was printed on front and back, the back cover containing an advertisement. It was designed to enclose the book completely, like wrapping paper.  Such wrappers were probably intended to be discarded by the user. The unique copy of the original with the jacket belonged to antiquarian bookseller and bibliographer John Carter, who reported on it in Publisher's Weekly in 1934, and Bibliographical Notes & Queries in 1935  The original was lost in 1952 "on the way to the Bodleian," as reported by Carter in Books and Book-Collectors (1956). Fortunately it had been photographed.

Tanselle, Book-Jackets: Their History, Forms, and Use (2011)  No. 32.1 (p. 112) illustrating the jacket from Carter's photograph as plate 1.

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Sir Thomas Phillipps, the Greatest Private Collector of Manuscripts in the 19th Century, and Maybe Ever 1837 – 1871

From his private press at his estate at Middle Hill, Broadway, Worcestershire, England, Sir Thomas Phillipps issued Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum in bibliotheca d. Thomae Phillips, Bt., listing the most significant collection of manuscripts ever assembled by a collector. According to A.N.L. Munby, this catalogue of Phillipps's manuscript collection, published in fascicules, or parts, over more than thirty years, was issued in only 50 copies, of which only three surviving copies may be considered complete. The fascicules were printed by a variety of printers, only some of whom worked at Phillipps's estate, and Phillipps bound up copies from both corrected and uncorrected sheets, resulting in copies that are exceptional in their bibliographical complexity. The catalogue includes 23,837 entries, which, for various reasons outlined by Munby, describe a considerably larger collection that may have comprised about 60,000 manuscripts. In 1968 Munby issued, in an edition of 500 copies, a facsimile of a complete copy of the Phillips catalogue which belonged at the time to rare book dealer Lew D. Feldman: The Phillipps Manuscripts. Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum . . . with an introduction by A.N.L. Munby. (London: Holland Press).

"Philipps began his collecting while still at Rugby School and continued at Oxford. Such was his devotion that he acquired some 40,000 printed books and 60,000 manuscripts, arguably the largest collection a single individual has created. . . . A.N.L. Munby notes that '[h]e spent perhaps between two hundred thousand and a quarter of a million pounds[,] altogether four or five thousand pounds a year, while accessions came in at the rate of forty or fifty a week.' His success as a collector owed something to the dispersal of the monastic libraries following the French Revolution and the relative cheapness of a large amount of vellum material, in particular English legal documents, many of which owe their survival to Phillipps. He was an assiduous cataloguer who established the Middle Hill Press (named after his country seat at Broadway, Worcestershire) in 1822 not only to record his book holdings but also to publish his findings in English topography and geneology."

"During his lifetime Phillipps attempted to turn over his collection to the British nation and corresponded with the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Disraeli in order that it should be acquired for the British Library. Negotiations proved unsuccessful and ultimately the dispersal of his collection took over 100 years. Phillipps's will stipulated that his books should remain intact at Thirlestaine House, that no bookseller or stranger should rearrange them and that no Roman Catholic should be permitted to view them. In 1885 the Court of Chancery declared this too restrictive and thus made possible the sale of the library which Phillipps’s grandson Thomas FitzRoy Fenwick supervised for the next fifty years. Significant portions of the European material were sold to the national collections on the continent including the Royal Library, Berlin, the Royal Library of Belgium and the Provincial Archives in Utrecht as well as the sale of outstanding individual items to the J. Pierpont Morgan and Henry E. Huntington libraries. By 1946 what was known as the 'residue' was sold to London booksellers Phillip and Lionel Robinson for £100,000, though this part of the collection was uncatalogued and unexamined. The Robinsons endeavored to sell these books through their own published catalogues and a number of Sothebys sales. The final portion of the collection was sold to New York bookseller H.P. Kraus in 1977 who issued a sale catalogue the same year: the last to bear the title Bibliotheca Phillippica. A five-volume history of the collection and its dispersal, Phillipps Studies, by A.N.L. Munby was published between 1951 and 1960" (Wikipedia article on Sir Thomas Phillipps, accessed 11-25-2008).

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Panizzi's 91 Rules for Standardizing the Cataloguing of Books 1841

In 1841 Antonio Panizzi, Keeper of the Department of Printed Books at the British Museum (now the British Library), issued 91 Rules for Compilation of the Catalogue. These rules represented the first rigorous and thorough attempt to standardize cataloguing of printed books. They appeared in the Catalogue of Printed Books in the British Museum, Volume 1, pp. v-ix, published in 1841. Remarkably only this single volume, covering the letter A, was published under Panizzi's direction. Though Panizzi supervised compilation of the full catalogue of the British Museum library in manuscript, the full catalogue did not begin to appear in print until 1881, two years after Panizzi's death. 

Along with publication of his 91 Rules, Panizzi had his new discipline of cataloguing applied in the first volume, which consisted of 457 two-column pages in small folio. Various of Panizzi's rules reflect social attitudes of the day. For example:

"V. Works of Jewish Rabbis, as well as works of Oriental writers in general, to be entered under their first name."

Concerning the rules and the catalogue Panizzi wrote in his preface to the first volume:

"The rules on which this Catalogue is based were sanctioned by the Trustees on the 13th of July, 1839; and, with the exception of such modifications as have been found necessary in order to accelerate the progress of the work, they have been strictly adhered to. Some additional rules, the want of which was not foreseen at the commencement, are printed in italics.

"The application of the rules was left by the Trustees to the discretion of the Editor, subject to the condition that a Catalogue of the printed books in the library up to the close of the year 1838 be completed within the year 1844. With a view to the fulfillment of this undertaking it was deemed indispensable that the Catalogue should should be put to press as soon as any portion of the manuscript could be prepared; consequently the early volumes must present omissions and inaccuracies, which it is hoped, will diminish in number as the work proceeds.

"In giving to the world the first volume of a Catalogue, which promises to be of an unprecedented extent, the Editor thinks that it would be premature to name each gentleman in his department to whose zeal and talents he is indebted for much that will add to its usefulness. He looks forward to a continuation of the same assistance; and he, therefore, reserves till after the conlusion of the work the particular expression of his obligations.

"British Museum, July 15th, 1841

"A. Panizzi"

From his comments above we may assume that Panizzi may have originally intended to issue a complete printed catalogue within the time frame set by the Trustees. However, he must have felt that the first volume of the catalogue was "rushed" into print in order to meet the Trustees' deadline of a complete catalogue being issued by the end of 1844. That no further volumes of the printed catalogue appeared in print until 40 years later, beginning two years after his death, was in no small part due to Panizzi's own objections to the huge cost of printing versus what he perceived as relatively small utility, and rapid obsolescence of printed catalogues, requiring frequent supplements. Having only a manuscript catalogue meant, of course, that the catalogue could only be consulted by users of the reading room. It also meant uneven legibility depending upon the quality of handwriting of whoever entered the data. It also meant that making a duplicate copy of a large printed catalogue would be very costly and might incorporate scribal errors. Having a printed catalogue would, of course be more legible, and having more than one copy available would allow more than one user to search the same portions at a time. Having the printed catalogue available at other research libraries would allow users in other cities and countries to know the holdings of the British Museum. Clearly this would stimulate scholarship. But to Panizzi and other librarians accustomed to working with manuscript catalogues these aspects did not seem convincing at the time. In his Memoirs of Libraries, Vol. II (1859) librarian and historian of libraries Edward Edwards devoted a chapter (pp. 850-868) of his section on library economy to the question of whether to print or not to print library catalogues because this was a topic currently in active discussion. Edwards clearly believed that the act of preparing a manuscript catalogue for the press would improve cataloguing, and that printed catalogues were superior to manuscript.  But the wheels of progress seem to have turned slowly in the catalogue department of the British Museum and in other national libraries, including the Bibliothèque nationale de France where the printed author catalogue did not begin to appear until 1897

The dramatic improvements in cataloguing resulting from Panizzi's new rules are evident if we compare the new catalogue entries with those in the prior British Museum catalogue compiled in Latin under the editorship of Henry Baber and Henry Ellis: Librorum impressorum qui in Museo britannico adservantur catalogue (7 vols. in 8, London, 1813-19). In August 2014 a digital facsimile of the first volume A-B was available from the Hathi Trust Digital Library at this link. Among the limitations of the Baber & Ellis cataloguing format, based on 16 rules loosely drawn up by Ellis, were sporadic cross-referencing and the cataloguing of anonymous works under a single title word arbitarily chosen by the individual cataloguer. For a discussion of the eventual advantages to scholarly research resulting from Panizzi's rules see my entry for the printed catalogue (1881-1900).

In spite of the eventual advantages to scholarship that would be gained by more sophisticated and standardized cataloguing, critics such as Nicolas Harris, decried the excess time and effort involved in these reforms. In 1846 Harris, who became one of Panizzi's most vocal critics, published Animadversions on the Library and Catalogues of the British Museum: A Reply to Mr. Panizzi's Statement; and a Correspondence with that Officer and the Trustees.

(This entry was last revised on 08-25-2014.)

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The First Annotated Bibliography of the History of Economics 1845

The Scottish economist John Ramsay McCulloch, Professor of political economy at University College London, wrote extensively on economic policy, and was a pioneer in the collection, statistical analysis and publication of economic data. His The Literature of Political Economy. A Classified Catalogue of Select Publications in the Different Departments of That Science with Historical, Critical, and Biographical Notices, published in London in 1845, was the first annotated and classified bibliography of classics in the historical literature of economics. Some of the annotations extend for more than a page and include extensive quotations. Each section begins with a general introduction, followed by a list of the principal works relating to that aspect of political economy, with notes on the individual works. There is a comprehensive author, title and subject index.

McCulloch was a noted book collector of books on a wide range of subjects besides economics. He published privately a listing of his library as  A Catalogue of Books, the Property of the Author of the Commercial Dictionary (London, 1856). McCulloch was also one of the earliest clients of the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch, and they remained close friends. In his Contributions towards a Dictionary of British Book-Collectors, fascicule VI, Quaritch and historian of economics James Bonar published reminiscences of McCulloch, a photograph, and two facsimiles of letters from McCulloch to Quaritch. After McCulloch's death in 1864 Quaritch sold McCulloch's library to McCulloch's friend, the banker and politician Samuel Jones-Loyd, 1st Baron Overstone for £5000. Bonar states that a significant portion of the books were destroyed in a fire at Overstone's house soon afterward. Lord Overstone's daughter bequeathed the surviving portion of McCulloch's library to the University of Reading.

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First Installments of the First Government-Sponsored National Union Catalogue of Manuscripts 1846 – 1849

In 1849 the first volume of Catalogue général des manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques des départements publié sous les auspices du Ministre d’instruction publique was published in Paris by the Imprimérie nationale. The 904-page quarto volume, with 2 folding lithographed plates, was the first installment of the first government-sponsored national union catalogue of manuscripts. The series eventually reached its fifty-ninth volume in 1975.

The first volume was undertaken under the leadership of the mathematician, paleographer and book thief, Guglielmo Libri. To this volume Libri made several major contributions. Besides his catalogue of the Seminary at Autun, first published separately in 1846, Libri wrote the catalogues of the city library and the medical school library at Montpellier, and of the library at Albi. Because Libri resigned from the commission before the catalogues received their final editing his work was revised for publication by Félix Ravaisson-Mollien.

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The First Separately Published Bibliography on the History of Science 1847

In 1847 mathematician, logician and pioneer collector of the history of mathematics, Augustus de Morgan published Arithmetical Books from the Invention of Printing to the Present Time, being Brief Notices of a Large Number of Works Drawn up from Actual Inspection.

De Morgan's work was the first separately published bibliography on the history of science excluding economics; McCulloch's annotated bibliography of the history of economics preceded it in 1845. The bulk of de Morgan's book consisted of an extensively annotated list of treatises on arithmetic from 1491 to 1846, arranged in chronological order; de Morgan claimed that he had personally examined every book. Most of the books described were from de Morgan’s own library. De Morgan stated that he was able to acquire his library at relatively low cost because of the obscurity of the subjects involved. A few of the books he described came from the libraries of collector friends, and a few from the library of the British Museum. There is an index of 1,580 entries.  In The History and Bibliography of Science in England (1968) A. N. L. Munby stated that “only in the physical descriptions of books cited is De Morgan’s great work disappointing.”

De Morgan was an eloquent exponent of the value of collecting the history of science. He wrote on p. ii his prefatory letter to Arithmetical Books:

“The most worthless book of a bygone day is a record worthy of preservation. Like a telescopic star, its obscurity may render it unavailable for most purposes; but it serves, in hands which know how to use it, to determine the places of more important bodies.”

After de Morgan's death in 1871 his library of about 4500 books, pamphlets, manuscripts and autograph letters was purchased by British banker and politician Samuel Jones-Loyd, 1st Baron Overstone and donated by him to the University of London, becoming the first special collection at the Unversity of London library. Even though de Morgan’s library was not kept together when it was transferred, his books were separately identified in the printed catalogue of the Library published in 1876. Thus it is possible to study one of the pioneering collections of books formed in England not just on mathematics, but on a wide range of the history of physical sciences. In 2012 the Senate House Library of the University of London showed examples from de Morgan's library on its website: http://www.ull.ac.uk/specialcollections/demorganexploration.shtml

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1850 – 1875

Charles Jewett Proposes a National Union Catalogue 1852

In 1852 Charles C. Jewett, librarian of the Smithsonian Institution, published On the Construction of Catalogues of Libraries and Their Publication by Means of Separate Stereotyped Titles With Rules and Examples. In this work Jewett described a plan for a national union catalogue of public libraries.

"His [Jewett's] intention was to secure general uniformity of bibliographic records through a system of "stereotyping" each title. This plan would have made it possible for libraries to print annual editions of their catalogs, incorporating the titles acquired 'during the previous year in each new edition, and for the Smithsonian to print a general union catalog which would have included' both its own holdings and those of all the public libraries. The uniformity Jewett sought was to be achieved not just through stereotyping but also through use of a single set of general cataloging rules which would be used by all the libraries. In the same year Jewett published a report titled On the Construction of Catalogues of Libraries which, among other things, set forth the first American cataloging rules for establishing headings for author entries. The report contained thirty-nine rules which were based on those of Panizzi. In fact Jewett acknowledged outright that he used some of Panizzi's rules verbatim. And Jewett's stated goal of serving the needs of users also reflected Panizzi s ideas. Though his project never came to final fruition, years later his goal of compiling a union catalog was met in the United States when the National Union Catalog began publication in 1953 and in Germany as early as 1899 when the Prussian Instructions was compiled under Jewett's influence" (J R. Hufford, The Pragmatic Basis of Catalog Codes: Has the User Been Ignored [2007] 29).

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Andrea Crestadoro Describes Keyword in Context Indexing 1856

In 1856 bibliographer Andrea Crestadoro, an acquaintance of Anthony Panizzi, exasperated with delays in production of the British Museum Catalogue of Printed Books, published anonymously The Art of Making Catalogues of Libraries, or a Method to Obtain a Most Perfect Complete and Satisfactory Printed Catalogue of the British Museum Library by a Reader Therein.

Crestadoro's booklet served as basis for a catalogue code. "In it he advocated the idea of the 'inventorial' catalog which would have detailed entries arranged in order of accession. The library patron was to be provided access to the entries through an alphabetical index of names and subjects. The Public Library of Manchester, England adopted this approach for its catalog and hired Crestadoro to implement it there in 1864. Like Panizzi, Crestadoro intended to have his catalog serve the needs of catalog users, but the rules of his code were not based on an empirical investigation of those needs" (J. R. Hufford, The Pragmatic Basis of Catalog Codes: Has the User Been Ignored [2007] 29).

