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The rate Arabian Oryx is believed to have insprired the myth of the unicorn. This desert 
antelope became virtually extinct in the early 1960s. At that time several groups of 
international conservationists arranged to have 9 animals sent to the Phoenix Zoo to be the 
nucleus of a captive breeding herd. Today the Oryx population is over 400, and nearly 800 have 
been returned to reserves in the Middle East. 

Copyright © 1992 by James Rettig 
Published by The Oryx Press 
4041 North Central at Indian School Road 
Phoenix, Arizona 85012-3397 

Published simultaneously in Canada 

All rights reserved 

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, 
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and 
retrieval system, without permission in writing from The Oryx Press. 

Printed and Bound in the United States of America 

The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American Na- 
tional Standard for Information Science — Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, 
ANSI 239.48,1984. 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publlcatlon Data 

Distinguished classics of reference publishing / edited by James 
Rettig; foreword by Charles Scribner, Jr. 

p. cm. 
Includes bibliographical references and index. 
ISBN 0-89774-640-6 

1 . Bibliography — Best books — Reference books. 2. Reference books- 
-Publishing — History, 3. Reference books — Bibliography. 
I. Rettig, James. 

21035. 1.DS7 1992 91-33629 

O1T.02— dc20 CIP 

With love and gratitude, 

the editor dedicates this book to Monica Mary Rettig 

"I'm so lucky to be loving you." 


Foreword: Publishing the Dictionary of Scientific Biography ix 

Charles Scribner, Jr. 

Introduction xiii 

Documenting the Travel Experience: Baedeker Guidebooks 

Harold M. Otness 1 
"The Most Famous Book of Its Kind": Bartlett's Familiar Quotations 

Kerry L. Cochrane 9 
Black's Law Dictionary: Ninety-Nine Years, 1891-1990 

Pamela S. Bradigan 18 
An "Alms-Basket" of "Bric-A-Brac": Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable 

Charles Bunge 24 
"The Indispensable Guide": The Chicago Manual of Style 

Richard D. DeBacher 31 
The "Instinctive Grammatical Moralizer": H. W. Fowler and His Dictionary of Modern English 

William A, McHugh 41 
"The Most Amusing Book in the Language": The Dictionary of National Biography 

Johannah Sherrer 54 
Controlling the Beasties: Dissertation Abstracts International 

Mary W. George 66 
The Circle of Learning: Encyclopaedia Britannica 

Sandy Whiteley 77 
The Book that Built Gale Research; The Encyclopedia of Associations 

Carol M.Tobin 89 
Code of Courtesy from the Roaring Twenties: Emily Post's Etiquette 

Richard W. Grefrath 98 
"Of Permanent Use and Usefulness": Granger's Index to Poetry 

Milton H. Crouch 113 
A Cornerstone of Musical Scholarship: Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians 

William S. Brockman 117 
"Monument": Guide to Reference Books 

Stuart W. Miller 129 
"Unbeatable": The Guinness Book of Records 

Christine C. Whittington 138 




i , 

A Household Word for Four Generations: Moody's 

Elizabeth J. Wood 147 
"The Bibliographical Wonder of the World": The National Union Catalog 

John R. M. Lawrence 161 
The Record of Record: The New York Times Index 

Jo A. Cates 174 
"The Jewel in the Crown": The Oxford English Dictionary 

James Rettig 180 
"Mom in the Library": The Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature 

Mary Biggs 198 
Demystifying Parliamentary Procedure: Robert's Rules of Order 

Sarah B. Watstein 21 1 
"Wings of Flight": Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases 

Marta Lange 220 
Eugene Garfield's Contribution to Bibliography: Science Citation Index 

David A. Tyckoson 234 
"The Baby Figure of the Giant Mass": Pollard & Redgrave's and Wing's Short-Title Catalogues 

Robert W, Melton 242 
Continuity in a Changing World, Statesman's Year-Book 

David M. Pilachowski 259 
Permanently Definitive: Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible 

Edward D. Starkey 269 
The World in One's Hands: Times Atlas of the World 

Mary L, Larsgaard 27 8 
The Legacy of Noah Webster: The Merriam-Webster Family of Dictionaries 

Marie C. Ellis 286 
Afternoon Tea, Parliament, and , . . Who 's Who 

Linda K. Simons 306 
All Things for All People: The World Almanac 

Margaret Morrison 3 1 3 
"The Best of Its Type": World Book Encyclopedia 

Holly D. Rogerson and E. Paige Weston 322 

Contributor Profiles 335 

Index 339 


Foreword: Publishing the Dictionary 
of Scientific Biography 

Charles Scribner, Jr. 

Distinguished Classics of Reference Publishing 
relates the stories of 31 major reference works, 
many of them very ambitious undertakings that 
from concept to completion spanned years or 
even decades. One must have great admiration 
for the dedicated, hard working editors who 
created them. The Dictionary of Scientific Biog- 
raphy was the most ambitious publishing proj ect 
that I ever dreamt up. As a schoolboy I was 
greatly impressed by the history of Chartres 
Cathedral and used to marvel at the dedication 
of the ancient French townspeople who were 
willing to commence a building that none of 
them would live to see finished. Frankly, I am a 
little less amazed now by that part of the story. 
It is obvious that they expected to see it finished. 
My own experience as a publisher of the DSB 
has given me a good deal of insight into the 
planning of long-term projects. The truth of the 
matter is that at the start no one can imagine how 
long they are going to take. Perhaps it is just as 
well that our chronological depth perception 
fails us so often when we look into the future. 
if we knew ahead of time their actual comple- 
tion dates. Dan Boorstin, the Librarian of Con- 
gress, commented on this remark saying that it 
constituted a proof of the existence of God. 

Although th&DSB was conceived, planned, 
written, and edited almost entirely by historians 
of science, it was our original hope that it would 
also serve a wide readership outside that special 
field. We hoped that it would be useful and 
interesting to historians in other fields as well as 

to teachers and students, journalists, and gen- 
eral readers. 

It was natural that the idea for a biographi- 
cal dictionary of science should have been 
taken up enthusiastically by Scribners. In the 
earliest years of our company's history we 
were active in publishing multi-volume refer- 
ence works in such fields as literature, religion, 
and history. At one time — over a hundred 
years ago, as noted elsewhere in this book — we 
published the mnth&ditionofiheiEncyclopaedia 
Britannica in the United States. In the 1920s we 
entered into an agreement with the American 
Council of Learned Societies to publish the 
Dictionary of American Biography and in the 
1950s we had begun to be active in publishing 
books on science for the general reader. My 
own interest in history of science had been 
greatly stimulated by a little book by James B. 
Conant entitled Science and Common Sense 
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1951). He 
proposed that the study of history of science 
would be valuable in science teaching and 
especially so for beginners who would find it 
easier to grasp the purposes and methods of 
science by reading case histories taken from 
the earlier and simpler periods in the develop- 
ment of various sciences. 

With all those ideas somewhat confusedly 
in mind, I wrote to Dr. Charles Gillispie at 
Princeton University asking to see him. I had 
not met him but was familiar with his splendid 
book in history of science entitled The Edge of 
Objectivity (Princeton: Princeton University 

&.-HW— "Jf i* ** 


Press, 1960). I told him that I wanted to discuss 
some publishing ideas in his field and had been 
"nursing the hope" that he would assist us as an 
advisory editor. Dr. GUlispie responded courte- 
ously, and I visited him at Princeton a few days 
later. In the story of th&DSB I consider that visit 
as eventful as Dr. Watson's first meeting with 
Sherlock Holmes. (Incidentally, Dr. Gillispie 
said, "Which one of us is Sherlock Holmes?" I 
said, "You, of course.") We talked about the 
possibility of Scribners publishing a series of 
books in history of science. Dr. Gillispie was 
obviously doubtful and pointed out that most of 
his colleagues were already over-committed as 
far as writing was concerned. In the following 
days I brooded over the difficulty of launching 
any major effort in history of science. In hind- 
sight, now, given our success in commissioning 
articles from leading historians for the Dictio- 
nary of American Biography, it seems almost 
inevitable that the idea for a DAS of scientists 
would dawn on us. But the inevitable is not 
always perceived promptly. In any case, that 
idea did finally occur to me. Considering the 
subject, I have later thought it very auspicious 
that this inspiration took place one morning in 
the bathtub. I did not rush out shouting "Eu- 
reka!" I telephoned Dr. Gillispie almost imme- 
diately to see what he thought of a dictionary 
approach. His response was unhesitating and 
splendidly positive. He liked the idea and was 
willing to help. His favorable reaction was the 
decisive event in the creation of the DSB. 
Without his enthusiasm the idea would almost 
certainly have aborted; with his support it had 
every chance of success. 

During the next few months a number of 
steps were taken — all of them important to our 
moving ahead on the project. A luncheon meet- 
ing of prominent historians of science resulted 
in a request that the American Council of 
Learned Societies take the DSB under its wing 
in the same way it had taken the DAB. A 
detailed grant proposal was prepared by Dr. 
Gillispie, which was then submitted by the 
ACLS to the National Science Foundation. All 
this sounds very complicated if not Byzantine, 

but it was absolutely necessary given the scale 
of the work and the strong sponsorships it 
would need to enlist the cooperation of scholars 
all over the world. In such a situation the 
publisher must emulate the cuckoo and lay its 
egg in another bird's nest for hatching. 

Once the National Science Foundation re- 
sponded affirmatively with what was the larg- 
est publication grant it had made until then, the 
DSB was a going concern. An editorial board 
was appointed under the chairmanship of 
Charles Gillispie and steps were taken to make 
a working list of subjects — that is, names of 
scientists — for inclusion in the Dictionary. The 
original estimate had been around 2,600 ar- 
ticles. The final list contained twice as many, a 
tolerable margin of error for reference books 
and cathedrals. I might add that in the very 
tentative first list of names that was typed up at 
Scribners, a shocking clerical mistake was made 
between the "M's" and the "N's" with the result 
that Sir Isaac Newton was left out. That was 
inauspicious — to say the least — and I never felt 
we enjoyed the Ml confidence of physics edi- 
tor Thomas Kuhn after that. I hasten to add that 
Newton is in the DSB. 

Each of the major reference works in- 
cluded in Distinguished Classics of Reference 
Publishing has generated its share of interest- 
ing stories. So has the DSB. To describe in any 
detail the events and trials of the decade and a 
half in which the successive volumes of the 
DSB were published, from Abelard to Zwelf er, 
would take a book in itself. But I shall share a 
couple of anecdotes given me by managing 
editor Marshall DeBruhl. 

It was the policy for the DSB to include no 
living subject, but it was not always easy to 
ascertain whether a particular scientist was still 
alive or not. For example, Dame Kathleen 
Lonsdale was asked to write the article on 
Ralph Wyckoff, which she did. A fact checker 
discovered no grounds for thinking the man had 
died, which would disqualify him. Meanwhile, 
Dame Kathleen died. We thereupon wrote to 
Wyckoff — at his last known address — and 
asked him to write the article on her. He agreed 


but had to give up the assignment because of ill 
health. It was the first case of the "author is 
dead, but the subject is alive." Also, if he could 
have completed the article on Dame Kathleen, 
and then died, we would have had a real first in 
biographical publishing. Incidentally, Wy ckoff 
did not die in time for the W volume. We held 
the article on him for a future supplement. 

The article on Max Planck was translated 
from the German language and in one passage 
the author seemed to be going on and on about 
Planck's knowing everything. The copy editor 
asked if he would let us reduce the paragraph to 
stating that Planck had a reputation for omni- 
science. The author replied "Omniscience is 
not sufficient." 

Planning and producing the index for the 
DSB turned out to be a much more difficult task 
than we had anticipated. It would have been 
comparatively easy had we limited ourselves to 
proper names, but given the organization of the 
Dictionary, which is biographical, we consid- 
ered it all the more necessary that the index be 
thoroughly topical as well. For a while we 
hoped that it would be possible to produce the 
index entirely by computer. In fact, we con- 
ferred with some of the experts at IBM to 
explore that possibility. But we soon learned 
that computers were not up to such a job — 
however well they may play chess. There 
seemed to be no way to develop a foolproof 
program that could cope with such statements 
as "Darwin was a man of great personal grav- 
ity" or "Pasteur had boundless energy as a 
researcher." Computers are strong in Vespritde 
geometric but weak in / 'esprit de finesse. 

In the end, the longest way around turned 
out to be the shortest way home and we engaged 
a top-notch indexer, Julia McVaugh, to take on 
the job in the old-fashioned way. Working at 
Chapel Hill with a small staff of assistants, she 
produced the index in ten years. The completed 
job required 65,000 cards for 75,000 entries. 
When these were shipped up to New York in 
three batches by train we did not dare let them 
out of our sight, but provided an escort for each 
shipment. This part of the DSB was almost as 

time-consuming and costly as our original esti- 
mates for the entire work. So much for our 
ability to foretell the completion of our cathe- 

Although the principal purpose of theDSB 
is to describe the achievements of individual 
scientists from the earliest times to the present 
day, I believe that it is as much a humanistic as 
a scientific work — that is, if one accepts the 
idea that humanism is essentially a point of 
view that can be taken towards all departments 
of knowledge, including science. From the 
humanistic point of view, the creation of in- 
creasingly comprehensive and beautiful con- 
ceptual schemes in science, the production of 
more and more precise scientific data, and the 
continual application of scientific knowledge 
to practical human needs, are all to be seen as 
coordinated achievements in the life of the 
mind and additions to the contents of human 

I would say further that no matter how 
complex or unfamiliar the subject matter of a 
particular science may become or how far its 
concepts and assumptions may be at variance 
with our ordinary intuition, the thought pro- 
cesses of scientists are not fundamentally dif- 
ferent from those of other researchers in other 
departments of knowledge who must apply 
imagination, reason, and factual investigation 
to whatever difficulties of understanding may 
arise in their work. In this connection one thinks 
of the simple definition of scientific method 
proposed by Percy Bridgman. He called it 
"Doing your damnedest with your mind — no 
holds barred." One of the advantages of the 
biographical approach to the history of science 
is that it consistently reminds the reader that 
science has no life of its own apart from the 
minds of the men and women who study or 
create it. That point is made implicitly by more 
than 5,000 articles in the DSB, and we have 
been fortunate to find a large enough pool of 
experts who have kept it going through its 

Similarly, the biographical information 
about the creators of the 31 landmark reference 



works whose stories are told in Distinguished 
Classics of Reference Publishing demonstrate 
that these books, so often taken for granted, 
owe their existence to the hard work — noholds 
barred — of their editors. Anyone who has 
worked on a project like thsDSB can empathize 
with the difficulties the editors of these other 
great reference works encountered and tri- 

umphed over. Users of these indispensable 
works, while they might not be able to empa- 
thize, will surely sympathize. All will welcome 
the opportunity Distinguished Classics of Ref- 
erence Publishing offers to deepen acquain- 
tance with these books and to learn more about 
the stories behind them. 


"If there is such a thing as a work of reference 
that I cannot read through, I have yet to find it. 
Catalogues, timetables, chronicles of alum- 
nus and alumna, Companions and Concor- 
dances of every kind — all are a joy to me."* 

This is a book for everyone who derives such 
unbounded joy from reference works. Distin- 
guished Classics of Reference Publishing \e\\s 
the story of 31 reference books or families of 
reference books that have stood the test of time 
and become so indispensable that if any one of 
them did not exist, we would need to create it. 
Many of them have established the standards 
of excellence for their respective reference 
genres and all have proved themselves invalu- 
able. And they have, even if not read through 
from cover to cover (or through many vol- 
umes), provided their users more than a bit of 
joy over the years. Through an amusing ex- 
ample, a strikingphotograph, a carefully drawn 
map, and in innumerable other ways, all these 
books have been ever fresh springs of knowl- 
edge and of the joy reference works uniquely 
give. Distinguished Classics of Reference Pub- 
lishing shares with its readers that joy and 
explains how a select number of notable ref- 
erence books have evolved and refined them- 
selves to provide joy, knowledge, and infor- 
mation in abundance. 

Any collection of this sort is bound to 
engender differences of opinion about what 
items ought to have been included or ex- 
cluded. The 3 1 books and families of books 
were chosen because they have proved them- 
selves again and again. Although other refer- 
ence books have similarly proved their endur- 

ing value, those included here were selected 
because they illustrate the value of reference 
works in a variety of broad subject areas and 
specific reference types. Indeed, they were 
selected from a much longer list that the editor 
and Oryx Press editorial staff considered ini- 
tially. The selection is meant to be representa- 
tive, not exhaustive. Especially significant 
reference types (e.g., dictionaries and ency- 
clopedias) are represented by more than one 
example. For other genre, more difficult 
choices had to be made to select a single 
representative title to keep the scope of the 
project and size of the finished book manage- 
able. For example, the category of national 
and trade bibliographies, represented here by 
the National Union Catalog, could well have 
been represented by the Union List of Serials 
or Books inPrint. Choices hadto bemade. The 
editor and publisher hope there will be oppor- 
tunity in another volume to treat those signifi- 
cant reference works not selected for this 

With one exception, all of the books treated 
are English-language books. The single ex- 
ception is the Baedeker family of travel guides. 
These were included because of their shaping 
influence on the vade mecum travel guide 
genre and because they have long been avail- 
able in English editions. The absence of elec- 
tronic reference works should not be inter- 
preted as a slight; these worthy tools are 
simply outside the scope of this book. 

In most cases a single visionary person 
with determination, fortitude, and unflagging 

"John Russell, "Larousse's Dictionary Is Smart and Concise," New York Times (18 April 1982), p. D29. This passage is the 
opening of a review of the Larousse Dictionary of Painters. 



dedication merits credit for the creation and 
maturation of each of the reference works. In 
others, for example, the National Union Cata- 
log, teams of individuals made them possible 
from the start. With few exceptions, such as 
Post's Etiquette and Bartlett's Familiar Quo- 
tations, all have become institutionalized and 
are today the products of many minds and 
hands. But all are alike in one telling charac- 
teristic; all meet day-to-day needs for thou- 
sands of ordinary people. Furthermore, all 
have been refined and rendered with such care 
and quality that they are unquestionably, be- 
yond any similar works (for none is the only 
book of its kind), a joy to their users, year after 
year, edition after edition. 

Distinguished Classics ofReference Pub- 
lishing offers glimpses behind the scenes. The 
essays tell about the people who often over- 
came seemingly insurmountable obstacles to 
bring these works into being, and the people 
who have carried them on and made them 
better over decades or generations. They ex- 
plain how and why the characteristics of each 
new title came over time to define its genre, 
and how these reference works, many prod- 
ucts of pen-and-paper processes in the nine- 
teenth century, have thrived and positioned 
themselves in the electronic age to move pro- 
ductively into the twenty-first century. 

The 3 1 chapters are organized alphabeti- 
cally by the titles of the books treated. Each 
chapter has a four-part structure. The first and 
most important section is an analytical histori- 
cal essay. This essay traces the origin of the 
book, places it in its historical context, and 
describes its present state and likely future 
directions. The second section is a biblio- 
graphic history of publication, recording vari- 
ous editions, title changes, etc. These publica- 
tion histories vary in form and content so as to 
accommodate the complexities of and varia- 
tions among the histories of the 31 books. 
None of these publication histories should be 
construed as an exhaustive bibliographic de- 
scription or final bibliographic history of any 
of these titles; telling the stories of the books 

and their value through narrative, not enumer- 
ating the niceties of their bibliographic histo- 
ries, is the primary purpose of this book. The 
third section is a selective bibliography, rarely 
numbering more than 25 entries, of secondary 
works about the title discussed. A headnote 
introduces each bibliography, points out high- 
lights, and explains the particular value of the 
most significant items in the list. The fourth 
section is the chapter notes; these are grouped 
at the end of each chapter. As the chapter notes 
show, the contributors consulted current edi- 
tors for information about present operations 
and future plans of their particular publica- 
tions. This information was gathered through 
correspondence and telephone calls and, in 
the case of the editors of the New York Times 
Index, through an on-site interview. On behalf 
of the contributors, this book's editor thanks 
these busy editors for their cooperation and 
hopes that each one will be pleased with the 
chapter describing their respective reference 

The essays vary in length. This variation 
results sometimes from the the relative signifi- 
cance of the work in question, sometimes from 
the extent of the secondary literature extant, 
but usually from both. For example, little 
information other than reviews has been re- 
corded about either Granger's Index or the 
Guide to Reference Books. On the other hand, 
works such as the Webster dictionaries or the 
short title catalogs have been the subject of 
numerous reports, articles, essays, and re- 
views, only the most significant of which 
could be cited in their essays or listed in their 

As one who in the past ten years has 
reviewed more than 2,000 reference books 
and has read even more reference book intro- 
ductions, I am well acquainted with state- 
ments by editors of collective works in which 
they humbly assign credit for their books' 
virtues to their contributors and accept re- 
sponsibility for any defects. After reading 
hundreds of these statements, many of them 
virtually interchangeable, one could easily be 


tempted to dismiss them as pro forma.. How- 
ever, after having assembled a group of busy 
contributors and cajoled them to meet dead- 
lines, and to revise several times work they 
considered finished, this editor has gained a 
profound appreciation of the sincerity and 
veracity of those statements. Truly, the book' s 
virtues lie in the individual essays, and its 
editor humbly accepts responsibility for any 
shortcomings it may have. 

Many persons deserve thanks for their 
contributions. First and foremost I wish to 
thank the 3 1 other contributors; without them 
there would be no Distinguished Classics of 
Reference Publishing. On their behalf I thank 
the many individuals, too numerous to name 
individually, who assisted the contributors in 
their work by critiquing early drafts, offering 
advice, etc. Art Stickney, director of editorial 
development of The Oryx Press, merits spe- 
cial thanks for conceiving the idea for this 
book. I am grateful to him that he asked me to 
carry out his fine idea and that he and his 
colleagues at The Oryx Press were patient 
enough to let me complete several other 
projects before taking on this one. Both Anne 
Thompson and John Wagner, the editors at 
The Oryx Press who guided me through the 
project, have provided wise counsel and en- 
couragement; and their sense of humor has 
provided some laughs along the way. Special 
thanks are also due to Charles Scribner, Jr., 
truly a living legend in reference publishing, 
for graciously providing the Foreword. I am 
grateful to the College of William and Mary 
for awarding me a research grant to cover 
expenses related to the project. My fine col- 
leagues at Swem Library at William and Mary 
have been supportive and have taken an inter- 
est in the book's progress. At various times 
Andrew Magpantay, James Wilson, Patrick 
Page, and Bob Richardson converted files that 
contributors produced on IBM microcomput- 
ers so I could read and.edit them on a Macin- 

tosh computer; they also provided other tech- 
nical assistance, GlendaPage, as fine a secre- 
tary as one could wish for, helped prepare 
mailings, send fax messages, field telephone 
calls from contributors, and tend to other 
inglorious-yet-essential chores along the way. 
By providing invaluable legal advice, 
Philip G. Rettig proved one more time that his 
favorite pro bono client is his grateful son. 
Profound gratitude goes to the late Ann J. 
Rettig, who, through her tireless reading to a 
young boy, instilled in him a love of books so 
strong that today he is decidedly one to whom 
"Catalogs, timetables . . , Companions and 
Concordance of every kind" are a never end- 
ing source of joy. She knew of this book in its 
early stages; I wish she were here to see it 
finished. My children, Chris, Tony, and 
Katie — children who witness the infinite vari- 
ety of reference books as newly published 
review copies ebb and flow in and out of the 
house almost daily — have taken an interest in 
the progress of the book even though they 
have expressed deep doubts that any book 
about books (especially when some of those 
books are in turn about yet other books!) could 
be interesting to anyone. For their good humor 
I am grateful; I hope their doubts are ill- 
founded and that some day each of them may 
open this volume at least in curiosity, if not 
with burning desire to read it cover to cover. 
Along with editors' statements of responsibil- 
ity for their books' shortcomings, editors' ex- 
pressions of gratitude to patient, long suffer- 
ing spouses appear to be de rtgueur in refer- 
ence book introductions. But it is with a sense 
of obligation genuinely incurred rather than 
obeisance to convention that I express my 
deepest gratitude to my wife, Monica Rettig, 
for her encouragement and support through- 
out this project, Without that support, it would 
not have been completed as soon nor as well. 

— James Rettig 

I :i t 







Documenting the 

ravel experience: 

Harold M. Otness 


Above average" was the phrase recently used 
by a Booklist reviewer to evaluate the latest 
Baedeker guidebook. A few years ago such 
words would have been unthinkable for this 
venerable series because Baedeker was the 
unquestioned leader in the guidebook field. 
"Kings and governments may err," went the 
jingle of A. P. Herbert, "but never Mr. 
Baedeker."' One of the many bits of lore 
concerning this series is the story of Kaiser 
Wilhelm interrupting a high-level conference 
at the palace in Potsdam to appear at a window 
because, as he explained, "You see, it says in 
Baedeker that at this hour I always do." 2 So 
dominant was the series that the very name 
"Baedeker" became the generic term for all 
guidebooks, much like Kleenex and Xerox 
have become identified with their types of 

It is not that Baedekers have fallen so low, 
but rather that in recent years a fair number of 
guidebook series have risen to the level of 
thoroughness and objectivity that Baedeker 
established over a century ago. Baedekers still 
are among the best of the genre, and they 
remain the gauge against which other guide- 
books continue to be measured. The older 
Baedekers have considerable historical refer- 
ence value to attractions that no longer exist, 
while the current volumes provide a vast array 
of information on what is available for the 
traveler today both in terms of what to see and 
do, and the practical information of how to get 

there, where to stay, and where to eat and be 

Baedeker Beginnings 

Baedeker is an author (actually four gen- 
erations of the family), a publishing company, 
and the title of a guidebook series, as well as 
a generic name for all guidebooks. The father 
of the series was the first Karl Baedeker who 
was born in 1801 in Essen. He studied at 
Heidelberg University and did some local 
traveling before settling into the book selling 
business in Coblenz in 1827. Five years later 
he bought out a bankrupt publishing house 
whose titles included a somewhat scholarly 
survey of the history and art of the Rhine by 
Professor Johann August Klein entitled 
Rheinreise von Mainz bis Koln (Coblenz: F. 
Roehling, 1828). In 1835 Baedeker revised 
this work, extending the geographical range 
and adding to it the practical information on 
transportation, lodging, food, and health 
needed by travelers. In 1839 Baedeker for the 
first time put his name on the title page of 
another revision of this work. Any of these 
three dates could be argued as the beginning of 
the Baedeker guidebook dynasty. 

None of these dates, however, mark the 
beginning of the guidebook format. The credit 
for this is often given to Pausanias, a scholar 
who compiled a landmark description of the 
Greek world in the second century A.D., of 
which only fragments have survived. In medi- 
eval times guidebooks were published for 


pilgrims visiting holy shrines. Guidebooks 
were a response to the increased number of 
travelers; as the world become more settled 
and safe, more people began traveling for 
pleasure and education, In broad terms such 
travel was one impetus of the Renaissance and 
its consequent rapid spread of knowledge 
throughout and beyond Europe. The grandees 
of Renaissance tourism, traveling with reti- 
nues of servants from court to court became 
the "Grand Tour" aristocracy of later centu- 
ries.By the early nineteenth century, the emerg- 
ing middle class began to venture abroad 
without servant^ tutors, and interpreters, and 
a need thus arose for guidebooks. 

By the beginning of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, a fair number of local guidebooks were 
available, but most of these concentrated on 
describing the sights and their histories, rather 
than pro viding the practical information to get 
the traveler there. Another early guidebook 
format was the "itinerary" book, which simply 
listed the distances between places with a 
record of the post stops where teams of coach 
horses were changed. With the advent of 
railways, travelers could go faster and to more 
places and guidebooks were organized for the 
train traveler along railroad routes. Baekeker 
appeared at the beginning of this era of travel. 

Murray's Contribution 

While Baedeker is often credited with 
creating the modern guidebook, a combina- 
tion of practical travel information and a de- 
scription of things to experience, the original 
Karl Baedeker credited his English rival John 
Murray (also both a personal name and the 
name of a famous family publishing business) 
with perfecting the format. The second John 
Murray (his father was Lord Byron's pub- 
lisher) took a trip as a young man around 
northern Europe, and while doing so he com- 
piled notes organized by routes which in 1 83 6 
his father published as A HandBookfor Trav- 
ellers in Holland, Belgium, and along the 
Rhine, and throughout Northern Germany 

(London: John Murray). It was a success, 
quickly followed by similar works on south- 
ern Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Switzer- 
land. Baedeker was so impressed by the utility 
of these books that he copied the format, 
including eventual use of the term "hand- 
book" and the flexible red covers for his own 
German-language guidebooks. For years af- 
terwards he sent updated information fromhis 
travels to the grateful John Murray, since at 
this time Murray ' s guidebooks were published 
only in English, and Baedeker's only in Ger- 

man. 3 

Baedeker followed his Rhine guidebook 
with Holland (1839), Belgium (1839), and 
Germany ( 1 842) and each quickly became the 
standard for German-speaking travelers. The 
series soon spread overall of Europe. By 1 846 
the firm was translating its titles into French, 
and by 1861 into English. By 1862, when 
Baedeker brought out his first London guide- 
book (in German), the warmth between the 
Baedeker and Murray firms had cooled, and 
the former had achieved a dominance which 
was to last until the beginning of World War 

A Family Enterprise 

The compiling of guidebooks, which Karl 
Baedeker had done almost single-handedly on 
the spot, passed on to his capable sons and 
grandsons* as well as to such outsiders as 
Francis Muirhead, who authored the volumes 
on the United States and Canada and served as 
the English-language editor for many years, 
(Translated editions were not j ust literal trans- 
lations but actually reworked texts to satisfy 
the needs and interests of other language 
groups.) The last family member with the 
name Baedeker to be active in the venture, Eva 
Baedeker, passed away in 1984. This multi- 
generational continuity has been the key to the 
long-time standardization and high quality of 
the series. 

From the beginning, the strength of the 
Baedekers resulted from at least five factors: 


1. The thoroughness of coverage, with 
even small, out-of-the-way places at 
least mentioned, 

2. The up-to-dateness of coverage, with 
substantial revision taking place be- 
tween editions, which appeared every 
two or three years for most titles. 

3. The wealth of detailed maps, and espe- 
cially city plans, included in all titles. 
Baedekers became virtual small-for- 
mat atlases with their foldout maps, 
panoramas, and detachable index plans. 

4. The authoritative and often scholarly 
introductory essays to the history and 
arts of the places covered. Some of 
these were signed essays, mostly by 
German academics, and they added to 
the accuracy and prestige of the series. 

5. The unbending objectivity in the de- 
scription and rating of sights (an aster- 
isk system was used to denote relative 
merit) and in the listing of facilities. 
The early Baedekers traveled anony- 
mously and, unlike many guidebook 
writers today, would never accept "free- 
bies," or other favors, nor would they 
accept advertising of any kind. The 
standard warning in the turn-of-the- 
century guidebooks stated: "To hotel- 
proprietors, tradesmen, and others the 
Editor begs to intimate that a character 
for fair dealing and courtesy towards 
travellers forms the sole passport to his 

commendation Hotel-keepers are 

also warned against persons represent- 
ing themselves as agents for Baedeker's 

The Baedekers always placed the well- 
being and fair treatment of the traveler first, 
and there was almost a paternal tone in the 
handing out of advise on health, safety, and 
where to get best value for the money. They 
have never been tools of the travel industry, 
puffing travel destinations and facilities; but 
display an integrity not matched in many of 
today's guidebooks. Generations of travelers 

came to rely upon the Baedekers, and people 
walking around with the little red volumes in 
hand became common to the tourist land- 

Tributes to Baedeker Quality 

Because of their excellence, Baedekers 
were heavily mined, often without acknowl- 
edgement, by compilers of competing guide- 
books, and by authors of popular travel books 
of the day. Baedekers figured prominently in 
Graham Greene's Stambout Train: An Enter- 
tainment and E.M. Forster's Room with a 
View. T.E. Lawrence is said to have used them 
in the Middle East. 4 

They were complimented by Evelyn 
Waugh ("With his unfailing discernment 
Baedeker points firmly and inobstrusively to 
the essential." 5 ) and Theodore Dreiser ("Let 
me here and now, once and for all, sing my 
praises of Baedeker and his books." 6 ). Bertrand 
Russell was influenced by their clear and 
direct prose style. 7 (However Aldous Huxley 
took a swipe when he wrote "How often I have 
cursed Baron Baedeker for sending me through 
the dust to see some nauseating Sodoma or 
drearily respectable Andrea del Sarto! How 
angry I have been with him for starring what 
is old merely because itis old." 8 ) Mark Twain 
had great fun with them: "I was aware that the 
movement of glaciers is an established fact, 
for I had read it in Baedeker; so I resolved to 
take the passage for Zermatt on the Gorner 
Glacier." 9 Indeed Baedekers were an integral 
part of both the travel experience and its 
resulting literature. 

Baedekers and Two World Wars 

In 1872Baedekermovedfrom Coblenzto 
the German book center of Leipzig where it 
evolved into a large publishing organization 
with extensive book-making and geographi- 
cal information resources. By the beginning of 
World War I Baedeker coverage had extended 
to North Africa, the Middle East, across Rus- 


sia and through Siberia as far as Peking, the 
Indian subcontinent, and North America, and 
worldwide coverage seemednear. But the war 
halted growth of the series, and anti-German 
sentiment in the 1920s encouraged the devel- 
opment of other guidebook series including 
the excellent Blue Guides (edited by a former 
Baedeker editor), which were near clones. 
The Italian Touring Club lured away 
Baedeker's skilled map lithographers to work 
on their own extensive series of guidebooks to 
Italy and its then expanding territories. The 
French published several competent series of 
guidebooks, including the Michelins which 
today dominate the crowded European guide- 
book market. The "golden era" of Baedekers 
had passed, but during that era an estimated 
two million copies, in three languages, had 
been sold. 

Between the wars the firm updated some 
titles, but concentrated on regional guide- 
books to Germany for the local market. It also 
began to restructure the guidebooks for the 
emerging automobile traveler. 

World War II was an even greater disaster 
for the firm. In ways it could not envision, the 
firmplayed a role in the war's destruction. The 
Baedeker on Scandinavia was said to be in- 
strumental in General VonFalkenhorst'splan- 
ning for the 1940 invasion of Norway. In 

1942, following the Royal Air Force's bomb- 
ing of Lubeck, Goering supposedly ordered 
the Luftwaffe to destroy every historical build- 
ing in Great Britain marked in Baedeker with 
asterisks. The resulting bombings of cathe- 
drals and other monuments became known as 
"Baedeker raids." Then, on December 3, 

1943, a massive R.A.F. raid reduced Leipzig, 
including the Baedeker plant, to rubble. Irre- 
placeable printing plates, inventory, and ex- 
tensive files were destroyed, 

Baedekers after World War H 

The firm rose from the ashes under the 
direction of Karl Baedeker, grandson of the 
founder. In 1948 he issued a guidebook to 

Leipzig, which was in the Russian zone of 
divided Germany. But because — with charac- 
teristic family thoroughness — he showed the 
location of some sensitive facilities on the city 
plan, the occupying Soviets quickly censored 
the book. This repressive environment caused 
the firm to shift to West Germany where, with 
the infusion of a fourth generation of Baedeker 
family members, the firm finally found solid 
footing in Freiburg in 1956. 

The post- World War II Baedekers have 
been aimed at the automobile travelers and 
group tourists who prevail today. This manner 
of travel requires a different approach be- 
cause of the faster pace and special needs of 
the motorist. Some of today's titles convey less 
history and less detailed description of artistic 
works, but more on the mechanics of getting 
about. Some exceptions to their policy of not 
carrying advertising have been made, but com- 
mercial influence is not nearly as intrusive as 
it is in most guidebook series. If Baedekers are 
not what they were, they are in many ways 
more suitable for today's travelers. 

Their Enduring Value 

Old Baedekers have gained in utility as 
research sources — both for what is no longer 
there, and as social history. There is no better 
source for study of the evolution of tourism 
than a century and a half of Baedekers. They 
document how people traveled, what they 
saw, and what they thought about what they 
saw. From reading them we can determine 
national attitudes, measure our expanding 
knowledge of other countries and cultures, 
and mark the impact of technology on the 
development of globalization. 

What can be found in these old volumes? 
A plan of Budapest at the turn of the century 
before it was drastically altered by industrial- 
ization, wars, the automobile, and Sovietiza- 
tion. A description of the major cultural monu- 
ments of Berlin later destroyed in the wars. A 
plan of a Paris cemetery showing the graves of 
famous people. A floor plan of a museum in 


Amsterdam including a listing of the artworks 
then displayed by location. A survey of the 
rigors of travel in Albania, including the kind 
of food one was likely to encounter and the 
general state of sanitation and public health. A 
scholarly outline of the history of Egypt. A 
geological description of the Alps actually 
written by a geologist. The price of a meal, a 
glass of the local wine, a night's lodging in a 
modest country inn, the schedule of the "Ori- 
ent Express," and the fair price of a taxi ride in 
Rome. Recommendations on health precau- 
tions and cures. Descriptions of the local 
economy. Comments on the differences of 
cultures, as then perceived. And more. 

Most major reference books are impres- 
sively large, but the old Baedekers measured 
a mere 6Va" x 4 l A" and never exceeded 1 1/3" in 
thickness; yet what they contained is astound- 
ing. Through the use of thin "bible paper," 
small but varied typefaces, and a compact 
style of writing that included many abbrevia- 
tions, some of these volumes contained over 
500 pages of dense description and up to 30 
pages of double-column index entries. 

The number of maps is also impressive. 
Great Britain (1910 ed.) had 28 maps, 65 
plans, and a panorama; Rhine (1906 ed.) had 
52 maps and 29 plans; and Switzerland (1911 
ed.) had 75 maps, 20 plans, and 12 panoramas. 
These were veritable atlases. The larger maps, 
some as much as 16 inches high and wide, 
were folded and were either tipped in or in- 
serted in back pockets. The city plans were 
particularly rich in detail and even showed 
such things as streetcar routes and individual 
trees along boulevards. By the turn of the 
century, most maps and plans were colored, 
highly readable and attractive, and rigorously 
updated with each new edition. There were 
also numerous black-and-white floor plans of 
cathedrals and museums. The Baedeker maps 
and plans are indexed in Index to Nineteenth 
Century City Plans Appearing in Guidebooks, 
and Index to Early Twentieth Century City 
Plans Appearing in Guidebooks, both pub- 
lished by the Western Association of Map 

Most major public and academic libraries 
keep a reference set of the old Baedekers, 
often set aside in special collections because 
of their increasing market value. Thieves value 
their maps, which can, unfortunately, easily 
be cut out and sold separately. Baedekers are 
collected avidly. The titles which never en- 
joyed great sales, such as Russia (the first and 
only English edition appeared in the unhappy 
year of 1914); Indien (also published in 1914 
and never in English); and Maderia (issued in 
1934 in German and 1939 in English) now 
bring several hundred dollars apiece when 
they come on the market. Others, such as the 
1929 edition of Egypt with its excellent plans 
of monuments now underwater and often 
claimed to be the best guidebook ever written; 
Greece with its strong historical description; 
and the United States are also highly valued. 
The most common titles are those concerning 
Italy, France, Germany, and Great Britain. 
Several Baedekers have been reprinted and 
efforts are being made to translate some of the 
early German editions into English. Green- 
wood Press issued a collection of 266 English- 
language volumes up to World War II on 
1,898 microfiche, with printed index. This set 
is now available in microfiche from Univer- 
sity Publications of America for $3,545. 10 

Today's Baedekers have a decidedly more 
modern look with a larger format, two sizes 
(country guides being larger than city guides), 
glossy paper, and abundant color photographs. 
The flexible red covers remain (but of a differ- 
ent design and material) and they still fit in the 
pocket or camera bag. The practical informa- 
tion appears at the back on bright yellow 
pages. The city guides are arranged alphabeti- 
cally by attraction and no longer have compre- 
hensive indexes. Each volume has a large 
fold-out map in back. The recent publication 
history of the Baedekers is complex, and is 
best told by Alex Hinrichsen in "An Account 
of the History of the Firm of Baedeker." 11 
Cooperative ventures were first struck with 
the large German map publisher Mairs of 
Stuttgart in 1951, and the Autoguides were 

Ej^if/iiaarea -*s*jvii 


done by this firm for many years. For a while 
there were actually two separate firms issuing 
Baedekers, one centered in Freiburg (Karl 
Baedeker Verlag, a part of the Langenscheidt 
publishing group), and one in Kemnat, near 
Stuttgart (Baedeker's Autoguides, a part of 
the Mairs publishing group). In 1987 the two 
ventures were merged under the name of Karl 
Baedeker GmbH, with headquarters at 
Kemnat, The ownership is split 50-50 be- 
tween Langenscheidt and Mairs. The series 
continues to evolve. Both Asia and the west- 
ern hemisphere are receiving more coverage, 
but western Europe and the Mediterranean 
continue to be the strength of the series. 

The revisions are more difficult to iden- 
tify today. The edition numbering has unfor- 
tunately been dropped and one must search the 
verso of the title page for a copyright date, but 
one is not always present. However the 
Baedeker tradition of rigorous revision ap- 
pears to be maintained. 

Today the Baedekers are unique refer- 
ence tools in that both the current editions and 
the older editions can be justified in a library's 
reference collection, a claim none of its many 
imitators can yet make. 


