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The Cumulative Book Index (February 1898)


Bookseller Halsey William Wilson of Minneapolis published the first issue of the Cumulative Book Index

"As a bookseller, Wilson had to constantly search through publishers' catalogs in order to keep track of currently published books that his customers might want. It was tedious and time-consuming work that prompted him to long for a comprehensive, up-to-date index of published works. He eventually decided to create such an index himself. What made the concept work economically was Wilson's idea to keep the publication current by placing each entry on a printer's "slug," which could then be later sorted with slugs from new entries. It may have been an obvious solution to someone who had experience as a job printer, but it was a revolutionary concept in bibliographical publishing. In February 1898 Wilson first published Cumulative Book Index, a comprehensive alphabetic list of currently published books in English, featuring the key elements of future Wilson indexes: the listing of author, title, and subject. The work sold for $1 to 300 subscribers, who would then receive periodically updated versions."