At the end of his pamphlet Crestadoro advocated production of a universal catalogue of all publications.

Crestadoro implemented his ideas for Keyword in Context Indexing (KWIC) in the Catalogue of the Manchester Free Library: Reference Department  (1864). 

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Bibliographer Henry Bradshaw Rebuts Constantine Simonides' Claim that Simonides had Forged the Codex Sinaiticus 1862 – 1863

The bibliographer Henry Bradshaw, who is considered the founder of modern bibliographical analysis, normally avoided public controversy. However, Bradshaw did publish correpondence rebutting the claims of the Constantine Simonides that Simonides had forged the Codex Sinaiticus. It is believed that Simonides made these claims in order to take revenge against Constantin Tischendorf, discoverer of the Codex Sinaiticus after Tischendorf disproved the authenticity of other forgeries by Simonides. The best account of this incident that I have found appears in Prothero, A Memoir of Henry Bradshaw (1888) 92-97, from which I quote. Note that Bradshaw's letter quoted by Prothero, discusses his method of judging authenticity. The letter also seems a model of tact and diplomancy:

"In the early part of 1863, Bradshaw, who abstained from public discussions in general, took some part in a controversy about the authenticity of the Codex Sinaiticus, which made considerable stir in the learned world at that time. This precious document, now generally recognized as the most ancient manuscript of the Bible, was discovered by Dr. Tischendorf in 1859, in the monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai. The controversy about it, now well nigh forgotten, is sufficiently amusing to make it worth while to recall its more important passages. One Simonides a Graeculus escuriens who had some time before been convicted by Dr. Tischendorf of endeavouring to palm off forged manuscripts, gave out, apparently in order to revenge himself, that the Codex Sinaiticus was itself a forgery. He declared that he had written it with his own hands when a young man. This 'whimsical story,' as Dr. Hort calls it, obtained a certain amount of credence. During the autumn of 1862 and the early part of 1863 a correspondence was carried on in the Guardian on the subject. In the number of that paper for September 3, 1862, is a long letter from Simonides, purporting to give an account of how he came to write the manuscript and how it passed into the possession of the monks of Sinai. 'Any person learned in palaeography,' he remarks, 'ought to be able tell at once tht it is a manuscript of the present age,' and he concludes, with an amusing air of injured innocence, 'You must permit me to express my sincere regret that, whilst the many valuable remains of antiquity in my possession are frequently attributed to my own hands, the one poor work of my youth is set down by a gentleman who enjoys a great reputation for learning, as the earliest copy of the Sacred Scriptures.' The story of Simonides was ingeniuous and full of circumstantial details, but it contained statements which, when carefully examined, carried with them their own refutation. Its absurdities were exposed by Mr. Aldis Wright, in a lettered published in the Guardian for November 5, 1862. A month later, a letter appeared in the Guardian, purporting to be written by one Kallinikos Hieromonachos, who wrote in defence of Simonides. His letter was in Greek, and a translated was appended by the editor, who made no concealment of his suspicions. 'I have read,' says the unknown writer, 'what the wise Greek Simonides has published respecting the pseudo-Sinaitic Codex by means of your excellent weekly publication, and I too myself declare to all men by this letter that the Codex. . . which was abstracted by Dr. Tischendorf from the Greek monastery of Mount Sinai, is a work of the hands of the unwearied Simonides himself, inasmuch as I myself saw him in 1840 in the month of February, writing it in Athos.' n the next number Simonides writes to back up his friend. 'I must inform you,' he says, 'that the above mentioned Kallinikos is a perfectly upright and honourable man, well known for truth and probity, so that his simplest word may be relied on.'

"Mr. Aldis Wright had little dificulty in disposing of his advocacy, and involving Simonides in a tissue of inconsistencies and improbablities. 'What does the evidence amount to' he asks. 'Kallinikos says, 'Simonides wrote the Codex, for I saw him.' 'Believe Kallinikos,' says Simonides, 'for he saw me write it.' We know Simonides, but who is Kallinikos?' Unfortunately, no proof of his existence, much less of his probity was forthcoming. 'His story,' says Mr. Haddam, in a letter to Bradshaw, 'reminds me of an Irish lad from Commemara, who sent his regards to the man who had been fishing there, with the said lad to help, and begged him to tell the Londoners 'any number or weight of fish he liked,' as having been caught by him, and he would be ready and delighted to swear to it.' The British chaplain at Alexandria knew nothing of Kallinikos, 'the Greek monk who takes in the Guardian and the Churchman.' In vain did Simonides attempt to strengthen his case by publishing several more letters from Kallinikos. Strange to say, one correspondent of the Guardian, at least, appears to have thought that a repetition of unsupported assertions constituted a proof, but the majority were less easily convinced. Mr. Haddan urged Bradshaw to interfere. In a letter dated November 19, 1862, he says, 'You could really do a service to truth if you would put upon paper the results of your examination of the Codex, and let it be published, with or without your name. . . . The question is really important, and you could throw light upon it.' To this Bradshaw replated that he thought the time was not yet ripe for discussing the palaeographical part of the question.

"However, Simonides returned to the charge, and in a long letter to the Guardian (January 21, 1863) stated, among other facts tending to prove his scapacity for writing the Codex, that had written a letter in uncial characters to Mr. Bradshaw a few months before, when he was staying at Cambridge during the meeting of the British Association. This prodcuced the following letter from Bradshaw, published in the Guardian for January 28, 1863:-


"As Dr. Simonides has cited a letter which he wrote to me in uncial characters in October last, while he was at Cambridge, and as I have with my own eyes seen and examined the Codex Sinaiticus within the last few months, perhaps you will allow me to say a few words.

"The note which Dr.Simonides wrote to me was to convince me and my friends that it was quite possible for him to have written the volume in question, and to confirm his assertion that the uncial character of the manuscript was as familiar and easy for him to write as the common cursive hand of the present day.

"He had invited some of us to Christ's College to examine his papyri and to discuss matters fairly. He could spak and understand English pretty well, but his friend was with him to interpret and explain. They first taxed us with believing in the antiquity of manuscripts solely on the authority of one man like Tischendorf, and they really seemed to believe that all people in the West were as ignorant of Greek as the Greeks are of Latin. But the great question was, 'How do you satisfy yourselves of the genuineness of any manuscript?' I first replied that it was really difficult to define, that it seemed to be more a kind of instinct than anything else. Dr Simonides and his friend readily caught at this as too much like vague assertion, and they naturally ridiculed any such idea. But I further said that I had lived for six years past in the constant, almost daily habit of examining manuscripts—not merely the text of the works contained the volumes, but the volumes themselves as such; the writing, the paper or parchment, the arrangement or numbering of the sheets, the disinction between the original volume and any additional matter by later hands, etc.'; and that, with experience of this kind, though it might be difficult to assign the special ground of my confidence, yet I hardly ever found myself deceived even by a very well-executed facsimile. All this Dr. Simonides allowed and confirmed. He gave the instance of the Jews in the East, who could in an instant tell the exact proportion of foreign matter in a bottle of otto of roses, where the most careful chemical analysis might fail to detech the same. Indeed, any tradesman acquires the same sort of experience with regard to the quality  of the particular goods which are daily passing through his hands; and this is all that I claimed for myself. Dr. Simonides afterwards told me himself that this was the only safe method of judging, that there was no gainsaying such evidence, and that he only fought anginst persons who mad strong and vague assetions without either proof or experience. yet when I told him that I had seen the Codex Sinaiticus, he spoke as if bound in honour not to allow in this case the value of that very criterion which he had before confessed to be the surest; and he wrote the letter to which he refers, in the hope of convincing me. I told him as politely as I could that I was not to be convinced against the evidence of my senses.

"On the 18th of July last I was at Leipzig with a friend, and we called on Professor Tischendorf. Though I had no introduction but my occupation at Cambridge, nothing could exceed his kindess; we  were with him for more than two hours, and I had the satisfaction of examining the manuscript after my own fashion. I had been anxious to know whether it was written in even continousl quaternions throughout, like the Codex Bezae, or in a series of fasciculi each ending with a quire of varying size, as the Codex Alexandrinus, and I found the latter to be the case. This by-the-by, is of itself sufficient to prove that it cannot the be the volume which Dr. Simonides speaks of having written at Mount Athos.

"Now, it must be remembered that Dr.Simonides always maintained two points—first, that the Mount Athos Bible witten in 1840 for the Emperor of Russia was not meant to deceive any one, but was only a beautiful specimen of writing in the old style, in the character used by the writer in his letter to me; secondly, that it was Professor Tischendorf's ignorance and inexperience which rendered him so easily deceived where no deception was intended. For the second assertion, no words of mine are needed to accredit an editor of such long standing as professor Tischendorf. For the first, though a carefully made facsimile of a few leaves inserted among several genuine ones might for a time deceive even a well-practised eye, yet it is utterly impossible that a book merely written in the antique style, and without any intent to deceive, should mislead a person of moderate experience. For myself, I have no hesitation in saying that I am as absolitely certain of the genuineness and antiquity of the Codex Sinaiticus as I am of my own existence. Indeed, I cannot hear of any one who has seen the book who thinks otherwise. Let any one go to St. Petersburg and satisfy himself. Let Dr. Simonides go there and examine it. He can never have seen it himself, or I am sure that, with his knoweldge of manuscripts, he would be the first to agree with me. The Mount Athos Bible mut be a totally different book; and I only regret, for the sake of hismelf and his many friends in England, that he has been led on, from knowing that his opponents here have seen no more of the original book that he has himself, to make such rash and contradictory assertions, that sober people are almost driven to think that the Greek is playing with our matter-of-fact habits of mind, and that, as soon as he has tired out his opponents, he will come forward and ask his admirers for a testimonial to his cleverness. 

"Henry Bradshaw, Cambridge, January 26, 1863"


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Henry Bradshaw Begins Modern Bibliographical Analysis April 1870

In 1870 librarian and bibliographer of Cambridge University Henry Bradshaw issued A Classified Index of the Fifteenth Century Books in the Collection of the Late M. J. de Meyer. This 28-page pamphlet published in London represented the beginning of modern bibliographical analysis.

“In April 1870 Henry Bradshaw, librarian of Cambridge University, published a little pamphlet entitled A Classified Index of the Fifteenth Century Books in the Collection of the Late M. J. de Meyer, Which Were Sold at Ghent in November 1869. Despite the unpromising title, it deserves to be considered a landmark in intellectual history—indeed, as far as bibliographical scholarship is concerned, one of the greatest of landmarks—for it contains a passage of major significance  emphasizing the importance of systematically examining the physical evidence in printed books. Bradshaw insisted that arranging early books according to the locations and presses where they were printed was the only method whereby knowledge of early printing would be advanced, since it provides a basis for dating or identifying the printers of books that do not readily proclaim their origins:

'we desire that the types and habits of each printer should be made a special subject of study, and those points brought forward which show changes of advance from year to year, or, where practicable, from month to month. When this is done, we have to say of any dateless or falsely dated book that it contains such and such characteristics, and we therefore place it at such a point of time, the time we name being merely another expression for the characteristics we notice in the book. In fact each press must be looked upon as a genus, and each book as a species, and our business is to trace the more or less close connexion of the different members of the family according to the characters which they present to our observation. The study of palaeotypography has been hitherto mainly such a dilettante matter, that people have shrunk from going into such details, though when once studied as a branch of natural history, it is as fruitful in interesting results as most subjects' (Bradshaw 15-16).

"This passage gains its landmark status by being the first published rationale of bibliographical methodology, explicitly envisioning a whole field of endeavor, from the person who was more responsible than any other for setting in motion what Stanley Morison called the ‘bibliographical revolution’ ” (Tanselle, Bibliographical Analysis: A Historical Introduction [2009] 6-7).

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Charles Babbage's Library: the First Catalogue of a Library on Computing and its History 1872

In 1872, the year after his death, Charles Babbage’s scientific library was sold at auction. The auction catalogue, containing over two thousand items on topics such as mathematical tables, cryptography, and calculating machines, and including many rare volumes, may be the first catalogue of a library on computing and its history.

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Henry Stevens Calls for a Central Bibliographical Bureau Which Would Also Store Images July 25 – November 29, 1872

American antiquarian bookseller and bibliographer Henry Stevens  published an auction catalogue of books, manuscripts, maps, and charts verbosely titled as follows:

Bibliotheca geographica & historica or a catalogue of a nine days sale of rare & valuable ancient and modern books maps charts manuscripts autograph letters et cetera illustrative of historical geography & geographical history general and local. . . collected used and described. With an introduction on the progress of geography and notes annotatiunculae [sic] on sundry subjects together with an essay upon the Stevens system of photobibliography. Part I. To be dispersed by auction . . . [in] London the 19th to 29th November 1872.

In his essay introductory to the catalogue entitled Photobibliography. A Word on Catalogues and How to Make Them Stevens calls for "A Central Bibliographical Bureau" which would produce standard bibliographical descriptions of items that could be used by other cataloguers and bibliographers.  Analogous to what later became national union catalogues of books, Stevens imagined that this could "be made self-supporting or even remunerative, like the Post Office."  He also called for a standardized system of recording reduced size images called "photograms" of books according to "one uniform scale." This would reduce "all the titles, maps, woodcuts, or whatever is desired to copy" to fit the images onto standardized filing cards on which bibliographical details could be written by hand, to spare the bibliographer the time and effort of transcribing title pages.  Negatives would be stored compactly, and prints made for reproduction in printed catalogues, etc. As examples Stevens had an albumen print of a title page pasted in as the frontispiece of the auction catalogue, plus a small circular photograph of "Ptolemy's World by Mercator" pasted onto the title page.   Stevens noted the he also made available a few copies of the auction catalogue on thicker paper with about 400 pasted-on "photograms."

Stevens later expanded on this idea in a paper entitled "Photobibliography, or a Central Bibliographical Clearing-House" presented to the 1877 Conference of Librarians held in London (see "Transactions and Proceedings of the Conference", pp. 70-81). In 1878 Stevens published privately a 16mo pamphlet of 49pp. entitled, Photo-Bibliography; or, a Word on Printed Card Catalogues of old, rare, beautiful, and costly books, and how to make them on a Co-operative System; and Two Words on the Establishment of a Central Bibliographical Bureau, or Clearing-house, for Librarians.  Bigmore & Wyman, A Bibliography of Printing (1880) III, 401.

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Bigmore & Wyman Issue the First Comprehensive Bibliography of the History of Printing 1873 – 1886

After announcing the project in 1873 printer Charles William Henry Wyman and bibliographer and antiquarian bookseller Edward C. Bigmore began publishing in January 1876 A Bibliography of Printing with Notes and Illustrations in monthly issues of Wyman's Printing Times and Lithographer magazine, completing serial publication in 1885. Perhaps it was not coincidental that publication of this work coincided with the planning and occurence of the massive 1877 Caxton Celebration, for which Wyman served on a sub-committee. Beginning in 1880 Bigmore and Wyman's work was published in book form by London antiquarian bookseller and publisher Bernard Quaritch in an edition limited to 250 copies, with the third and final volume issued in 1886. Describing roughly 10,000 books, pamphlets and periodicals, this was the first detailed, annotated bibliography of the history of printing, and one of the earliest comprehensive annotated bibliographies of any technical subject.  It was completed with the assistance of printer, historian of printing, bibliographer and book collector William Blades, of printer and of American printing historian Theodore Low De Vinne, whose historical treatise, The Invention of Printing. A Collection of Facts and Opinions was first published in 1876, and others. In particular Blades, the greatest English scholar printer of his time, turned over to the authors his comprehensive notes for a bibliography of the subject which Blades had long planned, but instead chose to have incorporated into Bigmore and Wyman's project.