The Eastern Alps 


Paris and its Environs 
Northern France 
Southern France 


Berlin and its Environs 
Northern Germany 
The Rhine 
Southern Germany 

Great Britain: 

England, Wales, and Scotland 
London and its Environs 


Central Italy and Rome 
Italy from the Alps to Naples 
Nothern Italy 
Southern Italy 

The Mediterranean 
Norway, Sweden, and Denmark 
Palestine and Syria 

Spain and Portugal 

The United States, with excursions to Mexico, 
Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Alaska 

Over 200 distinct titles in German, French, 
and English havebeen issued with the Baedeker 
imprint over the last century and a half. There 
have been several German, British, French, 
and American publishers' imprints over the 
years, and some editions have been joint pub- 
lications with the (British) Automobile Asso- 
ciation, Lufthansa, Shell, and others. The de- 
finitive list of titles, along with a useful num- 
bering system for them, is Hinrichsen's 

Pre-Wortd War / English-Language 

Belgium and Holland 

Modern Guidebooks 

Today's list of Baedeker offerings is com- 
parable. There has been some restructuring of 
the guidebook series and geographical areas 
are redefined from time to time. Some titles 
are not currently distributed in the United 
States. The following are recent titles offered 
through the American distributor Prentice- 

Country Guidebooks: 


Great Britain 












Multi-Nation and Regional Guidebooks 

Costa Brava 
Greek Islands 
Islands of the 

Netherlands, Belgium, 



Turkish Coast 

City Guidebooks 










Hong Kong 






New York 



San Francisco 





Baedeker also offers a. Rail Guide to Europe/ 
and a series of maps under the Baedeker name 
is distributed in the United States by Gousha. 


The Germans are particularly keen enthu- 
siasts of Baekeders, and they have conducted 
seminars featuring papers by academics and 
collectors from several countries (a recent one 
included a cruise on the Rhine while reading 
aloud appropriate passages from an early 
guidebook). The Hinrichsens, in addition to 
their excellent history and bibliography, pub- 
lish "Reiseleben" (in German only, write for 
subscription information). In England Michael 
Wild, a dealer in old Baedekers, publishes an 
informative newsletter "Baedekeriana" (write 
for current subscription information — 21 
Nursery Grove, Lincoln, LN2 IRS). Another 
Englishman, L. Lawrence Boyle, a professor 
of physics at the University of Kent, has 
written extensively on Baedekers and is work- 
ing on a book that promises to be a major 

In the United States, Herbert Warren 
Wind's article in the New Yorker is the best 
written and most carefully researched of the 
numerous magazine articles that have ap- 
peared over the years. 

This bibliography is not comprehensive, 
due to the vastness, and in some cases, super- 

ficial natureof the literature. Many slicktravel 
pieces have been based on the series, or other- 
wise make use of it, but these are often deriva- 
tive. Yet there are substantial writings, and 
there will be more as appreciation of the series 
continues to grow. Listed here are some of the 
best writings, and in some cases the represen- 
tative and more unusual writings, that have 
been published in English (with the exception 
of the Hinrichsen work). 

Ayrton, Michael. "The Traveler Incognito." Harp- 
ers Bazaar (June, 1959): 92+. 

"Baedeker and the Modern World." The Bookman 
XVII (July, 1903): 495-97. 

Constable, W. G. "Three Stars for Baedeker." Harp- 
ers 206 (April, 1953): 76-83. 

Dunbar, Gary S. "The Way It Was Done in Leipzig: 
ACommentonBaedeker'sFirst Century." Land- 
scape 19 (May, 1975): 11-13. 

"Enlisting Baedeker in the Army." Literary Digest 
58 (June, 1918): 31. 

Gebhard, Bruno. "The Doctor Travels with Karl 
Baedeker." Bulletin of the New York Academy 
of Medicine 46 (June, 1970): 469-78. 

Hinrichsen, Alex VS. An Account of the History of the 
Firm of Baedeker. Translated into English by 
Michael Wild (photocopied typescript, 1988). 

. Baedeker-Katalog; verzeiehnis aller 

Baedeker-Reisefuhrer von 1832-1987. 



! I 

Holzminden, West Germany; UrsulaHinrichsen 

Vertag, 1988. 
Holroyd, James Edward. "Baedeker and Baker 

Street." Cornhill Magazine 173 (Winter, 1962- 

63): 139-45. 
Knoles, George Harmon. "Baedeker's United States. " 

Pacific Historical Review XiII (March, 1 944): 

Mendelson, Edward. "Baedeker's Universe." Yale 

Review 74 (Spring, 1985); 386-403. 
Muirhead, James f .America, the Land of Contrasts; 

a Briton 's View of His American Kin, New 

York: JohnLane, 1911. Chapter XII, 2 19-7 2, is 

titled "Baedekeriana." 
— . "Baedeker in the Making." AtlanticMonthly 

91 (May, 1906): 648-60. 
. "The House of Baedeker." Outlook 83 

(May, 1906): 224-30. 
Otness, Harold M. "Baedeker's One-Star American 

Libraries." Journal of library History, Phi- 

losophy and Comparative Librarianship XXI 
(Summer, 1977): 222-34. 

. Index to Nineteenth Century City Plans 

Appearing in Guidebooks. Santa Cruz, CA: 
Western Association of Map Libraries, 1980. 

. Index to Twentieth Century City Plans Ap- 
pearing in Guidebooks, Santa Cruz, CA: West- 
ern Association of Map Libraries, 1978. 

Smiles, Samuel. Memoirs and Correspondence of 
the Late John Murray, With an Account of the 
Origin and Progress of the House, 1 768-1843. 
London: John Murray, 1891. Chapter V, 459- 
83, is titled "Murray's Handbooks." 

Wallace, Irving. TheSaturday Gentleman. New York: 
Simon & Schuster, 1965. Chapters, l83-200,is 
titled "Tourist Bible." 

Wind, Herbert Warren. "The House of Baedeker." 
New Yorker 51 (September 22, 1975): 42+. 


' These kinds of anecdotes appear in many sources. The 
most reliable source for this one, and several others 
which follow, is Herbert Warren Wind, "The House 
of Baedeker," New Yorker 51 (22 September 1975): 

1 Ibid., 49. 

3 Samuel Smiles, Memoirs and Correspondence of the 

Late John Murray, with an Account of the Origin 
and Progress of the House, 1768-1843 (London: 
John Murray, 1891). 

4 Wind, 49. 

5 Evelyn Waugh.Xaie/i-, aMediterraneanJournalQjon.- 

don: Duckworth, 1930), 56. 

6 Theodore Dreiser, A Traveler at Forty (New York: 

Century, 1914), 307. 

7 Wind, 49. 

8 Aldous Huxley, Jesting Pilate; Notes and Essays of a 

Tourist (New York: Duran, 1926), 37. 

9 Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad (New York: Gabriel 

Wells, 1923), 127. 

10 Baedeker 'sHandbook(s) for Travelers: The Complete 

Collection of 266 Editions Published in English 
Prior to World War II: (Bethesda, MD: University 
Publications of America, 1975.) 

11 Alex W. Hinrichsen, An Account of the History of the 

Firm of Baedeker. Translated into English by 
Michael Wild (processed, 1988). 


"The Most Fam 
Bartlett's Ft 

is Book of Its Kind": 
amiliar Quotations 

Kerry L. Cochrane 


John Bartlett, editor, publisher, and lexicogra- 
pher, was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on 
June 1 4, 1 820. He gave early evidence of a love 
for reading: he was able to read a Bible verse 
to his mother at the age of three; by nine he had 
read the entire Bible aloud. He left the Ply- 
mouth public school at 1 6 to become a clerk in 
the University Book Store in Cambridge. This 
bookstore, where the early works of Longfellow 
and Lowell had been published, faced the 
campus of Harvard College. Although em- 
ployment signaled the end of his formal educa- 
tion, the acquaintance with books and Harvard 
professors which the bookstore made possible 
was the equivalent of a university education for 
Bartlett. His self-acquired erudition earned 
him the respect of the literary community, and 
Bartlett made the University Book Store a 
cultural meeting place for faculty and students 
who loved books. By 1849, at the age of 29, 
Bartlett had become the proprietor of the Uni- 
versity Book Store, which he managed for ten 
more years. In 1851 he married Hannah 
Staniford Willard, daughter of the Harvard 
professor of Hebrew and granddaughter of 
Harvard's thirteenth president. 

Bartlett became a publisher of scholarly 
works, including Harvard textbooks of classi- 
cal languages and authors such as Thoreau and 
Emerson. His regular customers were allowed 
access to the back room, where they could 
discuss their reading, and Bartlett indulgently 
permitted college students to take books away 

and pay when they could, His voracious read- 
ing and near-total recall so impressed his liter- 
ary friends that it was soon standard practice to 
"ask John Bartlett 1 ' when the provenance of a 
quotation was in doubt. Such requests became 
so frequent that Bartlett began noting in a 
commonplace book memorable passages and 
literary quotations from his wide reading. The 
references in this notebook, arranged chrono- 
logically and listing the sources, would be- 
come the basis for the first Collection of Famil- 
iar Quotations. 

The Early Editions 

With the help of Harvard student Henry 
W. Haynes, Bartlett compiled and published 
the Collection of Familiar Quotations in 1855 
as a service to his friends . Bartlett published the 
first three editions of his work himself from the 
University Book Store, and then in 1863 he 
joined the Boston publishing firm of Little, 
Brown & Co., which published the fourth 
edition of Familiar Quotations that same year. 
He edited his book through six more editions, 
all of which bear the imprint of Little, Brown & 
Co., and eventually became senior partner of 
the firm. In recognition of his work, Harvard in 
1 871 awarded Bartlett an honorary Master of 
Arts degree. He was made a fellow of the 
Academy of Arts and Sciences, and held hon- 
orary membership in Phi Beta Kappa. Bartlett 
retired from Little, Brown in 1889 to write his 
Complete Concordance to Shakespeare 's Dra- 
matic Works and Plays, which appeared in 



1894. He died 1 1 years later at the age of 85. 
According to Nathan Haskell Dole, editor of 
the tenth edition ( 1 9 1 4), the first nine editions 
of Familiar Quotations had sold 300,000 cop- 
ies before Bartlett's death. 

In the preface to the first edition, Bartlett 
modestly mentioned that although the work 
was not originally intended for publication, if 
it were to be favorably received "endeavors 
will be made to make it more worthy of the 
approbation of the public in a future edition." 1 
The public's approbation was immediate. The 
1 ,000 copies of the first edition sold out within 
three months, Harvard Magazine described 
Bartlett' s work this way: 

The book, like a good rule, works both ways; 
it not only gives every facility for the detec- 
tion of careless copyists, but it also enables 
one to sprinkle his conversation, his writing, 
and his public speaking, with the choicest 
selections from the best authors, — the very 
nutmeg of the English language. ... It is a 
boon, an absolute boon, to lawyers, newspa- 
per editors, politicians, literary people, draw- 
ing-room belles, young gentlemen of limited 
conversational powers, and, above all, for 
students. 2 

The second edition, appearing in 1856, 
and 63 pages longer, was just as popular. 
Familiar Quotations increased in size with 
each subsequent edition: the third edition 
(1858) was 446 pages long, almost twice the 
size of the first; the fourth edition (1863) was 
480 pages long, the fifth (1868) and sixth 
(1874) each had 778 pages. The ninth edition 
(1891), the final one compiled by Bartlett, 
contained 1,158 pages. 

The work has continued to attract praise 
over the years and is considered a basic refer- 
ence source. Eugene Sheehy calls Familiar 
Quotations "one of the best books of quota- 
tions with a long history"; it has also been 
called "the most famous American book of its 
kind, and in many respects the best." 3 Ameri- 
can Reference Books Annual said of Familiar 
Quotations', "A fairly common definition of a 
'reference book' is a book that is 'consulted, 
but not read,' But one always has to hasten to 
add that many kinds of reference books are 

read, at least by certain kinds of people. Dic- 
tionaries of quotations are perhaps the best 
example, and Bartlett continues to be the best 
of such dictionaries." 4 In a review of the 
eleventh edition the Christian Science Moni- 
tor called Familiar Quotations an institution, 
saying, "What the Cambridge History of Lit- 
erature is to English and American letters, 
Webster to the American language, the 
Britannica to encyclopedias in English, Bartlett 

is to English quotations This is, of course, 

primarily a reference book, but it is also a 
fascinating anthology of memorabilia. It is an 
ideal book for the bedside table, the waiting 
room, for random moments when you haven't 
time to settle down to a real read. It's an 
admirable book in which to browse." 5 

Significant Features 

Two features contribute to the "readabil- 
ity" of Familiar Quotations: its chronological 
arrangement, and its thorough cross-referenc- 
ing. The chronological arrangement provides 
a sense of historical context and of the pro- 
gression of an author's thought over time 
which is not present in works arranged the- 
matically or alphabetically. Authors are ar- 
ranged in birth date order; quotations within 
each author are chronological by date of pub- 
lication. The author index at the beginning 
provides birth and death dates as well as the 
page number of each author's first citation. 
The extensive footnotes allow the reader to 
follow the evolution of an idea through the 
writings of several authors, or trace how dif- 
ferent ages and cultures have employed simi- 
lar sayings. Footnotes can also give informa- 
tion about a quote such as identifying its 
translator and the version in the original lan- 
guage, if appropriate, and any cross-refer- 
ences. The exhaustive keyword index lists 
short forms of each phrase being indexed, 
with page references. 

The purpose of Familiar Quotations was, 
according to Bartlett's preface, "to show, to 
some extent, the obligations our language 


owes to various authors for numerous phrases 
and familiar quotations which have become 
'household words.'" 6 More than just a refer- 
ence source, Familiar Quotations is a living 
document which records the development of 
American literary taste over more than 125 
years. In the first edition, more than one third 
of the quotations were drawn from the Bible 
and Shakespeare, with the balance of the book 
comprised mainly of citations to English poets 
such as Byron, Milton, and Wordsworth. In 
1855 these were the primary cultural refer- 
ences of the educated American. This stock of 
common culture — what Americans consid- 
ered "familiar" — has widened with every edi- 
tion of Familiar Quotations. Through the first 
ten editions the guiding principle for selection 
remained the same: the book included only 
those words which the general reader could 
recognize as familiar. With the eleventh edi- 
tion, under the editorship of Christopher 
Morley, Familiar Quotations departed from 
this principle. Morley was the first editor to 
make a conscious effort to include what he 
thought was worthy of becoming familiar: 
references to contemporary literature and, in 
the twelfth edition, to contemporary politics. 
This is the model that has been followed to the 
present day. 

Bartlett edited the first nine editions of 
Familiar Quotations essentially by adding to 
his original work new quotations he consid- 
ered worthy of inclusion. One reviewer re- 
marked, "The well-known taste which has 
from the first presided over the formation of 
this incomparable collection, and the genu- 
inely familiar character of the quotations that 
have found admission to its pages, make this 
book the surest of guides, if not to the popular- 
ity, at least to the comparative quotability, of 
the great authors of our language." 7 Refer- 
ences to XheBible, theBookofCommonPrayer, 
and Shakespeare accounted for only one-fifth 
of the ninth edition, because so many new 
sources had been added. Authors quoted for 
the first time included Matthew Arnold, 
Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and both the El- 

der and the Younger Pliny. Not yet repre- 
sented, however, were Rossetti, Swinburne, 
Mark Twain, Hawthorne, Melville, Emily 
Dickinson, Thoreau, and Walt Whitman. One 
of the most significant enhancements intro- 
duced in the ninth edition was the systematic 
inclusion of translated quotations both from 
ancient authors and from early modern writers 
such as Rabelais, Montaigne, and Cervantes. 
The translations had comprised only 8 pages 
of the eighth edition, but made up 120 of the 
ninth, Bartlett also greatly increased the amount 
of parallel references given in footnotes and in 
the appendix. 

Newer Editions, New Editors 

Bartlett seems to have intended the ninth 
edition to be the last, since he began the 
prefaceby saying, "The small thin volume, the 
first to bear the title of this collection, after 
passing through eight editions, each enlarged, 
now culminates in its ninth, — and with it, 
closes its tentative life." 8 But 1914 saw the 
publication of a tenth edition, edited by the 
poet and translator Nathan Haskell Dole, which 
was six times the size of the original. In all its 
years of publication, Familiar Quotations had 
been enlarged but never revised. Dole left the 
bulk of Bartlett's original work intact, stating 
as his purpose "to incorporate in the work 
quotations from those writers whose place in 
literature has been achieved since the issue of 
the ninth edition in 1891." 9 He attempted to 
apply Bartlett's requirement that a quotation 
be "distinctly worthy of perpetuation," claim- 
ing that "ephemeral quotations will not be 
found included in its pages." 10 Noteworthy 
among newly elected authors were Nietzsche, 
Shaw, George Eliot, Lewis Carroll, Hardy, 
Swinburne, and Kipling. Blake, Hawthorne, 
Melville, James, and Emily Dickinson were 
still not recognized. 

The eleventh edition, published in 1937, 
was edited by the writer and poet Christopher 
Morley in collaboration with associate editor 
Louella D. Everett, a quotation-finder for the 




"Queries and Answers" department of the 
New York Times Book Review. Under 
Morley's editorship Familiar Quotations en- 
tered a new era. In revising the tenth edition, 
Dole had simply brought the book up to date, 
while attempting to judge new quotations as 
its original compiler might have done. The 
new editors, however, not only added quota- 
tions from authors who had become famous 
since 1914, but examined the rest of the book 
as well, inserting quotations in every histori- 
cal period. Morley also was the first to delete 
entries which had proven less memorable than 
originally thought; this became standard prac- 
tice in subsequent editions. 

In the most important departure from pre- 
cedent, the editors no longer adhered to 
Bartlett's requirement that quotations "have 
the seal of popular approval." According to 
Morley, "We have tried to make literary power 
the criterion, rather than the width and vulgar- 
ity of fame." 1 ' This interpretation of his mis- 
sion as editor allowed Morley to add the 
broadest range of contemporary writers ever 
seen in Bartlett's. He included references to 
Auden, Pound, Langston Hughes, Bertrand 
Russell, Sinclair Lewis, T.S. Eliot, and Willa 
Cather, and finally cited Blake, Hawthorne, 
Melville, and Emily Dickinson, As the Chris- 
tian Science Monitor review of this edition 
stated, "They're all here: poets, novelists, 
essayists, college presidents, columnists and 
critics, kings and dictators, and all the editors 
of the Saturday Review. " n Morley was the 
first editor of Familiar Quotations to impose 
his own vision on the work. Under Morley 's 
editorship Bartlett's began to anticipate an 
author's fame rather than merely reaffirm it. 
As Morley said in the preface, one of the 
pleasures of this cooperative effort was that 
"one collaborator, by long experience with 
inquiries for the affable familiar ghosts of 
print, knows acutely what readers want; and 
the other believes himself to know what they 
ought to want." 1J The size of the book re- 
flected this new spirit of inclusiveness. Even 
after its pruning, the eleventh edition contains 

some 20,000 quotations, nearly double the 
number in the previous edition. 

Since the tenth and the eleventh editions 
had each appeared 23 years after their respec- 
tive predecessors, Morley predicted that his 
1937 revision should last until 1960. But the 
upheavals of the war years made him recon- 
sider this remark as early as 1 940. "Man in his 
Penultimate War was saying words that had to 
be recorded," 14 Morley wrote. He and Everett 
had been noting possible inclusions through- 
out the Second World War, and in 1948 they 
produced a twelfth edition which reflected the 
advent of the atomic age. Sir Winston 
Churchill, unrepresented in the 1937 edition, 
was given 60 entries. By comparison, Bartlett 
had not felt a similar inclination to add Lincoln 
to the fifth edition, published three years after 
his assassination. Again,Morley includedmuch 
of this new material because he considered it 
important, not because it was necessarily fa- 
miliar. This edition included words made fa- 
mous by recent events, such as Einstein's 
statement that the use of the atom bomb 
"brought into the world the most revolution- 
ary force since man's discovery of fire." It 
also contained passages which had become 
significant by hindsight, such as a prescient 
reference to atomic weapons from H. G. 
Wells's The World Set Free, written over 30 
years before Hiroshima: "The catastrophe of 
the atomic bombs which shook men out of 
cities and businesses and economic relations, 
shook them also out of their old-established 
habits of thought, and out of the lightly held 
beliefs and prejudices that came down to them 
from the past." 

The editors and publishers all agreed that 
this revision should have as its aim not the 
complete reworking of the book but simply the 
addition of new material. The twelfth edition 
is therefore identical with the eleventh through 
the entries on Kipling (page 787), after which 
it is entirely new. 

Little, Brown & Co . decided to reexamine 
the entire text of Familiar Quotations for a 
centennial edition, published in 1955. While 


the previous two editions had bome the stamp 
of Morley 's personality and literary taste, this 
one was virtually edited by committee. Emily 
Morison Beck, who would become the editor 
of the fourteenth and fifteenth editions, was 
hired to organize the deletions andadditions to 
the centennial edition, and a former assistant 
in the Harvard English department, Jack 
Rackliffe, became copy editor. According to 
Beck, Rackliffe was able to rectify omissions 
from English literature from Shakespeare 
through Yeats. As she puts it, "the editing of 
the centennial edition was turned upside down, 
with the fellow on the bottom emerging as the 
true savant and arbiter, with me, the tyro who 
was cutting her teeth on quotations, in the 
middle, and with the casual, uncritical editors 
at the top." 15 

The thirteenth edition contained a variety 
of songs, ballads, nursery rhymes, and prov- 
erbs, reflecting the taste for the folkloric preva- 
lent at the time. In addition, there were a 
number of stylistic changes. Pages were di- 
vided into two columns and running heads 
were added to the index pages. Ancient and 
non-English authors who had formerly been 
in a separate section in the back of the book 
were incorporated into the main body of the 
text, arranged chronologically and dated when- 
ever possible. The New York Times review of 
this edition noted an indication of significant 
change in American taste: "One thing is cer- 
tain: in the last hundred years our general fund 
of quotation has both changed direction (away 
from the stuffy toward the trivial, gay and 
light-hearted) and increased in size." 16 This 
edition increased the amount of space given to 
Shakespeare, and the section of Biblical refer- 
ences increased by 1 9 pages over the previous 
edition, although such references now com- 
prised only one-ninth of the book. 

At the request of Little, Brown & Co., 
Emily Morison Beck agreed to edit the four- 
teenth edition of Familiar Quotations, which 
was published in 1968. She accepted on con- 
dition that she be allowed to hire a staff of 
scholars and experts in various fields to help 

her select quotes. Beck saw the fourteenth 
edition as one informed by the social upheav- 
als of the late 1950s and early 1960s, which 
had given us new terms like the beat genera- 
tion, brinkmanship, the multiversity, and cy- 
bernetics. For this edition she also reexamined 
the classical quotations whose translations 
dated from the nineteenth century and were 
considered outdated. Homer appears in direct 
translation for the first time, rather than in 
Pope's verse. Zeph Stewart, professor of 
Greek and Latin at Harvard, produced new 
translations of classical authors for the four- 
teenth edition, and in passing corrected the 
omission of "Man is the measure of all things" 
from Protagoras. A broadening of interest in 
Eastern cultures was reflected in the insertion 
of quotes from Confucius, Gandhi, and Lao- 

This edition was also the first to be in- 
dexed by computer. Computerized cross-in- 
dexing greatly improved access to the 20,421 
quotes, and also cut production time dramati- 
cally. Indexes to early editions of Familiar 
Quotations had been alphabetized by hand, 
which took 20 people about six months; the 
computerized alphabetizing of the fourteenth 
edition took about three hours. 

Little, Brown & Co. published the fif- 
teenth and current edition, also editedby Beck, 
in 1980, Essentially an updating of the previ- 
ous edition, it includes over 400 new authors 
(both contemporary and historical), expands 
coverage of the Koran as well as ancient 
Buddhist texts, and carries fresh translations 
of non-English works. Beck again compiled 
the work with the help of a staff of subject 
specialists in various areas, and the experts 
acknowledged in the preface represent such 
timely fields as ecology, the environment, and 
Latin American literature. Beck includedmore 
quotations produced by women and minori- 
ties or inspired by social movements, and she 
also introduced more popular culture into 
Familiar Quotations than ithad ever seen, The 
fifteenth is the first edition to contain the 
words of rock musicians, and the only one to 

vySw&L «. -*— jl .A 


carry a quote from a cartoonist, the popular 
"Keep on truckin* " by Robert Crumb, creator 
of Mr. Natural and Fritz the Cat. There are 
lines from songs by Bob Dylan ("For the times 
they are a-changin'"), Simon and Garfunkel 
("Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson"), Mick Jagger 
("Well s we all need someone we can lean on") , 
and Janis Joplin ("Lord, won't you buy me a 
Mercedes-Benz"), Theplay ii/airis quoted, as 
are My Fair Lady, Camelot, and West Side 
Story, Paddy Chaye vsky is represented by one 
line from the screenplay to Network* ("I'm 
mad as hell and I'm not going to take it 
anymore"). In the preface Beck says, "Time 
willjudge the validity ofthe fifteenth edition's 
choices from contemporary life and litera- 
ture." 17 Some critics have objected to this 
seeming bid for "relevance" at the expense of 
actual literary or cultural merit, questioning 
the enduring value of such quotes as Helen 
Reddy's "I am strong, I am invincible, I am 
woman." As one reviewer put it, "Reading the 
recent entries in this edition is like reading the 
10th anniversary issue of Rolling Stone , 18 Beck 
maintained that the best way to gather quota- 
tions is to list important people who are 
unrepresented or underrepresented in the work, 
and then to cull their works for good lines. 
Others have criticized Beck's editions of Fa- 
miliar Quotations for avoiding topics which 
seemharsh, cynical, or unpleasant. According 
to one critic, the book 

emerges as a one-sided chronicle, conspicu- 
ously void of We Dare Not Speak Its Names. 
The expanded coverage of the environment, 
for example, includes no mention of nuclear 
power, and the references to nuclear warfare 
have a certain A-bomb archaism. Cancer 
doesn'tappear evenas a metaphor in a volume 
that purports to represent modem science. .. . 
Bartlett's creates the impression, by quoting 
exclusively from The Colossus ofMaroussi, 
that Henry Miller is a travel writer. 1 * 

The Future 

Justin Kaplan, who is currently preparing 
the sixteenth edition of Familiar Quotations 
for publication in 1992, plans to rectify this 

impression. Kaplan's view of what Familiar 
Quotations should include is the most acces- 
sible yet: "Generally, it should be useful, 
timely and entertaining. Useful as a reference 
book, timely as a guide to a lot of current 
usage — even if ephemeral, but so is every- 
thing else — and it ought to be fun to read." 20 A 
Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Whit- 
man, Twain, and Lincoln Steffens, Kaplan 
intends to remove what he considers its New 
England stuffiness. He sees evidence for this 
in the book's neglect of Shakespeare's com- 
edies in favor ofthe tragedies, and its focus on 
the more uplifting pronouncements of politi- 
cians. His revision will contain more refer- 
ences to the comedies, and remarks like 
Tammany Hall politician George Washington 
Plunkitt's, "I seen my opportunities and I took 
'em." In order to add some 3,000 new quotes 
while keeping the book approximately at its 
current size, Kaplan is deleting what he calls 
"Harvard-derived allusions, outworn senti- 
ments, and excerpts from commencement 
speeches." He is trimming the amount of 
space given to contemporary poetry in re- 
sponse to the criticism that it is overrepresented 
in the fifteenth edition. His edition will reflect 
a broader cultural base by including more 
quotes from world literature and international 
figures. Kaplan also wants to include more 
phrases which have become part of our every- 
day speech, from Henny Youngman's "Take 
my wife . . . please" to the fast-food advertis- 
ing slogan "Where's the beef?" The new 
edition will contain more song lyrics and lines 
from movies, but Kaplan found that neither 
television nor contemporary politics has pro- 
duced much in the way of memorable quotes. 
For example, Ronald Reagan's entries in the 
new Fam iliar Quotations will not be due to his 
oratory but to his own quotations of movie 
lines such as "Win one for the Gipper" and 
"Make my day." 

On the university lecture circuit, Kaplan 
says, audiences typically do not recognize the 
occasional Biblical or Shakespearean quota- 
tion. The technology of mass communication 
provides a constant flow of ephemeral "famil- 


iar" references, while the numbers of Ameri- 
cans for whom Shakespeare's words are truly 
familiar seems to be decreasing. One of the 
difficulties he faced was balancing quotes 
from the masterpieces of the English language 
with the popular references of the day. "For 
Bartlett 's to he useful," Kaplan says, "it has to 
reflect the fact that a great deal of current 
discourse is popular language — from movies, 
television, sports. Yet one of the essential 
elements of 'Bartlett 's is to act as a sort of home 
concordance andtoretain themajor sources of 
our language, such as the Romantic poets." 21 
According to Kaplan, quotations can rein- 
force a sense of community or; they can ex- 
clude; they enrich discourse; and they are 
powerful means of communicating. 

Now, Familiar Quotations continues to 
be a printed information source. However, 

future editions of this classic might be pro- 
duced in CD-ROM or hypermedia format, 
allowing for still more complete indexing and 
faster access to quotations. A hypertext Fa- 
miliar Quotations could include all editions of 
the work with their various prefaces, digitized 
graphics for images of persons who have been 
the sources of quotations, and even audible 
examples of the music that has provided quot- 
able references. From its private first printing 
to its present status as the standard American 
quotation source, Familiar Quotations has 
recorded the shared culture of our world 
throughout the upheavals of 135 years. We 
can only hope this "most famous book of its 
kind" will continue to be with us as long as a 
common heritage is valued. 


Bartlett, John. A Collection of Familiar Quotations, 
with Complete Indices of Authors and Subjects. 
Cambridge, MA: John Bartlett, 1855. 295p. 

Bartlett, John. A Collection of Familiar Quotations, 
with Complete Indices of Authors and Subjects. 
New ed. Cambridge, MA: John Bartlett, 1856. 

Bartlett, John. .,4 Collection of Familiar Quotations 
with Complete Indices of Authors and Subjects. 
3rded. with supplement. Cambridge, MA: John 
Bartlett, 1858. 446p. 

Bartlett, John. Familiar Quotations; Being an At- 
tempt to Trace to their Source, Passages and 
Phrases in Common Use. 4th ed. Boston: Little, 
Brown & Co., 1863. 480p. 

Bartlett, John. Familiar Quotations; Being an At- 
tempt to Trace to their Source Passages and 
Phrases in Common Use. 5th ed. Boston: Little, 
Brown and Company, 1868. 778p. 

Bartlett, John. Familiar Quotations; Being an At- 
tempt to Trace to their Source, Passages and 
Phrases in Common Use. 6th ed. Boston: Little, 
Brown, 1872. 778p. 

Bartlett, John. Familiar Quotations: Being an At- 
tempt to Trace to their Source, Passages and 
Phrases in Common Use. 7th ed. Boston: Little, 
Brown & Co., 1875. 864p. 

Bartlett, John. Familiar Quotations; Being an At- 
tempt to Trace to their Sources Passages and 
Phrases in Common Use. 8th ed, Boston: Little, 
Brown and Company, 1882. 904p. 

Bartlett, John. Familiar Quotations: A Collection of 
Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to 

their Sources in Ancient and Modern Litera- 
ture. 9th ed. Boston: Little, Brown and Com- 
pany, 1891. l,158p. 

Bartlett, John, Familiar Quotations: A Collection of 
Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to 
their Sources in Ancient and Modern Litera- 
ture. 10th ed. revised and enlarged by Nathan 
Haskell Dole. Boston: Little, Brown and Com- 
pany, 1914. l,454p. 

Bartlett, John. Familiar Quotations; A Collection of 
Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to 
their Sources in Ancient and Modern Litera- 
ture. 1 1th ed., revised and enlarged, edited by 
Christopher Morley, and Louella D. Everett, 
associate editor. Boston: Little, Brown and Com- 
pany, 1937. l,578p. 

Bartlett, John. Familiar Quotations: A Collection of 
Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to 
their Sources in Ancient and Modern Litera- 
ture. 12th ed., revised and enlarged, edited by 
Christopher Morley, and Louella D. Everett, 
associate editor. Boston: Little, Brown, 1948. 

Bartlett, John. Familiar Quotations: A Collection of 
Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to 
their Sources in Ancient and Modern Litera- 
ture. 13th and centennial ed., completely rev. 
Boston: Little, Brown, 1955. 1,6l4p. 

Bartlett, John. Familiar Quotations: A Collection of 
Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to 
their Sources in Ancient and Modern Litera- 
ture. 14th ed., edited by Emily Morison Beck. 
Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1968. l,750p. 


Bartlett, John. Familiar Quotations: A Collection of 
Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to 
their Sources in Ancient and Modem Litera- 

ture. 15 th and 125th anniversary ed., edited 
by Emily Morison Beck. Boston: Little, 
Brown & Co., 1980. l,540p. 


Although Bartlett's work has received many- 
reviews over the years, most of them are brief and 
limited to comparison between new editions and 
their predecessors. The items listed below, have 
been chosen because they offer the reader more 
than the typical book review. Some of these are 
especially useful for historical or editorial back- 
ground. Both Marshall and Reynolds provide bio- 
graphical informationon JohnBartlett and discuss 
the history of his book. These two articles are 
invaluable sources of information on the develop- 
ment of Familiar Quotations. For contrasting be- 
hind-the-scenes views of the work, compare 
McWhorter' s irreverent analysis of Familiar Quo- 
tations editorial practices to the article by Beck, its 
former editor. 

Anderson, Melville B. "TheNew 'Bartlett's Quotations.'" 
Dial 12 (December, 1991): 268-78. 

Atlas, James. "A NewBartlett's Quotations, Familiar and 
Otherwise." New York Times Book Review (March 
29,1981): 9. 

Beck, Emily Morison. "The Long, Happy Life of 
'Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.'" American Heri- 
tage 35 (August-September, 1984): 102-07. 

"The Booklist Interview: Justin Kaplan on Bartlett's 
Familiar Quotations," Booklists (February 1, 1991): 

Goldberg, Isaac. "Who Said It?" Saturday 
Review 17 (December 4, 1937): 9-10. 

"Ideas." Newsweek (March 12, 1990): 75-76. 

Marshall, John David. "John Bartlett and His 
Quotation Book, 1855-1955." Wilson Li- 
brary Bulletin 30 (November, 1955): 250- 

McWhorter, Diane. "Bartlett's Hall of Fame." 
Harper's (May, 1981): 75-78. 

Mitgang, Herbert. "A Bartlett's of Henny 
Youngman as Well as Shakespeare and 
Frost." New York Times Book Review 
(November 21, 1988): 15. 

Review of Collection of Familiar Quotations, 
by John Bartlett. Harvard Magazine 6 
(1855): 293-94. 

Review of Familiar Quo tat ions \ 5th ed., by John 
Bartlett. North American Review 109 (July, 
1869): 293-98. 

Review of Familiar Quotations, 9th ed., by John 
Bartlett. Writer 7 (1894): 90-92. 

Review of Familiar Quotations, 1 1th ed., edited 
by Christopher Morley. Christian Science 
Monitor (January 5, 1938): 1 1. 

Review of Familiar Quotations, 15th ed., edited 
by Emily Morison Beck. Choice 1 8 (Janu- 
ary, 1981): 631. 

Reynolds, Horace. "A Name as Familiar as 
One's Own." New York Times Book Re- 
view (November 13, 1955): 1. 


'Facsimile of preface to first edition, Familiar Quotations, 
12th ed., rev. by Christopher Morley and Louella D. 
Everett (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1948), ix. 

2 Review of Collection of Familiar Quotations, by John 

Bartlett, 1855, Harvard Magazine 6 (1855): 294. 

3 Eugene P. Sheehy, Guide to Reference Booh, 10th ed. 

(Chicago and London: American Library Association 

1986), 417-18; Literary World 1 5 (29 November 1 884): 

4 D. Bernard Theall, review of Familiar Quotations, 15th ed., 

ed. by Emily Morison Beck, American Reference Books 

Annual 13 (1982): 69. 
5 Review of Familiar Quotations, \ 1 th ed., ed. by Christopher 

Morley and Louella D. Everett, 1 93 7, Christian Science 

Monitor (5 January 1938): 11. 
facsimile of preface to first edition, Familiar Quotations, 

12th ed., ix. 

7 Melville B. Anderson, "The New 'Bartlett's Famil- 
iar Quotations,'" Dial 12 (December 1991): 

8 "Preface to the Ninth Edition," in Familiar Quota- 

tions, 9th ed., by John Bartlett (Boston: Little, 
Brown & Co., 1891). 

9 "Preface to the Tenth Edition," in Familiar Quota- 

tions, 10th ed., ed. by Nathan Haskell Dole 
(Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1914). 

10 Ibid. 

11 "Preface to the Eleventh Edition," in Familiar 

Quotations, I lthed.,ed.byChristopherMorley 
and Louella D. Everett (Boston: Little, Brown 
& Co., 1937). 

12 Review of Familiar Quotations, 1 1th ed., Chris- 

tian Science Monitor (5 January 1938): 11. 

13 "Preface to the Eleventh Edition." 

jj^r 1 "*£H 


""'Preface to the Twelfth Edition," in Familiar Quota- 
tions, 12th ed., ed. by Christopher Morley and 
Louella D. Everett (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 

15 Emily Morison Beck, "The Long, Happy Life of 
'Bartlett's Familiar Quotations,"' American Heri- 
tage 35 (August-September 1984): 102. 

,6 Horace Reynolds, "A Name as Familiaras One's Own," 
New York Times BoolcMeview ( 1 3 November 1 95 5 ) : 

""Preface to the Fifteenth Edition," in Familiar Quota- 
tions, 15thed.,ed. by Emily MorisonBeck(Boston: 
Little, Brown & Co., 1980). 

18 James Atlas, "A New Bartlett's Quotations, Familiar 
and Otherwise," New York Times Book Review (29 
March 1981): 9. 

I9 DianeMcWhorter, "Bartlett'sHall of Fame," Harper's 
262 (May 1981): 76, 78. 

20 HerbertMitgang, "A Bartlett's of Henny Youngmanas 
Well as Shakespeare and Frost," JVew York Times 
Book Review (21 November 1 988): 20. 

21 Ibid. 

Black's Law Dictionary: Ninety-Nine 
Years, 1891-1990 


A brief history of the English and American 
predecessors to Black 's Law Dictionary pro- 
vides insight to some of the characteristics of 
early law dictionaries and the tradition from 
v/hichBlack's evolved. English law dictionar- 
ies date back to sixteenth-century England 
when John Rastell, brother-in-law of Sir Tho- 
mas More, authored the Expositiones 
terminarum legum Anglorum (1527). This 
compilation included only 208 entries chosen 
and designed to explain obscure terms to stu- 
dents of law. The entries were mostly in Latin 
and the text was almost exclusively French. 1 
An expanded version of Rastell's work, known 
as Terms de la ley, was later published in 
parallel French and English columns. 

Early English-Language 

In 1607 John Cowell published the first 
edition of The Interpreter, Like Rastell's work, 
the title was designed for those learning about 
the law, but there the similarities ended. Rastell 
was a practicing lawyer, whereas Cowell was 
a former professor of civil law at Cambridge. 
Cowell wrote his dictionary in English and 
included not only "obscure" words but almost 
"all" law words thatneeded explanation. 2 The 
Znterprefer was a larger volume than Rastell's 
and a more scholarly one, and it included lay 
terms such as "fish," "spices," and "furres." 3 
According to Cowell, entries not related to the 

Pamela S. Bradigan 

art of the law were included so that lawyers 
would not be ignorant of such things as beasts 
or fowls. 

In 1670 Thomas Blount, the author of a 
general English dictionary, issued the one- 
volume Nomo-Lexikon. As an antiquarian, 
Blount enjoyed oddities of the English legal 
past and included them in the Nomo-Lexikon. 
An example of this was his inclusion of an 
entry on "doitkin," defined as a coin of small 
value prohibited since 1416, and the source of 
the phrase, "not worth a doitkin." 4 

Giles Jacob's New Law Dictionary, pub- 
lished in 1729, was an important representa- 
tive of its time. This huge tome was intended 
to serve as a substitute for a legal education. It 
included legal forms and reflected the decline 
of sophisticated schools for barristers, the 
expense of law books, and the increasing 
number of attorneys without formal educa- 
tion. Jacob's work, paralleling a phenomenon 
in general language dictionaries, copied from 
its predecessors by adding ordinary words to 
make a larger and more impressive volume for 
the consumers. 

English law dictionaries were used in the 
United States until 1839, when John Bouvier 
published a two-volume American law dictio- 
nary entitled^ Law Dictionary Adapted to the 
Constitution and Laws of the United States of 
America and of Several States of 'the American 
Union (Philadelphia: T. and J. W. Johnson). 
Bouvier was critical of the English law dictio- 
naries because they were outdated and con- 
tained entries copied from earlier titles with- 


out much alteration. In his preface Bouvier 
noted that most of the matter in English law 
dictionaries was written while the feudal law 
was in fiill vigor and was not appropriate for 
the nineteenth century. Based on these criti- 
cisms, Bouvier omitted much from his dictio- 
nary that English law dictionaries had in- 

Like Jacob, Bouvier wrote a work that 
also offered a legal education. There was need 
for such a work in the early United States; 
most lawyers learned about law through an 
apprenticeship rather than through formal edu- 
cation at a university. Some attorneys just 
studied the law on their own. Bouvier' s Law 
Dictionary was in use when Black wrote the 
first edition of his famous work. 