Regarding the scope of the project the authors wrote in the prospectus (p. 5):

"The Compliers have limited the signification of the word 'Printing,' by rejecting photographic printing, calico printing, telegraphic printing, &c., as irrelevant processes which are not ulitised for literary purposes. In fact, the works cited are those treating of typographic, lithographic, copperplate printing, &c., with the cognate arts of type-founding, stereotyping, electrotyping, and wood-engraving. The subjects of Paper and Bookbinding are not included, although it would have been an interesting task to deal with them, as would also have been the case with Copyright and Laws regulating the Press; but though they bear very closely on the subject, they seem to belong rather to the results and outcome of printing than to printing itself."

When it came to printing the book form edition of the bibliography ironically Wyman did a questionable job. He had the text set in hard-to-read solid 8-point type with the lengthy notes set in even smaller, more difficult to read 6-point type. He used typical acidic wood-pulp paper then available, with the result that most copies of the original edition have become brittle with age. Furthermore the original edition lacked an index.  Twentieth century facsimile reprints of this very useful work remedied the paper problem by printing on acid-free paper. The best facsimile edition was issued in 2001 and Oak Knoll Press. It reproduced the text in enlarged and more legible form with a new introduction by printer Henry Morris and a new index.

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1875 – 1900

The First Truly Comprehensive Subject Index of the Published Literature of Any Science 1876 – 1961

John Shaw Billings, librarian of the Library of the Surgeon-General's Office (now the National Library of Medicine) began publication of the The Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General’s Office in 1880. This was the first large-scale subject index of any library, and the first truly comprehensive subject index of the published literature of any science. 

Probably to obtain funding for the project, four years prior to the beginning of publication of the Index Catalogue Billings issued a Specimen Fasciculus ot a Catalogue of the National Medical Library Under the Direction of the Surgeon-General, United States Army (Washington, 1876). Besides providing examples of his ambitious cataloguing plans, the fasciculus shows that Billings viewed the Library of the Surgeon General's Office as a national medical library.

Before online databases the Index-Catalogue became a landmark in the history of efforts to organize information and to make it searchable, and a primary general reference for the history of medicine and science. The fifith and final series was issued in 1961. The finished set of printed books contained "over 4.5 million. . . references to over 3.7 million bibliographic items.  2.5 million items are primarily journal articles; 250,000 items are monographs (books, pamphlets, and reports); approximately 300,000 items are dissertations (theses); and 16,000 are journal titles. Series 1 and Series 2 include portraits as separate citations but Series 3, 4, and 5 indicate portraits in descriptive notes for monographs and dissertations."

In 1952 the name of the library was changed to Armed Forces Medical Library; it became the National Library of Medicine in 1956. See S. J. Greenberg & P. E. Gallagher, "The great contribution: Index MedicusIndex-Catalogue, and IndexCat," J. Med. Libr. Assoc. 97 (2009) 108–113.

The Index-catalogue is available online from the National Library of Medicine at this link.

(This entry was last revised on 05-04-2015.)



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The Last Library Cataloguing Code Written by One Person 1876

In 1876 Charles Ammi Cutter, librarian at the Boston Athenaeum, published Rules for a Printed Dictionary Catalogue. This was the last library cataloguing code written by one person.

"In his prefatory note, Cutter claimed to be the first investigator of the 'first principles of cataloguing' and the first to 'set forth the rules in a systematic way.' One of the principles he expostulated was that 'the convenience of the user should be preferred to the ease of the cataloguer.' Cutter urged catalogers to do such things as select the customary use of the names of subjects and the best known form of the author's name so that this goal might be fulfilled. The code's introduction lists objectives and means to bring about this convenience. These objectives and means have been studied for years by students of cataloging code history. Exactly how the 'convenience of the user' would be determined Cutter did not specify; he himself, it would seem, relied upon his own experience rather than any systematic study of user needs or behavior. No one else did such a study during these years either: such things as survey research and transaction log analysis were twentieth century phenomena" (J. R. Hufford, The Pragmatic Basis of Catalog Codes: Has the User Been Ignored? [2007] 29]

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The First American Bibliography on the History of Printing 1877

In 1877 American printing press inventor and manufacturer Richard March Hoe published The Literature of Printing. A Catalogue of the Library Illustrative of the History and Art of Typography Chalcography and Lithography.  A New Yorker, Hoe had this catalogue privately printed on handmade paper at the Chiswick Press in London in a small, but unspecified number of copies.  Its only illustration was a frontispiece showing one of Hoe's high speed presses. According to the Catalogue of the Wlliam Blades Library (1899) this catalogue was compiled by bibliographer and antiquarian bookseller Edward C. Bigmore, co-author of the Bigmore and Wyman, A Bibliography of Printing (1880-1886).  

That Hoe, an American at the center of the American printing industry, chose to have the catalogue of his private library on the history and technique of printing published in London in 1877 rather than by a fine printer in America leads me to believe that he was motivated by the Caxton Quadricentennial Celebration, and its catalogue, which occurred in London in that year. Hoe's name appears on the list of the General Committee for the celebration printed on p. xvii of the celebration catalogue.  Because of this, I think we might reasonably speculate that Hoe wanted to show some of his fellow printing history enthusiasts in England the treasures that he had gathered in America on the history of the subjects.  Whatever Hoe's motivation, his catalogue was the first American bibliography on the history of printing and typography.

My copy of Hoe's catalogue has Hoe's signed inscription to the American minister, journalist and politician Rev. Samuel J. Barrows, who had worked for Richard Hoe as a very young man.  

Hoe died in 1886. In January 1887, ten years after Hoe's catalogue was published, his library was dispersed at auction in New York by Bangs & Co. The first 1433 lots consisted of Hoe's library on the history of printing; the remainder of the roughly 2000 lots included miscellaneous subjects.

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The Caxton Quadricentennial Celebration: Probably the Largest Exhibition on the History of Printing Ever Held; Collecting its Publications June 30 – September 1, 1877

In the summer of 1877, four hundred years after printer William Caxton published The Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres, the first book printed in England, the Caxton Celebration opened in the western International Exhibition Galleries on the Queen's road side of the Horticultural Society's Gardens at South Kensington in London. The exhibition was organized by its Chairman, typefounder and politician Sir Charles Reed, by large scale industrial printer William Clowes, by mathematician and physicist from a family of major printers, William Spottiswoode, by printer, biographer and bibliographer of Caxton and rare book collector, William Blades, and various committees. Two hundred or more people participated in some way as patrons or members of committees, representing a "who's who" of the printing industry in England and Europe at the time, along with leading scientists, scholars, librarians and collectors. A few Americans such as printing machine designer and builder Richard M. Hoe were also involved in committees. The exhibition was open for two months, from June 30 to September 1, 1877. According to David McKitterick, Old Books, New Technologies  (2013, p. 175) the exhibition "attracted a reported 23,684 visitors" —an impressive number considering the population size and literacy levels of the time.

Planning for the exhibition, of course, started many months before it opened, and publicity was extensive. The illustrated newspaper, The Pictorial World in their issue of February 24, 1877, reported on a preliminary meeting of planners, including Sir Charles Reed and W. Spottswoode, held in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey, a published an engraving showing 12 mostly bearded men sitting around a table, including a secretary taking notes. Publicity for the show eventually seems to have included marketing to children, or at least to parents who read to children. It is hard to imagine how such incentives would have any appeal to children, or their parents, in the second decade of the 21st century:

"Maclise's celebrated painting of Caxton showing the first specimen of his printing to Edward IV had been painted twenty years earlier, and when it was engraved in 1858 it was in the possession of John Forster (d. 1876). In 1877 it was on loan from its new owner, Lord Lytton, to the South Kensington Museum. The central part of the engraving was reissued in April 1877, as a contribution to the festivities. Reproductions were available at reduced prices to readers of Young Folks and Young Folk's Weekly Budget. As the original copies of the steel engraving had cost 4 guineas and upwards, the special offer price of a shilling plus vouchers from the magazines was a considerable bargain" (David McKitterick, Old Books, New Technologies [2013] 170-71.)

In their issue of June 30, 1877, the opening day of the exhibition, the British illustrated weekly newspaper, The Graphic, published a double-page image captioned "The Caxton Celebration. William Caxton Showing Specimens of His Printing to King Edward IV and His Queen." In their issue of July 1, 1877 The Illustrated London News published a collection of images related to the exhibition called "Caxtoniana." The same newspaper in their issue of July 7 (p. 18) published an article on the opening of exhibition and on p. 17 a large image captioned, "Mr. Gladstone at the Caxton Memorial Exhibition, South Kensington, on Saturday Last." The image showed Prime Minister Gladstone watching printing done on a "Gutenberg-style" hand-press. The Illustrated London News described the opening ceremony of the exhibition as follows:

"The opening ceremony was brief and simple. The leading part was borne by the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone. He was met by Sir Charles Reed, chairman of the committee; Mr. W. Blades, the biographer of Caxton; and the other gentlemen we have named, with the Archbishop of York. A large assembly of ladies and gentlemen filled the rooms assigned for this ceremony, as well as the adjacent galleries. After a special dedicatory prayer offered by the Archbishop, Sir Charles Reed read a short statement of the occasion and the objects of the Exhibition. Mr. Hodson, secetary to the Printers' Pension Corporation, handed to Mr. Gladstone a copy of the Exhibition Catalogue. The right hon. gentleman then declared the Exhibition to be opened. This formal declaration was immediately hailed by a flourish of trumpets from the band of the Royal Horse Guards Blue. Mr. Gladstone was conducted through the exhibition, which he examined with attentive interest. Our Illustration shows him looking at the working of an old press. There was a luncheon provided by the Conservatory of the Horticultural Society's Gardens. The chair was occupied by Mr. Gladstone, at whose right hand sat his Majesty the Emperor of Brazil, but the Emperor left the table before the toasts were proposed. His Majesty's health was, of course, duly honoured next to that of our Queen and Royal family. In his principal speech, giving the memory of William Caxton for the chief toast, Mr. Gladstone commented upon the invention of printing, with his usual copiousness of thought and knowledge, and expressed his admiration of the results now attained. The other speakers were the Bishop of Bath and Wells; Dr. Joseph Parker; Mr. Hall, of the Oxford University Press; M. Chaix, of Paris; Herr Fröbel, of Stuttgart; Sir C. Reed, and Mr. G. Spottiswoode. Subscriptions and donations to the Printers' Pension Corporation fund were announced, amounting to £2000, besides which there will be the receipts from the Exhibition." 

The Tablet, The International Catholic News Weekly, took an interest in the exhibition, reviewing it on pp. 7-8 of its issue dated July 28, 1877. An Irish novelist, Catherine Mary MacSorley, commemorated the anniversary by publishing an historical novel for young people about Caxton entitled The Earl-Printer. A Tale of the Time of Caxton (London, 1877).

As a record of the exhibition, a catalogue was edited by George Bullen (1816-94) Keeper of the Printed Books at the British Museum, entitled Caxton Celebration, 1877. Catalogue of the Loan Collection of Antiquities, Curiosities, and Appliances Connected with the Art of Printing. In its final form this 472 page book listed, sometimes with descriptive bibliographical notes, a total of 4734 items exhibited, making this probably the largest exhibition of rare books, prints, and printing equipment ever held. It encompassed works from the Gutenberg Bible and the Mainz Psalter up to 1877, including about 190 Caxtons, classics illustrating the spread of printing, landmarks of book illustration, examples of music printing, books on papermaking, notable achievements in color printing, examples of historic, unusual or new technologies in printing, as well as printing presses and typesetting and typefounding equipment. Notably, the catalogue contained no images. Presumably it was a sufficient challenge just to publish a non-illustrated bibliographical record of such an enormous exhibition, crediting the numerous lenders to the show.

I first learned about this exhibition when, out of curiosity, I happened to order a copy of the catalogue online, probably in 2010. When I skimmed through the catalogue, the size and extent of the exhibition amazed me. Then I noticed that there seemed to be different versions of the catalogue available, so I began to collect as many different ones as I could. Collecting about and around this exhibition in 2011 and 2012 allowed me to reconstruct some of the history of the exhibition, and the strangely complex publication of this exhibition catalogue. By June 2012 I identified 8 editions or states:

(1) During the early days of the exhibition a small number of preliminary "Rough Proof" copies of the catalogue were available. (This version I have not seen.) Also available for one shilling was a 32-page pamphlet written by William Blades entitled A Guide to the Objects of Chief Interest in the Loan Collection of the Caxton Celebration, Queen's Gate, South Kensington. (This I have not seen.)

(2) A bit later during the exhibition a "Preliminary Issue" with 404pp. and 10 leaves of advertisements was issued in pale blue printed wrappers for sale at 1s. This version, which was called "Preliminary Issue" on both its printed wrapper and title page, listed 4633 entries. In it Class C was entitled "The Comparative Development of the Art of Printing in England and Foreign Countries Illustrated by Specimens of the Holy Scriptures and Liturgies." The number of entries in Class C ended at 1351, leaving a gap of 100 items between the next entry in the catalogue, No. 1451 beginning "Class D, Specimens Noticeable for Rarity or for Beauty and Excellence of Typography." This indicates that the cataloguing of Class C was incomplete at the time the Preliminary Issue was printed.

(3) Later during the exhibition a version with 456pp and 11 leaves of advertisements was issued. My copy of this is bound in original brown cloth, edges untrimmed. It lists 4734 entries. In this version pp. xiv-xviii were reset to allow the addition of several names to various committees. Also the entire Class C was substantially rewritten and expanded, which required resetting numerous pages. In this version Class C is headed "The History of Printing Illustrated by the Printed Bible, 1450-1877, By Henry Stevens." A new gathering  M*was inserted, between gatherings M and N, its pages numbered 176a to 176q, bringing the Bibles catalogued up to No. 1450, and the Liturgies numbered 1450a-1450θ. Since  Henry Stevens's introduction to Class C is dated July 25, 1877 we may presume that this version came out either very late in July or during August. 

(4) Virtually at the end of the exhibition a "Revised Edition" of the catalogue was issued in tan printed wrappers, containing 472 pages and 11 leaves of advertisements at the back. The designation "Revised Edition" appeared only on the upper printed wrapper, and not the title page. This was priced 2s. 6d. My copy of this version bears the inscription of George William Reid, Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, who, according to Bullen's Introduction (p. xi), catalogued the various woodcuts, copper-plates and other engravings in Class G of the exhibition. Reid's inscription is dated September 1877. Without the printed wrappers the different versions can be determined by the number of pages. It is evident that many or all gatherings were reprinted for this edition in which the entries were renumbered in one series with continuous pagination.

(5) After the exhibition 157 hand-numbered large-paper copies of the revised edition with 472pp. were available on "superfine toned hand-made paper," edges untrimmed in a special original brown cloth binding for 1 guinea, and

(6) 12 hand-numbered copies were available on extra large, thick hand-made paper at the cost of 5 guineas, likewise in an original brown cloth binding, edges untrimmed. No copies of  (5) or (6) that I have seen had wrappers or ads. (Remarkably, I was able to acquire two of the twelve extra large paper copies issued.)

(7)  After the exhibition some of the copies of the catalogue printed on regular paper were bound in cloth for sale. I have a copy bound in original green cloth, edges trimmed, without ads.

(8) I also have a copy bound in original red cloth, edges trimmed, stamped "PRESENTATION COPY" on the upper cover with an inscription to British Museum Librarian, G. W. Porter, from J. S. Hodson, Honorary Secretary of the Executive Committee dated November 17, 1877. This copy contains 2 leaves of ads at the back. In his introduction to the catalogue George Bullen credits Hodson, who was Secretary of the "Printers' Pension, Almshouse and Orphan Asylum Corporation," for "having originated this celebration," the proceeds of which went to support the Printers charities that Hodson managed.

The most extensive section in the exhibition, and also the most extensively annotated portion of the catalogue, was "Class C, The History of Printing Illustrated by the Printed Bible, 1450-1877" by the American bibliographer and antiquarian bookseller Henry Stevens who lived in London. Stevens ran into conflicts with the organizers of the exhibition, who were concerned that Stevens's extensive exhibition and detailed cataloguing was unduly prominent. They may also have been irritated that some of Stevens's extensive cataloguing was not finished until the middle of show. At the end of his introduction to Class C Stevens, whose extensive bibliography proves that he clearly enjoyed writing, indicated that he would publish a revised edition of his portion of the catalogue after the show. This he duly published as an unillustrated 151 page book in 1878 under the following verbose title:

The Bibles in the Caxton Exhibition MDCCCLXXVII or a bibliographical description of nearly one thousand representative Bibles in various languages chronologically arranged from the first Bible printed by Gutenberg in 1450-1456 to the last Bible printed at the Oxford University Press the 30th June 1877. With an Introduction on the History of Printing as Illustrated by the printed Bible from 1450 to 1877 in which is told for the first time the true history and mystery of the Coverdale Bible of 1535 Together with bibliographical notes and collations of many rare Bibles in various languages and divers versions printed during the last four centuries.  

This book Stevens issued both as an octavo trade edition on ordinary paper and clothbound, and on large paper printed on Whatman hand-made paper. Large paper copies were advertised for 15s in a half-roan binding or in red morocco extra by Bedford for £4.4s.  My copy of the large paper edition is in an original green cloth binding matching the binding of the trade edition, and comes from the library of Henry Frowde of Oxford University Press, who became Publisher of the press in 1880. In his book Stevens explained that his efforts were the culmination of 30 years of work on Bible bibliography. Stevens began his book with an essay entitled "The Flavour." This was largely in response to a review of his Bible exhibition published in The Saturday Review on August 17, 1877—the last of five reviews of the Caxton exhibition published in that journal. Stevens evidently felt so highly his essay that he had it published separately as a pamphlet in printed wrappers.[ This I did learn about until I found a copy in February 2016.]  For the exhibition Stevens borrowed Bibles from sources including the British Museum, the Bodleian, Queen Victoria, Earl Spencer, the Earl of Leicester, Francis Fry, the Signet Library and its librarian, David Laing of Edinburgh, and Henry J. Atkinson of Gunnersbury House in Middlesex.

The Caxton Memorial Bible as a Demonstration of Progress in Book Production Since Caxton's Time

At the instigation of Henry Stevens, Henry Frowde of Oxford University Press undertook the publication of a Bible that would demonstrate the advances in printing technology since its introduction in England by Caxton. By Stevens's account this was a last minute idea of Stevens undertaken by the press only a few days before opening of the exhibition. The Bible was printed on machine presses at Oxford by Oxford University Press, and bound by Oxford University Press in London in an edition of 100 numbered copies, with the printing and binding occurring in only twelve hours on the opening day of the exhibition, June 30, 1877. Printing began at 2:00 AM on June 30, and the first bound copies were delivered at the opening of the exhibition at 2:00 PM on the same day. Copy No.2 was presented to Gladstone when he opened the show, copy No. 1 having been reserved for Her Majesty the Queen. In March 1878 Stevens published a small 30-page book (page size 115 x 85 mm) entitled The History of the Caxton Memorial Bible printed and bound in twelve consecutive hours on June 30, 1877. In this book Stevens told the story of this remarkable achievement in which copies of the 1052-page volume were printed from standing type on paper specially made for the edition by Oxford University Press only a few days before printing. The printed sheets were artificially dried and hand-bound in turkey morocco by 101 binders assigned to the task. Stevens calculated that had type composition been necessary it would have taken "2000 compositors and 200 readers to set up and properly read the Bible in these same twelve hours." (In 1877, about a decade before the invention of the Linotype and Monotype, there was no widely used method of machine composition.) It was agreed that all copies of the Memorial Bible would be presented and none would be sold, and that copy No. 1, and every third number, would be allotted by Oxford University Press, that copy No. 2 and every third number thereafter would be allotted by Henry Stevens, and that every third number thereafter would be allotted by the Delegates of the University Press and the Dons of Oxford.

In October 2014 I was able to purchase a copy of the Caxton Memorial Bible—certainly the highlight of my Caxton Celebration collection. The page size of the volume is 160 x 110 mm. It is bound in full black crushed morocco, raised bands on the spine and tooled in gold on the spine "The Caxton Memorial Bible. Oxford, June 30th 1877." The edges are gilt. On the upper cover is stamped the arms of Oxford University. On the turn-in below the front pastedown endpaper is stamped in gold "Bound at the Oxford University Binding Establishment in London on this 30th day of June 1877." Facing the title page is printed "Wholly printed and bound in twelve hours, on this 30th day of June, 1877, for the Caxton Celebration. Only 100 copies were printed, of which this is No. 20." Beneath this is handwritten "Allotted to William Amhurst Tyssen-Amherst Esq. M. P. by Henry N. Stevens 24 May 1889." Lord Amherst was a distinguished collector of books, manuscripts and Egyptian antiquities. As the allotment to Amherst occurred twelve years after publication it is evident that Stevens held onto at least one copy for more than a decade after the exhibition. Stevens crossed out the printed word "Presented" and replaced it with "alloted." The title page of the Bible states at its head "[In Memoriam Gul. Caxton.] and at its foot "Minion 16mo. June 30, 1877. Cum Privilegio." At the foot of the first page of each of the 32 gatherings that comprise the book is printed "The Oxford Caxton Celebration Edition, 1877." My copy is enclosed in a full black straight-grained morocco pull-off case labeled in the same typeface as is stamped on the spine of the Bible. Inside the slipcase "No 20" is stamped in gold. All the copies were bound identically and presented in this way. 

In comparison with the speed of papermaking, printing and binding in Caxton's time the speed of production of the Caxton Memorial Bible represented an enormous advance, so great that it would be difficult to quantify, and it is evident that the producers of the Caxton Memorial Bible were very proud of these advances. What would have taken perhaps a year or more in Caxton's time for the paper to be made by hand, for the typesetting to be done by hand, for the printing to be done on a handpress, and for the binding to be done by hand, was accomplished in less than a day. Particularly in the 15th century type was a scarce and very expensive commodity so no printer could have kept more than a few formes before they would have to be run through the press, and the type reused to print the next formes, but by the 19th century large printers such as Oxford University Press kept many standard works in standing type even though they could use stereotype plates instead.  If we compare the speed of completion of these hundred Caxton Memorial Bibles with 21st century printing technology it is probable that the papermaking and printing could be done as rapidly or perhaps even faster than what was achieved on June 30, 1877. However, I doubt if in the 21st century 101 hand binders capable of binding the volumes as rapidly and enclosing them in the elaborate pull-off slipcase could be found and organized to do the task without exceptionally elaborate and time-consuming preparation-maybe years of training. To achieve anywhere near this speed of production of such an elaborate binding and slipcase the work would have to be done by machine.

For enclosure with the Bible Stevens had a special version of his History of the Caxton Memorial Bible produced on very thin paper and bound in brown moire silk over very thin boards. In this Stevens repeated the autograph inscription that he wrote in the Bible, and he added Lord Amherst's name to the list of recipients of copies printed at the back of his small book. The edition is so thin that it fits in the slipcase with the Bible. My copy of the regular edition is printed on relatively thick laid paper, and in its binding of blind-stamped and gilt calf over boards is roughly five times as thick as the thin paper version.

The Roles of William Blades and Talbot Baines Reed

The remarkable exhibition of rare books on the history of printing and typography described in the exhibition catalogue for the Caxton Celebration was loaned in its entirety by William Blades, who also catalogued all the Caxtons and other early English printed books in the exhibition. Blades was also a collector of medals relating to the history of printing and hoped to have a medal struck commemorating the 1877 celebration. For the purpose he issued a prospectus with a reproduction of the proposed design; however, there were insufficient subscribers, and the medal is known only from the prospectus, the design from which was reproduced by Henry Morris in his introduction to the 2001 facsimile reprint of Bigmore & Wyman.

The superb exhibition of type specimens in the show was curated by writer, typefounder, historian of type foundries, and son of Sir Charles Reed, Talbot Baines Reed

♦ One of the more unusual Caxton Celebration items I collected is an 8-page 4to pamphlet entitled Caxton Celebration June 1877. A Biographical Notice of William Caxton The First English Printer Reprinted from the "Leisure Hour" for May, 1877 in Phonetic Spelling with a Specimen page of Caxton's Type and Woodcuts. This pamphlet, with an introduction by Isaac Pitman dated May 29, 1877, was issued by Fred. Pitman in London and offered for sale at the price of one penny, presumably at the exhibition. In his lengthy introduction Issac Pitman referred to the Elementary Education Act of 1870, requiring education of children in England and Wales, and took the opportunity to promote phonetic spelling as a way of simplifying British education and improving national literacy. In a footnote he wrote: "The Educational Blue Book for 1875-6 gives the following statistics:- 2,221,745 children were presented for examination. Of this number, 19,349 (or less than one per cent.) reached Standard VI :- and 53,587 (3 1/2 per cent, including the previous number) reached Standard V, which a pupil must pass before he is permited to leave school under 13 years of age."

Other publications issued in connection with the exhibition were a new edition of William Blades's The Biography and Typography of William Caxton England's First Printer (1877; first published 1861), William Caxton, the First English Printer. A Biography by printer and publisher Charles Knight (1877). This was a new edition of a work previously issued in 1844; on its upper printed wrapper the printers stated that it was "Printed and Presented to the Caxton Celebration by William Clowes and Sons." Also published in 1877 was a 47-page pamphlet entitled, Who Was William Caxton? by "R[owland] H [ill] B[lades]", brother of William Blades. This was intended to fill a need for an inexpensive, relatively brief account of Caxton. In March 2016 I came across a reference to still another publication produced for the exhibition: A Short History of the Art of Printing in England by Arthur. C. J. Powell. Issued as a Supplement to the Printers' Register, in commoration of the Four Hundredth Anniversary of the Introduction of Printing into England. London: Joseph M. Powell, "Printers' Register" Office, 1877. This was a well-illustrated 66-page article.  An unusual aspect was the advertisment facing the title page in which the publisher, Joseph M. Powell, Type Broker, and Manufacturer of Printing Materials, offered to supply a "Small Printing Office complete for £115."

There were two elaborate publications associated with the exhibition:

1. A facsimile of Caxton's The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers. A Facsimile Reproduction of the First Book Printed in England by William Caxton in 1477. This facsimile, printed in two-color photolithography, included an introduction by William Blades printed by letterpress. The volume was offered for sale by the London publisher Elliot Stock in 1877 at the price of one guinea bound in a heavy coated paper binding over boards, and blindstamped very effectively to resemble a blind-stamped calf binding of the 15th century.

2. A facsimile limited to 257 signed copies, with woodcuts printed from the "original woodblocks" entitled New Biblia Pauperum Being Thirty-Eight Woodcuts Illustrating the Life, Parables & Miracles of Our Blessed Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ, with the Proper Descriptions thereof, extracted from the Translation of the New Testament, by John Wiclif, Sometime Rector of Lutterworth. This was issued from London, "Printed at the Sign of The Grasshopper," by Unwin Brothers, The Gresham Press, 1877. The edition was bound in blind-stamped drab boards, copying a design taken from an early block book in the British Museum, with two brass catches and clasps. The work seems to have been a kind of hodge-podge in that the original woodblocks, which dated sometime between 1470-1540, were purchased by the Unwin brothers, and used to illustrate the facsimile text of John Wycliffe's New Testament of 1525, which was printed in Caxton Type No. 2. At the time it was unknown what work these woodblocks originally illustrated. as they were not "recognized as belonging to any printed book." The publishers intended the facsimile to supply two markets: interest in Caxton's printing stimulated by the 1877 Caxton Celebration, and the Wycliffe quincentenary of 1377, which occurred the same year. 

Thinking about this celebration in 2016, one of the most unusual elements that I found in my web researches, was a parallel Caxton celebratiion exhibition held in Montreal also in 1877, just a few days before the celebration occurred in London. That this parallel exhibition was held may be explained by the fact that Canada was a self-governing entity within the British Empire at the time. A 35-page pamphlet about that exhibition, published by La Bureau de La Revue de Montreal, was entitled Célébration du quatrième anniversaire séculaire de l'établissement de l'imprimerie en Angleterre par Caxton: revue de l'exposition de livres, manuscrits, médailles, etc., tenue sous les auspices de la Société des antiquaires et des numismates de Montréal : discours de MM. Dawson, Chauveau, White et MayThe actual catalogue of the Canadian exhibition, which remarkably included over 2000 items, was entitled Condensed Catalogue of Manuscripts, Books and Engravings on Exhibition at the Caxton Celebration, Held under the Auspices of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Montreal, at the Mechanics' Hall on the 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th June 1877, in Commemoration of the 400th Anniversary of the Introduction of Printing into England. Montreal: Printed at the "Gazette" Printing House, 1877.

The first historical account of the exhibition was written by one of its key organizers, James Shirley Hodson, and published as Chapter X of his History of the Printing Trade Charities (London, 1883). Bigmore & Wyman, A Bibliography of Printing I (1880-84) 124-26. Twyman, Early Lithographed Books (1990) 258. 

(This entry was last revised on 03-25-2016.)

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Index Medicus Begins 1879

Under the direction of John Shaw Billings, in 1879 the Library of the Surgeon General's Office (to be redesignated in 1956 the National Library of Medicine) began publication of the Index Medicus—  an effort to index all of medical periodical literature.

Index Medicus finally ceased publication in print in 2004.

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The First Complete Catalogue of the British Museum Library Following Panizzi's Rules 1881 – 1905

The Catalogue of Printed Books in the Library of the British Museum  was published in 393 parts from 1881-1900, followed by a Supplement in 44 parts published from 1900-05. Various other supplements were later published. This was the first iteration of the complete British Museum catalogue implementing Antonio Panizzi's 91 Rules, promulgated in 1841, for standardizing the cataloguing of printed books. 