Henry Campbell Black 

Henry Campbell Black, a legal scholar, 
was born on October 17, 1860, in Ossining, 
New York. Black's parents were the Rever- 
end John Henry Black and Caroline Campbell 
Black. After studying the Greek and Latin 
classics, Black entered Trinity College, gradu- 
ating in 1880 with an A.B. A member of Phi 
Beta Kappa, Black received his A.M. in 1 887 
from Trinity College and an honorary degree 
of Doctor of Laws in 1916. 

In 1883 Black was admitted to the Bar of 
Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. He prac- 
ticed law in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and 
subsequently moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, 
where he continued his law practice. But 
Black's true interest was in legal theory, and 
that led him to publish his first important book, 
An Essay on the Constitutional Prohibitions 
Against Legislation Impairing the Obligation 
of Contracts, and Against Retroactive and Ex 
Post Facto Laws (Boston: Little, Brown, 1 887). 
It was accepted by the legal profession as an 
authoritative source on the subject. 

In 1888 Black moved to Washington, 
D.C., where he came in contact with some of 
the most prominent members of his profes- 
sion, as well as with many others with intellec- 

tual interests. In this stimulating environment 
Black devoted his time to authorship. He was 
most interested in studying the Constitution of 
the United States, and he wrote books about 
constitutional law as well as other legal topics. 
Black also authored articles for law journals 
and encyclopedias, and he served as the editor 
of The Constitutional Law Review from 1917 
until his death in 1927. 

In January 1891 Dr. Black published his 
first book with West Publishing Company, a 
major legal publisher in St. Paul, Minnesota. 
Black on Judgments was an immediate suc- 
cess, requiring reprints in April 1891, and 
again later in the year. 

Black's Dictionary 

Today, Henry Campbell Black is best 
known for his law dictionary, which was first 
published by West in 1891 under the title A 
Dictionary of Law. Black's one-volume dic- 
tionary still is a very important West publica- 
tion. The dictionary includes ancient and 
modern terms, phrases, and maxims used in 
Ameri can and English law. In the first edition's 
preface Black stated that for, "the terms ap- 
pertaining to old and middle English law and 
the feudal polity, recourse has been had freely 
to the older English law dictionaries, (such as 
those of Cowell, Spelman, Blount, Jacob, 
Cunningham, Whishaw, Skene, Tomlins, and 
the 'Terms de la Ley,") as also to the writings 
of Bracton, Littleton, Coke and other sages of 
the early law." s 

Black relied upon other dictionaries and 
writings of legal scholars for terms from Ro- 
man and modem civil law as well as for the 
terms and phrases from French, Spanish, and 
Scotch law. Modern American and English 
law terms were derived from codes, statutes, 
reports, legal textbooks, works by legal schol- 
ars, and recent English and American dictio- 
naries. Quoted material was indented in an 
entry and set in smaller type along with the 
source of the reference. Black didnotprovide 
an exhaustive list of sources consulted in 


compiling the Dictionary; however, he made 
acknowledgements in entries when aid was 
"directly levied from those sources." 6 Black 
also wrote many new definitions, for his stated 
aim was "to present a definition at once con- 
cise, comprehensive, accurate, and lucid." 7 

The first edition, which was intended for 
the student and the professional, had two 
supplementary sections. One was a list of 
older principal law dictionaries and the sec- 
ond was a list of British regnal years. The 
Dictionary contained no place or personal 
name entries, illustrations, or pronunciation 
aids, and usually gave no indication of the 
parts of speech for an entry. Abbreviations 
generally appeared at the beginning of each 
alphabetical section. Synonyms and antonyms 
were included under the word entries and 
important variations in meanings were noted. 
For example, the entry on "death" distin- 
guished between the meaning of a "natural" 
death and a "civil" death. 8 The entry on "debt" 
included a five-paragraph section on syn- 
onyms. 9 

An unsigned review of the first edition 
praised it as a "useful book" and criticized it 
for including too many words merely because 
they had been involved in a decision of a 
case. 10 Examples included "dead-head," "fa- 
ther," and "female." 11 The critic believed it 
superfluous to include words that laity and 
lawyers used in exactly the same manner. But 
the reviewer praised Black for confining him- 
self to definitions and not trying to offer a legal 
education by including essays, as Bouvier 

In the second edition, published in 1910, 
Black wrote about the changes to his work. In 
response to demands, Black added a number 
of references to cases in which terms or phrases 
of the law were judicially defined. Black re- 
wrote many definitions because he had re- 
ceived "helpful criticism" or because he oth- 
erwise saw a need for change. 12 The second 
edition also included terms new to the law 
which had come into use since the first edition 
was published. Black included medical termi- 
nology when appropriate and acknowledged 

the assistance of Dr. Fielding H. Garrison. A 
new supplementary section, a table of abbre- 
viations, appeared in the second edition. The 
70 page table primarily contained abbrevia- 
tions or reference sources cited in the 
Dictionary's entries. 

Another change in the second edition was 
a new system of arrangement which grouped 
all compound and descriptive terms under the 
respective headings from which they were 
derived. The placement of the entry on "straw 
bail" was an example of this new arrange- 
ment. In the first edition, the entry on "bail" 
did not include a description of "straw bail," 33 
which appeared instead in a separate entry in 
the "S" alphabetical section. 14 In the second 
edition, however, the term "straw bail" was 
defined within the entry on "bail," and a see 
reference under "straw bail" pointed to "bail." 15 
This new arrangement was praised by a re- 
viewer who also liked the book's physical 
appearance and stated that the title was "well 
worthy of being pronounced the best Ameri- 
can single volume dictionary of the law." 16 

The third edition of the Dictionary came 
out in 1933, six years after Black's death. In 
the preface the publisher briefly explained the 
changes in the work. New words were added 
and modernized definitions were included, 
along with references to updated authorities 
supporting new uses of a term. The third 
edition was the first to be titled Black's Law 

Criticism of the Dictionary 

The reviews of the third edition were 
generally very positive; however, Alexander 
Hamilton Frey wrote that a random look at 
Black's disclosed many lay terms that did not 
have any unique legal definition. 17 He listed 
"alehouse," "aristocracy," "chain," "double," 
"gentlewoman," and "monogram" as ex- 
amples." Frey even suggested that the "pad- 
ding" of the Dictionary may have been for a 
commercial reason. 18 

Typographical changes were made in the 
fourth edition in 1951 to accommodate the 


enlarged contents. The type was completely 
reset and arranged in wider columns, making 
the text more attractive and readable. The 
publishers added a five-page guide to the 
pronunciation of primarily Latin words and 
phrases. As in earlier editions, the Dictionary 
included definitions found in the works of 
early legal scholars along with new and up- 
dated definitions. 

In 1968 West published a revised fourth 
edition, which included some changed and 
updated entries. Several new supplementary 
sections were added: the Code of Professional 
Responsibility, the Code of Judicial Conduct, 
and a table of the minimum requirements for 
admission to legal practice in the United States. 

The fifth edition, published by West in 
1979, was produced on an IBM computer 
composition system. 19 This edition's preface 
clearly summarized its improvements and 
changes, crediting two individuals and the 
West editorial staff for the major improve- 
ments. Joseph R. Nolan, Associate Justice of 
the Massachusetts Supreme Court, was pri- 
marily responsible for the 10,000 new or re- 
vised entries, and M. J. Connolly, Associate 
Professor of Linguistics and Eastern Lan- 
guages at Boston College, developed the pro- 
nunciation guides for all entries which posed 
pronunciation difficulties. The Code of Pro- 
fessional Conduct, the Code of Judicial Con- 
duct, the five-page guide to pronunciation, 
and the table listing the requirements for ad- 
mission to legal practice were removed. The 
Constitution of the United States, the United 
States government organization chart, and a 
listing of the U.S. Supreme Court justices and 
their terms were included in the appendices. 

An abridged fifth edition of Black's con- 
taining over 16,000 definitions was published 
in 1983. The publisher created this abridged 
edition in response to the need for a compact 
law dictionary that could be conveniently car- 
ried and used away from a library or office. 
Also in 1983, the fifth edition of Black's was 
first offered online through WESTLAW, a 
system of databases produced and made avail- 
able by West Publishing. 20 The WESTLAW 

Reference Manual explains the general data- 
base search techniques and provides search- 
ing tips for use with Black's. 

The reviews of the fifth edition in the 
printed format were generally positive. Rich- 
ard Sloane, Law Librarian and Professor of 
Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law 
School, pointed out the work's notable virtues 
and main short-comings, compared 16 spe- 
cific entries in Black's to another current law 
dictionary, and provided several proposals for 
improvement. 21 These proposals included de- 
leting a large proportion of Black's ancient 
terms and its general or specialized nonlegal 
terms. Sloane felt the references to cases were 
helpful; however, the date the case was de- 
cided needed to be included. He stated that 
references made to some cases and treatises 
were outdated, and more timely references 
could be made. Finally, Sloane suggested 
emphasizing new terms and concepts emerg- 
ing in expanding branches of the law. 

Sloane recognized that a publisher would 
hesitate to tamper with success; however, he 
felt that a future edition of Black's would 
benefit from his ideas. Sloane' s comparative 
review identified the Dictionary 's strengths 
and weaknesses and, importantly, reaffirmed 
its preeminence among American law dictio- 

The Current Edition 

In mid- 1990 the sixth edition of Black's 
was published. In this new edition the pub- 
lisher addressed points raised in Professor 
Sloane 's review of the fifth edition. Many 
nonlegal terms were deleted and new terms 
were added. The work contains more than 
5,000 new, revised, or updated words and 
terms. The publisher has expanded examples 
of word usages, added cross-references to 
related terms, and added updated citations. 22 
The preface explains that new tax, finance, 
and accounting terms have been added due to 
the expanding importance of financial termi- 
nology. A certified public accountant served 

f££C3S ^ 


as a contributing author and reviewed the tax 
and accounting terms. 

The appendices include an expanded table 
of abbreviations, the Constitution of the United 
States, a time chart of the United States Su- 
preme Court, a United States government 
organization chart, andatable of British regnal 
years. Thepronunciation guides were updated 
by the linguistics professor who also contrib- 
uted to the fifth edition. 

The importance of Black's among law 
dictionaries is evident when reviewing cur- 
rent bibliographies of legal reference works. 
Although there are many specialized and for- 
eign-language legal dictionaries, Black's is 
the one most often cited as the most desirable 
general law dictionary. Legal scholars, prac- 
titioners, and students will benefit from the 
updated edition of this well known and re- 
spected title. 


A Dictionary of Law, Containing Definitions of the 
Terms and Phrases of American and English 
Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern; Including 
the Principal Terms oflnternational, Constitu- 
tional, and Commercial Law; With a Collection 
of Legal Maxims and Numerous Select Titles 
from the Civil Law and Other Foreign Systems, 
by Henry Campbell Black. St. Paul, MN: West 
Publishing Co., 1891. l,253p. 

A Law Dictionary Containing Definitions of the 
Terms and Phrases of American and English 
Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern; And In- 
cluding the Principal Terms of International, 
Constitutional, Ecclesiastical, and Commer- 
cial Law, and Medical Jurisprudence, with a 
Collection of Legal Maxims, Numerous Select 
Titles from the Roman, Modern Civil, Scotch, 
French, Spanish, and Mexican Law, and other 
Foreign Systems, and a Table of Abbreviations , 
by Henry Campbell Black. 2nd ed, St. Paul, 
MN; West Publishing Co., 1910. 1,3 14p. Spine 
title: Black's Law Dictionary. 

Black's Law Dictionary Containing Definitions of 
the Terms and Phrases of American and En- 
glish Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern, and 
Including the Principal Terms oflnternational, 
Constitutional, Ecclesiastical and Commercial 
Law, and Medical Jurisprudence, with a Col- 
lection of Legal Maxims, Numerous Select Titles 
from the Roman, Modern Civil, Scotch, French, 
Spanish, and Mexican Law, and Other Foreign 
Systems, and a Table of Abbreviations, by the 

publisher's editorial staff. 3rd ed. St. Paul, MN: 
West Publishing Co., 1933. l,944p. 

Black's Law Dictionary; Definitions of the Terms 
and Phrases of American and English Jurispru- 
dence, Ancient and Modern, with Guide to 
Pronunciation, by the publisher's editorial staff. 
4th ed. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co., 
1951. l,882p. 

Black's Law Dictionary; Definitions of the Terms 
and Phrases of American and English Jurispru- 
dence, Ancient and Modern, by the publisher's 
editorial staff. Rev. 4th ed. St. Paul, MN: West 
Publishing Co., 1968. l,882p. 

Black's Law Dictionary; Definitions of the Terms 
and Phrases of American and English Jurispru- 
dence, Ancient and Modern, by the publisher's 
editorial staff, contributing authors Joseph R. 
Nolan andM. J. Connolly. 5th ed. St. Paul, MN: 
West Publishing Co., 1979. 1,5 lip. 

Black's Law Dictionary; Definitions of the Terms 
and Phrases of American and English Jurispru- 
dence, Ancient and Modern, by the publisher's 
editorial staff, contributing authors Joseph R. 
Nolan and M.J. Connolly. Abridged 5th ed. St. 
Paul, MN: West Publishing Co., 1983. 855p. 

Black's Law Dictionary; Definitions of the Terms 
and Phrases of American and English Jurispru- 
dence, Ancient and Modern, by the publisher's 
editorial staff, coauthors Joseph R. Nolan and 
Jacqueline M. Nolan-Haley, contributing au- 
thors M. J. Connolly, Stephen C. Hicks, and 
Martina N. Alibrandi. 6th ed. St. Paul, MN: 
West Publishing Co., 1990. 1,657. 


Reviews of Black 's Law Dictionary have 
generally been short and most biographical 
data on Henry Campbell Black are brief. Two 
notable exceptions are Richard Sloane's re- 
view of the fifth edition in the University of 
Toledo Law Review and David Hill's sum- 

mary of Dr. Black's life in The Constitutional 


Adams, Oscar Fay. A Dictionary of American Au- 
thors. 5th ed., rev. and enl. Boston: Houghton, 
Mifflin and Co., 1904. 

Alexand er, Arthur A. Review of Black 's Law Dictio- 
nary, 3rd ed., by the publisher's editorial staff. 


Georgetown Law Journal 22 (March, 1934): 

Anderson, William C. "Law Dictionaries." Ameri- 
can Law Review 28 (July-August 1894): 531- 

Dick, Terry S. WESTLAW Reference Manual Srded. 
St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co., 1989. 

Frey, Alexander Hamilton. Review of Black's Law 
Dictionary, 3rd ed., by the publisher's editorial 
staff. University of Pennsylvania Law Review 
82 (June 1934): 886-87. 

Hill, David Jayne. "In Memoriam Doctor Henry 
Campbell Black." The Constitutional Review 
11 (April, 1927): 67-76. 

Mellinkoff, David. "The Myth of Precision and the 
Law Dictionary." UCLA Law Review 3 1 (De- 
cember, 1983): 423-42. 

Review of A Dictionary of Law, Containing Defini- 
tions of the Terms and Phrases of American and 
English Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern; 
Including the Principal Terms oflntemational, 
Constitutional, and Commercial Law; With a 
Collection of Legal Maxims and Numerous Se- 
lect Titles from the Civil Law and Other Foreign 

Systems, by Henry Campbell Black. The Nation 
53 (December 17, 1891): 469-70. 

Review of A Law Dictionary Containing Definitions 
of the Terms and Phrases of American and 
English Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modem; 
And Including the Principal Terms oflntema- 
tional, Constitutional, Ecclesiastical, andCom- 
mercialLaw, and Medical Jurisprudence, With 
a Collection of Legal Maxims, Numerous Select 
Titles from the Roman, Modern Civil, Scotch, 
French, Spanish, and Mexican Law, and Other 
Foreign Systems, and a Table of Abbreviations, 
2nd ed., by Henry Campbell Black. The Ameri- 
can Political Science Review 5 (May, 1911): 

Sloane, Richard. Review of Black's Law Dictionary, 
5th ed., by the publisher's editorial staff. Uni- 
versity of Toledo Law Review 1 1 (Winter, 1980): 

"A Symposium of Law Publishers." American Law 
Review23 (May- June, 1889): 396-44. 

Who Was Who in America. Vol. 1, 1897-1942. Chi- 
cago: Marquis Who's Who, 1943. 


1 David Mellinkoff, "The Myth of Precision and the Law 

Dictionary," UCLA Law Review 3 1 (December 
1983): 426. 

2 Ibid., 427. 
3 Ibid., 428. 

5 Henry Campbell Black, "Preface," in .4 Dictionary of 
Law Containing Definitions of the Terms and 
Phrases of American and English Jurisprudence, 
Ancient and Modern (St. Paul, MN: West Publish- 
ing Co., 1891), iv. 


7 Ibid. 

'Black, Dictionary of Law, 335. 

9 Md., 337. 

'"Review of A Dictionary of Law Containing Definitions 
of the Terms and Phrases of American and English 
Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern, by Henry 
Campbell Black, The Nation 53 (17 December 
1891): 470. 


!2 Henry Campbell Black, "Preface," in^ Law Dictionary 
Containing Definitions of the Terms and Phrases of 
American and English Jurisprudence, Ancient and 
Modern; And Including the Principal Terms of 
International, Constitutional, Ecclesiastical, and 
Commercial Law, and Medical Jurisprudence, with 
a Collection of Legal Maxims, Numerous Select 
Titles from the Roman, Modern Civil, Scotch, French, 
Spanish, and Mexican Law, and Other Foreign 
Systems, and a Table of Abbreviations, 2nded. (St. 
Paul, MN: West Publishing Co., 1 9 10), iii. 

13 Black, Dictionary of Law, 113. 

'Hbid., 1127. 

"Black, A Law Dictionary, 113,1113. 

16 Review of A Law Dictionary, 2nd ed., by Henry 

Campbell Black, The American Political Science 
Review 5(May 1911): 284. 

17 Arthur A. Alexander, review of Black's Law Dictio- 

nary, 3rd ed., by the publisher's editorial staff, 
Georgetown Law Journal 22 (March 1934): 657- 
58; Alexander Hamilton Frey, review of Black's 
Law Dictionary, 3rded.,bythepublisher'seditorial 
staff, University of Pennsylvania Law Review 82 
(June 1934): 886-87; Review of Black's Law Dic- 
tionary, 3rd ed., by the publisher's editorial staff, 
Harvard Law Review 47 (November 1933): 170. 

18 Frey, review of Black's, 886. 

19 Kenneth G. Heimbach, Managing Editor, West Pub- 

lishing Co., letter to the author, March 30, 1990. 

M Ibid. 

21 Richard Sloane, review oi Black's Law Dictionary, 5th 
ed., by the publisher's editorial staff, University of 
Toledo Law Review 1 1 {Winter 1980): 322-30; Dan 
Henke, review of Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed., 
by the publisher's editorial staff, American Bar 
Association Journal 65 (September 1979): 1378- 
80; Leonard Schulte, "AboutDictionaries/'F/orWa 
Bar Journal 56 (February 1982): 153, 

n Kenneth G. Heimbach, Managing Editor, West Pub- 
lishing Co., letter to the author, 22 May 1990. 

An "Alms-Basket" of "Bric-A-Brac": 

Brewer's Dictionary of 

Phrase and Fable 

Charles Bunge 


The first edition, of Brewer's Dictionary of 
Phrase and Fable was published in the year 
that Charles Dickens died. It was as firmly 
rooted in and reflective of the literary, intel- 
lectual, and social concerns of Victorian En- 
gland as were the novels of Dickens, and, like 
them, Brewer's Dictionary has entertained 
and informed successive generations to the 
present day. Both Dickens and Brewer ad- 
dressed social problems — in Brewer's case 
the need to make the fruits of nineteenth- 
century scholarship accessible to aneverwid- 
enirtg range of readers — but they were also 
willing to respond to the Victorian hunger for 
diversion and entertainment, a formula that 
has stood them both in good stead for over a 

Ebenezer Cobham Brewer was born in 
1810 into the family of a Norwich schoolmas- 
ter. He worked his way through college at 
Trinity Hall, Cambridge, graduating with first- 
class honors in 1836. In 1848 he was awarded 
the LL.D. He entered the priesthood in 1838, 
probably hoping this would be an entree into 
a university or scholarly career. However, 
after graduating from college, he assisted his 
father at the family's boardingschool, becom- 
ing its headmaster when his father retired. He 
traveled extensively on the Continent and 
lived for a while in Paris. He read very widely 
and had excellent facility with languages. 1 

Around 1840, Brewer's Guide to Science 
(London: Jerrold) launched a successful ca- 
reer of writing informational and instructional 
materials for a popular audience. The Guide 
sold several hundred thousand copies and was 
translated into numerous languages. In the 
early 1860s Brewer started what would be a 
long and fruitful association with the publish- 
ing house of John Cassell. By then, Cassell, 
social reformer and former temperance lec- 
turer, had firmly established his publishing 
company and its policy of publishing good 
educational and recreational reading for the 
working man. 2 

Undoubtedly, Brewer's experience as a 
schoolmaster and his proven ability as an 
educationa 1 writer were particularly attractive 
to the publisher. Brewer had an office at 
Cassell's La Bell Sauvage quarters, where he 
wrote and edited many of the firm's popular 
works for adults and children. 3 He was the 
compiler of such reference books as the 
Reader 's Handbook of Famous Names inFic- 
tion (London: Chatto & Windus) and the His- 
toric Notebook (London: Smith, Elder), which 
were considered standard sources for many 

The Dictionary's Antecedents 

Brewer's grandson, P.M.C. Hayman, 
writes that Brewer himself attributed the gen- 
esis of the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable to 


"his boyhood habit of notetaking, which he 
continued all his life." 4 This habit of making 
and saving notes from one's reading, along 
with correspondence between authors and their 
readers, seems to have been common in 
Brewer ' s day. Brewer wrote that the popular- 
ity of his Guide to Science "brought me a large 
number of questions on all imaginary mat- 
ters." He accumulated the answers to these 
questions, along with other notes and refer- 
ences, in A-Z pigeonholes, and they became 
the nucleus of the Dictionary, 5 

The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable also 
had roots in antiquarianism and the miscella- 
nies of folk custom, beliefs, and curiosities it 
produced, including Hone's Every-Day Book 
(London: Hunt & Clarke, 1825-26), John 
Timbs' Things Not Generally Known (Lon- 
don; David Borgue, 1856) and other works, 
and Robert Chambers' Book of Days 
(Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers, 1862-64). 
Brewer called his miscellany "bric-a-brac" 
and said that his entries drew in the "curious 
. . ., historical trifles . . ., and references to 
Scandinavian and other mythology," 6 If the 
Dictionary had a tap root, it surely fed on the 
nineteenth-century philology that produced 
many etymological dictionaries in Brewer's 
day, culminating in the Oxford English Dictio- 
nary. He wrote that etymology "forms a staple 
of the book," especially etymologies and ex- 
planations of familiar phrases, allusions that 
wouldpuzzle the common reader, and "words 
that have a tale to tell." 7 And there was the 
Victorian impulse toward self-improvement 
and Brewer's concern for making knowledge 
and literature accessible to the increasingly 
literate working class. He called his work an 
"alms-basket," alms being gifts for the less 
fortunate, and said that he selected from his 
mass of notes those items that he thought were 
"best suited for popular purposes." 8 The sec- 
ond ("New") edition was published in 13 
installments (hence, the frequent references to 
it as the 1894-95 edition), a common nine- 
teenth-century strategy for making books af- 
fordable to working-class people. 

John Buchanan-Brown, former manager 
of Cassell ' s Reference Department, points out 
that a more immediate inspiration for Brewer 
was William Adolphus Wheeler's Noted 
Names inFiction (Boston: Ticknor and Fields). 9 
Buchanan-Brown believes that Wheeler was 
not only the source for some of Brewer's 
entries, but that he challenged Brewer to pro- 
vide information on such things as "celebrated 
customs and phrases" that represented what 
Wheeler called "too vast a field of enquiry" 
for him to have undertaken. Indeed, Brewer's 
first edition does contain entries for phrases 
that Wheeler used as examples of his exclu- 
sions, such as "flap-dragon" and "to carry 
coals to Newcastle." 10 

Brewer's, in turn, has influenced other 
reference works, especially literary handbooks. 
For example, Henrietta Gerwig, in the preface 
to Crowell 's Handbook for Readers and Writ- 
ers, acknowledged her debt to the Dictionary, 
and a number of her entries were taken di- 
rectly from it. 11 William Rose Benet, in his 
preface to the Handbook's successor, The 
Reader's Encyclopedia, expressed his plea- 
sure with this association, noting thsABrewer 's 
was among the reference books in his father' s 
library. 12 

Critical Reception 

Reference book reviewers have treated 
Brewer's well over the years. Early printings 
contained a page of "Selections from Notices 
of the Press" that quoted complimentary notes 
from newspapers and periodicals of the day. 
These notes pointed out features that would be 
mentioned again and again for the next 120 
years. The writer in The Daily Telegraph 
noted that the Dictionary offered "the rare 
attraction in a book of reference of being 
thoroughly readable," and others noted that it 
would provide much pleasure and amuse- 
ment. The West Sussex Gazette and The 
Manch ester Examiner recommended the work 
to students, speakers, writers, and general 
readers who needed explanations of allusions 


or "who are in want of pertinent illustrations;' 
while another reviewer characterized the 
knowledge in the volume as "one of the very 
best means of effecting a pleasant diversion 
from the dull level of commonplace small-talk 
in ordinary company." From the firstprinting 
onward, reviewers agreed that Brewer 's should 
"find a place in every library, whether public 
or private," 11 

Reviewers greeted each successive major 
revision with notes of from one to several 
paragraphs. The London Quarterly review of 
the 1894-95 edition is typical among these. It 
notes Brewer's "enormous popularity," its 
improvement through updating and correc- 
tion of old entries and the addition of new 
ones., its delights for lovers of the curious, and 
its general usefulness to other readers. 14 The 
Reference Books Bulletin note on the 1989 
edition strikes a similar tone. 15 In between 
these, reviewers took special note of the 1970 
centenary edition. For example, B. Hunter 
Smeaton, writing inLibrary Journal, reflected 
on Brewer's particular usefulness for items 
that are likely to be absent from other refer- 
ence books, 1 * and the reviewer in The Times 
Literary Supplement wished that the new edi- 
tion had concentrated on such items, leaving 
"all the other terms to works which cover them 
more fully andknowledgeably.,.."' 1 

Such reviews both reflected and con- 
firmed Brewer 's early- won status as a stan- 
dard reference book. The same is true of its 
treatment in lists of recommended reference 
works. As early as 1877, Justin Winsor in- 
cluded it on a list of reference books for small 
libraries, albeit with note of its borrowings 
from Wheeler mentioned above. 18 Alice B. 
Kroeger included it in her 1902 Guide to the 
Study and Use of Reference Books, (Boston: 
American Library Association) as has every 
edition of "Mudge" (or "WincheU" or 
"Sheeny," depending on one's generation). 
Likewise, Bessie Graham included it in the 
first edition of her Bookman 's Manual (New 
York: Bowker, I921) 1 anditisstill listedinthe 
latest edition of The Reader's Adviser (New 

York: Bowker, 1986-88). British guides have 
been equally consistent in listing it. 

Not surprisingly, Brewer's is included 
among the tools that are taught in courses on 
reference materials in library schools, and is 
among the tools considered "vital" for all 
types and sizes of libraries in a study con- 
ducted by Wallace Bonk to see what sources 
all library school students should be taught. 19 
And John C. Larsen found that most library 
schools included Brewer's among the "tried- 
and-true" titles in their humanities literature 
or bibliography courses. 20 Various reference 
course textbooks, from Shores to Katz, have 
also included Brewer 's. 

Evofution and Editions 

No sooner was the first printing of the 
Dictionary off the press than Brewer was 
noting needed corrections and addenda. While 
the pagination and most of the entries re- 
mained constant through the 1870 version's 
numerous printings (called "editions" through 
at least 26), some corrections and additions 
were made on the pages, and many printings 
had one or more pages of "addenda et 
corrigenda." Many of these had been sug- 
gested in letters from readers of the volume, 
whom Brewer acknowledged in additions to 
the preface. After several printings, the pub- 
lisher added a "Bibliographic Appendix," 
which was a listing of English authors and 
their works, based on W. Davenport Adams' 
Dictionary of English Literature (2nd ed., 
London: Cassell, Petter, & Galpin, 1878). 
This appendix was discontinued with the 1 923 

By 1 894, the needed correction and addi- 
tions were beyond what could be done "with 
such clipping and verbal changes as can be 
made in stereotyped plates," and a completely 
reset "New Edition" was published. 21 By this 
time, the publishers claimed that 100,000 cop- 
ies of the volume had been produced, and the 
title page of printings of the new edition indi- 
cated increases in this number (e.g., "110th 


Thousand" in 1899, "129th Thousand" in 

Brewer expanded the size of his dictio- 
nary hy a third in the second edition. He also 
corrected many entries and substituted new 
items for less useful ones. His preface to the 
new edition credits two sources for these 
corrections and expansions. First, there were 
"many hundreds of correspondents," some of 
whom seem to have gone through the first 
edition painstakingly, suggesting corrections, 
quotations, and other changes. The other source 
was the wealth of material coming out of what 
Brewer dubbed "The Era of English Philol- 
ogy." He wrote that he took advantage of "this 
great literary movement from every available 
source," very probably including the early 
installments of the New English Dictionary? 1 

The 1894-95 edition was reprinted nu- 
merous times up through World War I. An- 
other "New Edition" was published in 1923. 
Buchanan-Brown says that Lawrence H, 
Dawson edited this version, though he is not 
mentioned on the title page or elsewhere in the 
volume. 23 Revisions consisted mainly of drop- 
ping numerous terms and allusions that had 
fallen out of use since the 1890s, and the 
addition of new terms and phrases. 

By the end of World War II, Brewer 's was 
much in need of revision again, and it was the 
first of the Cassell reference books to receive 
attention after the turmoil of the war period 
subsided. 24 Cassell' s chairman, Desmond 
Flower, took personal interest in the revision, 
and a "Revised & Enlarged" edition came out 
in 1952. 25 The unnamed editor wrote in the 
volume's "Editor's Note" thatthenew edition 
had been "brought up to date by the inclusion 
of many forms of expression that have arisen 
during the past years," including phrases that 
came into use during the war, such as "blood, 
toil, tears, and sweat" and the V-for-victory 

With the 1952 edition, the publishers again 
adopted the practice of referring to printings 
as editions. The "fifth edition" of 1959 con- 
tained minor revisions within the same page 
set-up, and in 1963 a "Revised Edition" (also 

referred to as the eighth edition) was pub- 
lished "in order to keep pace with the coinage 
of new phrases." 2 * 

In 1963 Desmond Flower appointed Ivor 
H. Evans editor of what was to be the 1970 
"Centenary Edition." Evans was recom- 
mended by S. H. Steinberg, Cassell's editor in 
charge of dictionaries, with whom Evans had 
worked on the Dictionary of British History 
(New York: StMartin's). 27 Evans, like Brewer, 
was a school teacher. He was educated at 
King's College, London, and the University of 
London Institute of Education. 

Evans completely revised the Dictionary. 
He discarded many entries that seemed inap- 
propriate to Brewer's original conception, es- 
pecially technical expressions and other terms 
for which one would be likely to consult a 
general dictionary or encyclopedia. 28 Many 
remaining entries were rewritten for accu- 
racy, clarity, and conciseness. Some 2,000 
new entries for recent and current phrases 
were added, and an improved system of cross- 
referencing was used. 

Ivor Evans has remained editor through 
two subsequent editions, the 1981 "Revised 
Edition" and the 1989 "Fourteenth Edition." 
His methods of collecting materials for the 
Dictionary are strikingly similar to those used 
by Brewer himself. "I have always read exten- 
sively and have been blessed with a good 
memory and always register anything that 
might be worth space in Brewer 's, either as an 
entry or a worthwhile quotation. I work on the 
principle of Captain Cuttle in Dickens's 
Dombey and Son, 'When found make a note 
of . . .'" He also picks up expressions from 
conversation, newspapers, periodicals, and 
correspondence. Each potential new entry is 
carefully checked in several sources and 
weighed as to its appropriateness for Brewer's, 
Entries that pass the test are placed in Evans' 
equivalent of Brewer's pigeonholes to await 
the next revision. 29 

American publishers have published edi- 
tions and printings of Brewer's parallel to 
those of Cassell Except for the title pages, 
these versions have been exactly the same as 


Cassell's. The firm of Claxton, Remsen and 
Heffelfinger was the American publisher into 
the 1880s, and Lippincott published the vol- 
ume through the 1923 edition. In 1952 George 
W. Jones added the Dictionary to Harper & 
Row's list of "staples," where it has more than 
met the criteria of being practical and infor- 
mative and having long-term sales potential. 30 
Various publishers have also found Brewer 's 
an attractive title to reprint. The 1894-95 edi- 
tion appeared as one of Henry Altemus* cheap 
reprint editions in 1898, and Avenel Books 
published a reprint of the same edition in 1978 
(both with a curious extraneous quotation 
mark in their printed transcriptions of Brewer' s 
handwritten preface that was in early printings 
of the 1894-95 edition as a facsimile). 

The Current Edition 

The 1989 edition of Brewer's is quite 
similar to that of 1870. Several small sections 
of the alphabet (100 entries) in the 1989 edi- 
tion were examined by this author, as were the 
same sections of the 1870 edition (97 entries). 
Fifty-six entries are in both editions, 37 of 
them largely the same in content and wording. 
Reflections of successive generations of schol- 
arship and changes in usage can be found by 
tracing such entries as "Stonehenge," "Barbe- 
cue," and those under "Oil" through various 
editions. The first edition contains 41 entries 
that have not survived into the "fourteenth" 
edition, e.g., "Hegemony," "New-fangled," 
"Papa," and "Swiss Family Robinson." The 
latest edition contains 44 entries not found in 
the first edition, e.g., "Blurb," "Heidelberg 
Man," "In the Swim," and "Switched on." 
The 1989 edition adds a 20-page index that 
will supplement the volume's cross-refer- 

Its Enduring Value 

Why has a work that was so much a 
product of its age survived to serve eras that 
have been so different in characteristics and 

needs? The answer lies in its combination of 
two features that were pointed out by review- 
ers of the first edition. First, Brewer empha- 
sized practical reference usefulness. Through 
the years, the volume has helped a broad range 
of readers and writers, from the student or the 
self-educated reader who wished to under- 
stand literary allusions and to share the culture 
they represent, to the scholar or the well- 
educated writer who needed to verify a half- 
remembered phrase or its source. The Dictio- 
nary has been especially useful for phrases 
and adages that often get left out of general 
dictionaries and for lists of such phenomena as 
patron saints, national anthems, or dogs of 
note. Certainly, a key to the volume' s contin- 
ued usefulness has been Cassell's willingness 
to support revisions, so that users could find 
recently coined phrases, along with now ob- 
scure allusions found in literature from the 

The second feature that has accounted for 
Brewer 's remarkable success over the years is 
its delights for the browser. It is a disciplined 
user, indeed, who can look up one phrase in the 
Dictionary and put the book down immedi- 
ately. Curiosity is a timeless human trait, 
whether in the Victorian antiquarian or in the 
trivia buff of the 1990s, and Brewer's has 
always spoken to it. Librarians who have 
bought the book for reference collections, 
readers who have perused it in libraries, and 
those who have it on their shelves at home will 
admit, with only a little hesitation, that the 
book may have been bought for its reference 
value but that it is loved for its hours (or 
moments, however fleeting) of browsing en- 

To keep "Brewer's" from the fate of 
is tered the name as a British trademark. On the 
other hand, the publisher would like to take 
advantage of the widespread familiarity with 
"Brewer's" as a name, perhaps using it to 
enhance the acceptance of a similar reference 
tool for young people and another with a 
political emphasis. 11 Since the latest edition of 


the Dictionary has come out very recently, it 
is too early for the publisher to have formu- 
lated definite plans for yet another revision. 
However, allusions to fables of the past and 
the coinage of phrases will surely continue 

apace. Just as surely, Brewer '$ Dictionary of 
Phrase and Fable will continue to offer alms 
to readers (and listeners and viewers) of the 
twenty-first century who need help in sorting 
out the bric-a-brac of their past and present. 


Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Giving the Deriva- 
tion, Source, or Origin of Common Phrases, 
Allusions, and Words that have a Tale to Tell, by 
E. Cobham Brewer. London: Cassell, Petter, & 
Galpin, 1870. 976p. 

Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Giving the Deriva- 
tion, Source, or Origin of Common Phrases, 
Allusions, and Words that have a Tale to Tell, by 
E. CobhamBrewer. New Edition, Revised, Cor- 
rected, and Enlarged, to which is added A 
Concise Bibliography of English Literature. 
London: Cassell, 1895. l,440p. 

A Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, by E. Cobham 
Brewer. New Edition. London: Cassell, 1923. 

Brewer 's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. Revised & 
Enlarged, London: Cassell, 1952. 97 7p. 

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. Revised 
Edition. London: Cassell, 1963. 970p. 

Brewer 's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Centenary 
Edition, revised by Ivor H. Evans. London; 
Cassell, 1970. 1,1 75p. 

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Revised 
Edition, by Ivor H. Evans. London: Cassell, 
1981. l,213p. 

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Four- 
teenth edition, by Ivor H. Evans. London: Cassell, 
1989. l,220p. 


Neither primary nor secondary sources 
regarding E. Cobham Brewer and his Dictio- 
nary are plentiful. Most of the relevant Cassell 
archives were destroyed in the air raid that 
destroyed La Belle Sauvage in 1 94 1 . The only 
easily accessible biography is the "brief mem- 
oir" by his grandson, P. M. C. Hayman, that is 
part of the introductory material in the 1970 
Centenary Edition of the Dictionary. John 
Buchanan-Brown, former manager of 
Cassell' s Reference Department, has provided 
a useful introduction to the 1981 and 1989 
editions that places the work in its cultural 
context. Ivor H. Evans' editor's preface to the 
1970, 1981, and 1989 editions provides brief 
information on the history of Brewer 's and on 
his revisions. An understanding of John 
CasselPs background and activities in pub- 
lishing informational and educational materi- 
als for working-class people is important to 
understanding the cultural context of Brewer 's t 
and Nowell- Smith's book on CasselPs pub- 
lishing house will provide useful and interest- 

ing insights in this regard. Likewise, good 
treatments of education and reading in the 
Victorian era, such as those by Richard Altick, 
will provide context very helpful to under- 
standing Brewer and his works, 

Altick, Richard D. The English Common Reader: A 
Social Histoiy of the Mass Reading Public 
1800-1900. Chicago: University of Chicago 
Press, 1957, 

Buchanan-Brown, John. "Introduction." InBrewer 's 
Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by Ivor 
H. Evans, ix-xvi, 14th ed. London: Cassell, 

Collison, Robert, Encyclopedias: Their History 
Throughout the Ages. New York: Hafner, 1966. 

Hayman, P. M. C. "E. Cobham Brewer LL.D.: A 
Brief Memoir by His Grandson." In Brewer's 
Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by Ivor 
H. Evans, v Li-xii. Centenary ed. London: Cassell, 

McArthur, Tom. Worlds of Reference: Lexicogra- 
phy, Learning and Language from the Clay 
Tablet to the Computer. Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 1986. 

Nowell-Smith, Simon. The House of Cassell, 1848- 
1958. London: Cassell, 1958. 



I P.M.C. Hayman, "E. Cobham Brewer LL.D.: A 

Brief Memoir by His Grandson," in Brewer's 
Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Centenary ed., 
ed. by Ivor H. Evans (London: Cassell, 1970), 

5 Simon Nowell-Smith, TheHouse of Cassell, 1848- 

1958 (London: Cassell, 1958), 36-49. 

'John Buchanan-Brown, "Introduction," in Brewer's 
Dictionary of Phrase andFable,14thp<i., ed. by 
IvorH. Evans (London: Cassell, 1989), xii. 

* Hayman, ix-x. 

s Ibid. 

6 E. Cobham Brewer, "Preface," in Dictionary of 

Phrase andFabk (London: Cassell, Petter, & 
Galpin, 1870), v-viii. 
7 Ibid. 

8 Ibid. 

9 Buchanan-Brown, xi-xii. 

10 Wi)liam A. Wheeler, An Explanatory and Pro- 
nouncing Dictionary of the Noted Names of 
Fiction (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1866), v- 

II Henrietta Gerwig, CrowdVs Handbook for Read- 

ers and Writers (New York: Crowd 1, 1925), v. 

See, for example, entries for "Abigail" and 

"WillianiRose Benft, "Preface to the FirstBdition,'* 

in The Reader's Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. (New 

York: Crowd 1, 1965), unpaged. 
""Selections from Notices of the Press," in Dictio- 
nary of Phrase andFabk, 3rd ed,by E. Cobham 

Brewer (London: Cassell, Petter, & Galpin, 

1872), unpaged, 
"Review of D/cr/ofldry of Phrase andFable,London 

Quarterly andHotborn Review 86 (July 1896); 


15 Review of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and 

Fable, Booklist 86 (1 March 1990); 1380-81. 

16 B. Hunter Smeaton, Review of Brewer's Dictio- 

nary of Phrase and Fable, Library Journal 97 
(15 March 1972): 1002. 

17 "As They Brew . . . ," The Times Literary Supple- 

ment no. 3581 (16 October 1970): 7. 

18 Justin. Winsor, "Reference Books in English," 

Library Journal 1 (31 March 1877): 247-49. 