"The General Catalogue is, by common consent, a research tool of undisputed importance for historians of European civilisation from the invention of printing to the present day. Its utility and the universal esteem in which it is held derive from two principal factors: the richness of the collections it seeks to describe, and the principles underying the methods of that description. Unlike most library catalogues which provide access to collections via the main entry-points of author title, the General Catalogue has, from the beginning, sought rather to incorporate the best traditions of German analytic cataloguing into the general framework of an author catalogue. The logic of its structure is derived from thesaural rather than lexical principles. Generations of scholars have testified to the benefits for research which its rich contextual organisation make possible. The juxtaposition of related materials, frequently arranged in a chronological rather than merely alphabetic sequence (in recognition of the scholar's needs), is a feature designed to encourage a systematic and exploratory response from the user. Thus, the search for a specific item (especially if that item was published anonymously) can yield a rich and perhaps unsuspected harvest of related items, and opportunities for discovery are further multiplied by the elaborate system of cross-references between authors and headings. The format of the catalogue was itself devised to encourage the user to explore sequences of entries rather than to focus upon the individual entry. It is as though Panizzi conceived of books as members of a vast related community and obligingly sought to demonstrate their relationship within the constraints of a library catalogue. For certain kinds of anonymous publication, Panizzi's rules were designed to allow a subject approach, based on the wording of the title page. But within such headings the sequences are where possible based on historical principles. Such familiar collective headings as:- ENGLAND, FRANCE, AMERICA; LONDON, ROME, PARIS; BIBLE, LITURGIES; GEORGE III, LOUIS XIV, PIUS IX, PERIODICAL PUBLICATIONS- represent the imposition of an historically understood order upon a considerable body of heterogeneous publications. For the user in search of a specific anonymous title the catalogue's disposition to arrange items in an historical context (derived from a significant element within the title) can be frustrating if only the first few words of the title are known, or if the cataloguing principles for choice of heading are imprefectly understood. But the alternative, now widely regarded as standard, procedure of entering anonymous titles under first word, while facilitating access to individual works (the title-index to ENGLAND is undoubtedly invaluable) distributes irrecoverably related items frequently crucial to the user's requirements. It is clear that for the collections of a major research library multiple access is desirable, but for a machine-readble catalogue such as ESTC the search possibilities provided by the computer fortunately make these problems less acute" (Alston & Jannetta, Bibliography, Machine-Readable Cataloguing and the ESTC [1978] 20).

McCrimmon, Power, Politics, and Print. The Publication of the British Museum Catalogue 1881-1900 (1981).

(This entry was last revised on 08-23-2014.)

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An Analog Search Engine to Organize All the World's Knowledge 1895

In 1895 Belgian author, entrepreneur, visionary, lawyer and peace activist Paul Otlet and Belgian professor of international law and legislator Henri La Fontaine founded the Institut International de Bibliographie in Brussels. In this organization they began the creation of a system of 3 x 5 index cards cataloguing facts that became known as the "Repertoire Bibliographique Universel" (RBU). By the end of 1895 it had grown to 400,000 entries. Eventually it reached 16 million cards.  The goal was to organize all the knowledge of the world.

To organize the cards Otlet and La Fontaine developed the Universal Decimal Classification based on the Dewey Decimal Classification, but using auxiliary signs to indicate various special aspects of a subject and relationships between subjects. "It thus contains a significant faceted or analytico-synthetic element, and is used especially in specialist libraries. UDC has been modified and extended through the years to cope with the increasing output in all disciplines of human knowledge, and is still under continuous review to take account of new developments" (Wikipedia article on Universal Decimal Classification, accessed 03-13-2012).

"In 1896, Otlet set up a fee-based service to answer questions by mail, by sending the requesters copies of the relevant index cards for each query; scholar Alex Wright has referred to the service as an 'analog search engine'. By 1912, this service responded to over 1,500 queries a year. Users of this service were even warned if their query was likely to produce more than 50 results per search.

"Otlet envisioned a copy of the RBU in each major city around the world, with Brussels holding the master copy. At various times between 1900 and 1914, attempts were made to send full copies of the RBU to cities such as Paris, Washington, D.C. and Rio de Janeiro; however, difficulties in copying and transportation meant that no city received more than a few hundred thousand cards" (Wikipedia article on Paul Otlet, accessed 03-02-2009).

Following World War I, in 1920 the organization, then called the Mundaneum, opened in the left wing of the palace of the Cinquantenaire de Bruxelles called the Palais Mondial-Mundaneum.

In 1931 the Institut International de Bibliographie was renamed the Institut International de Documentation, IID.  World War II and the deaths of La Fontaine in 1943 and Otlet in 1944 slowed the project. Although many of the cards were stored, some of them in the Brussels subway, volunteers kept the dream alive. In 1998, Belgium’s French community government revived the Mundaneum’s memory, bringing most of the archives to a beautiful Art Deco building in the city of Mons.

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1900 – 1910

The Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature 1901

In 1901 bookseller and bibliographer Halsey William Wilson of Minneapolis published the first issue of the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature.

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A New Standard for Descriptive Bibliography in the History of Science 1906

In 1906 chemist, historian of chemistry, and bibliographer John Ferguson published Bibliotheca Chemica. A Catalogue of the Alchemical, Chemical, and Pharmaceutical Books in the Collection of the Late James Young of Kelly and Duris.  The work was finely printed on handmade paper by James Maclehose of Glasgow in an edition of unknown size, in full buckram or quarter morocco bindings, and presented "With the Compliments of the Trustees and Family of the Late Dr. James Young of Kelly."

One of the earliest technical chemists, Young's discovery of the distillation of paraffin from coal and oil-shales made him the founder of the Scottish shale oil industry. In about 1850 Young set out to collect the classic original works in the history of alchemy, chemistry, and pharmacy, eventually aided in this pursuit by Ferguson. Along with Augustus de Morgan and Latimer Clark, Young was one of the earliest collectors of the history of science.

The Young collection numbered about 1400 separate items, many of which were already of the greatest rarity by the end of the nineteenth century. Ferguson's 2-volume catalogue of more than a thousand densely printed quarto pages, with bibliographical details of each work, biographical notices of each writer, and exhaustive lists of references in chronological order, set a new standard in scope and accuracy for the descriptive bibliography of the history of science. Sir William Osler considered Ferguson's catalogue the model of descriptive scientific bibliography, writing in his inimitable style:

"though an absorbing and profitable study, the results of bibliography are too often recorded in tomes of intolerable dullness. The merit that appeals to me [in Ferguson's Bibliotheca Chemica] is the combination of biography with bibliography. Beside the book is a picture of the man sketched by a sympathetic hand "

The Young collection is preserved in the Andersonian Library, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

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The First Library of Rare Science Books Formed by an American 1908

In 1908 historian of mathematics David Eugene Smith published Rara arithmetica: A Catalogue of the Arithmetics Written Before the Year MDCI with a Description of Those in the Library of George Arthur Plimpton of New York. This two-volume work, issued by Plimpton's textbook publishing company, Ginn & Company, described and illustrated Plimpton's library of early mathematical books and medieval manuscripts before 1601.  Two versions of the catalogue were published:

  1. A deluxe numbered edition limited to 151 copies printed on handmade paper and bound in full vellum, elaborately gilt, in two volumes, with the plates printed in color on Japan vellum, enclosed in a slipcase
  2. A trade edition of indeterminate number, printed on regular paper and bound in one volume in cloth-backed boards. 

Plimpton’s mathematical library, preserved at Columbia University Library, is the first specialized private collection of antiquarian scientific books formed by an American for which we have an annotated bibliographical catalogue.  Smith also discussed some of Plimpton’s early manuscripts in his History of Mathematics (Boston: Ginn & Co., 1923–25), and issued a pamphlet addendum to his catalogue of Plimpton’s library in 1939 (Rara arithmetica: Addenda to “Rara arithmetica" [Boston: Ginn & Co.]).

Plimpton did not comment on his library in any of Smith’s works, all, or nearly all of which were published by Plimpton's Ginn & Company. The only place where I found published remarks by Plimpton on his mathematical library was in “The History of Elementary Mathematics in the Plimpton Library", Atti del Congresso Internazionale dei Matematici Bologna 3–10 Settembre 1928, VI (1932) 433–42.

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The Wheeler Gift Catalogue of the History of Electricity and Telegraphy 1909

In 1909 William D. Weaver published Catalogue of the Wheeler Gift of Books, Pamphlets, and Periodicals in the Library of the American Institute of Engineers.With Introduction, Descriptive and Critical Notes by Brother Potamian. This 2-volume work, which remains the most comprehensive historical bibliography on the subjects, described primarily the library of Latimer Clark, a British electrical engineer and inventor working in London who, in partnership with Sir Charles Tilson Bright, was responsible for laying many of the first submarine telegraphic cables. While pursuing a remarkably successful and creative scientific and entrepeneurial career, Clark also found time to build one of the most complete collections ever formed of early books and manuscripts on the history of electricity and magnetism, including virtually every known publication in English on these subjects prior to 1886.

In collecting the history of electricity and telegraphy Clark followed in the path of Francis Ronalds, another telegraphy pioneer who assembled a somewhat smaller library on the subjects, the catalogue of which appeared in 1880. Nearly coincident with the publication of the catalogue of the Ronalds Library, in 1881 Francesco Rossetti and Giovanni Cantoni issued Bibliografia Italiana di Elettricità e Magnetismo, on the occasion of an international fair on electricity held in Paris in 1881. This briefly annotated bibliography presented the history of the Italian literature on the subject.

In 1901 Clark's library was purchased by the American engineer, Schulyer Skaats Wheeler, and donated by him to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (now Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [IEEE]) in New York. The extensively annotated and illustrated catalogue of the collection of 5,966 items, edited by William Weaver and annotated by Brother Potamian, was financed by Andrew Carnegie. Though the title page of the catalogue takes no notice of it, a high percentage of the items in Clark's library, particularly the final 2000 items, concern telegraphy.

Problematic Management of the Latimer Clark Library in the Twentieth Century:

"In 1913 the Engineering Societies Library was established in New York City, a joint venture of the AIEE, the ASME (Mechanical Engineers), and the AIME (Mining Engineers), funded by a $1.5 million gift from Andrew Carnegie. The AIEE’s main contribution to the Library was the Wheeler Gift Collection. For many years the collection was accessible according to the terms above, but in the 1990s the ESL decided that it could no longer maintain its Manhattan premises and closed the library there.

"By that time the Wheeler Gift Collection had been merged with other works at the library, and had suffered from neglect over the years, much of the material being kept in poor physical conditions. A 1985 survey of the collection showed about 9% (532 items) were missing, and it seems unlikely that the situation improved in the following ten years, prior to the dispersion of the collection.

"Constrained by the terms of the Gift to keep the collection in New York City, the ESL boxed up whatever could be definitely identified as part of the original Wheeler Gift and in 1995 sent 205 cartons of books and papers to the Humanities and Social Sciences division of the New York Public Library at 42nd Street. The rest of the collection, including items in the 1909 catalog that were part of the Wheeler Gift but did not have identifying labels, went to Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, MO"(http://atlantic-cable.com/CablePioneers/LatimerClark.htm, accessed 07-31-2009).

Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace (2001) No. 211.

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1910 – 1920

"Die Brucke" and its Goals for a World Information Clearing House June 11, 1911 – 1913

In 1911 Karl Wilhelm Bührer and Adolf Saager published Die Organisierung der geistigen Arbeit durch die Brücke (The Organization of Intellectual Work through the Bridge) from Ansbach, Germany. This book described the aims of Die Brücke, Internationales Institut zur Organisierung der geistigen Arbeit (The Bridge, International Institute for the Organization of Intellectual Work), an institution founded in Munich on 11 June 1911 with the financial support of chemist Wilhelm Ostwald who donated his Nobel Prize money for the purpose.  In 1910 Ostwald had discussed problems of information management with Paul Otlet, co-founder of the Institut International de Bibliographie in Brussels. After only two years of existence The Bridge ended in 1913. It published numerous pamphlets, and perhaps the chief legacy of the project was the international standard for paper sizes (A4 etc.)

Concerning The Bridge Thomas Hapke wrote:

" 'Die Brücke is planned as a central station, where any question which may be raised with respect to any field of intellectual work whatever finds either direct answer or else indirect, in the sense that the inquirer is advised as to the place where he can obtain sufficient information' (Ostwald, 1913, p. 6, English original).

"The Bridge was supposed to be the information office for the information offices, a 'bridge' between the 'islands' where all other institutions—associations, societies, libraries, museums, companies, and individuals— 'were working for culture and civilization' (Die Brücke, 1910–1911). The organization of intellectual work was intended to occur 'automatically' through the general introduction of standardized means of communication— the monographic principle, standardized formats, and uniform indexing (Registraturvermerke) for all publications. The following facilities were planned: a collection of addresses, a Brückenarchiv as a 'comprehensive, illustrated world encyclopedia on sheets of standardized formats,' which should contain a world dictionary and a world museum catalog; a rückenmuseum; and a head office and Hochschule (college) for organization. 'Close cooperation' with the Institut Internationale de Bibliographie in Brussels was also planned."

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Origins of the "Garrison-Morton" Bibliography of the History of Medicine 1912 – 1991

In 1912 American physician, medical historian, and bibliographer Colonel Fielding H. Garrison, as Assistant Librarian of the Library of the Surgeon General's Office in Washington, D. C. (now the National Library of Medicine), compiled a classified listing of classical works in the history of medicine entitled Texts Illustrating the History of Medicine in the Library of the Surgeon General's Office, U.S. Army, Arranged in Chronological Order. This list, containing over 2,000 items, was published in the Second Series of the Index-Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon General's Office, Volume XVII, 89-178.  As Garrison wrote in 1933, the incentive to this enterprise came from Sir William Osler, who advised the then Librarian Brig. Gen. Walter D. McCaw as to the advantage of segregating the more valuable historic items in the Army Medical Library for safe keeping under glass. This was done, and an exhibition of some of the library's greatest treasures was held in 1910. By 1912 Garrison compiled his listing, and then used it "as a convenient scaffolding" for his An Introduction to the History of Medicine issued in 1913—a classic textbook which Garrison saw through four editions, the last in 1929.

In 1929 William H. Welch offered Garrison the post of Librarian and Lecturer on the History of Medicine at the Welch Medical Library at the new Institute of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Garrison moved to Baltimore in 1930. A product of his continuing scholarship was an expansion of his 1912 list as "Revised students' check-list of texts illustrating the history of medicine, with references for collateral reading," Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine I (1933) 333-434. This list contained over 4,000 items. 

In 1943 a young English medical librarian Leslie T. Morton, working in London during the bombing in World War II, expanded upon Garrison's 1933 list, and issued A Medical Bibliography. A Check-List of Texts Illustrating the History of the Medical Sciences. Originally Compiled by the Late Field H. Garrison and now revised, with additions and annotations, by Leslie T. Morton. Morton's book of 412 pages in small type was drastically expanded from Garrison's 101-page journal article. Over the next forty-one years Morton put the work through four expanded editions, the last of which contained 7800 entries.  It became almost universally cited as "Garrison-Morton" or "Garrison and Morton".

In 1991, while working in San Franicisco, I was pleased to issue a revised fifth edition of the work, retitled to give credit to Morton as Morton's Medical Bibliography. An Annotated Check-list of Texts Illustrating the History of Medicine (Garrison and Morton). For this edition I added 1051 new entries, and revised or rewrote 2313. From the 7800 entries in the fourth edition I expanded the work to 8927 annotated entries. To revise and expand the work I had to read and check virtually every word in Morton's fourth edition, and study the historical literature of most medical specialties up to the year 1980. In November 2013, when I created this database entry, the fifth edition remained a standard work. 

It was through the "Garrison-Morton" project that I learned to manipulate a large data set on a wide range of technical information, though at the time the only technology available was a series of about 15 Microsoft Word files, since MS Word could not handle a single file large enough to contain the complete text. Before the Internet I had to travel extensively to see a lot of the material cited in the bibliography, and I remember lugging a heavy laptop computer containing the wordprocessing files, and duly backing them up on a series of floppy discs after most writing sessions. 

The process of revising and expanding Morton's Medical Bibliography took me the better part of a year. Its publication coincided with the publication of the annotated bibliographical catalogue of my father's library, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science & Medicine, on which my associate Diana Hook and I had labored for seven years. By the time these works were completed I had developed a love for writing large and complex historical bibliographical studies.

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1920 – 1930

The Literature and Culture of Suicide 1927

In 1927 journalist and suicide researcher Hans Rost published one of the more unusual specialized bibliographies: Bibliographie des Selbstmords mit textlichen Einführungen zu Jedem Kapitel.  This bibliography on the literature of suicide considered the subject from many points of view including philosophical, medical, psychological, religious, literary, and artistic, as well as topics like family suicide, mass suicide and euthanasia, from the 15th to 20th centuries. The bibliography listed about 4000 works in thematic chapters, to each of which Rost wrote an introduction. The book included 54 illustrations, which may have represented the first published collection of historical images on suicide. 

Rost's library of suicide literature was acquired by the city library of Augsburg in 1928.  Since 1988 the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Suizidprävention (DGS)(German Association for Suicide Prevention) has presented the Hans Rost Prize for outstanding scientific achievements in suicidology and for outstanding practical solutions toward the prevention of suicide.

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1930 – 1940

The Contributions of Vannevar Bush to Analog Computing, Information Retrieval, and the Concept of Hypertext 1930 – June 1949

American engineer and information visionary Vannevar Bush's work related to the history of information began at MIT in 1930 with the differential analyzer, a large analog computer more accurate than previous devices of this type. Bush's primary paper about this machine was: Bush,V. & Hazen, H., "The Differential Analyzer. A New Machine for Solving Differential Equations," Journal of the Franklin Institute 212 (1931) 447-88. In July 2014 three-dimensional computer graphic images visualizing the Bush differential analyzer were available from the MIT website at this link.

By 1936 Bush was working on the Rapid Arithmetical Machine Project. In a paper called "Instrumental Analysis" publshed in Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society 42  (1936) pp. 649-69, he suggested how an electromechanical machine might be built to accomplish Charles Babbage’s goals for the Analytical Engine. This was almost exactly one hundred years after Babbage began designing his Analytical Engine. In the same paper Bush wrote that four billion punched cards were being used annually in electric tabulating machines. This amounted to ten thousand tons of punched cards.

On March 7, 1940 Bush wrote a memorandum entitled “Arithmetical Machine.” This memorandum, shows that the Rapid Arithmetical Machine Project begun conceptually in 1936 was already well-advanced. However, Bush continued to focus most of his computational energy on building the Rockefeller Differential Analyzer II, a 100 ton analog machine that included 2000 vacuum tubes and 150 electric motors that was more accurate and faster than the first Differential Analyzer. It contained two thousand vacuum tubes and weighed about one hundred thousand pounds. For security reasons its existence was not publicized until October 1945.

Bush published a popular description of the aims of his Rapid Selector information retrieval machine in his 1945 article, As We May Think, which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 176, No. 1 (1945) 641-49. This paper described the Memex, an electromechanical microfilm machine, which Bush began developing conceptually in 1938. As conceived, the Memex was capable of making permanent associative links in information. Features of the hypothetical Memex foreshadowed aspects of the personal computer and hyperlinks on the Internet. Bush was unable to patent his Rapid Selector because of its similarity to aspects of prior work on electronic document retrieval previously patented by Emanuel Goldberg.

On September 10, 1945 Bush published a condensed, illustrated version of "As We May Think" in Life magazine, 19, No. 11 (1945) 112-114, 116, 121, 123-24. Life's editors added the following subtitle: "A Top U.S. Scientist Foresees a Possible Future World in Which Man-Made Machines Will Start to Think." They also replaced the Atlantic Monthly's numbered sections with headings, and added illustrations of the "cyclops camera," the "supersecretary" and the "Memex" microfilm machine in the form of a desk. This was the first published illustration of what the Memex might look like. In From Memex to Hypertext: Vannever Bush and the Mind's Machine (1991) James Nyce and Paul Kahn published a version of "As We May Think" that shows the differences between the two different versions of Bush's essay published in 1945. Nyce and Kahn also developed a brief animated film showing how the Memex might have operated. Bush, himself, never seems to have developed a working version of the machine, though his group worked on a prototype.

In August 1947 Ralph R. Shaw, Director of Libraries for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with Engineering Research Associates of St. Paul, Minnesota, using funds provided by the Office of Technical Services of the Department of Commerce, began the development of the Rapid Selector machine for the electronic searching of information recorded in reels of microfilm. Shaw's device incorporated technology developed by Emanuel Goldberg in 1928-1931, and by Bush starting in 1938. Shaw's Rapid Selector was an attempt to realize goals described in Bush's 1945 publication, As We May Think. Shaw's machine

"was based on the earlier prototype developed from 1938 to 1940 by a team at MIT under Bush's direction. The project manager for the Bush prototype was John H. Howard and the research assistants were Russell C. Coile, John Coombs, Claude Shannon, and Lawrence Steinhardt. Eastman Kodak and National Cash Register each provided $10,000 funding. The project's objective was to develop, within two years, a prototype machine capable of selecting microfilmed business records from microfilm rapidly: A microfilm rapid selector. Bush's selector was indeed rapid because it took advantage of two new developments: Improved photoelectric cell technology; and the stroboscopic lamp pioneered by his colleague Harold E. Edgerton. By creating a bright flash of light lasting only one-millionth of a second, the stroboscopic lamp made it possible to copy a selected microfilm image "on the fly," without stopping the film (and the search) to make a copy. The Bush microfilm selector was never used operationally, except that it seems to have been used for cryptanalysis: It was, after all, designed to be effective at identifying (selecting) every occurrence of a specified code" (http://people.ischool.berkeley.edu/~buckland/goldbush.html, accessed 02-20-2012).

Until December 2013 I was never able to find any truly detailed information on the version of the Rapid Selector built after World War II. I did learn that in 1951 physicist Louis N. Ridenour, librarian, inventor and publisher Ralph R. Shaw, and physicist Albert G. Hill published a thin volume entitled Bibliography in an Age of Science. This book included three lectures delivered at the University of Illinois the previous year, one of which described the Rapid Selector which had been built under Shaw's supervision, asserting that it did operate. This work I came across several years after publishing Origins of Cyberspace and From Gutenberg to the Internet. Shaw's chapter included illustrations on pp. 60-61 of the Rapid Selector prototype which was in operation at this time. This machine stored 72,000 frames of information on a 2,000 foot reel of film. The prototype could search through data at the rate of 78,000 "codes per minute." "Improvement of this searching speed to 120,000 codes per minute is now in sight."

However, further information about Shaw's Rapid Selector in use eluded me for several more years, and I wondered whether it really operated like Shaw claimed. In December 2011 I acquired a copy of Roberto Busa's Varia specimina condordantiarum (Milano, 1951). This bi-lingual work with texts in English and Italian was subtitled, "A First Example of Word Index Automatically Compiled and Printed by IBM Punched Card Machines." Before deciding to employ IBM electric punched card tabulators to produce his concordance Father Busa took the opportunity to see the Rapid Selector in operation at the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. He wrote that he was able to see it operating in November 1949, and that:

"Its principal feature is the whirlwiind speed with which it explores the reels of microfilm— 10,000 photograms per minute— and instantaneously rephotographs on another microfilm strip all and only those photograms which bear a determined item.

"I shall not give a detailed description because I thought not suitable to apply this system to the composition of concordances; I will only say that, besides not allowing automatic printing of the concordances, such as can be done with the system hereunder, the rapid selector necessitates on the one hand that all the cards, to be made from the sorted microfilm, be of photosensitive paper, and on the other hand all the different words and forms of each word be previously coded, for the entire text must be translated into numerical symbols by hand" (Busa, op cit, 22.)

Then in December 2013 I discovered that the Hathi Trust had digitized and made available Report for the Microfilm Rapid Selector. Contract Cac-47-24. 20 June 1949 published by Engineering Research Associates. This 29-page report with 11 illustrations provided all the detail that one might desire concerning the design and characteristics of the machine, without providing information concerning its efficiency or utility. From the Foreword I quote:

"The incentive for this development arose form a basic need for a more efficient mechanism for organization and dissemination of scientific information. The facilities of the Department of Agriculture Library and the specialized experience of its Librarian and staff fitted the requirement for a testing agency equipped to handle varied categories of technical data in large volumes. Hence, the project developed cooperatively between the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and Engineering Research Associates, Inc.. Specifications for a system meeting the requirements were drawn up by ERA in August, 1947, under the title "General Description and Proposed Technical Specifications for Microfilm Selector'. In general, the machine developed meets the goals set up in that document.

"In brief, the system provides for microfilm storage of abstracts and corresponding code areas by which each abstract may be associated with six different fields of interest. The Microfilm Selector scans the film at the rate of more that 10,000 frames per minute which may correspond to as many as 60,000 subjects per minute. It selects all abstracts which are associated with an interest category specified by the operator, and recopies the selected items on a separate roll of 35mm film by the use of high-speed photoflash techniques. (p. ii)

"Report-Microfilm Rapid Selector

 "This machine is similar in basic concept to a prior experimental development known as the Bush Rapid Selector which was announced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1940. Several memebers of the ERA staff were engaged in this earlier development, and it was possible to utilize their experience as a starting point in the present project.

"The intent of the original contract (which was to have been concluded by 30 June 1948) was toward the construction of a pilot machine to demonstrate the principles involved. In recognition of the immediate needs of the Department of Commerce Library, however, and as evidence of ERA's special interest in the development, it was decided to continue the work beyond the term and scope of the original contract, at the Contractor's own expense. Thus it was possible to complete a practical working machine which would fully demonstrate the possibilities of the system. The resulting Microfilm Selector (completed 25 January 1949) goes well beyond the requirements of an experimental model; it is, in fact, a close approach to an engineering model.

"At the present time, the Microfilm Selector has not yet been subjected to thorough performance tests. On the basis of preliminary tests, howover, it is considered that all of the important components have been proved fundamentally sound. It would be very surprising if the intitial period of use did not reveal some weaknesses in design and construction, but there is every reason to believe that such faults will be minor in character, and capable of correction without extensive rebuilding or further development." (p. iii).

Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace (2002) no. 244, and other entries.

(This entry was last revised on 01-11-2015.)

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1940 – 1950

The Fitzwilliam Museum Exhibition of Printing: Precursor to "Printing and the Mind of Man" May 6 – May 16, 1940

Detail of cover of catalogue for An Exhibition of Printing at the Fitzwilliam Museum.  Please click to view entire cover of catalogue.

An Exhibition of Printing at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge was planned for May 6 to June 23, 1940, taking the year 1940 as the quincentenary of Gutenberg's invention of printing, just as had been done in 1840 for the quatercentenary, in 1740 for the tricentennial, and in 1640 for the bicentennial. Exhibitions of this kind normally require years of advance planning, but from the brief account in Nicolas Barker's Stanley Morison (1972) it appears that the prospectus for this exhibition was sent out only at the beginning of March, 1940:

"At the beginning of March a prospectus was circulated to librarians, members of the Bibliographical Scoiety, the Roxburghe Club, and others.

"Though more than half Europe is at present too tragically absorbed in the future of its civilisation to be able to pay much thought to its past, the five-hundredth anniversary of Gutenberg's invention none the less demands to be recognized. The conditions which make it impractical to hold a worthy exhibition in London are happily absent in Cambridge; and plans for stage here a modest tribute to Gutenberg's memory have developed into a resolution to make good the general deficiency with a major exhibition.

"The theme of the exhibition was then set out; a full representation of every aspect of human thought and action served by Gutenberg's invention; 'wherever civilization has called upon the craft of printing from movable type to promote its ends, there is subject matter for this exhibition'.

"The response for the request for loans was conspicuously prompt and generous. Nearly 100 lenders produced over 600 exhibits. . . " (Barker, op. cit., 376-77).

According to Brooke Crutchley, "The Gutenberg Exhbition at Cambridge, 1940," Matrix 12 (1992) 77-82:

"The decision to celebrate the quincentenary of Gutenberg's invention by holding an exhibition in Cambridge in 1940 was largely an act of defiance. The outbreak of war in September 1939 and the swift conquest of Poland were followed by an uneasy quiet in western Europe while armies lined up against each other in preparation for the battle that was to come. Meanwhile the Fitzwilliam Museum had sent its principal treasures to Wales for safe keeping, the windows of King's College chapel were boarded up, civilisation seemed to have been put on ice. An exhibition to show the contribution that printing had made over five hundred years, and would continue to make when the madness was over, might be seen as a challenge to the forces of destruction." 

As a guide and record of the exhibition, an unillustrated catalogue describing 641 items was published by Cambridge University Press and offered for sale for one shilling. On the cover was an emblem symbolizing Gutenberg's type designed by wood engraver Reynolds Stone.

The Foreword to the catalogue read as follows:

"There is no moral to this exhibition. It aims at portraying, as objectively as possible, the uses to which printing from movable type has been put since Gutenberg and his associates invented it five hundred years ago; the spread of knowledge more quickly and accurately than was possible before, the storing of human experience, the providing of entertainment, the simplication of the increasingly complicated business of living. Those books, papers, and other printing have been chosen (so far as the difficulties of the times would permit) which made most effective use of the medium of type; in other words, those which, composed and multiplied, most strongly influenced people and events. Others have been chosen for their illustration of events and trends of particular importance or interest; others again for their intrinsic curiosity as examples of the exploitation of print. All are shewn so far as possible in the original editions in which they were first presented to the world.

"The exhibition has been designed therefore to illustrate the development of man's use of movable type as a tool; its spread from Mainz through the countries of the world, through all the fields of knowledge, through the whole range of man's activities. Running through the story another theme presents itself and draws occasional comment--the development of the actual form of printing. The technical display deals with the old and modern methods fo type-founding and composition, and briefly illustrates the development of type design. That part of the exhibition is education; for the rest, though there is much to learn from it, it does not set out to teach. It is simply an illustration to that proud but unattributed saying: With my twenty-six soldiers of lead I have conquered the world."

Persons involved with organizing the exhibition and writing catalogue entries included writer on typography Beatrice Warde, antiquarian bookseller and writer Percy Muir, typographer John Dreyfus, writer and antiquarian bookseller John Carter, economist and book collector John Maynard Keynes, and scientist, sinologist and historian of science Joseph Needham. According to Sebastian Carter, "Printing & the Mind of Man," Matrix  20 (2000) 172-180, typographer Stanley Morison, typographic advisor to Cambridge University Press, was involved in the planning, but the bulk of the organization of the exhbiition was done by the Assistant University Printer, Brooke Crutchley, helped by John Dreyfus. The largest private lender to the exhibition was stockbroker (later intelligence agent), book collector and writer, Ian Fleming, who had pioneered in collecting influential books, or those which, in the words of Sebastian Carter, had "started something."

Among several innovative aspects of the exhibition was a display of books published in the year 1859, including, among others, Darwin On the Origin of Species, Mill On Liberty, Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management.