19 Wallace J. Bonk, Use of Basic Reference Sources 

in Libraries (Ann Arbor: University of Michi- 
gan, 1963), 116-28. 

20 John C. Larsen, "Titles Currently Studied in Hu- 

manities Courses," Journal of Education for 

Librarianship 10 (Ba\\ 1969): 120-28. 
21 E. Cobham Brewer, "Preface," in Dictionary of 

Phrase andFabk, New ed. (London: Cassell, 

1895), unpaged. 
a Ibid. 

M Buchanan-Brown, xv. 
24 Nowell-Srniih,243. 

25 Buchanan-Brown, xv. 

26 "Preface," in Rev. ed. (London: Cassell, 1963), v. 
11 Ivor H. Evans, letter to the author, 17 February, 

28 Ivor H. Evans, "Editor's Preface," in Brewer's 

Dictionary of Phrase andFable, Centenary ed. 

(London: Cassell, 1970), v-vi. 
w Evans, letter to author, 17 February 1990. 
M Eugene Exman, The House of Harper (New York: 

Harper & Row, 1967), 240, 283. 
J1 Steven Cook, Assistant Editor, Reference, Cassell 

Publishers, Ltd., telephone conversation with 

author, 2 February, 1990. 

"The Indispensable Guide": The 
Chicago Manual of Style 

Richard D. DeBacher 


"It is often thought of as "The Bible" in 
terms of editorial style; I don 't know an 
experienced editor who does not know it. " 
— Nancy N. Clemente, Managing Editor, 
Harvard University Press 

"We like it. It is well organized, well 
thought out. What else can I say after I've 
said, 'I love you'?" — Sophie Sorkin, 
Vice President and Director of Copy 
Editing, Simon & Schuster 1 

Editors and writers commonly make affec- 
tionate reference to The Chicago Manual of 
Style and often regard it with gospel-like rev- 
erence. In fact one review of the most recent 
edition bore the title, "Look-it-up heaven for 
the writer." 2 While the principal authors of 
that edition, Bruce Young and Catharine 
Seybold, find such remarks hyperbolic and 
somewhat embarrassing, few of their profes- 
sional colleagues would argue with Naomi 
Pascal, editor-in-chief of the University of 
Washington Press, who called it, "the indis- 
pensable guide for us scholarly publishers," 3 
or with Laurence Urdang, whose review in 
Verbatim concluded, "it must be conceded to 
be the most useful editorial tool available." 4 
The Chicago Manual quickly rose to its 
definitive status in North America shortly 
after publication of the first edition in 1906. 
Like the thirteenth edition, the first appeared 
as a revolution in printing technology was 
unfolding. Then as now, changes in the ways 

books were produced created a demand for 
new standards in the preparation of manu- 
scripts, the editing of text, and the setting of 
type. The Chicago Manual met this need and 
subsequent editions changed over the years as 
printing technology evolved further. Thus, as 
Mark Carroll observed in his review of the 
thirteenth edition, "This grand tool is, as it 
always has been since its first edition in 1906, 
reflective of change and adaptation of the 
publication and printing process." 5 

These same trends shaped the market for 
the Manual, and, over the years, the primary 
focus has shifted from the needs of typesetters 
and their proofreaders to those of authors and 
their editors. Whereas the first line under the 
title of the original edition read, "Being a 
Compilation of the Typographical Rules . . .," 
the line had evolved by the eleventh edition 
(1949) to read, "containing typographical and 
other rules for authors, printers, and publish- 
ers." The twelfth (1969) and the thirteenth 
(1 982) editions claim to serve, "Authors, Edi- 
tors, and Copywriters," and all reference to 
typesetting has vanished from the title page. 
In John Howell's words, the various edi- 
tions of the Chicago Manual reflect "the pro- 
cess by which the printer's manual evolved 
into the editor's and author's manual," 6 The 
Chicago Manual was not written to cover 
matters of style that are the province of other 
well known works such as The Elements of 
Style, 3rd ed., by William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. 
White (New York: Macmillan, 1979) or the 


various prescriptive guides to grammatical 
usage. Rather, The Chicago Manual of Style 
covers "typographical style. . . < it tells you not 
how to say or write something, but how it 
should appear on the page." 7 According to 
Catharine Seybold, the Manual aims to serve 
editors and authors who need a reference tool 
that will 

help them decide what to capitalize, italicize, 
put in quotation marks; how to abbreviate all 
kinds of terms, to quote from other sources, to 
punctuate, to form plurals of numbers, names, 
etc., to compile and edit tables and indexes, to 
deal with footnotes and bibliographies and 
reference lists. . , . The accepted, and accept- 
able, ways of coping with these matters in 
good writing and good bookmaking, together 
with the University of Chicago Press prefer- 
ence where there w as an aUernati ve, had really 
always been chiefly what was meant by the 
word style in the title of the Manual. 8 

Today, most manuscripts are prepared 
with word processing software, and the 
author's "output" on magnetic floppy disks is 
frequently used in the copy editing process 
and to drive typesetting equipment. With desk- 
top publishing software, the same machine 
used to write a document can be used edit it 
and set it in type. Technology has blurred the 
line that once clearly separated the writing, 
editing, and typesetting functions. The next 
edition of The Chicago Manual of Style is sure 
to reflect the changes brought about by this 
continuing technological evolution. 

Early History of the Chicago 

The history of The Chicago Manual of 
Style is intimately tied to the history of the 
University of Chicago Press, which, in turn, 
traces its origins to those of the University 
itself in 1892. 9 The founding President of the 
University of Chicago, WilliamRainey Harper, 
believed that the basic mission of his new 
university should include not only teaching 
and a strong emphasis on research, but the 
dissemination of the fruits of scholarship as 
well Thus, "From the time the University of 

Chicago opened its doors in 1 892, its press has 
been a department of the university. ... to 
carry the wisdom of the university beyond its 
own student body." 10 

The new university press was assigned a 
variety of tasks, including the publication of 
scholarly books and journals containing the 
research results of the university's faculty as 
well as that of other researchers. To accom- 
plish the challenging printing assignments, 
Newman Miller, who served as the director of 
the Press from 1 900 to 1 9 19, aimed to employ 
the new technology that was effecting a revo- 
lution in typesetting at the end of the nine- 
teenth century. Miller persuaded the Univer- 
sity Board of Trustees of the economic advan- 
tage of the Mergenthaler Linotype and the 
Lanston Monotype composing machines. 

Faced not only with mastering these new 
machines but with using them to publish schol- 
arly works in Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, 
and Ethiopic, as well as technical and scien- 
tific research, the printing department of the 
Press established a copy editing and proof- 
reading section under the direction of Louis 
Warming. As Seybold recounts it: 

Professors brought their handwritten manu- 
scripts directly to the compositors, who did 
their best to decipher them and set them in an 
acceptable form. Rough proofs from this op- 
eration were turned over to a growing band of 
proofreaders, referred to as the 'brainery' by 
the typesetters because they endeavored to 
correct not only typographical errors but sty- 
listic inconsistencies and even the grammati- 
cal lapses of the distinguished authors. To 
these hard-working souls, it inevitably be- 
came apparent that some guidelines were 
needed in their business. So, true to the pio- 
neer spirit of the new university growing 
around them, they drew up their own 'style 
sheet' with a little help from interested mem- 
bers of the English department and others. 
This was printed in a small pamphlet and 
distributed to the professorial journal editors 
and others in the university community." 11 

This small pamphlet, first produced in 
1901, became the seed from which the first 
edition of The Chicago Manual of 'Style would 
grow. Newman Miller perceived both the edi- 


torial and economic potential of the style sheet 
and urged the governing board of the Press to 
approve its issuance as a regular Press publi- 

It is recommended by the Publication Com- 
mittee that this pamphlet be issued as a regular 

publication of the Press It is believed . . . 

that the work will be valuable to many persons 
not connected with the University, and in 
order to take it out of the class of documents 
which are usually given away it has been 
thought wise to put a price upon it and en- 
deavor to sell it through general trade chan- 
nels, without special promotional efforts be- 
ing put upon it." 12 

The First Edition of the Manual 

Accordingly, in 1906, the Press issued a 
200-page book with a two-color title page 
which read, "MANUAL OF STYLE. Being a 
compilation of the typographical rules in force 
at the University of Chicago Press, to which 
USE." Some 80 pages of this first Manual 
cover type specimens and elaborate orna- 
ments. Seventy-five pages are devoted to Rules 
of Composition; 12 pages to technical terms; 
and 10 pages to an appendix offering what are 
called "Hints." The latter begin assertively, 
"Manuscripts should be either typewritten or 
in a perfectly clear handwriting. The former is 
preferable." To proofreaders it advises, "The 
Manual of Style is primarily meant for you. 
Learn its rules by heart." To copyholders 
(those who read aloud to proofreaders the 
material being checked) it counsels, "culti- 
vate a low, soft, clear, reading voice." 

The following passage from the first 
Manual, which Seybold ascribes to Louis 
Warming, is quoted in full in the preface to the 
thirteenth edition: 

"Rules and regulations such as these . . . 
cannot be endowed with the fixity of rock- 
ribbed law. They . . . must be applied with a 
certain degree of elasticity. . . . Throughout 
this book it is assumed that no regulation 
contained therein is absolutely inviolable. 
Wherever the peculiar nature of the subject- 

matter, the desirability of throwing into relief 
a certain part of the argument, the reasonable 
preference of a writer or a typographical con- 
tingency suggests a deviation, such deviation 
may legitimately be made. Each case of this 
character must largely be decided upon its 
own merits. Generally it may be stated that, 
where no question of good taste or good logic 
is involved, deference should be shown to the 
expressed wishes of the author." 13 

Later Editions 

The Manual's early success was noted by 
the preface to the second edition (191 0): "The 
merit of the Manual is best evidenced by its 
very general adoption and use in editorial 
offices and proofrooms throughout the United 
States and Canada." 1 ' 1 A third edition was 
published a year later, and its preface by 
Newman Miller attributed the need for still 
further revision of the manual in part to "the 
recent development of the profession of li- 
brarian, with the attendant uniformity of prac- 
tice recommended by the national association 
of librarians, and the added experience result- 
ing from a daily application of these rules to a 
very varied list of publications." 15 

The second, third, and fourth (1914) edi- 
tions of the Manual were produced under the 
guidance of John A. Powell, successor to 
Warming as chief proofreader. The stature of 
this position is suggested by Powell's back- 
ground. A world traveler, he held a degree 
from the University of London and a Ph.D. 
from the University of Berlin, 

The fifth (1917), sixth (1919), and sev- 
enth (1920) editions of the Manual were pro- 
duced under the editorial guidance of Powell's 
successors including Lilian E. Bridgen. 
Seybold notes "this frequency of new editions 
in the early days of the Press was due largely 
to additions of new typefaces by the printing 
department." 16 The seventh edition, says 
Seybold, "shows no vast difference from the 
third. Somewhere, however the article "A" 
was added before the title: 'A MANUAL OF 
STYLE."" 7 


Commercial Viability 

Press memoranda and correspondence 
now stored in the Special Collections of 
Regenstein Library at the University of Chi- 
cago shed light on the commercial viability of 
the early editions of the Manual. For instance, 
before the fourth edition was issued in 1 9 14, 
Newman Miller exchanged a series of memos 
with Gordon Laing, for many years general 
editor of the Press, about whether to publish 
the Manual in cloth, paperback, or both, 

On November 6, 1913, Miller wrote to 
Laing, "I believe that we ought to work toward 
a single edition of the Manual of Style to be put 

out in cloth I am disposed to think it will 

sell just as well in cloth although the paper 
edition has sold rather better in the past." 
Laing responded in pencil on Miller's typed 
memo, "The figures show that the demand is 
for the paper edition. On the face of it, it seems 
tomethatitwouldbe wise to abandon the cloth 
edition." Miller prevailed, and in a directive 
to Laing datedNovember 19, 1913, heordered 
the new revision to be issued in a single 
clothbound edition. Miller then directedLaing 
to revise the text "carefully ... so that we can 
now look upon it as final for the next few 
years, at least." 18 

Miller* s concerns about the cost of updat- 
ing the Manual are explained in other Press 
documents that detail the several purposes for 
which the book was being used. Figure 1 
reproduces the data presented on a document 
dated April 26, 1917, relating to the proposed 
fifth edition. 

Despite its widespread acceptance, sales 
revenue for the Manual (called "returns" in 
Figure 1) failed to cover production costs for 
any edition but the fourth. Still, the Manual 
served an important commercial and public 
relations purpose for the Press, a function 
Miller felt compelled to explain to T.E. 
Donnelly, chair of the subcommittee of the 
University of Chicago's Board of Trustees 
that oversaw Press operations, as he sought 
that body's approval for a new edition: 

This title has been an evolution, at first a 
convenience to the office and later developing 
into a publicity asset of considerable impor- 
tance. It has finally come to have a steady sale 
through our trade channels, and it is only 
justice to those who have contributed to the 
compilation of the book to say that in many 
quarters it is looked upon as an authority in 
matters of style. . . . 

Donnelly urged Miller to increase the 
price to $2. Miller resisted, thinking $1 .50 to 
be the price ceiling. Donnelly gave in and 
approved the publication of 1,000 copies of 
the fifth edition with a list price of $1.50, 
Miller hoped the book could be made self- 
sustaining and that "future corrections will not 
be heavy," but these hopes seemed lost when 
he wrote to the Board on September 8, 1920: 

It has always been considered as more or less 
of a promotion scheme, andmany copies have 
been and still are given away to authors and 
editors of our books and journals. The nature 
of the book of course requires a constant 
revision, and the manufacturing cost of each 
impression is therefore considerably above 
that of an average book. For both of these 
reasons it has never been a paying book. 

The Eighth and Ninth Editions 

The birth of the eighth edition of 1925 , the 
most complete revision of the Manual to date 
was notto be an easy one. Laing's memo to the 
file summarizes a conference held in January 
1 924 at which it was decided that David H. 
Stevens of the English department would be 
' 'asked to revise the Manual of Style from the 
academic point of view, andthatMr. Kittredge 
of the Donnelley Company should be requested 
to make suggestions on the typographic part of 
the book." From the new edition, an abridg- 
ment was to be produced, "to consist of a small 
pamphlet of from 32-64 pages which we can 
send to authors whose books we are publish- 

Stevens finished his work on August 26, 
1 924, and asked for $400 for his services, 
Laing and Donald P. Bean, manager of the 
Publication Department, had expected to pay 


April 26, 1917 

Manualof Style 










Nov. 1906 

Mar. 1910 

Dec. 1911 

Feb. 1914 

No. Produced 





















On hand 










Est. Returns 





Total cost--$3, 154.21 

" Est. Ret. 


Proposed Fifth Edition 

Number of Copies-1000 

Estimated cost- 





Estimated returns- 


Figure 1 . 
Replication of 1917 Internal Document Regarding Sales Figures And Projections for the Manual 

from $50 to $100, and Bean's memo to Laing 
of August 29, 1924, calls the invoice "prepos- 
terous." Worse, Stevens' work was not ac- 
ceptable and had to be rewritten, largely by 
Jessie D. Whittern, head of the proofroom. 
Ultimately, Laing offered Stevens $100 and a 
$.20 per copy royalty on the first 2,000 copies 
sold. Stevens accepted. 

According to Seybold, the design of the 
eighth edition was the joint effort of designer 
Robert O. Ballou and A.C. McFarland, man- 
ager of the Printing Department. It is not clear 
whether the renowned Mr. Kittredge of the 
Donnelley Company contributed to the effort. 
Seybold states that the design was "noticed 
with approval by Publishers ' Weekly, which 
. . . mistakenly credited R.R. Donnelley 's 
typographer for the improvement." 19 

The preface to the eighth edition specified 
the intended users as "authors, editors, adver- 
tising men, printers, proofreaders, and pub- 
lishers." 20 The new Manual contained a sec- 
tion on selecting typography and relating the 

parts (preliminaries, text, back matter, run- 
ning heads, page numbers, etc.) which to- 
gether create ''the personality of a book." The 
rules for composition offered instructions on 
dealing with legends and captions, mathemati- 
cal formulas, and complex indexes. The 
"Hints" moved from the appendix to the text, 
comprising 18 pages, 

Seybold detects and laments "a new, self- 
assured air about the instructions addressed to 
authors and other ignorant readers." For in- 
stance, the author is admonished that in sub- 
mitting copy, "he may ordinarily rely on the 
judgment of his publisher with regard to typo- 
graphical style. Vexation and delay are the 
usual results of interference with one who is a 
specialist in book-making " 2I Manuscripts sub- 
mitted "in a perfectly clear hand" are still 
acceptable, although typewritten manuscripts 
are "preferable for many reasons." Handwrit- 
ten manuscripts were not forbidden altogether 
until the eleventh edition. 


The ninth edition (1927) was unchanged 
save for the addition of ten pages of type 
specimens. Discussion of a tenth edition ap- 
peared in Press documents as early as 1 935. A 
Professor David Gustafson of the Carnegie 
Institute of Technology Department of Print- 
ing hoped to adopt an updated Manual for his 
classes, By April of that year, however, Laing 
wrote regretfully, that "financial conditions 
prevent our revising the book at present." The 
next year, Professor Gregory Paine of the 
English departmentof the University of North 
Carolina wrote to the Press on the letterhead of 
the Modern Language Association, offering a 
number of suggestions for the next edition. 
Hisletterwas addressed to Mary D. Alexander, 
since 1925 head of the proofroom and the 
principal force behind both the tenth and the 
eleventh editions. 

Paine recommended (1) an expanded 
chapter on footnotes; (2) a separate chapter on 
bibliographies; (3) a revised list of foreign 
words recognizing the "change from italics to 
roman and the omission of accents"; and (4) a 
less "confusing" general index, eliminating 
"the double references to page and paragraph 
numbers." Finally, he added, "I wish that you 
could publish a book that could sell for about 
two dollars so that I could use in [it] freely as 
a textbook. Why not omit Specimens of Type, 
pages 221-361? These pages are of use only 
to printers. . . . The Manual will not be pur- 
chased by students or writers at three-fifty a 

The Tenth and Eleventh Editions 

Alexander, whose forceful style and strong 
personality contributed significantly to the 
corporate culture of the Press for 50 years, 
chose not to incorporate all of Paine 's sugges- 
tions. Thetenthedition(1937) included greatly 
expanded "Rules for Preparation of Copy," a 
new chapter on bibliography, and a list of 
proper forms for addressing prominent per- 
sons. By the eleventh edition (1949), a largely 
revised "Hints" section reflected Alexander's 

touch and, according to Seybold, "the no- 
nonsense tone has become a bit sharper," 
Authors were told: 

No amount of careful preparation of a dull 
manuscript will disguise its basic shortcom- 
ings. But even a brilliant piece of writing will 
have difficulty finding a publisher if the au- 
thor has neglected to dress his manuscript 
decently. On the assumption that the author 
has produced something worth printing, the 
suggestions offered here might well be en- 
titled "How to Win a Publisher." 22 

Authors are also admonished to keep their 
footnotes to a minimum because "footnotes 
add nothing to the appearance of the printed 
page." Furthermore, they were told to avoid 
changes in their proofs "as such changes are 
expensive. Remember, to make a change in 
manuscript requires only a few strokes of the 
pen; to make a change in proofs, a skilled 
operator must be employed." 23 

In her summary remarks on the eighth 
through the eleventh editions, Seybold ob- 
serves and regrets a growing tendency to 
regard the rules for composition promulgated 
by the University of Chicago Press as irrevo- 
cable, as the only sensible way, and, contrary 
to the disclaimer still in the preface, as now 
indeed "endowed with the fixity of unchang- 
ing law." To be sure, this attitude was un- 
doubtedly encouraged by users of tho Manual 
who followed its every dictate and over the 
years turned to the Press for answers to ques- 
tions not covered in its pages. Its sometimes 
schoolmarmish tone aside, however, this elev- 
enth Manual was a most useful reference tool, 
and it served the Press and its wider audience 
for a longer period than had any of its prede- 


The Modern Manual 

The next major revision of the Manual 
was undertaken after important changes in the 
organization and structure of the Press had 
been made in the 1950s, a period of rapid 
expansion under then director Roger Shugg. 
At the outset of this period, the Printing De- 


partment of the University, which was no 
longer a part of the Press, was still copy 
editing, designing, and producing most of the 
books and journals published by the Press. 
Shugg created a new manuscript editing de- 
partment within the Press in 1956 and added a 
design and production department two years 

The new organizational scheme was not 
implemented without resistance or difficulty. 
Seybold witnessed the transition, having been 
hired in 1956 as the first "chief manuscript 
editor" within the Press: 

The new manuscript editors, in Shugg's plan, 
were to go beyond the traditional "mechani- 
cal" kind of editing — such as regularizing 
spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and the 
like — to perform "substantive editing where 
desirable and to work with authors to improve 
the quality and clarity of the Press books." 
They also were not to be rigidly bound by the 
strictures of the printing department's widely 
used Manual of Style ... To the proofreaders 
on the fourth floor such a lax approach would 
be nothing short of blasphemous." 25 

Understandably, "a new edition of the 
Manual more suitable to the current state of 
affairs was a subject frequently discussed by 
the staff ,26 during this period. Finally, in 1968, 
the new director of the Press, Morris Philipson, 
suggested that Seybold, then senior manu- 
script editor, and Bruce Young, the managing 
editor, take time off to produce a new edition 
of the Manual, three months being thought 
sufficient for the task. "Some eight grueling 
months later," notes Seybold, "we produced a 
manuscript." 27 

John Grossman, another Press manuscript 
editor, revised the chapter on punctuation; 
another staff editor wrote a new chapter on 
citing public documents. Young and Seybold 
divided the rest of the work between them, 
aiming to make the twelfth edition "more 
relevant to the needs of authors and editors 
than to those of typographers and printers." 28 
The new edition was designed by Cameron 
Poulter, head of the design and production 

The heart of the old Manual, what had 
been called Rules for Composition in the first 
ten editions and Rules for Preparation of Copy 
in the eleventh, was now simply called "Style," 
by which was meant "the accepted and accept- 
able ways of coping with these [editorial] 
matters in good writing and good bookmak- 
ing, together with the University of Chicago 
Press preference where there was an alterna- 
tive^ 29 

Other parts were completely revised or 
omitted altogether, including, at last, the type 
specimens, which had occupied nearly half 
the pages of the preceding edition. With some 
regret Young and Seybold abolished the 
"Hints" section and incorporated these tips 
into an expanded section called "Bookmak- 
ing." It explained what went into the various 
parts of a book and how to assemble them, the 
preparation of copy for the printer, and au- 
thors' and publishers' responsibilities regard- 
ing copyright. 

Now truly a success both critically and 
commercially, the first printing of 20,000 cop- 
ies of the twelfth edition sold out before pub- 
lication. From its appearance in January 1969 
through August 1982, thisedition sold 153,501 
copies, a sum nearly equal to the combined 
sales of the first eleven editions. 30 

Work on the thirteenth edition began in 
1975 when Young and Seybold sent a ques- 
tionnaire to some 75 professional colleagues, 
inviting their suggestions for the new work. 
To their surprise, 129 questionnaires were 
returned, a number of recipients having cop- 
ied the documentto permit eager colleagues to 
contribute to the effort. 

Challenges for the Editors 

A variety of important developments, le- 
gal, cultural, and technological, came to bear 
on this edition. First, changes in the federal 
copyright regulations had been adopted in 
1 978 and needed to be interpreted in language 
understandable to authors and editors. 

^SB2i-£rJi J "T 


Second, the women's movement had called 
attention to the deleterious effects of sexist 
language. Young and Seybold were inclined 
to be cautious in responding to the emerging 
trend, and, more than a year before the new 
edition appeared, they stated in a published 
article that they would be "only giving a nod 
to the continuing controversy over sexist lan- 
guage: A footnote will explain that the pro- 
noun 'he' will be used in the generic sense 
throughout the guide." 31 Once word of their 
decision spread, the outcry convinced Seybold 
to make a more radical change: "The tradi- 
tional single generic pronoun in the English 
language could no longer safely be used to 
refer to an author or an editor of either sex. 
And the twelfth edition of the Manual suddently 
was perceived to be filled with this pronoun. I 
persuaded my male colleague that we must 
' desex' our new text altogether or risk the dire 
consequences of offending more than half our 
readers. How? Well, we used a lot of plu- 
rals." 32 

Finally, typesetting and printing methods 
were once again changing rapidly, and the 
new Manual had to take these developments 
into account. The old "hot lead" typesetters 
were being replaced by phototypesetting and 
computer-driven alternatives. Authors were 
beginning to use stand-alone word processors 
or campus computers to produce machine- 
readable manuscripts on magnetic tape or 
floppy disks. While fhepersonal computer did 
not yet play an important role in the revolu- 
tion, its impact soon was to explode upon the 
scene. These still emerging trends held pro- 
found implications for writers, editors, and 

It was, perhaps, impossible in the late 
1970s and early 1980s to anticipate the needs 
of the microcomputer age. Still, at least one 
otherwise admiring reviewer of the thirteenth 
edition, Laurence Urdang, criticized the new 
editior for its lean coverage of the new tech- 

There is a great deal more to be said about 
automatic typesetting than is even suggested 
in the Chicago Manual .... It is not my 

intention to write that segment of the Style 
Manual here, only to point out that the cover- 
age given is niggardly, especially when one 
considers that many of those functions for- 
merly the provine of the compositor are now 
becoming the responsibility of the editor and 
often of the author." 33 

The thirteenth edition, greatly expanded 
and completely revised in nearly every area, 
now included a new chapter by Bruce Young 
on the history and current methods of compo- 
sition, printing, and binding. Seybold's efforts 
focused on revising and amplifying the mate- 
rial on documentation of scholarly works. The 
new edition was published in August 1982 in 
a volume of 748 pages, 102 more than its 
predecessor. It has broken all previous sales 
records, having sold 203,000 copies to date, 
and it continues to sell more copies each year. 

Not long thereafter, work began on an 
altogether new guide to set standards for au- 
thors who employed microcomputers and other 
electronic systems in preparing manuscripts 
for publication. The Chicago Guide to Pre- 
paring Electronic Manuscripts was prepared 
under the direction of Jennie Lightner, senior 
manuscript editor, andPamely Pokorney, then 
senior production controller. The Guide was 
published in 1987, addressing the need Urdang 
had cited in his review of the thirteenth edition 
of the Manual In their preface, Lightner and 
Pokorney proclaim: "Our focus is on manu- 
script preparation — how it should be done 
when computers are used — and on the proce- 
dures that should be followed by author and 
publisher so that the author's electronic me- 
dium can be used for typesetting." 34 Like the 
Manual, the new Guide evolved from "guide- 
lines for authors of electronic manuscripts that 
were distributed to Press authors," which were 
subsequently expanded for publication. 15 

Present and Future 

Later, the Manual was selected to be one 
of the reference books published on CD-ROM 
as an element in Microsoft's revolutionary 
Bookshelf product. Used in conjunction witha 


word processing program, Bookshelf 'permits 
its users to conduct onscreen look-ups in the 
text of the Manual as they write. It does not 
automatically proofread, edit, or stylize a 
manuscript, but hints of such capabilities are 
on the horizon, and some programs now on the 
market exhibit extraordinary powers. 

For instance, Oberson Resources' "Note- 
book II Plus" textual data and bibliographic 
reference system can, among other things, 
"generate bibliographies and reference lists, 
automatically, in any of over 650 publishing 
styles." The Modern Language Association 
now offers Editor which it calls a program for 
"checking usage, mechanics, vocabulary, and 
structure." As such powerful writing tools 
emerge to serve scholarly writers, the author- 
editor relationship is sure to continue evolv- 

Still, suitable organizations need to re- 
view, revise, and devise appropriate standards 
for the preparation of manuscripts, electronic 
or otherwise, if research results and other 

scholarly work are to be communicated clearly 
and effectively. The Chicago Manual of Style 
will likely retain its place as "indespensable 
guide" to such standards for the forseeable 

As this essay is written, work has begun 
on a fourteenth edition of the Manual. It will 
be prepared by John Grossman, now manag- 
ing editor of the Press. He has compressed the 
three chapters on documentation to two, The 
chapter on rights and permissions will be 
updated to cover new rulings of the past de- 
cade. The chapter on indexing will make more 
reference to computer tools. More detailed 
coverage of electronic manuscripts will be 
offered in the next edition of the Chicago 
Guide to Preparing Electronic Manuscripts. 
A publication date for the fourteenth edition of 
The Chicago Manual of Style has not yet been 
announced, but its appearance is sure to be 
greeted with gratitude by thousands of loyal 


Manual of Style. Chicago: University of Chicago 

Press, 1906. 20 lp. 
Manual of Style. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of 

Chicago Press, 1910. 115p. 
Manual of Style. 3rd ed, Chicago: University of 

Chicago Press, 1911. 11 8p. 
Manual of Style. 4th ed. Chicago: University of 

Chicago Press, 1914. 141p. 
Manual of Style. 5th ed. Chicago: University of 

Chicago Press, 1917. 300p. 
Manual of Style. 6th ed. Chicago: University of 

Chicago Press, 1919. 292p. 
Manual of Style. 7th ed. Chicago: University of 

Chicago Press, 1920. 300p. 

Manual of Style. 8th ed. Chicago: University of 

Chicago Press, 1925. 39 lp. 
Manual of Style. 9th ed. Chicago: University of 

Chicago Press, 1927. 400p. 
A Manual of Style. 1 Oth ed. Chicago: The University 

of Chicago Press, 1937. 394p. 
A Manual of Style. 1 1 th ed. Chicago: The University 

of Chicago Press, 1949. 498p. 
A Manual of Style. 12th ed., rev. Chicago: The 

University of Chicago Press, 1969. 546p. 
The Chicago Manual of Style. 13th ed., rev. and 

expanded. Chicago: The University of Chicago 

Press, 1982. 738p. 


Aside from reviews, the secondary litera- 
ture on the Manual is not extensive. Catharine 
Seybold, coauthor of the twelfth and thir- 
teenth editions, has published one invaluable 
article, cited below. She subsequently up- 
dated and revised that work for an unpub- 
lished speech, a copy of which she provided to 

this chapter's author. Additional valuable in- 
formation on the history of the Manual can be 
found in her unpublished history of the Uni- 
versity of Chicago Press to 1956, a copy of 
which is available in the Special Collections 
Department of Regenstein Library. Stacy 
Michelle's "The Book of Style," published in 


a Chicago weekly newspaper, the Reader, is 
well worth reading, however back issues of 
that paper are not readily available outside 

Pascal, Naomi B. "Chicago's Thirteenth." Scholarly 

Publishing 13 (October, 1982): 87-95. 
Seybold, Catharine. "A Brief History of TheChicago 

Manual of Style" Scholarly Publishing 14 

(February, 1983): 163-77. 
•. "History of the Manual of Style through its 

13th Edition," Unpublished speech (1984). 

Courtesy of the author. 

-. "The University of Chicago Press: A Brief 

History, 1891-1965." Unpublished manuscript 
available in Special Collections, Regenstein 
Library, University of Chicago, 1983. 

Stacy, Michelle. "The Book of Style." Reader 12 
(November 12, 1982): 1-10. 

Trett, GaraLd. "Two Stylebooks: An Editor's View; 
or, The Outlook in the Trenches." Review 6 
(1984): 202-34. 


I Larry Green, " 'Bible' of Editorial Style—Now 77 

Years Old — Is Last Word on Words," Los Angeles 
Times, 18 February 1983. 
3 Henry Kisor, "Look-It-Up Heaven for the Writer," 
Chicago Sun Times Book Week, 3 April 1988. 

3 Naomi B. Pascal, "Chicago's Thirteenth," Scholarly 

Publishing 14 (October 1982): 87. 

4 Laurence Urdang, review of The Chicago Manual of 

Style, 13th ed., Verbatim 9 (Autumn 1982). 

s Mark Carroll, Letter of the Society for Scholarly Pub- 
lishing 5 (1983). 

* John Bruce Howell, Style Manuals of the English- 
Speaking World: A Guide (Phoenix: Oryx Press, 
1983), xi. 

7 Catharine Seybold, "A Brief History of The Chicago 

Manual of Style, " Scholarly Publishing 14 (Febru- 
ary 1983): 172. 

8 Catharine Seybold, "History of the Manual of Style 

through its 13th Edition," unpublished speech, 
1984, courtesy of the author, 1 1, 

9 Catharine Seybold, "The University of Chicago Press: 

A Brief History, 1891-1965," unpublished paper, 
Special Collections, Regenstein Library, Univer- 
sity of Chicago, 

10 Seybold, "History of the Manual of Style through its 

13th Edition," 1. 

II Ibid., 3. 

12 Ibid., 4-5. 

13 The Chicago Manual of Style, 13th ed. rev. and 

expanded (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 
1982}, viii. 

14 Manual of Style, 2nd ed, (Chicago: University of 

Chicago Press, 1910). 

15 Manual of Style, 3rd ed. (Chicago; University of 

Chicago Press, 1911). 

16 Seybold, "The University of Chicago Press: A Brief 

History, 1891-1965," 57. 

17 Seybold, "A Brief History of The Chicago Manual of 

Style," 166. 

18 Memoranda and correspondence cited from this period 

of the Press are available in the Special Collections 
of Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago. 
" Seybold, "The University of Chicago Press: A Brief 
History, 1891-1965," 80. 

20 Seybold, "History of the Manual of Style through its 

13th Edition," 7. 

21 Ibid., 7. 

22 Ibid., 8. 

23 A Manual of Style, 10th ed. (Chicago: University of 

Chicago Press, 1937). 

24 Seybold, "History of the Manual of Style through its 

13th Edition," 9. 

25 Seybold, "The University of Chicago Press: A Brief 

History, 1891-1965," 146-47, 
" Seybold, "History of the Manual of Style through its 

13th Edition," 10. 
71 Ibid. 

28 Ibid,, 10-11. 

29 Ibid., 1 1 
3(5 Ibid., 13. 

31 Rosalynne Harty, "Setting the Style for Publishers," 

Chicago Tribune Book World, 4 May 1980. 

32 Seybold, "History of the Manual of Style through the 

13th Edition," 14. 

33 Urdang. 

34 Chicago Guide to Preparing Electronic Manuscripts 

(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), x. 

35 Ibid., x. 


The "Instinctive Grammatical 

Moralizer": H. W. Fowler and His 

Dictionary of Modern English Usage 

William A. McHugh 


H.W. Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English 
Usage has long been regarded as the final 
authority for writers seeking guidance on the 
questions they inevitably face in their work, 
from the proper use of a particular word to the 
way out of an awkward construction. Often 
cited as MEU, or simply as Fowler, the book 
has had its legion of admirers. Harold Ross, 
founder and long-time editor of the New Yorker, 
held it in high regard. ' Evelyn Waugh admon- 
ished young writers to keep the book at their 
elbow. 2 Winston Churchill, irritated at the 
misuse of a particular word by his director of 
military operations, asked him "Why must 
you write 'intensive' here? 'Intense' is the 
right word. You should read Fowler's Modern 
English Usage on the use of the two words." 1 
And T.S. Eliot, reviewing the book in 1927, 
mirrored the sentiments of many later devo- 
tees when he wrote: "As for Mr. Fowler's 
Dictionary of Modern English Usage, every 
person who wishes to write ought to read in it 
(for it is inexhaustible) for a quarter of an hour 
every night before going to bed." 4 

Few reference books so much reflect the 
character of their creator as does the Dictio- 
nary of Modern English Usage. Fowler has 
been described as "one of those eccentrics 
who seem to be a special product of En- 
gland — not the wild surrealist eccentrics, but 

the logical eccentrics, who decide exactly 
what to do in a large number of situations, 
[and] do it with relentless consistency." 5 
Fowler had a strong sense of duty, and much 
of the authority of the book derives from his 
sense of morality and propriety , which quickly 
becomes evident to the reader. Critic Marie 
Borroff has noted that 

to read Fowler is to be made vividly, indeed 
uncomfortably, aware of the morality of us- 
age. . . . For Fowler, the writing of clear, 
expressive English is a battle, and the inner 
strength and courage of the good soldier are 
signified by the ungrudging acceptance of 
discipline in matters of external appearance. 
Fowler zeros in on the 'slipshod,' the 'slov- 
enly,' the 'untidy' in language; he takes us to 
task for being lazy, childishly vain, or weak. 6 

Fowler's Early Life 

On the surface, though, there is little in 
Fowler's early life to suggest that he would 
become, as he has been called, the "arbiter of 
the entire English language," 7 Henry W. 
Fowler 8 was born in 1 858, the son of a school- 
master and the eldest of eight children. He was 
educated at Rugby and at Balliol College, 
Oxford, though his record at Balliol showed 
no great distinction. The first part of his adult 
life was spent as a schoolmaster in British 
public schools, for 17 years at Sedbergh in 
Yorkshire. At Sedbergh Fowler was known as 


"Joey Stinker" because he always smelled of 
tobacco. Fowler was a reserved man, a quality 
thatdoesnotalwaysmakeforapopular teacher. 
One of his students wrote of him: 

I don't think I or any one else in the form ever 
got through his shell to know him as a human 
being. I for one respected him immensely, but 
in those days I should have said he lacked 
humanity, ... On the whole, I think his defects 
as a schoolmaster all arose from shyness, 
coupled with his great fastidiousness (moral 
atmosphere that kept a barrier between boys 
and masters. I used to think thatFowler lacked 
humanity, and it was only ... in later years that 
I learned that this was not so, 9 

Fowler's moral fastidiousness led him to 
leave Sedbergh in 1899. He had been in line 
for a position as house master, but the position 
included, preparing boys for confirmation in 
the Church of England. Fowler was an agnos- 
tic and did not feel he could fulfill this duty in 
good conscience; the headmaster, H.G. Hart, 
did not feel he could remove this duty from the 
position. Though the two remained friends, 
neither would modify his position. Fowler left 
behind "a name for Spartan discipline and 
omniscience." 10 

Fowler then moved to London to begin a 
literary career, relying on the modest income 
of 1 20 pounds a year from an inheritance. "I'm 
not going to do anything useful again," he 
wrote to a friend. 11 He published a few ar- 
ticles, as well as three books of essays at his 
own expense, but these won him little success. 
After a few years he moved to the island of 
Guernsey, to a small cottage near that of his 
brother Frank G, Fowler, who raised tomatoes 
there. The two then began their productive 
literary partnership with a translation of the 
Greek poet Lucian. This translation in turn 
began the authors' long association with the 
Oxford University Press, publisher of the vol- 

The King's English 

The brothers next began work on a manual 
for writers which would emphasize the com- 

mon blunders and infelicities found in writing, 
particularly journalistic writing; the book was 
to be copiously illustrated with examples of 
bad writing. The King's English (Oxford: 
Clarendon Press, 1906) is often seen merely as 
a precursor to the Dictionary of Modern En- 
glish Usage, but it is an important book in its 
own right, and has continued in print to this 
day. Its arrangement as a handbook, with 
chapters on various aspects of writing, often 
makes it the easier book in which to find an 
extended discussion of a topic. The book's 
appeal was very much beyond the "sixth form 
boys and journalists" its authors supposed it 
would appeal to; "mature writers found parts 
of it difficult, and parts perverse, but for 
anybody who had ever tried to putpen to paper 
it was either an indispensable guide or a threat 
to mental health. . . . The only reassuring 
aspect of the book was the abundant evidence 
it provided that everybody made mistakes." 12 
And as the Times noted in its obituary of H.W. 
Fowler, it "took the world by storm." 13 

Lexicographic Projects 

The brothers' next project was the Con- 
cise Oxford Dictionary of Current English 
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1911), a one vol- 
ume dictionary drawn insofar as possible from 
the Oxford English Dictionary, since only the 
A-S volumes were then published. The last 
part of the COD was based on other sources, 
for the brothers were working in seclusion in 
Guernsey, and had no contact with the OED 
staff in Oxford. This was the first of their 
lexicographical projects, and the writing of 
dictionaries was a very congenial and suc- 
cessful enterprise for the brothers. The writing 
of brief and precise definitions is not a com- 
mon skill, and is one that the COD reveals in 
abundance. This dictionary was published in 
1 9 1 1 ; the brothers then began working on an 
even briefer dictionary, which was to become 
the Pocket Oxford Dictionary}* 

In 1908, at the age of 50, Henry married 
a nurse a few years his junior. The marriage 


was an unusually happy one, though his wife 
was as outgoing and unscholarly as he was 
scholarly and reclusive. Fowler characteristi- 
cally chose to abandon this increasingly suc- 
cessful and contented life when he felt duty 
obliged him to do so. Henry had been some- 
thing of a pacifist, and the outbreak of World 
War I took him by surprise. Nonetheless, 
shocked by the invasion of Belgium, he began 
first to preach recruitment, and then to feel that 
it was not fair for him to urge others to a 
sacrifice he was not willing to make himself. 
He was 57 at the time, but physically the equal 
of a much younger man. Since his days at 
Sedbergh he had begun his day with a run of 
several miles, followed by a swim in any kind 
of weather, breaking the ice if necessary. 
Once, in London on Christmas Day, a friend 
encountered him with his chest bleeding from 
this effort. Giving his age as 44, he enlisted as 
a private, then persuaded his brother to follow 
him. Neither was allowed on the front lines 
once their true ages were discovered, and they 
spent the war washing dishes and hauling coal, 
Henry was eventually discharged due to gout. 
Frank contracted tuberculosis during his ser- 
vice and died shortly after the war. 

Advent of the Dictionary 

Henry continued work on the Pocket Ox- 
ford Dictionary of Current English (Oxford: 
Clarendon Press, 1 924); it was the last book to 
list both brothers as authors. He also continued 
work on a project the brothers had planned 
earlier, originally described as a "Dictionary 
of Idioms." Henry had proposed the book to 
R.W. Chapman of the Oxford University Press 
in 1909. The book would treat the more diffi- 
cult or problematic words from the Concise 
Oxford Dictionary, and "give in detail the 
information about constructions, synonyms, 
&c, that in The King's English can only be 
hinted at with a scanty selection of examples. 
We should assume a cheerful attitude of infal- 
libility." Chapman had written back that "a 
Utopian Dictionary would sell very well — in 

Utopia," a reply that discouraged the brothers. 
However, Chapman had not intended the re- 
mark to be taken so seriously, for two years 
later he asked what had become of the project, 
much to the brothers' surprise. 15 

By the mid- 1920s the wotk was nearing 
completion, and a new title needed to be 
found, because the scope of the work had 
expanded beyond idioms to cover a variety of 
points of composition and grammar. Fowler, 
stung by a newspaper reference to "the pedan- 
tic brothers Fowler," at one point suggested 
Oxford Pedantics, but the title Dictionary of 
English Usage was finally chosen. Fowler 
added the word "modem" at the last moment, 
lest the book seem to promise coverage of 
historical usage. 16 Though the book bore only 
the name of H. W. Fowler as author, its preface 
contained a dedication to the younger brother 
that noted "The present book accordingly 
contains none of his actual writing; but, hav- 
ing been designed in consultation with him, it 
is the last fruit of a partnership that began in 
1903 with our translation of Lucian." 17 

Critical Reception 

The book was an immediate success, 
though critics often were puzzled by its idio- 
syncrasies. "It is difficult to describe this 
book" began one reviewer, 18 a sentiment many 
have surely shared. Its originality was not so 
much in doing an entirely new thing, but in 
doing it with much greater thoroughness and 
exactitude than had earlier usage dictionaries 
and style manuals. "Most treatises written to 
correct the evil [of poor writing] have been 
either dusty little compilations of errors, or 
rather florid school-boy discourses based on 
Latin grammar, "noted another reviewer. "Mr. 
Fowler's book, thank heaven, is neither of 
these." 19 The expertise gained in writing dic- 
tionaries certainly helped the author; Joseph 
Epstein has noted that this is "clearly the book 
that all Fowler's previous experience led him 
to write." 20 Fowler also had the entire OED, 
then newly completed, to draw upon for ety- 


mologies and for evidence in the use of par- 
ticular words. The impression of thorough- 
ness is enhanced by Fowler's copious use of 
examples of the proper or (more often) im- 
proper use of a word, or of certain problematic 
constructions; as many as 10 or 20 examples 
may be used in a single article. 

More puzzling was the arrangement of 
material. George Krapp was perhaps the first 
to note that "though it is called a dictionary, it 
is so mainly in the respect that the materials in 
it are arranged in alphabetic dictionary or- 
der." 21 Many entries do simply treat a single 
word or a group of related words. These 
entries range from several pages for such 
troublesome words as "only"(onepage, double 
column) or "that" (nine pages), to a line or two 
to note the pronunciation or spelling of a 
particular word, or distinguish among various 
words liable to confusion. We can, for ex- 
ample, go to Fowler to find out that a toy-shop 
is a store where toys are sold, while a toy shop 
is a "child's mock shop"; or to find 
"unsubstantial" recommended over "insub- 
stantial" 22 

Intermingled with these are a series of 
topical entries. At the front of the book is a list 
of 455 "General Articles," which includes 
both the topical entries and the longer entries 
for troublesome words . The 1 ist is presumably 
to aid the reader in finding a particular discus- 
sion, and there are indeed some entries a 
reader would readily recognize, such as "Par- 
allel-Sentence Dangers," "Hyphens," or "Se- 
quence of Tenses." Many entries are much 
less clear, however, with names like "Swap- 
ping Horses," "Out of the Fry ing-Pan," "Pairs 
& Snares," and "Cannibalism." "Swapping 
Horses" covers such problems as changing the 
sense in which a word is used in mid-sentence, 
and "Cannibalism" discusses instances where 
a common word such as "that" is needed twice 
in a sentence, but used only once. "Out of the 
Frying-Pan" treats instances where a writer, 
attempting to avoid some questionable con- 
struction, winds up with something worse; this 
is one of Fowler's favorite themes. A long 

article called "French Words" gives the pro- 
nunciation for many French words andphrases 
that have found their way into English, and an 
article called "Technical Terms" gives defini- 
tions for many rhetorical and literary terms. 
Liberal cross references are given to these 
general articles, though this does not always 
make it easy to find the discussion of a particu- 
lar problem or construction. 

The Author's imprint 

The true originality of the book comes not 
from its arrangement, however, but from the 
author's personality, which forcefully im- 
presses itself upon the reader in article after 
article. The dictionary article form finally 
gave Fowler his voice, 23 and what an unmis- 
takable voice it is, as the passages below 

From the article "Salad Days ": Whether the 
point [of this phrase] is that youth, like salad, 
is raw, or that salad is highly flavoured & 
youth loves high flavours, or that innocent 
herbs are youth's food as milk is babes' & 
meat is men's, few of those who use the phrase 
could perhaps tell us; if so, it is fitter for 
parrots' than for human speech. 24 

From "Love of the Long Word": "A few lines 
of the long-word style we know so well are 
added: Vigorous condemnation is passed on 
theforeignpolicyofthePrimeMinister, 'whose 
temperamental inaptitude for diplomacy & 
preoccupation with domestic issues have ren- 
dered his participation in external negotia- 
tions gravely detrimental to the public wel- 
fare '. Vigorous indeed; a charging hippopota- 
mus hardly more so. 25 

From "Italics": The practiced writer is aware 
that his business is to secure prominence for 
what he regards as the essence of his commu- 
nication by so marshalling his sentences that 
they shall lead up to a climax, or group them- 
selves round a centre, or be worded with 
different degrees of impressiveness as the 
need of emphasis varies; he knows too that it 
is an insult to the reader's intelligence to 
admonish him periodically by a change of 
type, like a bad teacher imploring his boys to 
attend for a moment, that he cannot safely go 



to sleep just now. ... To italicize whole 
sentences or large parts of them as a guarantee 
that some portion of what one has written is 
really worth attending to is a miserable con- 
fession that the rest is negligible, 26 

Small wonder many reacted as did Henry 
Fuller, the reviewer for the New York Times: 
"After a few hours' browsing through these 
many hundreds of pages, one reaches the state 
where he hardly dares attempt to write En- 
glish." 27 Fowler's liberal use of negative 
examples certainly reinforced the impression 
of him as an astringent critic. Eric Partridge, 
who would later write his own book on En- 
glish usage, was a junior lecturer at the Uni- 
versity of Manchester when Fowler's book 
appeared, and has noted the "stir made by this 
austere work. Students and other irreverent 
persons delighted in Fowler's pillorying, both 
of the Times and other important periodicals 
and of celebrated writers." 28 Partridge added, 
however, that Fowler was motivated not "to 
puncture this reputation or that, nor yet to 
show how clever he was, ... but simply in 
order to perform a public service," 29 Fowler in 
reality remained the schoolmaster, carefully 
and thoroughly explaining to the reader how a 
particular word is to be used, or why a particu- 
lar construction should be preferred to an- 
other. 30 He could be sensitive to criticism at 
times, but tried to view it with equanimity, as 
he demonstrated when he republished one of 
his early volumes of essays after he had be- 
come a famous man. Fowler introduced the 
book with excerpts from both the positive and 
negative reviews of the earlier edition, includ- 
ing such notices as "This group of self-con- 
scious, verbose essays." 31 

A Prescriptivist Grammarian? 

Fowler has been criticized as a narrow 
prescriptivis*: grammarian, attempting to leg- 
islate language usage, and also praised as a 
great liberal, freeing English usage from the 
petty and arbitrary rules of Victorian school- 
masters and grammarians. The truth is some- 
where in between. One perhaps looks in vain 

for absolutely consistentprinciples in Fowler' s 
work; as one critic noted "he often took away 
with one hand the principle he had offered 
with the other . " 3 2 He certainly enj oyed demol- 
ishing the many traditional rules that did more 
harm than good. The fear of ending a sentence 
with a preposition is a "superstition .... The 
fact is that the remarkable freedom enjoyed by 
English inputting its prepositions late & omit- 
ting its relatives is an important element in the 
flexibility of the language." 33 Split infinitives 
also are permissible; those who split infini- 
tives unawares "are a happy folk ... 'to really 
understand' comes readier to their lips & pens 
than 'really to understand* , they see no reason 
why they should not say it (small blame to 
them, seeing that reasons are not their critics' 
strong point.)" What Fowler really wanted, 
however, was for his reader to be able to 
discriminate when to splitthem: "We will split 
infinitives sooner than be ambiguous or artifi- 
cial; more than that, we will freely admit that 
sufficient recasting will get rid of any s. i. 
without involving either of those faults, & yet 
reserve to ourselves the right of deciding in 
each case whether recasting is worth while." 34 
Fowler even defended the placement of the 
word "only" in such sentences as "He only 
died yesterday," rather than the more strictly 
logical "He died only yesterday," because 
there is no danger of confusion and it is more 
natural English. 35 Certainly in these and in 
many other opinions he defied the strict con- 
ventions of most Victorian style manuals, and 
for that matter of many editors and English 
teachers to this day. Sir Ernest Gowers re- 
called that when the book appeared it was 
hailed "as a gust of common sense that swept 
away the cobwebs of grammarians' fetishes." 36 

A Deference to Latin 

Yet Fowler certainly was a prescriptivist 
who felt that there were correct and incorrect 
ways of using English, and there were times 
when he defended causes it would perhaps 
have been wiser to abandon. He particularly 


could be led astray when English usage began 
to offend against Latin grammaticalprinciples 
and etymologies. 37 An oft-cited example is 
Fowler's treatment of the word "meticulous," 
Fowler objected to the use of the word "me- 
ticulous" unless accompanied by the meaning 
of "timid" or "fearful." He objected partly 
because the word was otherwise simply an 
unnecessary replacement for "scrupulous" and 
"punctilious," but also because the word de- 
rived from the Latin root "metus," meaning 
fearful. 38 On the first ground Fowler was at 
least generally consistent: he often objected to 
words he considered superfluous, particularly 
when longer or more pretentious words had 
taken the places of simpler ones, as "faience" 
for "porcelain," or "habitude" for "habit." 39 
He also tended to argue for preserving fine 
distinctions between words; he carefully ex- 
plained the distinctions between "accessary" 
and "accessory," or advised when "individual" 
may properly be used as a noun, and even 
attempted to differentiate "slush" and "slosh," 
or "slaver" and "slobber." 40 But on the second 
ground he was less consistent. He often con- 
demned as pedantic the too strict construction 
of a word's meaning when it flies in the face 
of common usage; for example, of the use of 
"America" to mean the United States, we 
read, "It will continue to be protested against 
by purists & patriots, & will doubtless survive 
the protests," 41 

Fowler's deference to Latin is perhaps 
even more striking in his treatment of gram- 
mar, which many have found the weakest 
aspect of his work. One of the first to take 
Fowler to task in this regard was the noted 
Danish grammarian and scholar of English 
Otto Jespersen, who attacked Fowler's treat- 
ment of the fused participle. The King's En- 
glish gave this name to such constructions as 
"without the man telling us" (rather than "with- 
out the man's telling us," which the Fowlers 
regarded as correct). 42 H.W. Fowler pub- 
lished these views in an expanded form as a 
tract of the Society for Pure English in 1925, 
discussion reappeared in the Dictio- 

nary of Modern English Usage," Fowler had 
two basic objections to the construction: that 
it tended to produce ambiguous and cumber- 
some sentences, and that it was ungram- 
matical — by which he essentially meant that it 
could not be analyzed by the rules of tradi- 
tional Latin grammar. Jespersen argued that 
the construction had been long (and idiomati- 
cally) used in English, and could be explained 
grammatically, if not by traditional Latin- 
based grammar. 44 The significance of this 
somewhat esoteric debate is that Jespersen, 
whose case is certainly the more convincing, 
identified one of Fowler's most significant 
weaknesses: "If [certain constructions in En- 
glish] cannot be analyzed according to Latin 
grammar, the reply is obviously that there are 
many things in English as well as in other 
languages that cannot be understood from the 
Latin grammar we were taught in our youth." 45 
Jespersen called Fowler an "instinctive gram- 
matical moralizer," 46 and this title has stayed 
with Fowler. Fowler seems to have been en- 
tirely unaware of and unsympathetic toward 
the work of scholars such as Jespersen, who 
were attempting to replace traditional Latin- 
based English grammar with a more purely 
descriptive grammar. In his reply to Jespersen, 
he defended the application of Latin grammar 
to English; "our [English] grammatical con- 
science has by this time a Latin element inex- 
tricably compounded in it." 47 Jespersen was 
not the only writer of the time to fault Fowler 
on this point. The Dutch scholar Kruisinga 
authored a devastating review on this part of 
Fowler's work, using the occasion to attack 
the neglect of linguistic studies in English 
academic circles. "To expect Mr. Fowler to 
consult a book of a real grammarian ... is 
misunderstanding his state of mind com- 
pletely." 48 Another review from the Conti- 
nent, in a morebalanced appraisal, complained 
that the "grammar part is altogether unsatis- 
factory, because Mr. Fowler has not the slight- 
est notion of what English and continental 
scholars have written on the subjects treated 
by him." 49 More recently, linguist Randolph 


Quirk has noted that in his "fused particle" 
argument, Fowler defended views that had 
been discredited as many as 50 years earlier. 50 

Other Issues 

Fowler certainly canbe criticized for other 
excesses. His article "Genteelisms" sensibly 
condemned the use of "domestic" for "ser- 
vant," or "save" for "except," but also en- 
dorsed "belly" for "stomach," and "corn-cut- 
ter" for "chiropodist." 51 And Fowler some- 
times seems too much a man of his time. 
Kenneth Stiles was perhaps the first to note 
that "from these pages emerges an admirable 
portrait of an English gentleman. Conserva- 
tive; respectful of tradition, yet an individual- 
ist .. . polite to inferiors, while perfectly 
conscious of their inferiority; distrustful of 
display; insular."" This may help explain 
Fowler' s frequent distrust of new usages until 
they were established, as well as his condem- 
nation of the "pedantry" of sticking too much 
to outworn rules. He distrusted displays of 
learning, as with the scholar who prefers the 
form "Mohammed" to the good English 
"Mahomet," but he also seemed to distrust 
those ignorant of the Latin derivation of such 
words as "meticulous." More modern sensi- 
bilities may not be comfortable with his fre- 
quent condemnation of a given word or usage 
as "illiterate," or his characterization of the 
use of the word "aggravate" to mean "annoy" 
as "a feminine or childish colloquialism." 53 
Fowler himself was not entirely unaware of 
his insularity; the discussion of "shall" and 
"will" in The King's English begins "It is 
unfortunate that the idiomatic use, while it 
comesby nature to southern Englishman (who 
will find most of this section superfluous), is 
so complicated that those who are not to the 
manner born can hardly acquire it; and for 
them the section is in danger of being use- 
less." 54 

One can also criticize Fowler's own style. 
W. Somerset Maugham greatly admired the 
book, but complained that "Fowler had no ear. 

He did not see that simplicity may sometimes 
make concessions to euphony." 55 AndFowler 
was not always the master of simplicity ; some- 
times his desire to drive home a point, and to 
express a complexnotion withprecision, makes 
for very difficultprose. C.T. Onions, who read 
the proofs of the book for the Oxford Univer- 
sity Press, complained that "Fowler's ingenu- 
ity has surpassed itself, with the not infrequent 
result of mere obscurity." 56 And one can 
complain that the book, even, when it came 
out, was slightly out of date, or that it reflected 
written rather than oral speech. 

Yet Fowler cannot be so easily dismissed. 
Kemp Malone's review is often quoted by the 
linguistic critics of Fowler: "At bottom his 
book is unsound. It gives us the conclusions of 
a learned and charming dilettante rather than 
those of a man of science. It is a collection of 
linguistic prejudices persuasively presented 
by a clever advocate; it is not an objective, 
scientific presentation of the facts of English 
usage." ButMalone'sreview concluded: "Mr. 
Fowler's volume belongs rather with books 
like Mr. Mencken's American Language than 
with works of exact scholarship. But when I 
say this, 1 am not condemning the book. One 
the contrary, I am praising it. Grammarian and 
layman alike ought to have it on their shelves, 
and if they fail to find it highly enjoyable and 
highly stimulating, there is something wrong 
with them." 57 

Fowler's Contribution and Influence 

So where does Fowler's contribution lie? 
Much of it certainly lies in his consistent 
unmasking of pretentious, empty, and thought- 
less writing for what it is. He is at his best in 
articles such as "Love of the Long Word" or 
"Polysyllabic Humor," or in revealing preten- 
sions and humbugs of all kinds. The use of 
antiquated words such as "anent" or "well- 
nigh" is treated in the article " Wardour Street," 
named after a street in London occupied prin- 
cipally by antique dealers. Literary critics are 
castigated for the use of words such as "actu- 



ality" and "inevitable," shorn of their meaning 
by thoughtless over-use; "vogue-words," such 
as "feasible," "mentality" or "acid test " are 
condemned for the same reason. 58 Fowler 
drives home his point with ruthless analysis 
and numerous examples; three columns of 
type are used to condemn the vogue-word 
"unthinkable," a word loved by "all who like 
to combine the most forcible sound with the 
haziest meaning." 59 To these contributions 
must also be added his remarkably sure sense 
of English idiom, and his relentless analysis of 
the many pitfalls the writer faces. Who else 
could advise us so well (and so thoroughly) on 
the proper use of the problematic word "as," or 
distinguish whether to use "bloom" or "blos- 
som?" Even Jespersen found that there was 
more in the book to admire than to condemn, 50 
and W. Somerset Maugham wrote "I do not 
think anyone writes so well that he cannot 
learn much from [Fowler]." 61 

And, of course, there is the force of the 
author's personality. Fowler takes the task of 
writing seriously, and invites the reader to do 
so too, Jespersen was certainly correct in 
calling him a "moralizer," but he is more than 
simply that. Marshall McLuhan has noted that 
"Fowler approached language in the spirit of 
gamesmanship (and even of one-upmanship) 
and his instruments varied from the precision 
rifle to the butterfly net and the X-ray. . . 
Fowler never fails in his most censorious 
moments to direct a very perceptible wink at 
his readers." 62 It is not a book that yields its 
wealth to the hurried reader who needs to find 
a quick answer to some question of language 
or style, but rather to the reader willing to learn 
what the author has to offer, and to share his 
passion for the English language. 

What influence has Fowler had? The 
claim, originating in the Times Literary Supple- 
ment, that "probably Henry Fowler has more 
powerfully affected the development of En- 
glish prose style since 1926 than Bridges, 
Kipling, Shaw or any of his contemporary 
masters" 63 is of course impossible to prove or 
disprove. His advocacy of a plain, direct, and 

unadorned style had obvious appeal to many 
writers of the twentieth century. Randolph 
Quirk has distinguished between Fowler's 
influence over details, which has perhaps been 
slight — words such as "meticulous" flourish, 
and no one today says "corn-cutter" for "chi- 
ropodist" — and his influence in principle, 
which "is perhaps quite extensive. We are 
probably more self-critical in the use of hack- 
neyed phrases, hyphens, gallicisms, and even 
Unequal Yokefellows and Cannibalisms than 
the first readers of The King's English and 
Modem English Usage. The Fowler brothers 
. . . heightened the sense of style and personal 
responsibility for expression among writers in 
the English-speaking world." 64 


"To tamper with Fowler has taken both 
humility and courage — or perhaps foolhardi- 
ness." 65 These words were writtenby Fowler's 
firstreviser, MargaretNicholson, and pointup 
the difficulty of revising a work so much the 
product of one man's personality. Nicholson 
was an editor for the American branch of the 
Oxford University Press, and her book, pub- 
lished in 1957, is actually an adaptation for the 
American reader, called A Dictionary of 
American-English Usage. The work was also 
intended as a simplification of Fowler; indeed, 
the publisherpromoted it as a "Faster Fowler." 
It was shorter by about a third. Nicholson did 
try to "retain as much of the original as space 
allowed," but cut many of Fowler's numerous 
examples and lengthy explanations, 

A basic problem with this revision was 
that it tried to make the book into something it 
was never intended to be. Fowler certainly 
was fundamentally British; as one critic noted, 
"you cannot hope to retain 'as much of the 
original as space allowed' and expect to pro- 
duce a meaningful description of something 
else." 66 Mixed in with Nicholson's advice on 
American usage are portions retained from 
Fowler's original, with their British examples 
and tone. Nor is it easy to make a book like 

1 ^»*— 


Fowler's into a model of quick reference; "it 
is Fowler for people whom H.W. Fowler did 
not choose to take into account — the hasty, the 
arbitrary and the half-educated who wantrules 
rather than reason." 67 And many reviewers 
found that Nicholson did not command a 
sufficiently good sense of American idiom, 
and had not identified many of the places 
where usage had changed since Fowler' s day. 
She retained, for example, his strictures that "a 
Chinaman" is common and preferred usage, 
and that "on the carpet" means "under discus- 
sion." 68 Some found her more arbitrary and 
prescriptive than Fowler had ever been. 69 

Gowers' Revision 

The very mixed success of Nicholson's 
work did not dampen the desire of the Oxford 
University Press to publish an entirely new 
edition of the work. This revision, the second 
edition of Modem English Usage, fell to Sir 
Ernest Gowers and was published in 1965. 
Gowers was a career civil servant who pro- 
duced a guide to good English for use by 
British civil servants. This guide was pub- 
lished as Plain Words (London: H.M, Statio- 
nery Officer, 1948), and attained a far wider 
audience than its original purpose suggested. 
Gowers seemed the perfect candidate to re- 
vise Fowler. Like Fowler, he approached 
Modern English Usage late in life, revising it 
during his retirement at his Hampshire estate. 
He added much new material, making space 
by eliminating many short entries that merely 
established spelling or pronunciation of a word, 
since this information could be found in ordi- 
nary dictionaries. The long articles on "Tech- 
nical Terms" and "French Words" were omit- 
ted, though some of the material was retained 
in short entries under the various terms. 

Many of Fowler's judgments were, of 
course, modified; Gowers gave up the battle 
against using "aggravate" to mean "annoy," 
and noted that it is useless to force "meticu- 
lous" into "an etymological strait-jacket." 70 
We are no longer enjoined to avoid "stomach" 
and "chiropodist" as genteelisms, nor are lo- 

cutions condemned as "illiterate" or "femi- 
nine," Gowers rewrote a few of Fowler's 
more convoluted explanations, and eliminated 
some of the excessive examples, though not to 
the drastic degree Nicholson had. A classified 
guide to the general articles was provided to 
aid the user in finding the discussion of a 
particular point. However, the book is still not 
always easy to use for reference, a fact made 
evident by the publication four years later of a 
thorough index called Find It in Fowler 
(Princeton, NJ: Wolfhart Book Co., 1969). 

Gowers, however, took care to insure that 
the revision would retain the stamp of the 
original. As much of Fowler* s text as possible 
was kept; "rewrite him and he ceases to be 
Fowler," Gowers noted. 7 ' Gowers' s revision 
is remarkable for catching the tone of the 
original while bringing it up to date. It is 
difficult at times to tell where the original 
leaves off and the revision begins, and many 
tone, if not quite with the bite or the playful- 
ness of Fowler's style. 

This revision was quite well received, 
though some reviewers worried about the 
wisdom of trying to patch Fowler in this way, 
skillfully as it had been done. The Times noted 
that Fowler's old-fashioned language was "not 
a language in which it seems aesthetically 
fitting to discuss the modern English usage of 
1965." 72 Another critic complained that 
"Fowler's attitude is not a possible one for a 
good mind in the 1960's, and the attempt at 
modernization leads Gowers into irreconcil- 
able conflicts." 73 Gowers reprinted in full 
Fowler's article on the fused participle, for 
example, but added comments of his own to 
modify Fowler's strictures and to summarize 
the famous dispute with Jespersen. Some crit- 
ics still found the work lacking in its aware- 
ness of current work in grammar and linguis- 
tics. 74 

Fowler's Relevance Today 

What relevance does Fowler' s book have 
today? R.W. Burchfield, who is now at work 


on a third edition, observed a few years ago 
that — despite criticism of the work by gram- 
marians — scholars and writers of all kinds 
continue to rely on Fowler for guidance. 75 
Demand for the book justified a paperback 
edition in 1983. The need for a thorough 
revision, however, certainly becomes appar- 
ent as the language changes. Marie Borroff 
recently observed that "Fowler remains a clas- 
sic, indispensable, yet of little practical help in 
the day-to-day scuffle." 76 Burchfield, though 
appreciative of Gowers's revision" realizes 
that a new edition cannot be approached in the 
same way. The "verdicts and evidence of 
[Fowler] now needed to be replaced, not just 
modified here and there." He promises that 
the book, to be published in 1992, will be 
"mildly prescriptive, dogmatic in my own 

manner, and thoroughly up to date." As with 
Gowers's revision, American usage will be 
given some prominence, but, as with the ear- 
lier editions (omitting of course Nicholson's 
adaptation), British usage will remain the chief 
focus. 78 There will be some who question 
whether such a thoroughly rewritten Fowler 
should bear the name of this idiosyncratic 
author, perhaps making his name an eponym 
on the order of Webster's or Roget's. But 
certainly there is a need to replicate in the late 
twentieth century Fowler's achievement three- 
quarters of a century earlier. Burchfield, as 
editor of the four-volume supplement to the 
Oxford English Dictionary, revives the con- 
nection between pure lexicography and the 
MEU that Fowler himself began, and one can 
only wish him the same success. 


Fowler, H.W. A Dictionary of Modern English Us- 
age. Oxford: Clarendon Press; London: H. 
Milford, 1926. 742p. 

Nicholson, Margaret. A Dictionary of American- 
English Usage, Based on Fowler's Modern 

English Usage. New York: Oxford University 
Press, 1957. 67 lp. 
Fowler, H.W. A Dictionary of Modern English Us- 
age. 2nd ed., rev. by Sir Ernest Gowers. New 
York: Oxford University Press, 1965. 725p. 


The standard treatment of Fowler's life 
was written by his close friend, G.G. Coulton. 
Accounts of the publication of the Dictionary 
of Modern English Usage can be found in 
Peter Sutcliffe's history of the Oxford Univer- 
sity Press and in the article "Fowler and His 
'Modern English Usage'" from the Times 
Literary Supplement. The articles by Otto 
Jespersen and E. Kruisinga represent the two 
most famous contemporary attacks on 
Fowler's weaknesses. A great many laudatory 
articles appeared in decades following the 
publication of the first edition; notable are 
those by Eric Partridge, Gilbert Highet, and 
Jacques Barzun, and the article "Auspice 
Aucupe" from the TLS. The article by Barzun, 
however, is primarily an attack upon 
Nicholson's revision. Randolph Quirk offers 
an appreciative but critical evaluation from 
the point of view of a modern linguist and 

The two primary revisers of Fowler's 
work — Gowers and Burchfield — each served 
as president of the English Association and 
devoted their presidential addresses to evalu- 
ations of Fowler's work. An interview with 
Gowers concerning his revision can be found 
under the title "Our Man in Trotton" in the 
New Yorker. The publication of Gowers's 
revision prompted reviews by a number of 
prominent writers; those of Marshall McLuhan, 
David Daiches, and Anthony Burgess are of 
particular interest The review from the TLS^ 
"How Modern is Your English Usage," pre- 
sents an interesting and rather negative view 
of the revision. More recent articles by Marie 
Borroff and Joseph Epstein assess the con- 
tinuing value of various dictionaries of En- 
glish usage, with particular attention to 


"Auspice Aucupe." Times Literary Supplement no. 
2892 (August 2, 1957): 471. 

Barzun, Jacques. "Fowler's Generation." American 
Scholar 26 (Summer, 1957): 315-23. 

Borroff, Marie. "'Fowler and the Rest."' Yale Re- 
view 1 A (Spring, 1985): 353-67. 

Burchfield, Robert W. The Fowlers: Their Achieve- 
ments in Lexicography and Grammar. English 
Association Presidential Address. London: En- 
glish Association, 1979. 

Burgess, Anthony. "Switched-OnFowler." Observer 
no. 9071 (May 9, 1965): 27. 

Coulton, G.G. H. W. Fowler. S. P. E. Tract no.43. 
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934. 

Daiches, David. "Speaking of Books: H.W. Fowler." 
New York Times Book Review 70 (August 15, 
1965): 2. 

Dangerfield, George. "The Brothers Fowler." 
Bookman 75 (June/July, 1932): 209-17. 

Epstein, Joseph. "What's the Usage?" New Crite- 
rion 6 (June, 1988): 9-20. 

"Fowler and His 'Modern English Usage.'" Times 
Literary Supplement no. 2935 (May 30, 1958): 

Gowers, Sir Ernest. H. W, Fowler: The Man and His 
Teaching. English Association Presidential 
Address. London: English Association, 1957. 

Greenwood, J. Arthur. Find It in Fowler: An Alpha- 
betical Index to the Second Edition (1965) ofB. 
W. Fowler's Modern English Usage. Princeton, 
NJ: WolfhartBookCo., 1969. 

Highet, Gilbert. "Henry Fowler: Modern English 
Usage." In People Places and Books, 3-12. 
New York: Oxford University Press, 1953. 

"How Modern is Your English Usage." Times Liter- 
ary Supplement no. 3299 (May 20, 1965): 395. 

Jespersen, Otto. "On Some Disputed Points in En- 
glish Grammar." S. P. E. Tract no. 25. Oxford: 
Clarendon Press, 1926. 

John, V.V. "Fowler: Forty Years After." Literary 
Criterion! (1966): 11-20. 

Kronenberger, Louis. "How Not to Write, What Not 
to Say." Atlantic Monthly 216 (September, 
1965): 97-100. 

Kruisinga, E. "English Grammar as She is Taught at 
Oxford." English Studies 8 (December, 1926): 

McLuhan, Marshall. "Wordfowling inBlunderland." 
Saturday Night 80 (August, 1965): 23-27. 

Nicholson, Harold. "Two Acute Linguists." Listener 
59 (April 10, 1958): 619, 622. 

"Our Man in Trotton." New Yorker 41 (August 14, 
1965): 20-23. 

Partridge, Eric. "Henry Watson Fowler." In A Charm 
of Words: Essays and Papers on Language, 63- 
67. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1960. Origi- 
nally published in slightly shorter form as "To 
the English-Using World He Counseled Perfec- 
tion," New York Times Book Review 63 (March 
9, 1958): 5. 

Pyles, Thomas. "The New Fowler." SewaneeReview 
74 (Spring, 1966): 540-44. 

Quirk, Randolph. "The Toils of Fowler and Moral 
Gowers." Chapter 9 in The English Language 
and Images of Matter. London: Oxford Univer- 
sity Press, 1972. Portions originally published 
as "Fowler's Toils," Listener 59 (March 13, 
1958): 449-51, and as "Fowler's Net," New 
Statesman 69 (May 21, 1965): 812-13. 

Stiles, Kenneth. "H. W. Fowler'sEnglishman." Spec- 
tator 159 (July2, 1937):12-13. 

Sutcliffe, Peter. The Oxford University Press: An 
Informal History. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 


1 Gilbert Highet, "Henry Fowler: Modern English Us- 
age," in People Places and Books (New York: 
Oxford University Press, 1953), 4. 

1 Quoted in "Fowler's English," Commonweal 67 (21 
March 1958): 630. 

3 George Frazier, "Fowler's Love Affair with the Lan- 

guage," Life 59 (20 August 1965): 8. 

4 T. S. Eliot, "Books of the Quarter," New Criterion 5 

(January 1927): 124. Italics in original. 
J Highet, 4. 

6 Marie Borroff, '"Fowler and the Rest,'" Yale Review 74 

(Spring 1985): 361. 

7 Joseph Epstein, "What's the Usage?" New Criterion 6 

(June 1988): 12. 
"Except where otherwise indicated, details about Fowler's 
life are taken from G. G. Coulton, H. W. Fowler, S. 
P. E. Tract no. 43 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934). 

9 Sir Alexander Lawrence, quoted in Coulton, 104-05, 

10 "Henry Watson Fowler," Sedberghian (March 1934): 


11 Coulton, 117. Italics in original. 

12 Peter Sutcliffe, The Oxford University Press: An Infor- 

mal History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 152. 

13 "Mr. H. W. Fowler: A Lexicographical Genius," Times, 

28 December 1933, 12. 

14 Robert W. Burchfield, The Fowlers: Their Achieve- 

ments in Lexicography and Grammar, English As- 
sociation Presidential Address (London: English 
Association: 1979), 11-14. 

15 "Fowler and his 'Modern English Usage,'" Times 

Literary Supplement no. 2935 (30 May 1958): 302. 

16 Ibid. 

17 H.W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage 

(Oxford: Clarendon Press; London: Humphrey 
Milford, 1926), Hi. 


18 F. Sidgwick, review of Dictionary of Modern English 

Usage, by H. W. Fowler, Review of English Studies 
2 (October 1926): 490. 

19 George N. Shuster, review of Dictionary of Modern 

English Usage, by H. W. Fowler, Commonweal 5 
(23 February 1927): 443. 

20 Epstein, 14. 

21 George Philip Krapp, "P's and Q V Saturday Review 

of Literature 2 (17 July 1926): 933, 

22 H. W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, 

see "Toy" and "Insubstantial." 

23 Epstein, 14. 

24 Fowler, Modern English Usage, see "Salad Days." 
"Ibid., see "Love of the Long Word." Italics in original, 
26 Ibid., see "Italics." 

n "Henry B. Fuller, "Even Syntax Provides Comic Re- 
lief," New York Times Book Review 76 (2 January 
1927): 2. 

28 Eric Partridge, "Henry Watson Fowler," in^ Charm of 

Words: Essays and Papers on Language (London: 
Hamish Hamilton, 1960), 65-66. 

29 Ibid., 66. 

30 David Daiches, "Speaking of Books: H. W. Fowler," 

New YorkTimes BookReview 70 (15 August 1965): 
2;Sutcliffe, 153. 

31 Review of "Si Mini—!" by H. W. Fowler, Yorkshire 

Observer, quoted in H. W. Fowler, If Wishes Were 
Horses (London: George Allen &Unwin, 1929), 4. 

32 F.G. Cassidy, review of Dictionary of American- 

English Usage, by Margaret Nicholson, Archivum 
Linguisticum 10(1958): 144. 

33 }l.Vf.Vavt\<:r,Modern English Usage,se& "Preposition 

at End." 

34 Ibid., see "Split Infinitive." 

35 Ibid,, see "Only." 

36 Sir Ernest Gowers, H. W. Fowler: The Man and His 

Teaching, English Association, Presidential Ad- 
dress (London: English Association, 1957), 10. 

"Kenneth Stiles, "H. W. Fowler's Englishman," Specta- 
tor 159 (2 July 1937): 12; Randolph Quirk, "The 
Toils of Fowler and Moral Gowers," in The English 
Language and Images of Matter (London.; Oxford 
University Press, 1972), 91. 

38 Fowler, Modern English Usage, see "Meticulous," 

3 ' Ibid., see "Superfluous Words." 

'"'Ibid,, see "Accessary, Accessory," "Individual," "S lush, 
Sludge, Slosh," and "Slaver, Slobber, Slubber." 

41 Ibid,, see "America(n)," 

42 H.W. Fowlerand F.G, Fowler, The King's English, 2nd 

ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1919), 116-25. 

43 H. W. Fowler, "Fused Participle," 5. P, E. Tract no. 22 

(1925): 43-47; Fowler, Modern English Usage, see 
"Fused Participle," 

44 Otto Jespersen, On Some Disputed Points in English 

Grammar,S. P. E. Tract no. 25 (Oxford: Clarendon 
Press, 1926). 
4i Ibid., 170. 

46 Ibid., 148. 

47 H.W. Fowler, "On -ing: Professor Jespersen and 'The 

Instinctive Grammatical Moralizer, '" S. P. E. Tract 
no. 26 (1927): 195. 

48 E. Kruisinga, "English Grammar as She is Taught at 

Oxford," English Studies 8 (December 1 926): 181- 

49 P. Fijn van Draat, review of Dictionary of Modern 

English [/sage, by H. W. Fowler, EnglischeStudien 
63 (September 1 928): 85 . Also of interest is G. van 
Langenhove, review at Dictionary of Modern En- 
glish Usage, by H. W. Fowler, Revue beige de 
philologie et d'histoire 6 (1927), 841-44. 

50 Quirk, 93. 

51 Fowler, Modern English Usage, see "Genteelism." 
"Stiles, 12. 

SJ Fowler, Modern English Usage, see "Aggravate." 

54 Fowler and Fowler, King's English, 133. 

ss W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up (London: 
William Heinemann, 1938), 42. 

ss "Fowler and his 'Modern English Usage,'" 302. 

57 Kemp Malone, review of Dictionary of Modern En- 
glish Usage, by H. W. Fowler, Modern Language 
Notes 42 (March 1927): 201-02. 

ss Fowler, Modern English Usage, see "Literary Critics* 
words" and "Vogue-words " 

59 Ibid., see "Unthinkable." 

60 Jespersen, 142. 

61 Maugham, 41. 

62 Marshall McLuhan, "Wordfowling in Blunderland," 

Saturday Night 80 (August 1965): 23. 

63 "Auspice Aucupe," Times Literary Supplement no. 

2892 (2 August 1957): 471. 

64 Quirk, 94-95. 

65 Margaret Nicholson, A Dictionary of American-En- 

glish Usage, Based on Fowler 's "Modern English 
Usage "(New York: Oxford University Press, 1957), 

66 C, K. Thomas, review of Dictionary of American- 

English Usage, by Margaret Nicholson, Quarterly 
Journal of Speech 44 (April 1958): 200. 

67 Robertson Davies, "The Stream and the Creek," Satur- 

day Night 72 (26 October 1957): 26. 

68 Nicholson, see "Chinaman" and "Carpet." For criti- 

cisms of this aspect ofNicholson ' s work, see Jacques 
Barzun, "Fowler's Generation," /4mmc<JH Scholar 
26 (Summer 1957): 315-23; Dwight MacDonald, 
"Sweet Are the Uses of Usage," New Yorker 34 (17 
May 1958): 136-54; Cassidy, review, 143-47. 

69 Cassidy, 145. Also critical of prescriptive tendencies 

in Nicholson is R.W. Zandvoort, review of Dictio- 
nary of American-English Usage, by Margaret 
Nicholson, English Studies 41 (June 1960): 213- 
15. For a more positive view of Nicholson's work, 
see Harold Whitehall, "The Elusive Word" Kenyon 
Review 19 (Autumn 1957): 641-43. 

70 H.W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, 

2nd ed., rev. by Sir Ernest Gowers (Oxford: 
Clarendon Press, 1965), see "Meticulous." 

71 Sir Ernest Gowers, "Preface" to H. W. Fowler, Modern 

English Usage, 2nd ed., ix. 

72 "How Modern is Your English Usage?" Times Literary 

Supplement no. 3299 (20 May 1965): 395, 

73 Barbara M. H. Strang, review of Dictionary of Modern 

English Usage,by H.W. ¥owler,ModernLanguage 
Review 61 (April 1966): 264. 

74 Ewald Standop, "Sprachwissenschaft und Sprachpflege: 

zur Neubearbeitung von Fowlers Modern English 
Usage," Anglia 83 (1965): 390-410; L. F. 
Brosnahan, review of Dictionary of Modern En- 


glish Usage, by H.W. Fowler, AUMLA no. 26 7 « Borroff, 367. 

(November 1966): 343-45; YvanLebrun,, "Fowler 77 R. W. Burchfield, review of Dictionary of Modern 
revu par Gowers," Revue des langues vivantes 32 English Usage, by H. W. Fowler, Listener 73 (6 

(1966): 324-27. May 1965): 675. 

" Burchfield, The Fowlers, 19-20. 78 R..W. Burchfield, letter to the author, 24 April 1990. 


"The Most Amusing Book in the 
Language": The Dictionary of National 


Johannah Sherrer 


In 1893 Leslie Stephen called the Dictionary 
of National Biography "the most amusing 
book in the language." 1 One might argue that 
as its first editor Stephen was too close to the 
DNB to make an objective judgment. The 
passage of time, however, has tested his words 
and proven them true. No other national biog- 
raphy possesses the color, quality > charm, 
clever turns of phrases, eccentricity, or out- 
right pizazz that characterize the Dictionary 
of National Biography. Begun in 1885 and 
current to date, the DNB is remarkable on 
many levels, not the least of which are its 
conception, origin, aims, and intent. 


The genre of biography and specifically 
that of collective biography can be traced 
back many hundreds of years. British at- 
tempts at producing biographical dictionaries 
included the Biographia Briiannica pub- 
lished in seven folios between 1747 and 1766. 
The first important English work came out in 
eleven volumes in 1761 and was titled The 
New and General Biographical Dictionary* 
Several editions followed, but the edition 
published between 1812— 1817with Alexander 
Chalmers as editor, marked that title's pin- 

nacle of achievement. 3 Between 1839 and 
1847 Rose's New General Biographical Dic- 
tionary appeared in twelve volumes. More 
than half of the twelve volumes were con- 
sumed by the letters A, B, and C and the articles 
were mainly abridgements from other dictio- 
naries.' 4 None of the above efforts were consid- 
ered an appropriate reflection of British schol- 
arship nor were they deemed effective univer- 
sal biographies. 5 While these universal or gen- 
eral biographies were being published, smaller 
thematic collections were also appearing. 