The catalogue did not appear until June 1940, after the exhibition had been closed on May 16, only 10 days after it had opened, because of war. It was reprinted in the following month. In my copy of the second printing the following statement appeared:

"As this catalogue was about to go to press, a sudden change in the war situation made it appear advisable to close the Exhibition when it had been open only ten days. The catalogue was printed off, nevertheless, so that copies might be sent to all who had helped and others be available for sale. The demand proved greater than had been expected, and this reprint was in hand in which a few errors and oversights have been made good."

When I originally wrote this entry for From Cave Paintings to the Internet on October 25, 2011, I had never previously seen a copy of the 1940 exhibition catalogue, in spite of my roughly 50 years experience in the world of books. Until reading the catalogue I was unaware how much this forgotten exhibition held early in World War II had influenced the 1963 exhibition, Printing and the Mind of Man. The overlap in choices between the 1940 and 1963 catalogues is significant, especially as Carter & Muir were heavily involved in both exhibitions held 23 years apart, and some of the same lenders, especially Ian Fleming, contributed notable items to both exhibitions. It would be useful some day to compare the selections of the two exhibitions carefully.  Before doing that I would observe that the organizers of the 1940 exhibition must have been well aware of the significance of Hitler's writings leading up to World War II, as they included the  February 24, 1920 Munich Auszug aus dem Programm der national-sozialistischen Deutschen Arbeiterpartei as item 620 in their exhibition, and Hitler's Mein Kampf as item number 623.

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Book-Form Publication of the Library of Congress Catalogue Begins: 167 Volumes Plus 42 Volumes of Supplement 1942 – 1953

Starting in 1942 the Library of Congress published in 167 volumes of reproductions of its printed card catalogue as A Catalog of Books Represented by Library of Congress Printed Cards, issued to July 31, 1942. (1942-46).

In 1948 LC published a 42 volume supplement, and in 1953 a 23 volume supplement.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] no. 163.

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The Hinman Collator 1945 – 1949

Between 1945 and 1949 Shakespeare scholar Charlton Hinman developed the Hinman Collator, a mechanical device for the visual comparison of different copies of the same printed text. By 1978, when the last machine was manufactured, around fifty-nine had been acquired by libraries, academic departments, research institutes, government agencies, and a handful of pharmaceutical companies. Though built for the study of printed texts and used primarily for the creation of critical editions of literary authors, the Hinman Collator was also employed in other projects where the close comparison of apparently identical images is required: from the study of illustrations to the examination of watermarks to the detection of forged banknotes. 

"Hinman's invention greatly increased not only the speed at which texts could be compared but also the effectiveness of such comparisons, and it made collation on a large scale possible for the first time. The most famous use of the machine was by its inventor and resulted in his Printing and Proof-reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare (1963) and the Norton facsimile of the First Folio (1968). Hinman estimated that without the aid of his machine, the research for these projects would have taken over forty years. Without the collator, as he himself recognized, his study would have been a "practical impossibility", as would have the work of the many scholars who compiled dozens of bibliographies, produced hundreds of volumes of critical editions, and undertook countless bibliographical and textual investigations on his machine over the next five decades.

"The purpose of the machine for which he was seeking a patent was straightforward and grew directly from the needs of his research. During the Renaissance, the period of his specialty, books were proofread and corrected continually during the printing process, and early uncorrected sheets were commonly bound up with corrected ones from later in the print run. Thus the printed matter in the last book sold could, and usually did, differ substantially from that of the first, as it also could and quite often did from nearly every other copy in the printing. These variations are precisely the details the collator was developed to help detect. The operation of the device Hinman would eventually build was also straightforward. The operator sets up one book turned to a particular page on a platform on one side of the machine and another copy from the same printing turned to the same page on a platform on the other. He or she then views these items, which are superimposed via a set of mirrors, through a pair of binocular optics. After making adjustments to bring the two objects into registration, the operator activates a system of lights that alternately illuminates each page. If the pages are identical, they more or less appear as one; if they are not identical, the points of difference are called to the operator's eye by appearing to dance or wiggle about" (Smith, " 'The Eternal Verities Verified': Charlton Hinman and The Roots of Mechanical Collation," Studies in Bibliography, Vol. 53 [2000] includes images of the machines). 

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1950 – 1960

Compiling a Bibliography by Electric Punched Card Tabulating 1950

In 1950 the Library of Congress announced plans to compile the Union List of Serials using electric punched card tabulating.

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Early Library Information Retrieval System 1954

In 1954 Harley Tillet built the perhaps the first operating library information retrieval system on a general purpose computer (IBM 701) at the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) at Inyokern, California, later called China Lake.

"Searching started with a file of about 15,000 bibliographic records, indexed only by the Uniterms, and search output was limited to report accession numbers. The task was made even more difficult by the fact that the IBM 701, a scientific calculator, did not have any built-in character representation" (Bourne).

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The Most Voluminous Printed Catalogue of a Single Library 1959 – 1972

From 1959 to 1966 the British Museum (now the British Library) published its General Catalogue of Printed Books. Photolithographic Edition to 1955 in 263 folio volumes from 1959 to 1966. These volumes reproduced the catalogue cards of 4,350,000 items. In 1971 and 1972 the BM issued a Ten-Year Supplement, 1956-1970 in 23 volumes. This set of nearly 300 folio volumes was the "most voluminous" printed catalogue of a single library ever published in print.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 109.

Between 1967 and 1980 Readex Microprint of New York issued the Compact Edition of the entire British Museum Catalogue in a microprint edition (8 or 10 volumes in one). This was complete in 37 volumes, occupying 7 feet of shelf space. When it was published this was widely viewed as a very valuable reference source, and many antiquarian booksellers, such as myself, bought it.  However, I don't think we ever got much use out of it, and it was one of the first large sets we sold when it was evident that online resources would replace sets of this kind. In November 2013 the value of the Microprint Edition was limited. A colleague, Ian Jackson, offered a set for $100 in Cedules from a Berkeley Bookshop, No. 28.  (Readex Microprint evolved into Readex, an online publisher of mainly of historical source materials in digital form.)

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1960 – 1970

Feigenbaum & Feldman Issue "Computers and Thought," the First Anthology on Artificial Intelligence 1963

In 1963 computer scientist and artificial intelligence researchers at the University of California at Berkeley Edward A. Feigenbaum and Julian Feldman issued Computers and Thought, the first anthology on artificial intelligence. At the time there were almost no published books on AI and no textbook; the anthology became a kind of de facto textbook by default. It was translated into Russian, Japanese, Polish and Spanish.

An unusual feature of the anthology was its reprinting of "A Selected Descriptor-Indexed Bibliography to the Literature on Artificial Intelligence" (1961) prepared by Marvin Minsky as a companion to his survey on the literature of the field entitled "Steps toward Artificial Intelligence," which was also republished in the anthology. In the bibliography of Minsky's selected publications that was available on his website in December 2013 Minsky indicated that this "may have been the first keyword-descriptor indexed bibliography."                                                                                                                         Authors represented in the anthology included Paul Armer, Carol Chomsky, Geoffrey P. E. Clarkson, Edward A. Feigenbaum. Julian Feldman, H. Gelernter, Bert F. Green, Jr., John T. Gullahorn, Jeanne E. Gullahorn, J. R. Hansen, Carl I. Hovland, Earl B. Hunt. Kenneth Laughery. Robert K. Lindsay. D. W. Loveland. Marvin Minsky. Ulric Neisser. Allen Newell. A. L. Samuel. Oliver G. Selfridge. J. C. Shaw, Herbert A. Simon, James R. Slagle, Fred M. Tonge, A. M. Turing, Leonard Uhr, Charles Vossler, and Alice K. Wolf. 

Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace (2002) no. 599.

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The Printing and the Mind of Man Exhibition July 16 – July 27, 1963

Detail of cover of Printing and the Mind of Man.  Please click to see entire image.

Detail of back cover of Printing and the Mind of Man.  Please click to see entire image.

The Printing and the Mind of Man exhibition took place in London at the British Museum and at Earls Court Exhibition Centre during a period of only two weeks, from July 16 to July 27, 1963.

The lengthy and complex title of its catalogue, with an emblem and tailpiece designed and engraved by Reynolds Stone, read: Catalogue of a display of printing mechanisms and printed materials arranged to illustrate the history of Western civilization and the means of the multiplication of literary texts since the XV century, organised in connection with the eleventh International Printing Machinery and Allied Trades Exhibition, under the title Printing and the Mind of Man, assembled at the British Museum and at Earls Court, London, 16-27 July 1963. The catalogue described and illustrated with 32 black & white plates, and a color plate reproducing a page from the Mainz Psalter, more than 656 examples of printing and printing technology documenting the influence of print on the development of Western civilization. This exhibition occurred at Earls Court.  The catalogue also described, and illustrated with 16 black & white plates, an exhibition of 163 examples of Fine Printing mounted at the British Museum from July to September 1963.  At the end of their Acknowledgements on p. 9 of the catalogue the Supervisory Committee for the exhibition– librarian Frank Francis, typographer and historian of typography Stanley Morison and writer and antiquarian bookseller John Carter– stated:

"We pay tribute to the organizers of the Gutenberg Quincentenary Exhibition of Printing, assembled at Cambridge in 1940 (and prematurely disassembled because of the risks from enemy bombing). It was our original inspiration for several sections of our display, and its invigorating catalogue has been our constant friend."

Comparison of the 641 items described in the catalogue of 1940 with those described in the catalogue of 1963 show a great deal of overlap, especially as Percy Muir and John Carter, who had been prime movers in the exhibition in 1940, were extensively involved with the exhibition of 1963. The 1963 exhibition and its catalogue were, of course, significant expansions and improvements over the early wartime effort.

The 1963 catalogue was  followed in 1967 by a further-expanded larger format cloth-bound edition with a dramatic double-page engraved title by Reynolds Stone, significantly more detailed annotations, and without discussion of "printing mechanisms," entitled Printing and the Mind of Man. A Descriptive Catalogue Illustrating the Impact of Print on the Evolution of Western Civilization, compiled and edited by antiquarian booksellers and bibliographers John Carter and Percy H. Muir, assisted by book historian and writer Nicolas Barker, antiquarian bookseller H.A. Feisenberger, bibliographer Howard Nixon and historian of printing S.H. Steinberg.

This exhibition, and especially the 1967 book based on it, was, and remains, immensely influential on both institutional and private collectors of landmark books that influenced the development of Western Civilization.   

Taking place at the dawn of online searching and the ARPANET, and roughly twenty years before the development of the personal computer, this exhibition and its catalogues may also record the peak of the print-centric view of information before the development of electronic information technology leading to the Internet. The only references to computing in the exhibition and its catalogues were to Napier on logarithms, and to Leibniz's stepped-drum calculator. The exhibition and catalogues included references to the invention of radio, telephone and films, but not to television. 

Sebastian Carter, "Printing & the Mind of Man," Matrix 20 (2000) 172-180.

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Probably the First Book Typeset by Computer October 6, 1963

For the 26th Annual meeting of the American Documentation Institute, held in Chicago from October 6-11, 1963, Hans Peter Luhn of IBM, then president of the American Documentation Institute, issued Automation and Scientific Communication. Short Papers Contributed to the Theme Sessions. . . . On the verso of the title page of this quarto volume a statement reads:

"This 128 page book has been printed from type set automatically with the aid of electronic information processing equipment. It is believed that this is the first volume of technical articles ever produced in this manner."  

Further down the page it states,

"Oklahoma Publishing Co. performed keypunching from manuscripts, processing on an IBM 1620, automatic type-setting on Linotype and printing of reproduction proofs (Bill Wlliams, Chairman, Research Committee)."

A special printed slip pasted onto the front pastedown endpaper of a cloth-bound copy in my collection reads:


"This is No. 75 of 100 copies of a special edition of this book, prepared as a memento as a token of recognition to those who were involved in its creation and who are here identified by their signatures:

[manually signed by] "H. P. Luhn, S.E. Furth, B Williams, Doris Craig, S. L. Reed Jr. J P Blandean, R M Maxwell, Haribert H Luhn, John Bustin (?). 

[manually] "Countersigned Chicago, Ill, October 6, 1963, R M Hayes, President, American Documentation Institute."

The work was issued in two parts. Part one, described above, was mailed to participants before the meeting. Ordinary copies were in printed wrappers. Part two was available at the meeting which took place from October 6 to 11.  After its title page and table of contents part two was paginated continuously with part one (pp. 129-382). The verso of the title page of part two stated, "International Business Machines Corp., Data Processing Division performed keypunching of bibliographic informatiion, processing on an IBM 1401 for creating table of contents and KWIC and author index to titles of the papers published; a bibliography and citation index to the titles of all referenced papers, a KWIC and author index thereto; and furnished reproduction proofs of this material (R. M. Maxwell, Manager)."

Luhn "planned and directed the efforts that led to the first volume of technical papers produced by fully automatic typesetting techniques. These efforts, moreover, were successfuly carried out within the remarkable dealine requirements of often not more than three weeks from receipt of author manuscript to inclusion in a printed and bound volume, typeset by computer.

"In addition, within the same brief time period, the bibliographic information for the approximately 600 'short papers' accepted was keypunched and processed on a computer to produce the table of contents, a KWIC index, an author index, a citation index to the bibliographical references in the papers, a KWIC index to the titles of these cited references, a bibliography of the cited papers, and an author index to the citations" (Schultz [ed] H. P. Luhn: Pioneer of Information Science. Selected Works [1968] 29).

When I wrote this entry on June 23, 2012 I did not know of any earlier printed book on any subject typeset by computer.

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Henriette Avram Develops the MARC Cataloguing Standard 1965 – 1968

From 1965 to 1968 programmer and systems analyst Henriette Avram completed the Library of Congress MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging) Pilot Project, creating the foundation for the national and international data standard for bibliographic and holdings information in libraries.

The MARC standards consist of the MARC formats, which are standards for the representation and communication of bibliographic and related information in machine-readable form, and related documentation.... Its data elements make up the foundation of most library catalogs.

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Frederick G. Kilgour Begins Development of OCLC July 5, 1967

On July 5, 1967 three university presidents, three university vice- presidents, and four university library directors from the Ohio College Association met at Ohio State University in Columbus to found the non-profit Ohio College Library Center (OCLC)

"The group hired Frederick G. Kilgour to build a ‘cooperative, computerized network in which most, if not all, Ohio libraries would participate.’ Fred’s idea was to merge the newest information storage and retrieval system, the computer, with the oldest, the library. His vision was that this new computerized library would be active rather than passive, that people would no longer go to the library, but that the library would go to the people. Back in 1967, this was a rather revolutionary idea.

"The first step in this vision would be to merge the catalogs of Ohio libraries electronically through a computer network and database. The network and database would streamline operations and control rising costs. It also would bring libraries together to work cooperatively to keep track of the world’s information for the benefit of researchers and scholars" (http://www.oclc.org/about/history/beginning.htm, accessed 03-07-2012).

After the bibliographical database expanded far beyond the state of Ohio it was renamed Online Computer Library Center, retaining the same initials.

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NUC: The Largest Printed Bibliography, Complete in 754 Folio Volumes 1968 – 1981

In 1968 Mansell, in London, began publication of The National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints: a Cumulative Author List Representing Library of Congress Printed Cards and Titles Reported by other American Libraries (NUC). One of the largest sets of printed volumes ever published, and the largest printed bibliography, it was completed in 1981 in 754 folio volumes, containing a total of over 12,000,000 entries on 528,000 pages, and occupying approximately 130 feet of shelf space. It was produced manually by photocopying library catalogue cards.