Biographical dictionaries, both thematic 
and universal, were published in some abun- 
dance both in England and throughout the 
Continent. The first successful national biog- 
raphy appeared in Sweden between 1835 and 
1857 and accumulated to 23 volumes. The 
Dutch introduced a 24-volume set between 
1852 and 1 878, Austria completed 3 5 volumes 
between 1856 and 1891, and Germany 45 
volumes between 1875 and 1900. 6 In France, 
the Biographie universelle comprised 40 vol- 
umes completed between 1843 and 1863. A 
British national biographical dictionary was 
not even contemplated until the early 1850s. 
John Murray ' sprestigious publishing firm con- 
sidered such a publication, but investigation 
into the feasibility of the project soon indicated 
that such a venture could not recover costs let 
alone provide a profit. The successful attempts 


on the Continent were either heavily or com- 
pletely funded through government subsidy, 
and Murray's firm abandoned the project. In 
an 1 884 article, the Quarterly Review bemoan- 
ed Great Britain's failure to produce a suc- 
cessful, reliable, collective biography and 
questioned the ultimate feasibility of such an 
attempt. 7 It was into this scenario that circum- 
stances placed three singularly talented indi- 

George Smith 

George Smith, Leslie Stephen, and Sidney 
Lee are the men responsible for what has been 
called "the most important reference work for 
English biography." 8 The series of circum- 
stances that made such a venture possible, as 
well as the ability of all three individuals to 
share a common vision and work toward it in 
harmony are indeed remarkable. All three 
men would have secured places in the literary 
annals of Victorian Britain without the DNB> 
but the monumental DNS might not have 
come into being without the unique collabora- 
tion of this triumvirate. 

George M. Smith (1824-1901) had been 
head of Smith, Elder and Company since 
1845, when, in his early twenties, he suc- 
ceeded his father as head of the firm. The 
company was a diversified one that dealt 
primarily in the India trade; publishing was 
only a small facet of the company. Hard work 
and solid business acumen escalated Smith's 
establishment into the ranks of prosperous 
firms. Under his leadership, Smith, Elder pub- 
lished the works ofWilliam Thackeray, Harriett 
Martineau, Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin, 
Charlotte Bronte, and Bronte's biographer, 
Mrs. Gaskell. The firm is credited with dis- 
covering Charlotte Bronte who, up to that 
point, had been rejected by several other 
houses. 9 

In 1857, with his company on secure 
financial footing, Smith to focused his per- 
sonal efforts on the publishing division. He 
founded the Cornhill Magazine in 1860 and 

appointed William Thackeray editor. In 1865 
he founded the Pall Mali Gazette, 10 through 
which he first met Leslie Stephen. 

Leslie Stephen 

Leslie Stephen (1834-1904), one of the 
eminent Victorians and a man of letters, was 
regarded by his contemporaries as both bril- 
liant and versatile. He was well known to the 
Victorian intelligentsia for his scholarly pur- 
suits in eighteenth-century literature and phi- 
losophy. Outside of literary circles, his feats as 
a mountain climber and as an ardent (some 
might say fanatical) walker made him a well 
known figure in his day both in England and on 
the Continent. Twentieth-century students of 
the Victorian era know him as the father of 
Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. 

Leslie Stephen had been a tutor and fel- 
low at Cambridge. His gradual disinclination 
to accept Christianity made his Cambridge 
appointmenttenuous and in 1 862 he was asked 
to resign. ' ' He decided to pursue a living as a 
journalist and arrived in London in 1865. 
Stephen soon became a regular contributor to 
the Pall Mall Gazette, and it was in this capac- 
ity that he and Smith met and soon formed a 
relationship that would continue for the rest of 
their lives. In March 1871 Stephen was of- 
fered the editorship of Fraser 's Magazine, He 
sought the advice of George Smith, who coun- 
tered with an offer to edit Cornhill Magazine. 

Smith, while keeping his hand in other 
business ventures, relished his position and 
friendships in the literary world. His concern 
and respect for men and women of letters 
became a source of personal reward and sat- 
isfaction, and accounted for his desire to see 
good literature published even at minimal 
monetary returns for the firm. His success in 
other ventures allowed him the freedom, for 
instance, to operate the Cornhill Magazine at 
a loss under Stephen's editorship. The reader- 
ship of the Cornhill Magazine had been de- 
clining for some time. Stephen believed that 
the quality of the magazine was still constant 



but that public taste was changing. Since he 
was not inclined to compromise his standards 
or alter his current editorial practices to ac- 
commodate a changing public, both he and 
Smith agreed that a new editor was needed. It 
was at this time that Smith proposed his idea 
concerning a universal biography and the role 
he wanted Stephen to take in the project. 12 

From the very beginning Smith intended 
the dictionary to be his legacy to the British 
people. 13 He understood the monetary com- 
mitment and was well aware of previous at- 
tempts and failures. 

Why did I undertake a scheme discredited by 
so many failures? For one thing these very 
failures tempted me. They challenged my 
pride. Then, too, I liked the idea of a private 
individual undertaking a work which was re- 
ally national, and which outside England is 
only possible by virtue of the resources of the 
State. There are national biographies in conti- 
nental literature, but they are never the result 
of private enterprise. The State undertakes 
them and pays for them. Or they are made 
possible by the aid of ancient and richly en- 
dowed, libraries. It was something that a pri- 
vate Englishman should undertake a work 
which, elsewhere, needed the authority and 
resources of the nation for its accomplish- 
ment.' " 

George Smith's fortune was the result of 
his keen overall business sense, which he 
displayed in 1 872 when he secured for his firm 
the British concession from a bottled water 
firm in Germany. The water, sold under the 
name of Appollinaris, became very popular 
and eventually earned a return in excess of one 
million pounds. 15 This financial security per- 
mitted Smith to consider the dictionary idea 
and to commit to its completion. Although his 
original idea was to produce a compendium of 
universal biography, he was persuaded by 
Stephen to limit the scope to a national biog- 

Smith's choice of Stephen as editor was 
not based as much on friendship as on Smith's 
unwavering belief that Stephen could define 
the parameters and produce an unequalled 
literary achievement. He believed that Stephen 
was "a master of clear and exact English" and 

he knew from the Cornhill experience that his 
standards would never waiver. 16 Stephen ac- 
cepted responsibility for the project in the fall 
of 1882. In March 1883 Sidney Lee was 
selected assistant editor. The choice of Lee 
proved to be pivotal to the project's success. 

Sidney Lee 

Sidney Lee (1859-1926), was born 
Solomon Lazarus Lee, the son of a London 
merchant. He studied at the City of London 
School under Dr. Edwin Abbot who nurtured 
his interest in Elizabethan literature. He en- 
tered Oxford in 1878 and graduated from 
Balliol College in 1 882. While an undergradu- 
ate, he published two articles on Shakespearean 
topics, both well received in scholarly circles. 
His Shakespearean scholarship brought him 
to the attention of Frederick James Fumivall 
who commissioned him to work on an assign- 
ment for the Early English Text Society. Lee 
was considering a lectureship in a German 
university when the DNB position became 
available, and gave him the opportunity to 
remain in England. Brought to Stephen's at- 
tention by Dr. Furnivall, Lee's selection as 
assistant editor was certainly one of Stephen's 
most astute and valuable contributions to the 

The importance of the collaboration of 
these three men cannot be overstated. The 
Dictionary owes not only its existence but its 
very essence to these individuals. George 
Smith's willingness to fund the project at an 
estimated loss of 50,000-60,000 pounds was 
critical to the project's success. 17 Leslie 
Stephen's ability to define the parameters of 
the endeavor and to rigorously enforce high 
editorial standards set the tone for the entire 
run, while Lee, responsible for the day-to-day 
operations , the proofreading, and the manage- 
ment of the editorial staff, ultimately carried 
the project through to its successful comple- 

Both Lee and Stephen had extraordinary 
scholarly expectations for the final entries. 
They stressed attention to detail, accuracy, 


good writing, and strict adherence to sched- 
ules. Each man, while shouldering his edito- 
rial responsibilities, also contributed entries to 
thework. Stephen valuedLee, a Shakespearean 
scholar, for his expertise in the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries while his own recogni- 
tion and acclaim rested in the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries. Stephen contributed a 
total of 378 articles, 1 8 placing at least one in all 
but 3 of the 63 volumes. 19 Most noted among 
his entries are those on George Eliot, Joseph 
Addison, Charles Dickens, Thomas 
Babbington McCaulay, Thomas Carlyle, 
Alexander Pope, and William Wordsworth. 
Lee's knowledge of Elizabethan sources and 
bibliography were unequalled. He contrib- 
uted 820 articles, including his entries on 
William Shakespeare, Edward VII, and Queen 

Stephen and Lee took two years to orga- 
nize and to set into motion the process that 
would accommodate the innumerable details 
needed to produce a successful effort. All 
three men were well aware of previous British 
and Continental efforts and all were driven by 
the desire to complete the Dictionary in a 
timely yet scholarly manner. The first volume 
appeared in January 1885. It had been delayed 
several months by Smith's concern over a 
myriad ofmisprints resulting frompoorproof- 
reading and the late detection of a plagiarized 
article. 20 The article in question was Alexander 
Balloch Grosart's biography of Richard 
Alleine, for which Grosart used material he 
had previously submitted to Encyclopaedia 
Britannica for an article on Alleine. The unde- 
tected error sent chills through George Smith. 
His Victorian ethical standards dictated de- 
laying the project until an honorable solution 
could be worked out with the publishing firm 
of the Encyclopaedia and until he was confi- 
dent that editorial procedures were in place to 
detect similar problems much earlier in the 
publishing process. Thereafter, the staff of the 
DNB punctually delivered a new volume for 
quarterly publication for the next 1 6 years! It 
became a hallmark of unparalleled dedica- 

tion, pride, and shared responsibility between 
publisher, editors, and contributors. 

The Dictionary's Purpose 

The aim of the Dictionary was to com- 
memorate the nation's past through biogra- 
phy. Both Lee and Stephen wrote and lectured 
widely on the significance of biography and 
on its relationship to history. 21 Neither wanted 
to continue in the tradition of the antiquaries or 
the "Dryasdusts" who had previously at- 
tempted to record British lives. The Dictio- 
nary was to serve as a compendium of lives 
that would reflect the nation's growth, devel- 
opment, and character. Stephen and Lee de- 
liberately set out to redefine biography in 
terms of methodology and to present a collec- 
tive national biography in a manner both uni- 
form and consistent with known facts . Stephen 
was concerned that the growth and documen- 
tation of raw historical sources were accumu- 
lating at a rate that was exceeding the schol- 
ars' ability to make them accessible. He viewed 
the Dictionary as a tool that would alleviate 
the problem for biographical research. 

The process for selecting entrants for the 
compendium was initiated by Stephen in an 
article published in the Anthenaeum in De- 
cember 1882. 22 The process continued to 
evolve as time went on, but the initial limits 
were set at this time. From the beginning 
Stephen excluded the names of livingpersons. 
He also excluded names that were only names, 
meaning those individuals whose main claim 
to fame was simply having appeared in a list or 
bibliography. It was also his intention to limit 
the entrants to real people rather than mythical 
personalities. The definition was designed, 
however, to leave the door open to individuals 
of lesser fame . Both Lee and Stephen believed 
that it was the chronicling of lesser individuals 
that would give their work the lasting depth 
and importance they intended it to achieve. 
According to Stephen: "It is the second-rate 
people; the people whose lives have to be 
reconstructed from obituary notices, or from 




references in memoirs and collections of let- 
ters; or sought in prefaces to posthumous 
works; or sometimes painfully dug out of 
collections of manuscripts, and who really 
become generally accessible through the dic- 
tionary alone; that provide real ly useful read- 
ing." 23 The process of identifying these names 
progressed alphabetically. The first list of 
proposed candidates came from JohnMurray's 
publishing firm. Although he had declined to 
proceed with the venture for financial reasons, 
he graciously turned over the notes that had 
been started on the project, including a list of 
about 200 names. It was with this list that 
Stephen began his project, 

The Dictionary was to include English, 
Scotch, and Irish names from the earliest 
times. It was intended that Americans and 
natives of India who were British subjects 
would also be included, but eventually the 
editors decided that eighteenth-century Ameri- 
can colonists would have to wait for their own 
national biography. 

The Anthenaeum agreed to publish a list 
of proposed names twice a year and the public 
was invited to add to this list. Each list con- 
tained about 1 ,000 names that had been culled 
from some 200 reference works, all of the 
volumes of the Gentlemen's Quarterly, and, 
of course, the The Times obituary list, After 
each list appeared in the Anthenaeum it was 
published as a pamphlet by the Smith, Elder 
Company, This pamphlet was sent to con- 
tributors who then submitted forms for the 
contributions they wished to write. They were 
also invited to identify additional names that 
may have been omitted from the original 
screening. 24 

Writing assignments were handed out two 
years before actual publication. The contribu- 
tors, however, had up to six months to com- 
plete their work. The editorial work that fol- 
lowed the submitted articles was often exten- 
sive. The articles were checked for accuracy, 
especially for dates, and often factual material 
was supplied only at the editorial level. It was 
believed that as much time was spent editing 
the articles as was spent in writing them. 25 

Editorial Standards 

Both Lee and Stephen had developed the 
writing of biography into an art. They strove to 
attain both accuracy and abundance in the 
delivery of facts; stressed the importance of 
primary sources, including personal knowl- 
edge of the subject; and sought to discover the 
character of an individual without elaborate or 
critical analysis while valuing succinctness 
and readability. Stephen believed that "The 
epitaph should give in the smallest possible 
number of words the very essence of a man's 
character and of his claims upon the memory 
of posterity." 26 

The writers were instructed to be in sym- 
pathy with their subject but to keep eulogy 
within bounds. In the 1882 Anthenaeum ar- 
ticle Stephen concluded his remarks with the 
words : "The editor of such a work must, by the 
necessity of the case, be autocratic. He will do 
his best to be a considerate autocrat." 27 

Both Lee and Stephen kept in close con- 
tact with their contributors. The general un- 
derstanding at that time was that an editor 
could omit segments from a signed article 
without an author's consent but he could not 
add to the work. The editorial policy at the 
DNB was quite different. The editors felt free 
to add details, especially factual information, 
and to supplement biographical detail and 
physical descriptions of the entrants. Over the 
years the editorial staff became noted for their 
proficiency in tracking genealogical informa- 
tion and for their files of personal contacts for 
county and church record information. 28 

Adherence to schedules and timetables 
was taken quite seriously. If a contributor 
failed to meet a deadline or to correct per- 
ceived inadequacies in writing and research, 
the article was produced inhouse and submit- 
ted unsigned. The average article length con- 
tinued to grow as years went on. Several 
factors probably contributed to the develop- 
ment. Leslie Stephen, always striving for suc- 
cinctness, rarely hesitated to cut the length of 
submissions dramatically. Lee, however, ap- 
peared to enforce length restrictions with less 


rigor. Another factor affecting article length 
was the growing availability of primary 
sources. The historical profession was at last 
coming into its own and increasing numbers of 
indexed and calendared materials were ap- 

Scholars trained in historical research were 
a rarity when the project began. In England, 
universities were just beginning the study and 
teaching of historical research. The English 
Historical Review, begun in 1 886, was not yet 
a force in scholastic circles. TheZWi? served 
as the first training ground for historical re- 
search and in this capacity Lee and Stephen 
developed the methodological training of those 
who were to become Great Britain's elite 
historical scholars. These included C.L. 
Kingsford, C.H. Firth, A.F. Pollard, J.E. 
Creighton, Mary Bateson, and T.F. Tout to 
mention a few. Thomas Frederick Tout admit- 

Like many Oxford men of my generation I 
approached historical investigation without 
the least training or guidance in historical 
method, and felt very much at a loss how to set 
to work. The careful and stringent regulations 
which [Stephen] drew up, and the brusque but 
kindly way in which he enforced obedience to 
them, constituted for many of us our first 
training in anything like original investiga- 
tion. 29 

Working with hundreds of contributors, 
many of them unfamiliar with biographical 
writing or possessing limited experience in 
historical research, the editorial staff of DNB 
successfully produced volume after volume, 
each one regarded as better than the one 
before it. 30 The accomplishment of punctually 
producing the quarterly volumes seems all the 
more remarkable when one considers the 
Dictionary's steadily increasing quality. 

Stephen's Burden 

The task took its toll on Leslie Stephen. 
The drudgery and strain of the vigilance he 
deemed necessary to meet deadlines eventu- 
ally proved too much for him. In addition to 

contributing many entries himself, he reviewed 
every submission and edited the contributions 
sternly, corresponding with the authors, and 
tactfully dealing with the myriad requests for 
inclusion of departed loved ones. He also 
continued with his own writing and studying 
and with his roles as a husband and the father 
of four. A selection of his letters appears in 
Frederic William Maitland's biography of 
Stephen. In these letters he refers to the Dic- 
tionary as the "infernal dictionary," "that 
damned dictionary," and the "accursed drudg- 
ery." 31 He refers to himself as a "dictionary- 
ridden animal," and laments that the damned 
thing goes on like a diabolical piece of ma- 
chinery, always gaping for more copy, and I 
fancy at times that I shall be dragged into it, 
and crushed out into slips."' 32 

Maitland elaborates that Stephen's corn- 
plaining was typical of the way he expressed 
his frustrations and that he intended people 
laugh when he used such hyperbole. 53 The 
frustrations, however, were very real and his 
health continued to deteriorate under the de- 
manding schedule. At one point he seriously 
considered delaying a quarterly issue. 34 Real- 
izing that he was placing more and more of the 
burden on Lee, he insisted that Lee's name 
begin appearing on the title page. So in March 
1 890, Lee and Stephen were listed as coedi- 
tors, a practice continued for the next four 
issues. The reduction in Stephen's work load 
failed to restore his health. In April 1891 he 
asked his wife to write to George Smith and 
inform him that his health precluded his con- 
tinuation as editor of the Dictionary. So, be- 
ginning with the June 1891 issue, only Lee's 
name appeared as editor. Lee's enormous 
capacity for work and his ability to pay atten- 
tion to detail guaranteed George Smith that the 
project would continue without interruptions. 
Stephen's resignation did not prohibit him 
from continuing to write articles for the DNB. 
Otherthan Lee himself, Stephen was theDNB's 
most prolific contributor; his writing com- 
prised approximately 1,000 pages and ac- 
counted for one-seventeenth of the entire 


work. 35 Upon its completion in 1901, the 
entire work stretched to nearly 30,000 pages 
commemorating nearly as many lives. 36 In 
1901 three supplementary volumes were pub- 
lished, covering an additional 1,000 lives. 
These supplementary volumes were issued as 
the final three volumes of the original set. Two 
hundred of these names were omissions from 
the original set and the remaining 800 were 
individuals who had died after their letter of 
the alphabet had been published. Because 
George Smith wished the death of Queen 
Victoria to mark the official end of the work, 37 
the DNB was extended to include lives of 
people who had died prior to January 22,1901, 
That the death of Victoria should mark the end 
of this set seems only fitting, for even in its 
own time the DNB was considered a monu- 
ment to British history. 38 

The size and scope of the DNB was such 
that errors, misprints, and other errata were 
bound to occur under even the most careful 
scrutiny. During the quarterly printings of the 
DNB, the corrections, compiled by the Rever- 
end W.C. Boulter, were printed in Notes and 
Queries. In 1904 Lee issued a volume of 
corrections that was distributed free to sub- 
scribers. These corrections were incorporated 
into the re-issue of 1 908-1 909. i9 In 1923, A.F. 
Pollard founded the Institute of Historical 
Research of the University of London to emu- 
late the training he had had received at the 
hands of Sidney Lee and to use the Institute's 
Bulletin as a vehicle for reporting addenda 
and correcting errors in the DNB. Today the 
Institute's publication, re-titled Historical 
Research, no longer serves that function. All 
corrections are referred to the DNB editorial 
offices at the Oxford University Press. 

Critical Reception 

From the appearance of its inaugural vol- 
ume theZWi? received praise. Its contributors, 
editors, and publisher were widely recog- 
nized, with both Lee and Stephen receiving 
knighthoods for their involvement in the 
project. Even continental scholars admitted 

that the DNB surpassed their own national 
biographies both in terms of scope and schol- 
arship/ Most secondary sources refer to the 
original set as a "monument to Victorian schol- 
arship, enterprise and philanthropy." 41 Re- 
views of the set as it came out repeatedly drew 
attention to the exceptional quality of both 
Stephen's and Lee's writing. 42 It was also 
noted, as Lee and Stephen had intended, that 
the shorter articles on those of lesser fame not 
only embodied the essence of the DNB, but 
would give it lasting value. 43 

There were negative comments. For ex- 
ample, historians of the time objected to the 
lengthy articles on kings and statesmen that 
could be better presented in book-length treat- 
ments. The emphasis of the editors that the set 
be geared to the general reader as well as to the 
scholar raised the eyebrows of more than one 
historian. 44 There were also comments re- 
garding the length of entries in comparison to 
an individual's overall historical importance. 45 
Current critiques of the DNB demonstrate that 
the set not only maintains its credibility but has 
taken on a persona of its own. Clearly the 
steady output of biographical entries has in 
itself become a significant value of the set and 
its supplements. Its serialization provides a 
continuous acknowledgment of British 
achievement and notoriety since the earliest 
times, with readers taking pride in the cumu- 
lative body of entrants that encompasses emi- 
nent statesmen as well as misers. 

The reviews of the twentieth-century 
supplements and, indeed, later retrospective 
reviews of the original set bring other criti- 
cisms into focus. Contemporary awareness of 
cultural and social issues have raised the con- 
sciousness of many reviewers. Comments re- 
garding the exclusion of women, labor lead- 
ers, sportsmen, and people of commerce are 
now noted. Some object that Stephen and 
Lee's intent to include all segments of the 
nation fell far short of the mark. 46 Stephen's 
biographer, Noel Annan, notes that twentieth- 
century critics call attention to moral judg- 
ments that appear throughout the original set 
and in Stephen's contributions particularly. 47 


Annan replies that Stephen "would have had 
to step outside of his age to omit moral judge- 
ments." 48 Stephen's view on the status of 
women was reflective of the Victorian era. 
Even when friends were advocating female 
emancipation, Stephen resisted with vehe- 
mence. 49 Lee, the author of the "Statistical 
Account" was not unaware of the low number 
of women appearing in the DNB. He noted that 
in London in 1896 about 600 people would 
qualify for an entry in the work and that only 
about 20 of these would be women. He stated: 

In this last calculation I perhaps have made 
inadequate allowance for the recently devel- 
oped energy among women which seems likely 
to generate unlooked-for exploits of more or 
less distinction. But no statistics are needed to 
prove that the woman's opportunities of dis- 
tinction were infinitesimal in the past, and are 
very small compared with men's something 
like one to thirty at that present moment, 
Women will not therefore, I regret to reflect, 
have much claim on the attention of the na- 
tional biographer for a very long time to 
come." 50 

As early as 1890, a review in the English 
Historical Review notes that some women of 
distinction appear only in their husbands' bi- 
ographies. 51 And, as late as 1986, a reviewer 
of the recently published 1971-1980 supple- 
ment noted that only 1 5 percent of the entries 
were women and that nearly one third of them 
were writers." 

Another omission that has been steadily 
tracked from the original setthroughthe supple- 
ments is the lack of individuals from trade and 
commerce. 53 The Victorian distaste for revel- 
ling in commercial successes seems to have 
extended well into the twentieth-century 
supplements. Other omissions that have been 
noted include the scarcity of trade unionists 
and a lack of entries recording the violence in 
Northern Ireland, either in terms of victims or 
terrorists. 54 Stephen's anticlericalism is well 
documented. His refusal to list either St. Alban 
or St. Asaph in the original set was eventually 
amended by Lee in the supplements. 55 On yet 
another level, Pollard believed that Lee's in- 
terest in literary history accounts for what 

could be interpreted as an undue inclusion of 
very minor literary figures. 56 

The first supplement to deal explicitly 
with the sexual preference of individuals was 
the 1961-1970 supplement. Although even 
here, as one reviewer notes, most contributors 
were less than direct and perhaps inadvert- 
ently revealed a moral judgment themselves. 
For example, Somerset Maugham's homo- 
sexuality is referred to with subtlety when the 
biographer states that Maugham "stepped off 
his pedestal with a young American." 57 A 
reviewer of the 1971-1980 supplement notes 
that an entrant' s "propensity for solitary sex in 
parks and swimming pools could perhaps be 
stated more directly." 58 Another reviewer of 
that decennial supplement notes an absence of 
attributing drugs or alcohol as a direct influ- 
ence on the lives or careers of many of the 
entrants. 59 

Evaluations of the DNB concerning its 
biases or even its editorial practices must be 
considered in historical perspective. The de- 
gree to which these omissions reflect editorial 
bias or are seen as reflections of current cul- 
tural perspective, while debatable, are also 
what gives the set its historical value. The 
DNB has existed for over 100 years. The 
mores and even the research strategies used to 
produce it have changed over that time period 
and will continue to do so. One of its strengths 
rests in its lasting value as a source both 
reflective and indicative of its time. 

The original set included many lives from 
previous centuries and the writers of those 
biographies had the advantage of secondary 
sources andhistoricalperspective. As thcDNB 
moved into decennial volumes the biogra- 
phies wereoverwhelminglyratherrecentones. 
The change, although subtle, marks a signifi- 
cant difference between the original set and 
the supplements. Another significant differ- 
ence rests in the fact that more than half of the 
original set was written by only 34 regular 
contributors, while in the supplements the 
one-time contributor is virtually the norm. 60 
During the 1 6-year production schedule of the 
original set, the editors were also contributors 


and their writing style clearly influenced the 
character of the original set. The supplements 
have been produced for almost 90 years with 
contributors and editors changing throughout 
that time. While the original set serves as an 
embodiment of Victorian scholarship and car- 
ries with it the character and expressions of 
that era, the supplements are distinguished by 
the continuity provided by their Oxford base. 
According to one reviewer "One of the joys of 
the DNB, imparted by its Oxford base, is its 
tendency to delicate spite, dry periphrasis or 
oblique understatement,"* 1 

The DNB still serves as model of literary 
art and historical writing. Its succinct, and 
sometimes pithy writing is peppered with an- 
ecdotal accounts, fact, and individual per- 
spective. 62 Leslie Stephen believed that "No 
man is a real reader until he is sensible of the 
pleasure of turning over some miscellaneous 
collection, and lying like a trout in a stream 
snapping up, with the added charm of 
unsuspectedness, any of the queer little mor- 
sels of oddity or pathos that may drift past 
him." 63 The Dictionary of National Biogra- 
phy still holds that charm forthe the twentieth- 
century reader. Even though newly available 
manuscripts may obviate nineteenth-century 
scholarship, the joy of the writing and the 
subtle inferences from a time past will be lost 
to only the most unimaginative of readers. 
Reviews of the supplements indicate that the 
twentieth-century endeavors have yielded suc- 
cess in this area as well. 64 

When George Smith died in 1901, he left 
the DNB to his widow. Mrs. Smith served as 
publisher of the supplement covering deaths 
from 1901—1911, while Lee continued as edi- 
tor, In 1917 Smith, Elder was acquired by the 
Murray publishing house. This was the same 
firm that had contemplated and then rejected 
the idea of publishing a national biography in 
the early 1850s. The DNB, not part of sale, was 
given to Oxford University by the Smith fam- 
ily with the stipulation that it was to continue 
to be published. 65 Oxford has continued to 
publish the DNB with decennial supplements 
through 1980, although the supplemental vol- 

umes have not appeared with the same punc- 
tuality as the original Smith, Stephen, and Lee 
venture. Oxford has broken the decennial 
tradition with the publication of the latest 
supplement. Beginning with the 1981-1985 
supplement issued in 1990, the set will be 
updated through quinquennial supplements. 66 

Extension and Revision 

Almost since its completion, speculation 
both as to the feasibility and to the desirability 
of revising the whole set has occurred. 67 In a 
1 949 Times Literary Supplement article a re- 
viewer of the 1931-1940 supplement also 
tackled the subject of a complete revision of 
the DNB. 6S The suggestion prompted a meet- 
ing between scholars and publishers who 
reached the mutual decision that the effort was 
simply not feasible. 69 The current editor, C.S. 
Nicholls, states that "books such as ours are 
very expensive to produce." 70 Efforts are 
underway to raise funds for a complete revi- 
sion, but in the meantime the editorial staff has 
decided to publish a volume of individuals 
who have been omitted from DNB since its 
beginning. 71 The current editor cautions that 
it may not be possible to raise all the funds 
needed for a complete revision. Whether or 
not funds are found to completely revise the 
DNB thoroughly, it will remain a cherished 
and significant contribution to British history 
and scholarship. Its significance as a land- 
mark reference title rests not only in its lon- 
gevity as a useful reference tool but also upon 
the unique mix of anecdotal characterization 
and detailed factual accounting of British lives. 
The introductions for each supplement pro- 
vide fascinating overviews of the cumulative 
body of entries and readers soon lose them- 
selves in the well-written biographies that 
follow. Only the most insensitive of readers 
can come away from an hour of browsing in 
"the most amusing book in the language" 
without having attained a deeper understand- 
ing of British history, life, manners, and 



Dictionary of National Biography, edited by Leslie 
Stephen, volumes 1-2 1; editedby Leslie Stephen 
and Sidney Lee, volumes 22-26; edited by 
Sidney Lee, volumes 27-66. London: Smith, 
Elder and Company, 1885-1901. 66 vols, 

Dictionary of National Biography, From the Earliest 
Times to 1900, edited by by Sir Leslie Stephen 
and Sir Sidney Lee, [Reissue.] London: Smith, 
Elder and Company, 1908-1909. 22 vols. 

Dictionary ofNationalBiographyJndexandEpitome, 
editedby Sir Sidney Lee. London: Smith, Elder, 
and Company, 1903-1913. 2 vols. 

Dictionary of National Biography, 1901-1911, ed- 
ited by Sir Sidney Lee. Oxford: Oxford Univer- 
sity Press, 1912. 739p. 

Dictionary of National Biography, 1912-1921, ed- 
itedby H.W.C. Davis andJ.R.H, Weaver. Ox- 
ford: Oxford University Press, 1927. 623p. 

Dictionary of National Biography, 1922-1930, ed- 
ited by J.R.H. Weaver. Oxford: Oxford Univer- 
sity Press, 1937. 962p. 

Dictionary of National Biography, 1931-1940, ed- 
ited by L.G. Wickham Legg. Oxford: Oxford 
University Press, 1949. 968p. 

Dictionary of National Biography, 1941-1950, ed- 
ited by L.G. Wickham Legg and E.T.Williams. 
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959. i,031p. 

Dictionary of National Biography, 1951-1960, ed- 
ited by E.T. Williams and Helen M. Palmer. 
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971. 1,l50p. 

Dictionary of National Biography, 1961-1970, ed- 
ited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls. Ox- 
ford: Oxford University Press, 1981. l,178p. 

Dictionary of National Biography, 1971-1980, ed- 
ited by Lord Blake and C.S. Nicholls. Oxford: 
Oxford University Press, 1986. 1,01 Op. 

Dictionary of National Biography, 1981-1985, ed- 
ited by Lord Blake and C. S. Nicholls, Oxford: 
Oxford University Press, 1990. 518p. 


The papers, correspondence, ledgers, and 
day books associated with the Dictionary of 
National Biography were destroyed after the 
third supplement was completed. Numerous 
secondary sources exist and several major 
biographies on key personnel are available. 
For Leslie Stephen, see Noel Annan's Leslie 
Stephen: The Godless Victorian, a revision of 
his 1952 biography on Stephen titled Leslie 
Stephen: His Thought and Character in Rela- 
tion to His Time. Both volumes are valuable. 
See also Maitland's£(/e and Letters of Leslie 
Stephen. For George Smith, see Jennifer 
Glynn's Prince of Publishers: A Biography of 
George Smith and Leonard Huxley's The 
House of Smith Elder. A full-length biogra- 
phy on Sir Sidney Lee has yet to be written. For 
a summary of the founding of the DNB, see 
both J.L. Kirby and R.H. Fritze cited below. 
Laurel Brake's article provides the clearest 
explanation of the publishing history of the 
DNB. Many reviews of the original set and the 
supplements have appeared throughout the 
past 1 00 years; only the more significant ones 
are listed in the bibliography. Forexcerpts that 
capsulize the essence of the DNB, see the 
examples cited in the reviews and especially 

the article by Pat Rogers. The best method for 
understanding and enjoying the DNB is to read 
the introductions to the original set and the 
supplements and to peruse the volumes them- 

Annan, Noel. Leslie Stephen: The Godless Victorian. 
New York: Random House, 1984. 

. Leslie Stephen: His Thought and Character 

in Relation to his Time. Cambridge, MA: Harvard 
University Press, 1952. 

Bell, Allan. "Leslie Stephen and the DNB." Times 
Literary Supplement, no. 3951 (December 16, 
1977): 1478. 

. "A Portable Valhalla." Times Literary 

Supplement, no. 4096 (October 2, 1981): 1115— 

"Biographies Universelle, Ancienne et Moderne; 
Nouvelle Biographie Generale; Specimen of a 
'Dictionary of National Biography,"' Quar- 
terly Review 157 (July, 1884): 187-230. 

Brake, Laurel. "Problems in Victorian Biography: 
The DNB andths DNB 'Waiter Pater'." Modern 
Language Review 70 (October, 1975): 731^*2. 

Cannadine, David. "British Worthies." London Re- 
view of Boot 3 (December, 1981): 3-4, 6. 

Corrections and Additions to the Dictionary of Na- 
tional Biography. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1966. 

Davenport-Hines, Richard. "All Sorts and Condi- 
tions," Times Literary Supplement, no. 4363 
(November 14, 1986): 1263-64. 

Fenwick, Gillian. The Contributor's Index to the 
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1901. 



Winchester, Hampshire: St. Paul's Bibliogra- 
phies, 1989. 

Firth, C.H. "Memoir of Sir Sidney Lee," Dictionary 
of National Biography Supplement, 19 12-192 L 
London: Oxford University Press, 1927. 

Frank, Robert Worth, "The Most Amusing Book in 
the Language." American Scholar 54 (Winter, 
1984/85): 89-97. 

Fritze, Ronald H. "The Dictionary of National Biog- 
raphy and Its Early Editors and Publisher." 
Reference Services Review 1 6 (1988): 21-29. 

Glynn, Jennifer. Prince of Publishers; A Biography 
of George Smith. New York: Allison & Busby, 

Hull, Charles H. "Helps of Cataloguers in Finding 
FullNames." Library Journal 14 (1889): 7-20. 

Huxley, Leonard. The House of Smith Elder. Lon- 
don: Printed for Private Circulation, 1923. 

Kirby, J.L. "The Dictionary of National Biography." 
The Library Association Record 60 (June 1958): 

Lee, Sidney. "The Dictionary of National Biogra- 
phy: A Statistical Account." Dictionary of 
National Biography, v. 1, pp. lxi-1 xxxxiv. Ox- 
ford: Oxford University Press, 1921-1922. 

. "Memoir of George Smith." Dictionary of 

National Biography, v. 1, pp. xxi-lix. London: 
Oxford University Press, 1921-1922. First pub- 

lished in September 1 901 in the first volume of 
the original edition of the Supplement. 

. "National Biography." Cornhill Magazine 

26 (March, 1896): 258-77. 

"Sir Leslie Stephen." Dictionary of Na- 

tional Biography. Supplement 1901-191 1. Lon- 
don: Oxford University Press, 1920. Reprinted 

Maitland, Frederic William. The Life and Letters of 
Leslie Stephen. London: Duckworth &. Co., 

Pollard, A. F. "Sir Sidney Lee and the 'Dictionary of 
National Biography.'" Bulletin of the Institute 
of Historical Research 4 (1926/27): 1-13. 

Rogers, Pat. "Diversions of the DNB." Essays and 
Studies 37 (1984): 75-86. 

Stephen, Leslie. "Biography." Living Age 199 
(October/December, 1893): 451-59. 

Stephen, Leslie. "National Biography." National 
Review 27 (March/August, 1896): 51-65. 


no. 2878 (December 26, 1882): 850. 

"Worthies of Empire." Times Literary Supplement, 
no. 2498 (December 16, 1949): 819. 

Wrong, George M. "Dictionary of National Biogra- 
phy." American Historical Review 7 (April, 
1902): 588-90. 


1 Leslie Stephen, "Biography," Living Age 199 (October/ 

December 1893): 451 . This is a reprint ofan article 
that originally appeared in the National Review in 

2 The Universal Cyclopedia. 

3 Ibid. 

4 "Biographies Universale, Ancienne et Moderne; Mo- 

velle Biographic Generale; specimen of a Dictio- 
nary of National Biography," Quarterly Review 
157 (July 1884): 204, 

5 Gillian Fenwick, "Introduction," The Contributor's 

Index to the 'Dictionary of National Biography \ 
1885-1900 (Winchester, Hampshire: St. Paul's 
Bibliographies, 1989),x. 

6 Encyclopedia Britanntca, 1 1th Edition. 
''Quarterly Review, "Biographies Univcrselle," 188. 

8 Eugene P. Sheehy, Guide to Reference Books, 10th ed. 

(Chicago: American Library Association, 1986), 

' Ronald H. Fritze, "The Dictionary of National Biogra- 

phy and Its Early Editors and Publisher," Reference 

Services Review 16 (1988): 22. 
10 J,L. Kirby, "The Dictionary of National Biography" 

The Library Association Record 60 (June 1958): 

"Ibid., 182. 
12 Leslie Stephen, The Mausoleum Book (Oxford: 

Clarendon Press, 1 9 77), 85 . 

13 Leonard Huxley, The House of Smith Elder (London: 

Printed for Private Circulation, 1923), 181. 

14 Ibid., 181-82. 

15 Fritze, 23. 

16 Huxley, House of Smith Elder. 182. 
J7 Ibid. 

18 Noel Annan, Leslie Stephen; His Thought and Charac- 

ter in Relation to His Time (Cambridge, MA: Harvard 
University Press, 1952), 79. 

19 Phyllis Gosskurth, Leslie Stephen (Essex, England: 

Longmans, Green & Co. L, 1968), 13. 

20 Noel Annan, Leslie Stephen: The Godless Victorian 

(New York: Random House, 1984): 85. 

21 Sidney Lee, "National Biography," Cornhill Magazine 

26 (March 1896): 258-77; Stephen, "Biography," 
451-59. Leslie Stephen, "National Biography," 
National Review 27 (March/ August 1896): 51-65. 

22 Leslie Stephen, "A New Biographia Britannica," .^A- 

enaeum no. 2878 (26 December 1882); 850. 
* 3 Stephen, "National Biography," 59-60. 

24 A. F. Pollard, "Sir Sidney Lee and the 'Dictionary of 

National Biography,"' Bulletin of the Institute of 
Historical Research 4 (1926/27): 12. 

25 Ibid., 2. 

26 Stephen, "National Biography," 62, 

27 Ibid. 

28 Pollard, 7. 

2 ' Annan, Leslie Stephen: Godless Victorian, 86. 


™ Pollard, 6. 

31 Frederic William Maitland, The Life and Letters of of 

Leslie Stephen (London: Duckworth & Co., 1906), 

32 Ibid., 394. 

33 Ibid., 395. 

34 Ibid., 400. 
JS Fritze, 27. 

i6 Robert Worth Frank, "The Most Amusing Book in the 
Language," American Scholar 54 (Winter 1984/ 
85): 89. 

37 George M. Wrong, "The Dictionary of National Biog- 
raphy," American Historical Review! (April 1902): 

JS Ibid. 

i9 Laurel Brake, "Problems in Victorian Biography: The 
DNB and the DNB 'Walter Pater,'" Modern Lan- 
guage Review 70 (October 1975): 732. 

4( ' Annan, Thought and Character, 78, 

41 Gillian Fenwick, "Introduction," ix, to The Contributor '$ 

Index to the 'Dictionary of National Biography', 
1885-1900 (Winchester, Hampshire: (St. Paul's 
Bibliographies), ix. 

42 "The Dictionary of National Biography" English 

Historical Review 6 (January 1893): 181-82; "The 
Dictionary of National Biography" English His- 
torical Review 9 (July 1894): 591-92. 

43 "The Dictionary of National Biography' 1 English 

Historical Review 5 (October 1890): 785. 

44 Ibid., 784-785; Wrong, 589. 

45 English Historical Review, 1890, 786; Wrong, 589; 

Annan, Thought and Character, 78; Alan Bell, "A 
Portable Valhalla," Times Literary Supplement no. 
4096 (2 October 1981): 1116. 

46 Pat Rogers, "Diversions of the DNB," Essays and 

Studies 37 (1984): 78; Annan, Godless Victorian, 

47 Rogers, 82. 

48 Annan, Godless Victorian, 88-89; Rogers, 76. 

49 Annan, Godless Victorian, 110. 
i0 Lee, "National Biography," 273 

51 English Historical Review, 1890, 786. 

52 RichardDavenport-Hines, "All Sorts and Conditions," 

Times Literary Supplement no. 43 63 (1 4 November 

1986): 1264. 
33 Ibid., 1264; David Cannadine, "British Worthies," 

London Review of Books 3 (December 1981): 4; 

Annan, Godless Victorian, 88. 
54 Bell, 1115;Davenport-Hines, 1264. 
si Pollard, 10. 
s6 Ibid., 11. 
51 Bell, 1 1 16; Christopher Booker, "Remembering Like 

Anything," Spectator 247 (3 October 1981): 21. 
iB Davenport-Hines, 1263. 
* 9 Ibid, 

<° Cannadine, 3. 
* l Davenport-Hines, 1263. 
"Rogers, 82; Brake, 741. 
° Stephen, "National Biography," 63. 
154 Bell, 1116. 
"Huxley, 190. 

66 C, S. Nicholls, letter to the author, 25 January 1990. 
61 "Worthies of the Empire," Times Literary Supplement 

no. 2498 (16 December 1949): 819. 

68 Ibid. 

69 Brake, 732. 

70 Nicholls, letter to author, 25 January 1990. 

71 Ibid. 

Controlling the Beasties: Dissertation 
Abstracts International 

Mary W. George 


Dissertations are strange beasties, combining 
the length of a book, the breadth of a grant 
application, and the depth, supposedly, of a 
scholarly treatise. An ordinary mortal will 
encounter just one such creature in a lifetime, 
taming it only after long and weary labor, 
despite the wiles of procrastination and the 
vagaries of a doctoral committee. 

As evidence of a person's ability to ask 
significant new questions about a highly spe- 
cific area of knowledge, and then to design, 
conduct, and interpret research appropriate to 
answer those questions, the dissertation can 
claim only mixed results. The Germans are 
very right to qualify the word with the adjec- 
tive inaugural, because the dissertation is at 
best a good start with no promises. In fact, as 
a predictor of intellectual energy and poten- 
tial, it fails miserably; witness the dearth or 
deficiency of subsequent scholarship by many 
who "earn" the Ph.D. Then, too, in our culture, 
those outside academe rank writing a disserta- 
tion somewhere near surgery and passing a 
driving test in terms of pain and challenge, 
respectively. Yet possessing a doctorate still 
commands great respect. 

Debate will always surround the content 
and process of graduate education, which is 
only right. The unexamined pursuit, in aca- 
deme as anywhere else, too easily becomes 
routine, drawn out, and ineffectual. Further- 
more, the tangible product of the process, the 

dissertation, is itself a knotty problem: What 
exactly should it "prove," and to whom? Are 
traditional expectations regarding its scope, 
format, readability, time and effort involved — 
not to mention its value — justified, especially 
given the low correlation between dissertation 
quality and any individual's later contribu- 
tions to the field? These are all ponderable if 
not solvable questions, ones which Theodore 
Ziolkowski has placed in historical perspec- 
tive and named the Ph.D. squid, an image 
which all who have been in the grip of gradu- 
ate school will understand too well. 1 

Availability of Dissertations 

There is one aspect of the dissertation, 
however, which Ziolkowski does not address, 
its availability. To add irony to adversity (view- 
ing the case from a student's perspective), this 
masterpiece, proof in the medieval sense that 
a person is worthy to enter a discipline's guild 
and participate in its rituals, is figuratively a 
closed book to everyone outside the candidate' s 
immediate circle — closed because it is unpub- 
lished and unpublicized. 

Here the story begins to twist and tangle. 
Every degree-granting institution in the world 
has its own rules about dissertations: how 
many bound copies the author must provide 
and whether these may be typed or must be 
printed; who is responsible for copyrighting 
the work; where dissertations are kept and 
under what physical conditions; how— and, 



for that matter, whether — they will be cata- 
loged, and if so, whether entries for them will 
appear in any published list or database; who 
will preserve brittle ones; what legalities must 
be observed by anyone wishing to read, copy, 
or quote from them; if they will be sold to, 
loaned to, or exchanged with other institu- 
tions, 2 To add to this crazy quilt, schools 
which also generate master's, senior, or hon- 
ors theses usually have a whole different set of 
rules for those writings, 3 and, of course, each 
university's idiosyncrasies have shifted over 
time. 4 

It is not as if people have not tried to solve 
these problems. There is, for example, an 
indispensable bibliography of dissertation bib- 
liographies which is arranged by both country 
and discipline, 5 Several guides to institutions' 
loan and photocopy policies now exist which 
indicate exactly what dissertations are avail- 
able, and how, from the originating school. 6 
Special lending agreements within national or 
regional library consortia make matters some- 
what smoother, although no one imagines 
there will ever be total reciprocity among 
institutions. A few scholarly journals even 
review selected dissertations. 7 

On the whole, researchers are faced with 
a paradox: the possible importance of disser- 
tations to their work is offset by the probable 
nuisance of identifying and obtaining them. 
Or, as many have said at a library reference 
desk, "If it's a dissertation, forget it." That 
dismissal is typically accompanied by the 
spoken or unspoken thought,"If it's any good, 
it should come out, sooner or later, as a real 
book." This is not the place, however, to 
digress on the economics or academic politics 
of that belief, let alone the overhaul necessary 
to transform a dissertation into a "real" book. 8 

Eugene B. Power 

The twists and tangles get still more bi- 
zarre owing to a second strange beastie, mi- 
crofilm, and its impresario, Eugene B. (for 
Barnum, no less) Power, who first recognized 

this format as an ideal way to preserve fragile, 
fugitive, rare, bulky, and low-demand print 
sources. Realizing that dissertations qualified 
on all those counts, Power made filming and 
selling them the cornerstone of University 
Microfilms, the business he founded in Ann 
Arbor, Michigan, in June 1938. 9 In February 
1 962 he sold the company to the Xerox Corpo- 
ration, which in turn sold it to Bell & Howell 
in December 1985. 10 Now called University 
Microfilms International (UMI), the firm has 
operations in Ann Arbor devoted to disserta- 
tions, serials, andout-of-print materials (Books 
on Demand). 11 

The idea of miniaturizing documents goes 
back to the mid-nineteenth century when it 
was first posited in England by James Glaisher 
and J.F.W. Herschel who independently sug- 
gested the possibility based on technological 
advances in photography and microscopy. 12 
To those who rely on microformat sources to 
conduct their research, the stuff is both a 
blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it 
allows access to essential works without spend- 
ing large amounts of money and time to con- 
tact and travel to distant repositories. And it is 
a curse owing to the physical discomfort of 
reading and transcribing microforms as well 
as the generally poor quality of paper copies 
made by reader-printers. It took Eugene 
Power's insight and entrepreneurial instincts 
to transform this ugly duckling technology 
into a corporate swan and in the process to 
create amarketing tool, DissertationAbstracts 
International {DAT), that has become a legend 
in academe. 13 

As legends go, this one is easy to relate: 
DAI is quite simply the Sears catalog of aca- 
deme, describing the intellectual goods avail- 
able for purchase from UMI. Or, put another 
way, it is a field guide to the strange beasties, 
standard equipment for anyone who needs to 
spot, track down, andbag dissertations. All the 
user who identifies a pertinent product (i.e., a 
dissertation) needs to do is phone a toll-free 
number and use a credit card to order the 
complete version. 14 By 1990UMI'sdisserta- 

jj&MjELa**- - 


tion database was growing by about 35,000 
titles per year. Starting in 1 991 , another 3 ,700 
Canadian dissertations will be added annually 
as well. 

DAI has come a long way since 1938 
when Eugene Power left his job as vice presi- 
dent for sales at Edwards Brothers, the large 
Ann Arbor printing firm best known to librar- 
ians for publishing various Library of Con- 
gress author and subject catalogs as well as 
sets of the National Union Catalog between 
1942 and 1970. Edwards Brothers was also 
involved in microform publishing. In the mid- 
1930s the company launched a major project 
to film pre-1550 English books. Power had 
coordinated this program and then acquired it 
from Edwards Brothers shortly after he set up 
his own company. 15 In a seven-page pam- 
phlet, A Plan for Publication of Scholarly 
Material on Microfilm, Power explained the 
purpose of his new company: 

The invention of printing provided the means 
for the tremendous expansion of scholarly 
research through the duplication of man's 
ideas, ... For centuries printing methods 
fulfilled the requirements of scholars as a 
means of reproducing the results of research. 
With the turn of the' century it has been in- 
creasingly apparent that the greater special- 
ization of scholarship has resulted in a de- 
crease in the potential market for books and 
monographs in any one field. This same print- 
ing process which at one time provided the 
release from the restricting influence of book 
production by scribes is now exerting a simi- 
larly restricting influence through a reverse 

Ourprinting facilities today are all geared 
to the production of a large number of copies 
on an extremely economical basis. However, 
they are not able to produce a small number of 
copies economically, and with this decrease in 
the size of the market, publication of scholarly 
material becomes an increasingly difficult 
problem unless accompanied by subsidy, . , . 

What scholarly publishing needs is a 
method of distribution which gives sufficient 
and adequate publicity to a title or list of titles 
so that the information regarding what is 
offered is readily available to prospective 
users, combined with a means of production 
which can produce as demand materializes at 
an economical and uniform rate. , . . 

Briefly, this is a plan to provide a means 
of production and distribution for the products 
of scholarly research which, because of their 
nature, command too small a market to war- 
rant publication through the ordinary and es- 
tablished channels. 1 * 

Power went on to describe his concept of 
having dissertation authors submit to UMI "a 
carefully typed manuscript accompanied by 
an abstract of 300 or 400 words with the 
deposit of the usual fee for this service." 17 His 
proposal continued: "The abstracts thus col- 
lected from several sources or authors, will be 
published in a booklet of abstracts issued at 
periodic intervals, each abstract occupying 
one page. At the bottom of each abstract will 
appear a statement to the effect that a film 
copy of the complete manuscript can be had at 
1 l A cent per page, and a total figure [i.e., price] 
for the entire book." 18 

Microfilm Abstracts 

This, then, was the origin of what is known 
today as Dissertation Abstracts International 
The first 1 1 volumes appeared at very irregu- 
lar intervals starting in 1938 under the title 
Microfilm Abstracts, with the subtitle origi- 
nally, A Collection of Abstracts of Doctoral 
Dissertations which are Available in Com- 
plete Form on Microfilm. Volume 1, number 
1, was only 32 pages long and contained 
abstracts of 17 dissertations from just five 
universities (Michigan, Nebraska, Princeton, 
Stanford, and Toronto). In that first issue's 
unsigned introduction, Power explained his 
project by contrasting the characteristics of 
what he called "ordinary publication" — large 
print runs, promotion, and distribution to cus- 
tomers — with the "different publishing phi- 
losophy" afforded by microfilm which, he 
said, "offers an effective, satisfactory, and 
economical method of distributing copies of 
scholarly manuscripts to a limited market. 
Because microfilm is a straight-line cost pro- 
cess one copy can be produced as reasonably 
as a dozen — " Therefore, he continued, "the 
only investment necessary is the cost of noti- 
fication and the small cost of making the 


negative, . . . from which positive copies may- 
be prepared from time to time as individual 
orders come in." 19 

Power's notion of advertising his wares is 
also stated in that first introduction: "The 
abstract is printed in a booklet of abstracts, 
such as this, and distributed to leading librar- 
ies, journals and the current bibliographies, 
without cost to those receiving it. Printed 
library catalog cards for each abstract accom- 
pany the booklet. This completes the process 
of notification." 20 Since it was free, small, 
infrequent, and sent out as a promotion, Mi- 
crofilm Abstracts was essentially apublisher's 
blurb. Happily, libraries did not all treat it like 
one, so that complete or nearly complete runs 
exist at most large universities. The part about 
supplying cards sounds like a gimmick today, 
but 50 years ago it was probably considered a 
nice touch by librarians who were used to 
receiving cards from the Library of Congress 
for their depository catalogs. Unfortunately, 
there is no way to know how many libraries 
actually included these author and subject 
cards in their catalogs or if the existence of 
cards increased sales. In 1943 Microfilm Ab- 
stracts stopped coming with cards and instead 
gave a Library of Congress card number for 
each item, with cataloging performed in Ann 
Arbor — from the dissertation typescript, not 
just the abstract — and supplied to the Library 
of Congress. 21 

In the early years, Microfilm Abstracts 
ran a "Cumulative Index of Titles," but be- 
cause this was arranged by discipline, its only 
advantage over browsing the individual tables 
of contents, which were similarly organized, 
was that it covered several numbers at a time. 
Every so often the cumulation would stop, 
then resume again with a new start date. 

Beginning with volume 6, number 2, in 
1945, the scope and subtitle of Microfilm 
Abstracts changed to include monographs as 
well as dissertations. Only a handful of mono- 
graphs were ever listed, 22 however, and LTMI 
eventually started a separate publication, 
Monograph Abstracts (now called Research 
Abstracts) to treat these titles, just as it spun off 

Masters Abstracts (now Masters Abstracts 
International) to handle theses. Neither of 
these segments has ever approached the reputa- 
tion, success, or indispensability of DAL 

Microfilm Abstracts started appearing 
quarterly in 1950, with an annual cumulated 
title index, which was still arranged by disci- 
pline, not by actual topic. Volume 1 1 (195 1), 
the last before the title changed to the more 
familiar Dissertation A bstracts (DA), included 
two innovations which have been followed to 
the present: the four issues were paged con- 
tinuously, and a cumulated index to disserta- 
tion authors was provided in addition to the 
so-called title index. That particular volume 
ran to 1,212 pages and carried abstracts for 
816 dissertations, under 67 subject headings 
(with titles most numerous in the field of 
education) from about 30 institutions. 23 The 
publication was still distributed free, although 
the fee for filming and including a dissertation 
had risen from $1 5 to $20 in 1 949. The cost to 
purchase a film copy was constant at $,0125 
per page, but the price for paper copies had 
gone up from six cents to a dime per page. 

One feature of Microfilm Abstracts and 
its successors Dissertation Abstracts mdDis- 
sertation Abstracts International 'deserves spe- 
cial notice: arrangement of the abstracts has 
always been by broad discipline categories. 
Volume 1, number 1, for instance, included 
abstracts under the headings Botany, Chemis- 
try, Drama, Economics, Education, History, 
Mathematics, Philosophy, Political Science, 
Psychology, and Zoology, Fields and sub- 
fields were added as necessary, so that by 
1990 there were 10 large groups subdivided 
into 249 smaller ones. Today there are 10 
categories: Communication and the Arts; Edu- 
cation; Language, Literature and Linguistics; 
Philosophy, Religion and Theology; Social 
Sciences; Biological Sciences; Earth Sciences; 
Health and Environmental Sciences; Physical 
Sciences; and Psychology. When dissertation 
authors submit their abstracts, they must now 
indicate which subject category best reflects 
their area of research, although they may also 
designate one or two additional categories. 24 


When it debuted, Mcro/z/m Abstracts was 
not reviewed in the usual sense. Instead, there' 
were announcements of it, probably lifted 
from press releases, in major trade and profes- 
sional journals. 25 

Scope Changes 

One would think that after the title changed 
to Dissertation Abstracts with volume 12 in 
1952, the tool's history would be easier to 
describe. Far from it. Virtually every year 
through the 1960s there was some enhance- 
ment or oddity introduced. For instance, DA 
appeared six times in both 1952 and 1953 — 
and for the first time had a cover price, $6 per 
year 26 — then settled into its conventional 
monthly frequency in January 1954 with vol- 
ume 14, but without specifying which month 
anywhere on the publication, a detail which 
was not added until August 1957. Then, to 
keep subscribers guessing, volume 1 8 ran for 
only six issues, January through June 1958. 
Starting with volume 19, DA's volumes ex- 
tend from July to the following June "to facili- 
tate the listing of authors by academic year for 
the index."" 

With volume 27, number 1 , July 1 966, the 
cover took a turn for the worse : instead of drab 
gray it was brightly colored, but some be- 
nighted staffer decided to omit the volume, 
number and date from the front cover, an 
unconscionable decision that was notrectified 
for a full 20 years! Libraries cannot count the 
thousands of productive hours lost as check-in 
clerks had to turn to the title page to discover 
which issue had arrived. In a moremomentous 
change with volume 27, meiosis occurred and 
two monthly issues began appearing, section 
A covering the humanities and social sci- 
ences, and section B covering the sciences 
(including psychology) and engineering. Al- 
though this split is logical and benefits special 
libraries which can choose to subscribe to just 
one part or the other, it causes a practical 
problem. Should volumes be shelved by sec- 
tion, then by volume number, or vice versa? 
Alternatively, volumes can be arranged by 

calendar year first, which is how most users 
expect to see monthly issues run, but then one 
winds up with numbers 7 through 12 of one 
volume coming before numbers 1 through 6 of 
the next — correct but counterintuitive. 

Three years later, in July 1969 with the 
start of volume 30, the title changed again with 
the addition of "International" to both sec- 
tions, "to reflect the projected enlargement of 
University Microfilms' dissertation publica- 
tion program by the addition of dissertations 
from European universities." 38 Some Cana- 
dian dissertations had, however, been included 
from the very beginning, although most of 
them could be obtained only from the National 
Library in Ottawa. As a result of an agreement 
between UMI and the National Library of 
Canada and Micromedia, Ltd., in early 1990, 
UMI began in 1991 to distribute Canadian 
dissertations and theses and to include cita- 
tions and abstracts for them in the various 
UMI reference tools. 29 

It apparently took seven years for that 
"projected enlargement" to come about, which 
it did with another split in the fall of 1 976 when 
section C, European Abstracts, first appeared 
as a slender quarterly designated volume 37. 
The subtitle of section C switched from Euro- 
pean Abstracts to the one-word subtitle World- 
wide in the spring 1989 issue, while remaining 
a slender quarterly with both title-keyword 
and author indexes in each issue and a cumu- 
lative author index at the end of each volume. 
The introduction to a recent issue of section C 
(volume 51 , number 4, Winter 1990) makes 
this puzzling statement: "Sections A and B of 
DAI are published monthly and include dis- 
sertations accepted by North American insti- 
tutions and other institutions throughout the 
world. Section C covers a portion of European 
dissertations in all disciplines and is published 
quarterly." 30 The explanation seems to be that 
most of the dissertations with abstracts found 
in section C are not in fact available from 
UMI. Abstracts for those which are so avail- 
able appear in section A or B, as appropriate, 
and in section C. In any case, the 400-plus 
foreign universities whose dissertations have 


ben included thus far in section C are not ones 
researchers are generally interested in. Only 
when DAI comprehensively identifies disser- 
.tations from Cambridge, Oxford, the Sorbonne, 
and other renowned European institutions will 
its international pretensions be meaningful. 

DAPs usefulness has also been chroni- 
cally limited by the omission of several major 
U.S. universities (notably Harvard, MIT, and 
the University of Chicago) which maintain 
close control over reproduction and sale of 
their dissertations. Yet both Harvard and Chi- 
cago are on the list of participating institu- 
tions, something whichmisleads users. Itwould 
be good if DAP s front matter would also state 
not just the year of initial participation, but 
also the percentage of each university's dis- 
sertations which are actually submitted to 


Annoying as the publication details are, 
they are misdemeanors compared with DAPs 
author, title, and subject indexing "practices" — 
or rather, experiments — over half a century. 
Anyone who doubts this should try to memo- 
rize Carl Orgren's explanation and chart of the 
story just up to 1964, which reads like a plot 
rejected by Kafka. 31 Muchhas changed, which 
is a large part of the problem, but not much has 
improved in the intervening decades. (Note, 
however, that several venerable discipline 
indexes such as the MIA International Bibli- 
ography [New York: Modern Language As- 
sociation, 1921—] and Psychological Abstracts 
[Washington: American Psychological Asso- 
ciation, 1927-] have provided author and con- 
trolled- vocabulary subject access to DAI for 
decades, analyzing it like any other scholarly 
journal. There is, in fact, no reason why one 
should not cite a DAI entry as if it were an 
ordinary, if exceedingly short, periodical ar- 

The case with author indexing, which 
began in 1951 in the last year of Microfilm 
Abstracts? 7 is not one of method but of mad- 

ness: the user never knows where to find it. 
Like the Cheshire Cat, it materializes at will all 
over the bibliographic forest, sometimes in the 
final issue of the volume, sometimes as a 
separate part II of the final issue, sometimes 
listing authors from sections A and B but not 
C, and at one point in the middle 1950s not 
appearing at all for two years! 

As noted above with regret, title indexing, 
which started in the second issue of Microfilm 
A bs tracts and continued through volume 29 of 
DA in June 1969, was never more than cumu- 
lated tables of contents for one or more vol- 
umes, arranged by broad fields— in short, not 
a true title index at all. The conundrum is that, 
unlike book titles, dissertation titles are rarely 
memorable. And even when they are, the fact 
that they are not "normally" advertised means 
that fewpeople know enough to refer to them, 
typically only the writer's advisors, family, 
and fellow students. The best use one can 
make of these title indexes is for browsing to 
see what was being done in an area at a certain 
time, after which one could refer to the ab- 
stracts of interesting items, recognizing that 
one will miss any dissertation not submitted to 
UMI. Far better, because complete, tools for 
browsing are List of American Doctoral Dis- 
sertations Printed in 1912-1938, Doctoral 
Dissertations Accepted by American Univer- 
sities (covering 1934-1955), Index to Ameri- 
can Doctoral Dissertations (covering 1955/ 
56-1962/63), and American Doctoral Disser- 
tations (covering 1 963/64 to the present). These 
works are organized by either Library of Con- 
gress classification, for printed dissertations, 
or by field subdivided by university, the ar- 
rangement of the last three series, and an 
extremely useful approach because most 
graduate students and scholars already know 
which schools are at the forefront of research 
in their specialty. 33 

Subject indexing has been equally prob- 
lematic. There was none at all for more than 
two decades until volumes 22 through 29 (July 
1961 -June 1969) appeared with an annual 
subject index using genuine Library of Con- 



gress headings and cross-references. But that 
era was too good to last. Beginning with 
volume 30 in July 1969, Di/moved one step 
forward and two steps back. It dropped the 
farce of a title index, but replaced the Library 
of Congress subject index with a keyword-in- 
title (KWTT) computer one. At the same time 
UMI staff had entered all previous disserta- 
tion titles in a database, from which in 1 970 the 
company published an expensive nine-vol- 
ume Retrospective Index covering volumes 1 
through 29 and providing a KWIT approach 
under the all-too-familiar broad discipline 
categories. The result proved to be a disaster 
and was roundly attacked by Ralph Scott who 
said, in one of hiskinder comments, that it was 
"ill conceived and poorly edited . . . [and] 
promises to be the laughing stock of bibliog- 
raphers for years to come." 34 

Chastised but not deterred, UMI began its 
monumental Comprehensive Dissertation In- 
dex (CDI) series in 1973 with the delivery of 
a 37-volume set covering the astonishing time 
period 1861-1972 and an astounding 417,000 
dissertations by UMI's count. The work was 
compiled from information already in the UMI 
database, supplemented by citations to earlier 
dissertations supplied by U.S. and Canadian 
doctorate-granting institutions. As with the 
Retrospective Index, the primary organization 
is by field, with dissertations then listed by 
each keyword in their titles, inreverse chrono- 
logical order. An author index occupies the 
last five volumes. Thus, a dissertation in agri- 
culture with 12 significant title words will 
appear m the agriculture volume 12 separate 
times, each time giving author, full title, de- 
gree, institution, year, andlength. Ifthe disser- 
tation is available from UMI, the order num- 
ber and citation to DAI are provided. There are 
still major difficulties, the most vexing being 
the "invisibility" of dissertations with cute or 
enigmatic titles and the user's need to look up 
all conceivable keywords in all conceivable 
disciplines. Nonetheless, much as many li- 
brarians regret the demise of professionally 
assigned uniform subject access to disserta- 
tions, reaction to CDI was generally favor- 

able, 35 although Israel Shenker, reviewing the 
set in the New York Times, had a field day 
spotting weird or ambiguous dissertation titles 
and other oddities, including 13 dissertations 
on cockroaches. 36 Even Ralph Scott, who had 
rightfully denounced the Retrospective Index 
just three years earlier, gave CJ9/his qualified 
endorsement 37 

UMI has continued to publish annual sets 
of CDI (termed supplements), with five- and 
then ten-year cumulations. These cause some 
confusion because users are not always care- 
ful about which category they open to. For 
instance, in the 1988 set in volume 4, the 
keyword sequence for philosophy begins on 
page 541 and a new keyword sequence for 
religion starts on page 559. It is all too easy to 
lookup relevant keywords in the wrong disci- 

Non print Forms of DAI 

Today there are more efficient ways to 
explore the rich CDI lode: by an online search 
in the BRS DISS or the DIALOG 35 files, by 
having UMI staff perform a DATRIX offline 
search, or by using the Dissertation Abstracts 
Ondisc CD-ROM product available in many 
university libraries. With any of these meth- 
ods it is possible either to ignore discipline 
categories altogether or to specify particular 
ones, using codes. One can also qualify a 
search by year or institution to further refine 
the results. 38 One bother accompanies the CD- 
ROM version: the need to swap as many as 
four discs in order to search the entire data- 
base, but this disadvantage is offset by the fact 
that there are no connect time or telecommu- 
nications costs involved as there are with 
online access. 

Eugene Power's brainchild of 1938 is 
now middle-aged, revered, and generally flour- 
ishing, with offspring well established on their 
own. Its growth at times took peculiar turns, 
and its features are far from perfect, but DAI 
will remain a notorious and necessary charac- 
ter in academe as long as dissertations, those 
strange beasties, exist. 



Microfilm Abstracts. Ann Arbor, MI: University 
Microfilms, vol. 1, no. 1, 1938; vol. 2, no. 1, 
1939; vol. 2, no. 2, 1940;vol.3,nos. 1-2,1941; 
vol. 4,no. 1,1942; vol. 4,no. 2, 1943; vol. 5,no. 
1, 1943; vol. 5, no. 2, 1944; vol. 6, nos. 1-2, 
8, nos. 1-2, 1948; vol. 9, nos. 1-2, 1949; vol. 9, 
no. 3, 1950; vol. 10,nos. 1-4, 1950; vol. 11, nos. 
1-4, 1951. 11 vols. 

Dissertation Abstracts, Ann Arbor, MI: University 
Microfilms, vol. 12(1952)-vol.26,no. 12 (June, 
1966). 15 vols. Bimonthly, 1952-1 953; monthly, 
January 1954-June 1966. 

Dissertation Abstracts: A, Humanities and Social 
Sciences. Ann Arbor, MI: University Micro- 
films, vol. 27, no. 1 (July, 1966)-vol.29,no. 12 
(June 1969). 3 vols. Monthly. 

Dissertation Abstracts: B, Sciences and Engineer- 
ing. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms, 
vol. 27, no. 1 (July, 1966)-vol. 29, no. 12 (June, 
1969). 3 vols. Monthly. 

Dissertation Abstracts International: A, Humanities 
and Social Sciences. Ann Arbor, MI: University 
Microfilms International, vol. 30, no. 1 (July, 
1969)- . Monthly. [Also available on microfilm 
or microfiche; orders can be placed for specific 

Dissertation Abstracts International: B, Sciences 
and Engineering. Ann Arbor, MI: University 
Microfilms International, vol. 30, no. 1 (July, 
1969)- . Monthly. [Also available on microfilm 
or microfiche; orders can be placed for specific 

Dissertation Abstracts International: C, European 
Abstracts. Ann Arbor, MI: University Micro- 
films International, vol. 37, no. 1 (Autumn, 
1976)-vol. 49, no. 4 (Winter, 1988). 13 vols. 

Dissertation Abstracts International: C, Worldwide. 
Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms Interna- 
tional, vol. 50, no. 1 (Spring, 1989)- . Quarterly. 


Dissertation Abstracts International, Retrospective 
Index, Volumes I-XXIX. Ann Arbor, MI: Uni- 
versity Microfilms, 1970. 9 vols. 

Comprehensive Dissertation Index, 1 861-19 72 . Ann 
Arbor, MI: Xerox University Microfilms, 1973. 

37 vols. Comprehensive Dissertation Index: 
Supplement, 1973-. Ann Arbor, MI: University 
Microfilms International, 1974-. 5 vols./year. 
Annual. [Also available on microfiche.] 

Comprehensive Dissertation Index: Five-Year Cu- 
mulation, 1973-1977. Ann Arbor, MI: Univer- 
sity Microfilms International, 1979. 19 vols. 

Comprehensive Dissertation Index: Ten-Year Cu- 
mulation, 1973-1982. Ann Arbor, MI: Univer- 
sity Microfilms International, 1984. 38 vols. 

Comprehensive Dissertation Index: Five-Year Cu- 
mulation, 1983-1987. Ann Arbor, MI: Univer- 
sity Microfilms International, 1989. 22 vols. 
[Also available on microfiche and in separate 
packages for either the sciences or the social 
sciences and humanities.] 

Library and Information Science: Selected Collec- 
tion of Doctoral Dissertations and Masters 
Theses, 1984-1988, Ann Arbor, MI: Disserta- 
tion Abstracts International, 1989. 24p. Update 
frequency varies. [This is one of about six dozen 
free subject catalogs extracted from the Com- 
prehensive Dissertation Index database.] 

Machine-Readable Products 

DATRLX. Offline flat-fee search service of the entire 
dissertation and thesis database, available on 
request from University Microfilms Interna- 
tional. 1967- . 

Dissertation Abstracts Online. Covers 1861- ; ab- 
stracts included, July 1980- . Ann Arbor, MI: 
University Microfilms International. Updated 
monthly. [Available as DISS file from BRS 
Information Technologies and as File 35 from 
Dialog Information Services.] 

Dissertation A bstracts Ondisc. Ann Arbor, MI: Uni- 
versity Microfilms International, 1987- . Ar- 
chival I, 1861-June 1980; Archival II, July 
1980-December 1984; Archival III, 1985-1988; 
Current disc, 1989- . Semiannual updates, [In 
1991 two subsets became available as separate 
subscriptions, each subset corresponding to the 
discipline groupings in section A (humanities 
and social sciences) or section B (sciences and 
engineering) of the print tool. In either case, 
there is both an archival disc (1861-1985) and 
a current one (1986- ) with semiannual up- 


The secondary literature on Dissertation 
Abstracts is not large, surprisingly, given that 
it is a major reference tool which has been 

around for half a century. Among the items 
cited below, Colling's article, almost 20 years 
old, is the only overview of DAI before the 





present essay, and Meckler's book is the best 
general history of microforms. Power's auto- 
biography, Edition of One, although it is full of 
interesting anecdotes about his career and 
company, rambles and lacks precise dates. It 
has, however, an appendix which reprints his 
1938 manifesto on the subject of reproducing 
dissertations on microfilm. Moore's two-part 
study is essential for anyone trying to trace 
dissertation bibliographies over time. Orgren's 
brief article helps one appreciate the features 
of DAI as it is today by discussing how imp os- 
sibly confusing it used to be. Shenker's is by 
far the most informative and delightful review 
of the Comprehensive Dissertation Index, 

Asleson, Robert F. "A One-Mi llion-Erltry 'Starting 
Place' for Finding Dissertations." Wilson Li- 
brary Bulletin 46 (September, 1971): 76-77. 
Reply to Scott, below. 

Colling, Patricia M. "Dissertation Abstracts Interna- 
tional." In Encyclopedia of Library and Infor- 
mation Science, editedby Allen Kentand Harold 
Lancour, vol. 7, 238-40. New York: Marcel 
Dekker, 1972. 

Davinson, Donald. Theses and Dissertations As In- 
formation Sources. London: Clive Bingley; 
Hamden, CT: Linnet Books, 1977. 

Dissertation Abstracts Ondisc: Quick Reference 
Guide. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms 
International, 1987. 

Meckler, Alan Marshall Micropublishing: A His- 
tory of Scholarly Micropublishing in America, 
1 938-1980. Contributions in Librarianship and 
Information Science, no. 40. Westport, CT: 
Greenwood Press, 1982, 

Moore, Julie L. "Bibliographic Control of American 
Doctoral Dissertations: A History." Special Li- 
braries 63 (May/June, 1972): 227-30. 

. "Bibliographic Control of American Doc- 
toral Dissertations: An Analysis." Special Li- 
braries 63 (July, 1972): 285-91. 

Orgren, Carl F. "Index to Dissertations Abstracts." 
College and Research Libraries 25 (July, 1964): 

Power, Eugene B., and Robert Anderson. Edition of 
One. The Autobiography of Eugene B. Power, 
Founder of University Microfilms. Ann Arbor, 
MI: University Microfilms International, 1990. 

— -. "Microfilm and the Publication of Doctoral 

Dissertations." Journal of Documentary Repro- 
duction 5 (March, 1942): 37-44. 
— . A Plan for Publication of Scholarly Mate- 

rial on Microfilm, Ann Arbor, MI: University 
Microfilms, 1938. Reprinted in Edition of One: 
The Autobiography of EugeneB. Power, Founder 
of University Microfilms, by Eugene B. Power 
and Robert Anderson, 379-83. Ann Arbor, ML 
University Microfilms International, 1990. 

. "University Microfilms." Journal of Docu- 
mentary Reproduction 2 (March, 1939): 21-28. 

Review of Comprehensive Dissertation Index, 1861- 
1972. Choice 11 (July/August, 1974): 734. 

Scott, Ralph L. "A $1,000 Misunderstanding: UM's 
Indexto Its Dissertation Abstracts International." 
Wilson Library Bulletin 46 (September, 1971): 
73-76. For a reply, see Asleson, above. 

. "Comprehensive Dissertation Index, 1861— 

1972." RQ 14 (Fall, 1974): 61-62. 

Sheehy, Eugene P. Review of Comprehensive Dis- 
sertation Index, 1861-1972. College & Re- 
search Libraries 35 (July, 1974): 245-46. 

Shenker, Israel. "A Xeroxian Synopsis of Ph.D. 
Esoterica." New York Times, February 11,1974, 
p. 37, col, 6; p. 71, col. 4. 

Snelson, Pamela. "Online Access to Dissertations." 
Database 5 (June, 1982): 22-33. 

User's Guide, Dissertation Abstracts Online: How to 
Use the Online Dissertation Database Step-by- 
Step, Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms 
International, 1988. 

Wynar, Bohdan S. Review of Comprehensive Dis- 
sertation Index, 1861-1972. American Refer- 
ence Books Annual 6 (1975): 309-10. 


1 Theodore Ziolkowski, "The Ph.D. Squid," American 

Scholar 59 (Spring 1990): 177-95. 

2 Sec Table I, "Practices of Publication and Loan of 

Doctoral Dissertations," appearing annually, with 
slight title variations, in Doctoral Dissertations 
Accepted by American Universities (New York: H. 
W. Wilson, 1934-1955); Index to American Doc- 
toral Dissertations (Ann Arbor, MI: University 
Microfilms, 1955/1956-1962/1963); and Ameri- 
can Doctoral Dissertations (Ann Arbor, Ml: Uni- 

versity Microfilms International, 1963/1964-1982/ 
1983), This useful information was dropped from 
more recent volumes of the last named title. 
3 The word thesis is often used as a synonym for disser- 
tation, but, in the U.S. at least, the former more 
accurately refers to a report of research conducted 
at the pre- or sub-doctoral stage, the latter to work 
at the doctoral level. That distinction will be main- 
tained throughout this essay. 


4 For an excellent overview of the complex situation in 

the early 1 940s, together with an eloquent rationale 
for filming dissertations, see Eugene B. Power, 
"Microfilm and the Publication of Doctoral Disser- 
tations," Journal of Documentary Reproduction 5 
(March 1942): 37-44. 

5 Michael M. Reynolds, Guide to Theses and Disserta- 

tions: An International Bibliography of Bibliogra- 
phies, rev. and enl. ed. (Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press, 
1985). A similar tool for just master's theses is 
Dorothy M. Black, Guide to Lists of Master's 
Theses (Chicago: American Library Association, 
1 965). The Eugene P, Sheehy, ed., Guide to Refer- 
ence Books, 10th ed., (Chicago: American Library 
Association, 1 986) also identifies numerous disser- 
tation bibliographies via its index. To find disserta- 
tion bibliographies in a library catalog, one can use 
the Library of Congress subject heading 
"Dissertations, Academic — [country] — Bibliogra- 
phy." Bibliographic Index (New York: H. W. 
Wilson, 1 93 8-) lists dissertation bibliographies on 
all subjects together under "Dissertations, Aca- 

6 Dietrich Hans Borchardt and John D, Thawley, Guide to 

the Availability of Theses, IFLAPublicationsno. 17 
(Munich: Saur, 1981); G. G. Allen and K. Deubert, 
Guide to the A vailability of Theses: II, Non-Univer- 
sity Institutions, IFLAPublicationsno. 29 (Munich: 
Saur, 1984); Joseph Z.Nitecki,comp.,Z}j>ectory of 
Library Reprographic Services, 8th ed. (Westport, 
CT: Published for the Reproduction of Library 
Materials Section, American Library Association, 
by Meckler, 1982); Leslie R. Morris and Patsy 
Brautigam, Interlibrary Loan Policies Directory, 
3rd ed. (New York: Neal-Schuman, 1988). 

7 See, for instance, issues of Library & Information 

Science Research (Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1979- ). 

8 Eugene Power has always stressed that his business 

exists to publish dissertations, a verb which the 
universities involved treat loosely to mean "make- 
available-to-save-us-the-trouble." The academic 
establishment, however, would contend that 
pseudo-, quasi-, or ersatz publishing would be 
more accurate, since what Power acknowledges are 
traditional prejudices against microfilm remain en- 
trenched half a century later, as does the conviction 
among experts that dissertations are mere novice 
research reports and only deserve genuine (i.e., 
book) publication after major reworking and inde- 
pendent peer review. A classic essay on the revi- 
s ions involved is Frances G. Halpcnny , "The Thesis 
and the Book," Scholarly Publishing 3 (January 
1972): 111-16. 
^The company was called simply University Microfilms 
from its inception to the middle 1 960s, after which 
it was known as Xerox University Microfilms. The 
name became University Microfilms International 
in June 1976, although it was still owned by Xerox. 
{Dissertation Abstracts had, however, already added 
"International" to its title in July 1969.) "UMI," 
really the corporate logo, appears on letterhead and 
most publications now, but is not the official name. 
In legal contexts University Microfilms, Inc., has 
been used continuously since 1938. 

10 "Microfilm Deal Slated by Xerox/Wov YorkTtmes,2\ 
February 1962, p. 75, col. 2; "Briefs," New York 
Times, 18 December 1985, p. D5, col. 6. 

1 ' For factual information about UMI, the author wishes 
to thank Dorie Mickelson, Marna Clowney, and 
Clare Long of UMI. The opinions and judgments 
expressed are, however, entirely the author's. 

n Alan Marshall Meckler, Micropublishing: A History of 
Scholarly Micro-publishing in America, 1938-1980, 
Contributions in Librarianship and Information 
Science no. 40 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 
1982), 6-7. 

15 Eugene Power was born in Traverse City, Michigan, in 
1905. He received an A.B. from the University of 
Michigan in 1927 and an M.B.A. there in 1930. His 
memoirs, written with Robert Anderson, have ap- 
peared as Edition of One: The Autobiography of 
Eugene B. Power, Founder of University Micro- 
films (Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms Inter- 
national, 1990). Anderson, who died in early 1990, 
was also coauthor with Ray Kroc of Grinding It 
Out: The Making ofMcDonald's (Chicago: Regnery, 
1977), and with Thomas S. Monaghan of Pizza 
Tiger (New York: Random House, 1986), a history 
of Domino's Pizza. The tone of all three books is 
unabashedly egocentric . Power and Monaghan are, 
incidentally, good friends. 

14 From most of the United States the number is 800-52 1 - 

3042. Customers in Alaska or Michigan are told to 
makea collect call to 3 13-761 -4700, ext. 781. From 
Canada the phone is 800-343-5299, ext. 781. There 
is also a fax number, 313-665-5022. 

15 The gigantic microfilm series continues to this day 

under the title Marly English Books, using as its 
bibliographic basis Alfred William Pollard and G. 
R. Redgrave, Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed 
in England, Scotland and Ireland, and of English 
Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640 (London: Bib- 
liographical Society, 1926; reprinted Oxford; Ox- 
ford University Press, 1946). 

16 Eugene B. Power, A Plan for Publication of Scholarly 

Material on Microfilm (Ann Arbor, Ml: University 
Microfilms, 1938); reprinted in Power and Ander- 
son, Edition of One, 379-80. 

17 Ibid., 380. The charge was originally $15 and has 

increased to $25 in 1990, although it is explained 
today as a fee for having UMI copyright the disser- 
tation, not as a filming fee. Also, the maximum 
length of an abstract has fluctuated in the past, with 
700 words allowed at one time but only 350 in 
recent years. This reduction coincided approxi- 
mately with the inclusion of full-text abstracts in the 
BRS and DIALOG databases and in UMI's own 
CD-ROM product, effective with titles added in 
July 1980. 

18 Ibid., 380. Thus, at$.0125 per page, microfilm of a 486- 

page dissertation came to $6.08. Paper "enlarge- 
ments" were also offered at six cents per page, or 
$29.16 for the same item. To compare, as of January 
1991, prices for dissertations from UMI, regardless 
of length, are as follows: when ordered by anyone 
affiliated with an academic institution, $27.00 for 
either 35 mm microfilm or 98-frame microfiche; 



$32,50 fora paper copy withsoftcover;arid$39. 50 
for a paper copy with hard cover. Prices for orders 
from outside academe are, respectively, $11.00, 
$21.00, and $25.00 higher. Shipping and handling 
are extra and vary dependingon the delivery method 
chosen. Orders arrive in three to four weeks. 