Before OCLC was available outside of institutional libraries, in 1984 Breslauer & Folter, in their survey of historical bibliographical classics entitled Bibliography, its History and Development, characterized NUC as "The most extensive general bibliographical compilation of all time." In 2013, when I last revised this entry, their assertion remained valid if the scope of the comparison was limited to bibliographies printed on paper. 

Around 1995 NUC was superceded in certain respects (especially ease of access, ease of updating, and shelf space) by bibliographical databases such as OCLC WorldCat on the Internet.  Experts were quick to point out that bibliographical nuances and details present in some NUC entries were lost, or sometimes confused, in the electronic conversion. Whether any of those details would eventually be added or mistakes corrected in the database remained unknown.

♦ As a reflection of changing times and a shortage of shelf space, in November 2013 antiquarian bookseller Ian Jackson of Berkeley offered for sale in his Cedules from a Berkeley Bookshop, No. 28, a full set of NUC, "one of the few sets without library markings", for $754 or one dollar per volume, with the caveat that "Buyer removes."  This last element was crucial as the set weighed perhaps 10 pounds per volume. 

In conclusion, I cannot resist quoting Jackson's final paragraph of his description:

"Other attractions: the four volumes on the Bible remain the largest inventory in print, and in volume 671 (p. 565, s.v. Wolveridge) a presumably disgruntled employee has written 'Anyone paying good bucks for the crap in this catalogue has been royally screwed by us.' "

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Derek Austin Develops the PRECIS Preserved Context Index System 1969 – 1984

In 1969 British librarians Derek Austin and Peter Butcher issued PRECIS: A rotated subject index system, published by the Council of the British National Bibliography. This appears to be the first published report on an innovative method for adding subject data in the form of descriptors to the computerized MARC record. The 87-page report with a theoretical discussion and many specific examples was followed by an undated 17-page  "Supplement to "PRECIS - A Rotated Subject Index System." The new system was applied to the British National Bibliography. 

Austin followed the 1969 report with an expanded book entitled PRECIS: A manual of concept analysis and subject indexing (1974). An expanded version of this was issued by the British Library Bibliographic Services Division in 1984. I have reviewed copies of the 1969 and 1984 publications.

According to a quotation from Austin's obituary quoted in the Wikipedia article on Derek Austin, which I accessed in October 2016, Austin's "aim was to create an indexing system that would liberate indexers from the constraints of 'relative significance' (main entries). ...As by-products of his indexing theories he worked out drafts that in the mid-1980s were accepted as British and International Standards for examining documents, and for establishing multilingual and monolingual thesauri". PRECIS was an example of the application of syntactical devises in indexing. It was replaced at the British National Biography by COMPASS in 1996, which was later replaced by Library of Congress Subject Headings.

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1970 – 1980

Medline is Operational October 1971

In October 1971 Medline (Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System Online), a literature database of life sciences and biomedical information, was operational at the National Library of Medicine. It was initially a database version of the printed Index Medicus.

By 2008 Medline  ontained "more than 18 million" records from approximately 5,000 selected publications covering biomedicine and health from 1950 to the present.

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The English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) is Conceived June 1976

In June 1976, at a London conference jointly sponsored by the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and the British Library planning began for the "Eighteenth Century Short Title Catalogue." The aim of the original project was to create a machine-readable union catalogue of books, pamphlets and other ephemeral material printed in English-speaking countries from 1701 to 1800.

"An ESTC team was established at the British Library in 1977, under the direction of Robin Alston, and began work on the Library's extensive holdings of in-scope material. By 1978, when Robin Alston and Mervyn Jannetta published Bibliography, Machine-Readable Cataloguing and the ESTC, there were already more than fifty contributors to the file including Göttingen State & University Library (Germany). In 1978, Henry Snyder was appointed to direct the ESTC project in North America. An American cataloguing team was established in 1979, and the North American Imprints Project (NAIP) began at the American Antiquarian Society in 1980. The International Committee of the ESTC (IESTC) was established in 1980, with a membership drawn from the UK and the USA, chaired by the British Library. The ESTC file was soon available online, from 1980 via the British Library BLAISE system and from 1981 in the US Research Libraries Group RLIN system. The file was published on microfiche in 1983, and the first CD-ROM edition appeared in 1996.

"In 1987, with the agreement of the Bibliographical Society and the Modern Language Association of America, the International Committee approved the extension of the database to cover the period from the beginning of printing in the British Isles (ca. 1472) to 1700. The file changed its name to the 'English Short Title Catalogue', thereby keeping its well-known acronym. The USA team began cataloguing pre-1701 material in 1989, joined in the mid-1990s by the British Library team, and the resulting records were made available in the RLIN file from 1994. These records were also included in the CD-ROM 2nd edition (1998) and 3rd edition (2003).

"In 1992, IESTC approved a further extension of the file to include serial publications. The USA team began work in 1994 on the cataloguing of serials within the scope of ESTC."

In November 2013 the ESTC website stated that it contained records of over 460,000 items published between 1473 and 1800, mainly, but not exclusively in English, and published mainly in the British Isles and North America, from the collections of the British Library and over 2,000 other libraries.


In October 1978, early the development of the project the British Library published Bibliography, Machine Readable Cataloguing and the ESTC. A Summary History of the Eighteenth Century Short Title Catalogue: Working Metthods, Cataloguing Rules, A Catalogue of the Works of Alexander Pope Printed between 1711 and 1800 in the British Library by R. C. Alston & M. J. Jannetta. My copy of this work is cloth-bound and limited to 20 copies with a printed list of the recipients bound iin.

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2000 – 2005

"Origins of Cyberspace" 2002

Jeremy Norman

In 2002 Diana Hook and the author/editor of this database, Jeremy Norman, issued as a limited edition an annotated, descriptive bibliography entitled Origins of Cyberspace: A Library on the History of Computing, Networking, and Telecommunications. This was the first annotated descriptive bibliography on the history of these subjects. The brief timeline on the history of those subjects published in Origins of Cyberspace was the basis on which historyofinformation.com was later constructed. 

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OCLC Serves More than 50,000 Libraries, Contains 56 Million Records 2004

The OCLC logo

In 2004 OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), Dublin, Ohio, served more than 50,540 libraries of all types in the U.S. and 84 countries and territories around the world. OCLC WorldCat contained 56 million catalogue records, representing 894 million holdings.

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The Index-Catalogue Goes Online May 1, 2004

John Shaw Billings

The National Library of Medicine logo

On May 1, 2004 The Index-Catalogue of the Surgeon-General's Office, a 61 volume printed bibliographical resource for the history of medicine and science, published from 1880 to 1961, was made available online by the United States National Library of Medicine. In its online form the utility of the work was greatly enhanced since it became a single searchable database rather than a series of physical volumes and different indices published over decades.

This was the culmination of a data conversion project which began in 1996. 

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2005 – 2010

The Changing Nature of the Catalogue. . . . March 17, 2006

Karen Calhoun

Reflecting the influence of the Internet on physical library access and usage, on March 17, 2006 the Library of Congress published The Changing Nature of the Catalogue and its Integration with Other Discovery Tools by Karen Calhoun.

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A Critical Review at the Library of Congress April 3, 2006

Representing the Library of Congress Professional Guild, Thomas Mann published A Critical Review of Karen Calhoun's paper published on March 17. This review rebutted various assertions in the Calhoun report.

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OCLC Merges with RLG July 1, 2006

The OCLC logo

The RLG logo

On July 1, 2006 OCLC merged with RLG. The combination of programs and services was expected to "advance offerings and drive efficiencies for libraries, archives, museums and other research organizations worldwide."

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2010 – 2012

The Universal Short Title Catalogue is Founded 2011

In 2011 the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC) was initiated at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. This created a database, the goal of which was to eventually document all books published on the continent of Europe and in Britain from the invention of printing to the end of the sixteenth century. The database aimed to provide access to full bibliographic information of all books, locations of surviving copies and, where available, digital full text editions that could be accessed through the database. In 2013 the USTC described approximately 350,000 editions and around 1.5 million surviving copies, located in over 5,000 libraries worldwide.

"The invention of printing in the fifteenth century revolutionised information culture, vastly multiplying the number of books in circulation. It had a transforming impact on the intellectual culture of the Renaissance. The invention attracted enormous attention, and the art of printing spread quickly through the European continent. In the next 150 years publishers brought out a huge number of texts in a large range of disciplines. These included thousands of Bibles as well as milestones of scientific publication. Printing also stimulated the production of new types of books, such as news pamphlets, and the influential propaganda works of the Protestant Reformation. Overall this amounted to a huge volume of books: at least 350,000 separate editions, a total of around two hundred million printed items.

"The history of print has always played a central role in the development of modern European society. Despite this, the knowledge base on which such interpretations are based is surprisingly flimsy. Astonishingly, to this point, it has never been possible to create a complete survey of all printed books in the first age of print.

"The corpus of materials is very large, and widely dispersed. Many books from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries survive in only one copy. These unique items are distributed between around 6000 separate archives and libraries around the world.

"Until this point data on early printed books has been available principally through National Bibliographical projects. These have achieved some notable results. The German VD 16 has gathered information on some 90,000 editions published in German lands. The Italian Edit 16 lists 60,000 editions published in Italy. The English Short Title Catalogue is a comprehensive survey of all books published in English.

"Nevertheless, this tradition of national bibliography has two main drawbacks. Firstly, National Bibliographies are seldom complete. For practical and funding reasons the German VD 16 and Italian Edit 16 both confine their searches to books presently located in German and Italian libraries respectively. Yet sixteenth-century books were dispersed very widely; many books survive only in libraries far away from their place of production. Secondly, the coverage of Europe by these projects is far from comprehensive.

  • There has as yet been no complete survey of France, the third major language domain of early print.
  • There is no survey of printing in Spain and Portugal.
  • The surveys for Belgium and the Netherlands are seriously deficient.
  • Printing in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia has been surveyed only in small disparate projects dealing with a single language domain (Bohemia, Denmark, Hungary). There is no survey for Poland.

"The USTC will make good these deficiencies in a project with two strands by completing the coverage of European print by gathering comprehensive date on all parts of Europe lacking such a survey. Finally, the USTC will co-ordinate the merging of these resources with other cognate projects into a coherent, unified searchable database" (Wikipedia article on Universal Short Title Catalogue, accessed 11-26-2013).

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2012 – 2016

Improving the Research Potential of ESTC April 17, 2012

Mr Brian Geiger

Center for Bibliographical Studies & Research
University of California, Riverside
Highlander Hall, Building B, Room 114
Riverside, California 92507

17 April 2012

Dear Mr Geiger

Improving the research potential of ESTC: consultation: A modest suggestion by William St Clair

I welcome the opportunity extended through SHARP L to offer suggestions for making ESTC more useful for researchers in the 21st century. Much of future research will, we can be confident, take the form of quantitative analysis, not necessarily just for checking of historical records, but for identifying trends, trying to recover the reading of the past, generating explanatory models and so on. The current suggestions for improving the interrogability of the present resource are to be welcomed.

However, I suggest, if we want to make the ESTC a research tool for the more ambitious questions, as is the stated aim, then in my view, the proposed changes will make only a limited contribution. Although in the English-speaking world, we have excellent catalogues and bibliographies, to my mind, the empirical factual basis on which those who attempt to address ambitious questions are reliant is seriously inadequate. Indeed, I suggest, the extent of the present inadequacy of data would not be tolerated by those familiar with the standards applicable and expected in the sciences and social sciences.

The biggest weakness for anyone attempting a history of books, or of the book industry, or of reading, is that 'titles' is a poor measure of book production. What we need, for a start, if we want to map the material extent of past production, are figures for print runs and sales, and also for price, as a good indicator of potential access, plus explanatory economic models for the various governing regimes [guild system, perpetual copyright, pirate and offshore, and so on]. We also need to develop formal ways of recognising and offsetting the inadequacies of the patchy archival record. Draft proposals for an ambitious project that would enable this kind of step change improvement in the data to be made have been prepared. If they are proceeded with, it will however take time before results become available and we see the benefits.

However, there is a notable weakness in the current situation that can be easily addressed and remedied, and that would be a helpful step in the right direction of making ESTC a more useful research tool. ESTC should, I suggest, consider the suggestion that I have made in print and in lectures on a number of occasions, most fully in my chapter in The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, volume 6.

ESTC is, in a way, a victim of its own success. For the ready availability of lists of titles has fostered an illusion of completeness and that has led to users attempting to use it for purposes for which it is inadequate. Indeed the consultation document that has been circulated helps to prolong the illusion. I quote: 'The English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) is a union catalog and bibliography of everything printed between 1473 and 1800 in England and its former colonies or in the English language elsewhere.' In fact, as I understand the situation, ESTC is a union catalogue of titles of which at least one copy is known to have survived somewhere in the world?

That is not a debating point. It has long been known that the survival rate of books and print from the early centuries is badly incomplete. And this is not just a general common sense understanding. We have good evidence of the large scale of the losses. D. F. McKenzie’s observation that the size of the English printing industry, as measured by the physical capital (presses) and personnel employed (apprentices and printers) scarcely changed between the mid sixteenth and late seventeenth century can only be squared with the sharp rise in surviving titles over the same period by postulating either that a high proportion of the industry was maintained in unemployment or that more output occurred than has survived, or some combination. [In CHBB, iv,17]. Since, until the early eighteenth century, the English state attempted to control the texts that were permitted to circulate within its jurisdiction not only by an array of direct textual controls but also by limiting the capacity of the industry, measured not by titles but by numbers of printed sheets, it is highly unlikely that a huge proportion of industrial capacity was kept in idleness or in reserve.

And we know the titles of many of these lost printed books. It has been known, at least since 1875, that the Stationers’ Company register included only a proportion of titles of which copies survive. [E Arber, A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London 1554-1640 volume 1]. The finding in my book The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period, 2006, 74-75, and 495-496, not challenged as far as I know, that large numbers of abridged ‘ballad versions’ of biblical stories were officially permitted until a sudden stop around 1600 depended upon my taking account of these lost, but registered, pieces of printed literature by scrutinising the registers myself. This result, and there are others, could not have emerged by interrogating ESTC nor would the current proposals to improve interrogability help. It is simply inadequate.

And it is not only in the early centuries of print that lists of titles known to survive are inadequate. For the eighteenth century, the survival rate of books known to have been produced, for example by being listed in advertisements, looks good for expensive books, patchy for some genres such as novels, and extremely poor for cheaper print. [Especially the two Dicey catalogues. Discussed in Reading Nation 340, and there appear to have been more cheap reprints of titles that entered the newly created public domain in the period after 1774 than are listed]. Soon after the 1800, the cut off date of ESTC, when we move to the age of stereotyping, 'titles' is such a poor indicator of production as to be of little value, and the survival rate for cheaper print known to have existed is even more poor.  ESTC cannot be held responsible if others misuse the information. But already it is used is to produce bogus statistics, even for titles, even for trends. Indeed, in some books and articles, the software that enables graphs, pie charts, bar charts and so on to be easily produced has given a spurious pseudo-scientific plausibility to results whose factual basis is simply not able to support them.  "There are no conceptual or methodological problems in my modest proposal for including lost books in ESTC. Provided the results can be aggregated with ESTC, they could be kept separate. The resources needed are largely clerical, potentially realisable by crowd sourcing. The potential improvement in the quality of research would, I suggest, be highly cost effective.

Yours sincerely
William St Clair

(source, accessed 04-23-2012).

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