"Eugene B. Power, "Introduction," to Microfilm Ab- 
stracts 1, no. 1 (1938): v-vi. 

w Ibid., vi. Emphasis added. 

11 Eugene B. Power, "Introduction," to Microfilm Ab- 
stracts %, no. 2 (1948): iv. 

22 An example of a monograph abstract appended to the 
end of occasional issues of Microfilm Abstracts is 
a work in several parts by Joshua Whatmough, 
entitled "The Dialects of Ancient Gaul," As each 
section appeared, it was separately abstracted dur- 
ing 1950 and 1951. 

23 In early years, both Microfilm Abstracts and Disserta- 
tion Abstracts included "title" and author indexing 
for two other abstracting publications, one put out 
at Pennsylvania State University and the other at 
Colorado State University. Therefore, some of the 
816 entries in volume 11 were to dissertations 
available on film from those institutions only and 
not from Ann Arbor, 

^Publishing Your Dissertation: How to Prepare Your 
Manuscript for Publication (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI 
Dissertation Services, n.d.), 

"Publishers Weekly 133 (1 9 February 1938), 938; ALA 
Bulletin 33 (February 1939): 89; Journal of Docu- 
mentary Reproduction 2 (March 1939): 44-45. 
Publishers Weekly said Power' s plan "may be revo- 
lutionary in the Field of scholarly publishing." 

26 Compare a subscription at $6.00 per year with the 

standing order price in late 1 990 of sections A and 
B together at $495, including the author indexes, 
and of section C, which has four rather than twelve 
issues, at another $515. Despite these subscription 
rates, "UMI actually produces £Wat a loss, expect- 
ing dissertation copy sales to offset the production 
costs of the reference tools." (Dorie Micfcelson, 
Manager of Database and Bibliographic Opera- 
tions, UMI Dissertation Information Services Unit, 
letter to the author, 17 October 1990.) Volume 12 
was also the first to list, in issue number 6, which 
institutions were represented, although the starting 
year for each university's involvement with UMI 
was only indicated beginning with volume 26 in 
July 1965, and then always with caveats to the 
effect that some participating schools only supply 
abstracts and do not have their dissertations filmed 
or distributed by UMI. Lastly, in 19S2.04 increased 
in size from its original squat 5.5" x 8.25" dimen- 
sions to the 8.5" x 1 1" format it has today. 

27 "Introduction," to Dissertation Abstracts 19 (July 


28 "Introduction," to Dissertation Abstracts Interna- 

tional: A, The Humanities and Social Sciences 30 
(July 1969): [iii]. 

29 "UMI to Distribute Canadian Dissertations," news 

release (Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms 
International, 1 March 1990). 

30 "Introduction," to Dissertation Abstracts Interna- 

tional: C, Worldwide 5\ (Spring 1990): v. There is 
now a separate abstracting tool for British disserta- 
tions, Index to Theses with Abstracts Accepted for 
Higher Degrees by the Universities of Great Britain 
and Ireland and the Council for National Academic 
Awards, vol. 35- (London: Aslib, 1986-). 

31 Carl F. Orgren, "Index to Dissertation Abstracts," 

College & Research Libraries 25 (July 1964): 279- 

32 For coverage of earlier years, see Microfilm Abstracts 

Author Index, CoveringVolumesl-11, 1938-1951, 
compiled by the Georgia Chapter of the Special 
Libraries Association with the cooperation of Uni- 
versity Microfilms (Atlanta: Georgia Chapter Spe- 
cial Libraries Association, 1956). 

33 U.S. Library of Congress Catalog Division, List of 

American Doctoral Dissertations Printed in 1912- 
1938 ("Washington: Government Printing Office, 
1913-39) ; Doctoral Dissertations Accepted by 
American Universities, compiled for the National 
Research Council and the American Council of 
Learned Societies by the Association of Research 
Libraries (New York: H. W. Wilson, 1934-55); 
Index to American Doctoral Dissertations (Ann 
Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International, 
1955/56-1 962/63); American Doctoral Disserta- 
tions (Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms Inter- 
national, 1 963/64- ). For a detailed discussion of 
the inter-relationships and characteristics of these 
tools, see the two-part article by Julie L. Moore, 
"Bibliographic Control of American Doctoral Dis- 
sertations," Special Libraries 63 (May/June 1 972): 
227-30 and (July 1972): 285-91. 

14 Ralph L. Scott, "A Si, 000 Misunderstanding; UM's 
Index to Its Dissertation Abstracts International," 
Wilson Library Bulletin 46 (September 1971): 73. 
A rejoinder by Robert Asleson, then president of 
University Microfilms, follows. 

33 See review of Comprehensive Dissertation Index, 
1861-1972, Choice 1 1 (July/August 1974): 734; 
Eugene P. Sheehy, review of Comprehensive Dis- 
sertation Index. 1861-1 972,College & Research 
Libraries 35 (July 1974); 245-46; Israel Shenker, 
"A Xeroxian Synopsis of Ph.D. Esoterica," New 
York Times, 11 February 1974, p. 37, col. 6, p. 71, 
col, 4; Bohdan S. Wynar, review of Comprehensive 
Dissertation Index, 1861-1972, American Refer- 
ence Books Annual 6 (1975): 309-10. 

'* Shenker, p. 37, col. 8. 

37 Ralph L. Scott, review of Comprehensive Dissertation 

Index, 1861-1 972, RQ 14 (Fall 1974): 62. 

38 User's Guide: Dissertation Abstracts Online (Ann 

Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International, 
1988); Dissertation Abstracts Ondisc: Quick Ref- 
erence Guide (Ann Arbor, MLUniversity Micro- 
Films International, 1987). 

The Circle of Learning: 
Encyclopaedia Britannica 

Sandy Whiteley 


Encyclopaedia Britannica, first published in 
1768, is the second oldest continuously pub- 
lished reference workin the English language. 
As an encyclopedia it had several centuries of 
precursors. Ephraim Chambers' Cyclopaedia 
or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences 
(not to be confused with the modern 
Chambers's Encyclopaedia), first published 
in Great Britain in 1728, was the inspiration 
for Diderot's famous Encyclopedic (1751— 
1765), which, in turn, directly stimulated the 
creation of EB. 

EB's origins lie in Edinburgh, where it 
was first published in individual parts which 
subscribers had bound into volumes. Later it 
was published in half-volumes, then volumes; 
by the eleventh edition (1910-11) all the vol- 
umes in the set except the index were pub- 
lished at once, as we know it today. Early 
editions were sold on subscription; the pub- 
lishers used the proceeds from the sale of first 
parts or volumes to pay for the production of 
later ones, which sometimes resulted in a 
drawn-out publication schedule of more than 
a decade. Although encyclopedias are still 
called subscription books, they aren't sold that 
way any more. The term has come to mean 
books sold in the home and in the contempo- 
rary U.S., that is largely encyclopedias. 

Encyclopedias can be organized in one of 
two principal ways: systematically/topically 

or alphabetically. Within an alphabetically ar- 
ranged set, an encyclopedia's articles can 
cover either broad or specific subjects. Each 
combination of organizational options has its 
virtues. The alphabetical sequence is easy to 
use and is neutral (it doesn't favor one philo- 
sophical arrangement of knowledge over an- 
other), butit scatters various aspects of knowl- 
edge. The first 14 editions of EB were ar- 
ranged in one alphabet, but varied from edi- 
tion to edition to the degree to which broad or 
specific entries were used. With the fifteenth 
edition, some elements of a systematic/topical 
arrangement were introduced. 

Andrew Belt and Colin Macfarquhar 

The first edition of EB was conceived by 
two Scots, Andrew Bell and Colin 
Macfarquhar, an engraver and a printer. They 
were responsible for getting subscribers and 
hired William Smellie, a printer who had 
apprenticed for the printer to the University of 
Edinburgh, as editor. This first edition ap- 
peared in 100 parts between 1768 and 1771 
with a total of 2,689 pages. There were 160 
copperplate engravings scattered through the 
set, 1 The encyclopedia doesn't appear to have 
been very well planned. The articles for A-B 
took up the first volume, those for C-L the 
next, and the whole second hal f of the alphabet 
was squeezed into volume 3. The set con- 
tained 75 lengthy articles (on broad topics 





such as anatomy, chemistry, and law), some of 
them over 100 pages long, with brief dictio- 
nary-type articles, many of which were only 
one sentence long, interspersed. This edition 
of EB, like several that followed, contained 
articles digested from other sources plus new 
material written by the editor. It is not known 
how much of this set Smellie actually wrote 
himself, but it appears that his contribution 
was substantial. There were no biographies 
but many practical articles gave instructions 
on surgery, counterfeiting emeralds, and bee- 
keeping as well as other aspects of farming, 
reflecting Smellie's view that "Utility ought to 
be the principal intention of every publica- 
tion." 2 The encyclopedia inevitably reflected 
the level of knowledge of the day and much 
superstition and prejudice appeared. Califor- 
nia was described as "a large country of the 
West Indies." But the article "Midwifery" was 
illustrated with engravings that showed nor- 
mal and abnormal deliveries in clinical detail, 
creating a scandal among some subscribers. 
More than 3,000 sets were sold and the ency- 
clopedia was popular enough to be issued in a 
pirated edition by London publishers. 3 

Bell and Macfarquhar issued the second 
edition between 1777 and 1784 in 181 parts 
which were later bound in ten quarto volumes. 
It was almost three times larger than the first 
edition (8,595 pages) and contained maps and 
340 copperplates. The new editor, James 
Tytler, was an unsuccessful surgeon turned 
writer. Many articles from the first edition 
were retained and Tytler wrote new ones. This 
edition included biographies of deceased per- 
sons and geographical articles were expanded 
to include history. Like the first edition, many 
entries reflected a literal acceptance of the 
Bible. For instance, in "Chronology," the date 
of the world's creation was given as 4004 BC, 
and floor plans of Noah's ark were provided. 
Longer articles sometimes had indexes printed 
at the end of them. 

Bell and Macfarquhar also published the 
third edition between 1788 and 1797, hiring a 
series of editors. It was almost twice as large 
as the second, with 14,579 pages in 18 vol- 

umes and 542 engravings. Many articles con- 
tinued to be reprinted from the earlier editions. 
The third was popular all through the British 
Isles (13,000 sets were printed), 4 and it was the 
first of many editions to be issued in a pirated 
edition in the U.S. American publishers re- 
wrote some entries they thought too British 
(such as the one on the United States). (The 
U. S. copyright law at that time protected only 
American authors. Britannica continues to be 
pirated today, this time in Asia. 5 ) A two- 
volume supplement was published in 1 80 1 . Its 
article on chemistry was the first in EB to use 
chemical symbols. This edition was the first to 
be dedicated to thereigning sovereign, a prac- 
tice continued in every subsequent edition. 

The fourth edition was published in parts 
between 1801 and 1809. Its 20 volumes con- 
tained 16,033 pages. By this time Macfarquhar 
was dead and Bell was the sole publisher. This 
edition was edited by Dr. James Millar, clas- 
sical scholar and physician. Most volumes 
were little more than reprints of the third 
edition. Some new articles were added, among 
them a full description of Jenner's successful 
use of vaccination against cowpox in 1796. 
The fourth edition's additions reflect Millar's 
interests in chemistry and natural history. 

After Bell's death, the copyright for EB 
was purchased from his heirs by Edinburgh 
publisher Archibald Constable. HehiredMillar 
to edit the fifth edition as well. Published in 
1815, it was a corrected version of the fourth 
edition with some new articles. In 20 volumes 
with more than 16,000 pages, it was the first 
edition of Britannica to be advertised in news- 
papers, the principal advertising medium of 
the day. 

Refinements in Procedures and 

By the nineteenth century, several other 
encyclopedias were being published in Great 
Britain. To compete, Constable recruited au- 
thorities to write about the subjects they knew 
best for a six- volume supplement to Britannica. 


For the first time, most articles were signed 
original contributions rather than, as in the 
past, digests of previously publishedmaterial. 
Britannica was the first encyclopedia to print 
initials at the end of the articles; a key linked 
these to the names of the authors, Some of the 
well known contributors were Sir Walter Scott 
on chivalry, William Hazlitt on fine arts, and 
Thomas Malthus on population. There also 
were foreign contributors. Edited by Macvey 
Napier, librarian and scholar, and published 
between 1815 and 1 824, these volumes served 
as a supplement to the fourth and fifth editions 
and to the sixth edition, which was issued 
concurrently with the supplement. The six 
volumes were issued in half-volume parts and 
totaled 5,000 pages containing 125 plates. 
One-quarter of the 669 articles were biogra- 
phies, all treating deceased subjects. 

The sixth edition, also published in parts 
between 1 820 and 1 823 by Constable, was just 
a corrected version of the fifth with a few new 
articles. Cross-references were added, lead- 
ing from the main volumes to the supplement. 
After the death of Constable, the copyrights 
were bought by Edinburgh bookshop owner 
Adam Black, later of the publishing firm of A 
& C Black. He issued the seventh edition, also 
edited by Napier, between 1830 and 1842. 
This set of 22 volumes and 17, 101 pages with 
506 plates represented a greater increase in 
size than the numbers might indicate because 
the pages were now larger, It was a revision of 
previous editions, incorporating some of the 
best articles from the supplement. New ar- 
ticles included Thomas de Quincey on 
Shakespeare, Pope, and Schiller. The seventh 
edition was heavily advertised and was the 
first to have a separate index. "While the qual- 
ity of the indexing was not good, this inclusion 
of an index set a precedent that other encyclo- 
pedias were to follow (but that Britannica 
itself abandoned for a time more than a cen- 
tury later). 

The eighth edition was edited by Dr. Tho- 
mas Stewart Traill, professor at the University 
of Edinburgh, replacing Napier, who had died. 

It was published between 1 852 and 1 860 in 22 
volumes with 17,957 pages. Some classic 
articles, including pieces by Scott, Ricardo, 
and Malthus, were reprinted, New articles 
included biographies by Macaulay of Samuel 
Johnson, JohnBunyan, Oliver Goldsmith, and 
William Pitt. An American contributor, the 
president of Harvard, appeared for the first 
time, writing on George Washington. New 
topics included photography, Communism, 
and the telegraph. In addition to separate pages 
of engraved plates, many illustrations from 
line blocks were inserted in the text. 

The Celebrated Ninth Edition 

The aging Black wasn't interested in a 
new edition, but his sons prevailed upon him 
and took over the firm. The resulting ninth 
edition, often called the Scholar's Edition, 
reflected the changes in intellectual thought 
occasioned by Darwin' s Origin of the Species. 
It is one of the most famous of all encyclope- 
dias and can still be found in many libraries 
today . For the first time, the set had an English 
rather than a Scottish editor, Professor Tho- 
mas Baynes, a Shakespearean scholar at St. 
Andrews University. The 25 volumes pre- 
sented the work of 1 , 1 00 contributors and took 
1 4 years to produce, being completed in 1 8 89. 
The articles are often described as leisurely 
nineteenth-century essays — long and beauti- 
fully written. T.H. Huxley wrote on evolution; 
Lord Rayleigh, who later won the Nobel Prize, 
on physics; and Lord Kelvin on chemistry. 
Algernon Charles Swinburne wrote on John 
Keats and Dante Gabriel Rossetti contributed 
biographies of painters. The article on anar- 
chism was written by the revolutionary Prince 
Kropotkin. James G. Frazer, then an unknown 
Cambridge don, wrote on anthropology. He 
later said his research tot Britannica articles 
marked the beginning of his systematic study 
of the subject which led to the publication of 
The Golden Bough. The ninth edition took a 
progressive stand on religious and scientific 
questions. W. Robertson Smith wrote many of 



the ninth edition's articles that presented a 
historical interpretation of Christianity . As a 
result, he lost his position as a clergyman and 
became joint editor of the ninth edition. Some 
innovations in this edition were the use of 
colored plates and colored maps. Dates were 
given for a person's birth and death, an inno- 
vation despite the long presence of biogra- 
phies in Britannica, and longer articles were 
supplied with bibliographies. Because publi- 
cation of a volume was dependent on revenues 
from previous volumes, publication was a 
protracted process, and the earlier volumes 
were somewhat outdated by the time the later 
ones appeared. The ninth edition contained 
1 7,000 articles in 20,000 pages in 24 volumes. 
Some out-of-date articles were retained from 
the eighth edition but in the main this was a 
new work. Though scholarly, it did have some 
articles on practical topics, such as cookery, 
croquet, and making snowshoes. 

Five times as many sets were sold in the 
U.S., where an authorized edition was distrib- 
uted by Scribner's and Little, Brown, as in 
Great Britain. But even after the International 
Copyright Law was passed in the U.S. in 1 89 1 , 
piracy continued. Despite competition from 
such U.S. encyclopedias as the Encyclopedia 
Americana, 45,000 authorized sets 6 of the 
ninth edition were sold in the U. S . a s well as an 
unknown number of pirated sets. 

The late nineteenth century saw a boom in 
subscription book sales in the U. S . There were 
door-to-door sales of all sorts of books — 
cookbooks, Bibles, legal books, biographies — 
especially in the rural U.S. where people had 
no access to bookstores. While on vacation in 
England, Horace Everett Hooper, who had 
worked for subscription distributors, learned 
of a new printing of the ninth edition of 
Encyclopaedia Britannica. In 1 898 he entered 
into a joint venture with the London Times to 
sell an inexpensive reprint of the ninth edition 
on credit. He was the first to apply installment 
buying to books. He also applied the new 
advertising techniques being used to sell soap 
and cigarettes to selling EB. By this time A & 
C Black had moved from Edinburgh to Lon- 

don, and Hooper bought the rights to reprint 
the ninth edition from them. The Times was in 
a bad financial state and needed this new 
source of revenue. They ran advertisements 
and took orders, for which they received a 
commission. The reprint was sold at a more 
than 60 percent price reduction and was enor- 
mously successful, so much so that the need 
for a supplement was seen. A & C Black's 
ownership of Britannica began to be liqui- 
dated. By 1 90 1 EB was owned by Hooper and 
another American, Walter Montgomery Jack- 
son. An American editorial office was opened 
for the first time and Hooper' s brother Franklin 
was made American editor. Journalist Hugh 
Chisholm was named editor in London, where 
the main editorial office remained. 

The Twentieth Century 

The tenth edition (1902-03) reprinted the 
25 volumes of the ninth edition (some of 
which were now 25 years old) and added 1 1 
more. The new volumes contained photo- 
graphs, a first for Britannica. A single index 
volume covered both the old volumes and the 
new ones. Hooper designed a frenzied adver- 
tising campaign for Britannica. There was 
even a contest with one of the prizes a schol- 
arship to Oxford or Cambridge. Sales agents 
were sent throughout the Empire and even to 
Japan. Some Britons scorned the "Yankee 
invasion" and the use of American advertising 
tactics. Hooper now took on the additional job 
of advertising director of the Times. Ahead of 
his time in many ways, Hooper got the Times 
involved in selling discounted books which 
led to conflict with other publishers and even- 
tually to the sale of the newspaper. Britannica 's 
contract with the Times was cancelled. 

During this time work was proceeding on 
a totally new eleventh edition. Jackson was 
now more active in an American firm, the 
Grolier Society, which was publishing The 
Book of Knowledge, the precursor of today's 
New Book of Knowledge. Conflict arose be- 
tween Hooper and Jackson because Hooper 
wanted a completely new eleventh edition and 


Jackson wanted to reuse some of the ninth and 
tenth editions. Their discord led to a series of 
lawsuits, and work was suspended on the new 
edition while Jackson and Hooper tried to buy 
each other out. Finally, Hooper worked out an 
arrangement with Cambridge University Press 
that enabled him to publish the eleventh edi- 
tion. Though Cambridge did not put up any 
money and was to get a royalty on each set 
sold, its backing enabled Hooper to borrow 
money to finish the set. The university had the 
right to read all articles before publication and 
to censor ads and as a result the ads were 
considerably less florid than Hooper liked. 
For instance, he had to change a hyperbolic ad 
that read "The Source of all Knowledge" to 
the tamer "The Key to All Knowledge." 7 

The eleventh edition of Britannica has 
been called the finest ever published. Issued in 
1910-191 1, it had 1,507 contributors, among 
them 168 fellows of the Royal Society. Fa- 
mous contributors included Thomas Huxley, 
Bertrand Russell, Nicholas Murray Butler, 
Frederick Jackson Turner, Robert Louis 
Stevenson, and Alfred North Whitehead. Brit- 
ish contributors were still the largest number, 
but Americans were next, outnumbering Eu- 
ropeans. It was the first edition to acknowl- 
edge the importance of the American market 
by being dedicated to the president of the 
United States as well as the king. It was also 
the first edition to be typeset and printed in the 
United States as well as in Great Britain. It was 
printed on thin, opaque India paper, the kind 
used for Bibles. Because the ninth edition had 
been issued over so many years, it hadbecome 
a collection of monographs which were not 
very unified. The eleventh edition was not just 
a revision of the ninth; editorial planning and 
control were much improved and more edito- 
rial work was done on contributions than in 
any previous edition. This edition took more 
of a specific-entry approach than the ninth, 
splitting up topics from the ninth edition into 
more short articles. Although the new set was 
only slightly larger, the eleventh edition con- 
tained 40,000 articles versus 17,000 in the 

ninth edition. It was more of a practical refer- 
ence work for lay people than just a source for 
scholars. There was a drift toward populariza- 
tion, with more biographies of contemporary 
people. Most critics found it far more read- 
able. The public agreed; morethan75 ,000 sets 
were sold.* 

Sale and Resale of BB 

After one last legal battle, Hooper finally 
bought Jackson out in 1914, Hooper decided 
to issue a biennial book to update the eleventh 
edition and published it in 1913 as the 
Britannica Year Book. Nearly a quarter of the 
pages were devoted to American topics. There 
were plans for a children's encyclopedia but 
the outbreak of World War I caused the can- 
cellation of that project as sales of Britannica 
dropped sharply and plans for future editions 
of the Year Book were shelved as well. Hooper 
returned to the U.S. His next project was a 
photo-reduced set of the eleventh edition of 
Britannica^ the "Handy Volume" edition, to 
be sold through the Sears & Roebuck catalog 
for $55. It was very successful, with 200,000 
sets sold. 9 With U.S. entry into the war in 
1917, President Wilson asked for a curtail- 
ment of installment buying and sales of the 
"Handy Volume" edition dropped dramati- 
cally. As he had done previously when faced 
with a financial crisis, Hooper tried to align EB 
with a major university or scholarly society, 
but was unsuccessful. Sears, led by philan- 
thropist Julius Rosenwald, came to the rescue 
and bought the set. 

In 1920 Hooper undertook a supplement 
to treat the war years. Contributors included 
the president of the new republic of Czecho- 
slovakia, Thomas Masaryk, and General 
Danilov writing on the Russian Army. Many 
articles were devoted to blow-by-blow ac- 
counts of particular battles, but little attention 
was paid to the humanities. For instance, 16 
pages were devoted to artillery but only four to 
music. The so-called twelfth edition was made 
up of the eleventh edition and these three 



supplementary volumes published in 1921- 
22. Upon Hooper' s death in 1 922, his brother- 
in-law William Cox bought the company. 
Seats had lost $1,800,000 on EB and was 
happy to sell it to him.' 

The thirteenth edition (1926) was edited 
by James Garvin, an Irish journalist with pro- 
American views. It was really just another 
three- volume supplement to the eleventh edi- 
tion. However, it continued the practice of 
recruiting expert contributors. Leon Trotsky 
wrote the biography of Vladimir Lenin and H. 
L. Mencken, Carl Van Doren, Louis 
Untermeyer, and W.E.B, DuBois wrote on 
American literature. Andrew Mellon wrote on 
finance, Amos Alonzo Stagg on football, and 
Bernard Baruch on war debts. It was the first 
edition to contain color photographs. 

Cox finished a completely new fourteenth 
edition in 1929 on the eve of the Depression. 
He approached the University of Chicago to 
take over the company and publish the new 
edition in cooperation with Cambridge Uni- 
versity, but the plan fell through, so once again 
Julius Rosenwald of Sears put up over $1 
million," Garvin continued as editor in the 
U.K. and Franklin Hooper remained as the 
American editor. The 24-volume set had 3 ,500 
contributors, half of them Americans. Advi- 
sors for subject areas included Julian Huxley, 
JohnDewey, and Roscoe Pound, and 1 8 Nobel 
Prizewinners contributed articles, among them 
Albert Einstein writing on Space-Time. Even 
celebrities contributed to the set: Gene Tunney 
onboxing and Irene Castle on dancing, part of 
an attempt to popularize Britannica. This edi- 
tion furnished instructions on how to swim, 
play golf, drive a car, and do handicrafts. 
Famous articles from previous editions — Tho- 
mas Babington Macauley on Dr. Johnson, for 
instance— were reprinted with only slight re- 
vision. The set still had a British orientation— 
for instance, the article on checkers was under 
Draughts, the one on pensions under Superan- 
nuation. Cox ran out of money and had to 
cancel articles and reuse some from previous 
editions in shortened form. Sears bought the 

set once more, this time from Cox. The new 
edition was enthusiastically received in the 
U.S. but was criticized in Great Britain for 
being too American and too popular in tone . In 
the U.S. most sets were sold through the mail. 
The Depression cut into sales and they re- 
mained low through the 1930s. When 
Rosenwald died, Sears had a new president 
who thought the acquisition of EB had been a 
mistake. Cox retired and the new publisher 
was a Sears executive who dropped mail- 
order sales and built up the door-to-door sales 
force, still the main sales method used today. 

The Fourteenth Edition and 
Continuous Revision 

With the fourteenth edition, there was a 
major change in the way Britannica was pub- 
lished, with the implementation of a system of 
continuous revision. This means that some 
percentage of articles are updated every year 
on a flexible schedule instead of entirely new 
editions being published periodically. It is the 
standard procedure for encyclopedia revision 
today in the U.S. (though not in Europe). The 
practice of continuous revision began because 
Sears did not want to put up large sums for a 
new edition after the fourteenth; yet the sales 
staff said that the set must be kept current, 
After extensive study, they found that with 
continuous revision they could keep a regular 
staff instead of hiring a large one for a new 
edition and firing them when it was done. A 
number of competitors {Encyclopedia Ameri- 
cana, World Boole) had already started using 
this system. From this point, the size of the set 
remained fairly constant until the fifteenth 
edition. The company offices were central- 
ized in Chicago; Walter Yust became editor; 
and, over time, the set was restyled, and the 
index redone. 

In 1 936 the Library Research Service was 
established. Its purpose is to provide for pur- 
chasers answers to questions that could not be 
found in EB. Purchasers were allowed to ask 
as many questions as they wanted for ten years 


after buying the set. Researchers scoured 
Chicago libraries to respond to these requests. 
The service became so popular that a limit had 
to be placed on the number of questions that 
could be asked. (Today the service answers 
135,000 questions a year.) The idea of a 
yearbook was revived and the Britannica Book 
of the Year was published in 1938 and contin- 
ues to be issued annually, though publication 
was suspended during World War II. Through 
1968 separate yearbooks were published for 
the U. S . and the U.K., but since then there has 
been one international edition. 

The University of Chicago 

As the nation pulled out of the Depres- 
sion, sales and profits improved but Sears still 
felt that EB was not an appropriate business 
for the company and wanted to sell it. It was 
felt that in order to maintain the set's reputa- 
tion, it shouldnotbe sold to a commercial firm. 
In 1942, Sears tried to interest the University 
of Chicago in EB again. William Benton, 
founder of the advertising agency of Benton 
and Bowles and eventually senator from Con- 
necticut, was vice-president for public rela- 
tions at the university. After initial discussions 
with Sears, he recommended to university 
President Robert Maynard Hutchins that they 
try to persuade Sears to donate EB to the 
university. Sears agreed to do this, but the 
university trustees turned the offer down be- 
cause the university would have had to put up 
some working capital. Benton was so enthusi- 
astic about the gift that he agreed to put up the 
money and assume management of the com- 
pany. Under this plan Benton would own two- 
thirds of the stock and the university one-third, 
with an option to buy half of Benton's stock. 
The university would get a royalty on each set 
sold and three of the nine directors of the 
company would be university trustees. The 
trustees finally agreed to this arrangement. 

Benton expanded the company, and 
bought an educational film company which 

became Encyclopaedia Britannica Films. 
During World War II, sales rose rather than 
fell, as they had in World War I. However, 
after the war, when consumers were able to 
buy cars and other consumer items again, 
sales dropped. A financial crisis developed in 
1947 and a new president was brought in, a 
former executive with World Book, That year 
the first Board of Editors was established, 
chaired by Hutchins, with the charge to con- 
sider questions of general editorial policy. 
These questions may range from the decision 
to create a new edition or some other major 
publication to a debate over the proper treat- 
ment of history. The board's members alert 
editors to changes in the scholarly community 
that may affect EB and help it maintain an 
international perspective. In 1952, EB pub- 
lished Great Books of the Western World, 
edited by Mortimer Adler, who became chair- 
man of EB's Editorial Board after the retire- 
ment of Hutchins. After Walter Yust, who had 
been editor from 1938 to 1960, retired, Harry 
Ashmore, a journalist, was editor from 19 60 to 
1963. Color pictures in the body of text, rather 
than in separate inserts, were introduced in 
1 963 . In 1 96 1 EB bought Compton 's Encyclo- 
pedia. Today EB also owns dictionary pub- 
lisher Merriam- Webster, Evelyn Wood Read- 
ing Dynamics, Britannica Software, and 
Britannica Learning Centers. 

In 1964 the fourteenth edition was criti- 
cized by Harvey Einbinder in his book The 
Myth of the Britannica (New York: Grove 
Press). He found over 600 articles in the 1963 
set that had been taken from the eleventh and 
ninth editions. Some of these articles were 
almost 1 00 years old. Those written by famous 
contributors were openly retained and still 
carried their names, occasionally with a note 
explaining why this classic article was re- 
printed. But in other cases articles by un- 
known contributors were reprinted without 
their initials. Einbinder found obsolete statis- 
tics — for instance, almost 20 years after World 
War II the article on Warsaw said its popula- 
tion was 30 percent Jewish. Articles on clas- 

<£= _«_41IIUJJU^ 



sical writers dated back to a time when a 
classical education was the mark of an edu- 
cated person and so contained lines in Latin or 
Greek without translation. He found that inad- 
equate updating had led to inconsistencies 
among articles. Biographies often didn't re- 
flect the relative importance of people in the 
contemporary world. For instance, the article 
on Theodore Roosevelt was more than twice 
as long as the one on Franklin Delano 

Britannica 3 

The editors of EB were not unaware of 
problems and planning was already underway 
for a totally new edition. After more than 35 
years of continuous revision, EB was losing its 
focus. The editors felt that they couldn't con- 
tinue to just cut and paste; they needed a clear 
concept of what the encyclopedia should be. 
As early as 1961 studies had begun on a new 
plan; Mortimer Adler worked out the scheme 
between 1965 and 1968. In 1968 work on a 
revision began in great secrecy; the company 
managed to keep the new edition under wraps 
until just before publication in 1974. 

The general editor of the fifteenth edition 
was Warren Preece, former English professor 
at the University of Chicago, and the execu- 
tive editor was Philip Goetz, who became 
editor-in-chief in 1 979. This edition had 3,000 
pages in 30 volumes, 1 9, 000 photographs, and 
an editorial price tag of $32,000,000. n It had 
4,000 contributors, many of them quite distin- 
guished, from 100 countries. While Ameri- 
cans made up the largest number and British 
next, almost every part of the world except 
Africa was well represented. Its publication in 
1974 was widely hailed as the publishing 
event of the year with wide media coverage. It 
was not just a new edition but a new encyclo- 
pedia with a totally different orientation. 

The editors looked anew at the whole 
concept of the encyclopedia. A review of the 
day observed that "They have tried imagina- 
tively to solve the problems that all modern 

encyclopedias face and to provide with au- 
thority and accuracy for all of the varied uses 
that people make of general reference books, 
from the fast factual check to the extended 
search. And they have gone beyond this to 
attempt to create a tool for systematic self- 
teaching." 13 The concept was developed by 
Benton, Hutchins, and Adler, but the rear- 
rangement reflected Adler' s interest in self- 
education, and his love for classification and 
bringing a unity to knowledge — the encyclo- 
pedia as the "circle of learning." It was in a 
three-part form that tried to combine the best 
of both a topical and alphabetical arrangement 
and hence was known as Britannica 3. The 
one- volume Propaedia took a topical approach, 
the ten- volume Micropaedia strictly an alpha- 
betical one, and the nineteen-volume 
Macropaedia combined aspects of both. The 
Propaedia served to impose a topical arrange- 
ment on the set by organizing knowledge in 
outline form under ten broad headings. There 
is no index to the Propaedia and it is difficult 
for the unsophisticated reader to use. This 
volume appears to be the least-used part of the 
encyclopedia. The Macropaedia had about 
4,200 long articles, averaging 5 pages, but 
with some over 1 00 pages long. These lengthy 
articles were intended to overcome the frag- 
mentation of knowledge that often occurs in 
encyclopedias and were to serve the self- 
education function. All articles in the 
Macropaedia were signed and were espe- 
cially written for the fifteenth edition. For the 
first time, maps were placed throughout the set 
with the articles they were intended to illus- 
trate, rather than being isolated in an atlas in 
the last volume. As an interesting experiment, 
Russian contributors were asked to write many 
articles on the Soviet Union. These were not 
well received; in that jnz-Glasnost era, they 
were biased and they have largely been re- 
placedin later revisions. Some reviewers criti- 
cized the Macropaedia for retaining an alpha- 
betical arrangement, rather than being ar- 
ranged topically. Since the EB editors had 
criticized the typical encyclopedia alphabet!- 


cal arrangement for the wayitfragments knowl- 
edge, some thought it an indefensible incon- 
sistency to create a hybrid that retained that 
arrangement in part. 

The Micropaedia served the ready refer- 
ence function and had about 100,000 articles, 
none of them more than 750 words long. These 
articles were not signed. A list of 2,600 au- 
thorities were given for the Micropaedia, but 
many articles were written by freelance writ- 
ers or staff. Some reviewers criticized the 
Micropaedia because many of the entries were 
just abstracts of articles in the fourteenth edi- 
tion, but others, especially librarians, found it 
to be the most useful part of the set. Most of the 
illustrations intheset werehere. Every subject 
in the Macropaedia also had a much shorter 
entry in the Micropaedia with a reference to 
the Macropaedia section. Most biographies 
were in the Micropaedia but over 1,000 were 
found in the Macropaedia. Reviewers com- 
plained that it sometimes was not clear why 
one person merited a long Macropaedia ar- 
ticle and another got only brief coverage in the 
Micropaedia. For example, Aleksander 
Suvorov, an eighteenth-century Russian mili- 
tary commander, received full coverage in the 
Macropaedia while nineteenth-century Brit- 
ish poet Algernon Charles Swinburne received 
only brief treatment in the Micropaedia. There 
were few bibliographies in the Micropaedia, 
An addendum to the last volume of the 
Micropaedia contained statistics and direc- 
tory information that was likely to need fre- 
quent updating. Reviewers complained that 
this information was likely to be overlooked 
and, in 1 985, it was moved to the yearbook, to 
become the "Britannica World Data "section. 
Britannica 3 originally had no separate index. 
Instead, the Micropaedia had an elaborate 
system of cross-references that was to serve in 
place of an index. This was the most widely 
criticized flaw of the fifteenth edition, both by 
librarians and the public. To capitalize on 
librarians' need for an index, a publisher ad- 
vertised an index widely by direct mail and 
offered substantial discounts for prepaid or- 

ders. Many librarians took advantage of this 
offer, but were taken advantage of by the 
publisher; he had notproduced the advertised 
index and eventually was convicted in federal 
court for mail fraud. Later, because of com- 
plaints from librarians that in a library setting 
where several people might be using the set at 
once it was sometimes impossible to use the 
Micropaedia as an index, Britannica issued a 
separate "Library Guide" volume. Because it 
was not an index but merely listed all the index 
citations from the Micropaedia, its value was 

Revision of Britannica 3 

In 1985, a major revision of the fifteenth 
edition, addressed some of the criticisms of 
Britannica 3. A well regarded two-volume 
index was added. The Micropaedia was ex- 
panded to 12 volumes and the Macropaedia 
was reduced to 17. The 4,200 articles of the 
Macropaedia were reduced to 681, some of 
them more than 100 pages long. Many entries 
resemble short books. Many smaller articles 
were brought together into a broader entry; 
e.g., all the states appear under "United States 
of America." Many articles, including all 
biographies (except 100 people who pro- 
foundly affected world history) were moved 
to the Micropaedia. The 750-word limit on 
articles in this part of the set was lifted. Some 
Micropaedia articles now included bibliogra- 
phies (usually ones transferred over from the 
Macropaedia). All the entries were arranged 
in a word-by-word alphabetization, which is 
easier to use than the former letter-by-letter 
arrangement. For topics included in both parts 
of the set, many Micropaedia articles were 
rewritten to include more information, so they 
were no longer just outlines of Macropaedia 
articl es. Highly datable material was moved to 
the Britannica Book of the Year/ Britannica 
World Data Annual and cross-references were 
provided to this volume. The Propaedia was 
also restructured . The new index included the 
Britannica WorldData Annual and was judged 



an excellent finding device. This format and 
arrangement is currently being used in 1991. 
In 1991 Editor-in-Chief Philip Goetz stepped 
down and was succeeded by Robert McHenry, 
former managing editor. 

Today Britannica is not only the oldest 
but is also the largest and most expensive 
general encyclopedia published in the U.S. A 
scholarly encyclopedia, it is not for elemen- 
tary and middle school children, though it is 
sometimes marketed as being for that age 
group. Unlike some encyclopedias, there is no 
vocabulary control and no attempt to include 
the topics that children are most likely to look 
up. Many of the science and math articles are 
too technical for the "curious, intelligent lay- 
person" Britannica has always characterized 
as its audience. Compared with its closest 
competitors, Encyclopedia Americana and 
Collier's Encyclopedia, it contains more eso- 
teric information and does not provide practi- 
cal, how-to-do-it type information nor much 
coverage of popular culture. Its real strength is 
its historical treatment of topics. While most 
encyclopedias are tailored for a North Ameri- 
can audience, Britannica also takes a broader 
world view than competing American sets. 
For instance, the biographies of the American 
president and the British prime minister are 
roughly the same length. The British spelling 
that is still used is sometimes termed an affec- 
tation and is not used consistently. For in- 
stance, when a word begins with a different 
letter in British English ("oestrogen"), the 
American spelling is used. EB is unique in that 
contributors are allowed to list foreign-lan- 
guage materials in the bibliographies at the 
end of their articles. For example, the bibliog- 
raphy for the article on the U.S.S.R. lists books 
in Russian as well as Italian and German. 
While authors of articles have been instructed 
not to list obscure materials that would be hard 
to find, these bibliographies are more schol- 
arly than those in any other encyclopedia. 

Who owns EB today? Encyclopaedia 
Britannica, Inc. is a privately held for-profit 
company. All of the company's stock is held 
by the William Benton Foundation, an Illinois 

not-for-profit corporation established in 1 948 
to support the University of Chicago. In 1957, 
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. paid the Uni- 
versity of Chicago $2 million for its shares of 
stock in the company. The foundation is con- 
trolled by a thirteen-member board of direc- 
tors, consisting of five members from 
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., four from the 
University of Chicago, and four from the 
public sector. They are responsible for elect- 
ing the company's board of directors and for 
working with the University of Chicago to 
allocate the annual grants made by the founda- 
tion. Currently, the foundation gives the uni- 
versity about $2,000,000 a year; it has given 
the university more than $ 100 million over its 
lifetime. 14 This makes EB the university's 
largest contributor, exceeding even the 
Rockefellers, whose gifts founded the univer- 
sity. The foundation ownership of the com- 
pany safeguards it against a takeover by an- 
other firm and from stockholders seeking to 
dictate policies. In order to sell any of its stock, 
a two-thirds majority vote is necessary. As 
measured by revenue, Encyclopaedia Britan- 
nica, Inc. is the seventh largest publisher in 
America today. 15 Sales from all divisions now 
amount to $650 mi Uion a year. ' 6 The company 
does business in more than 100 countries and 
has produced encyclopedias in many foreign 

EB's Future 

Britannica has traditionally been very cir- 
cumspectaboutrevealingfuture plans. A com- 
pany spokesperson stated that there are no 
plans to change the structure of the set (plans 
for revisions in Macropaedia articles are al- 
ready scheduled through 1993) and no elec- 
tronic version of EB is planned. (The com- 
pany issued a CD-ROM version of Compton 's 
Encyclopedia in 1990.) Since the arrange- 
ment of a printed work becomes transparent 
when it is converted to electronic form, per- 
haps a CD-ROM version of EB would end the 
debate over the set's plan. The 1990 EB was 
the first to be printed on acid-free paper and 


the company is investigating the digital han- 
dling of art in the future. Changes in printing 
technology under development may also im- 
prove the way that the encyclopedia is revised. 
New technologies may cut production costs so 
that encyclopedia publishers may be able to do 
new layouts more frequently. EB, Inc. has 
always been in the forefront in using new 
technology; it installed a computer system to 
do Britannica 3 and the entire set is in 
machine-readable form. One can predict that 
the company will remain in the technological 

Today's New Encyclopaedia Britannica 
bears little resemblance to the modest "Dictio- 
nary of the Arts and Sciences" first published 

in Edinburgh in 1768. While its editors' will- 
ingness to experiment with the arrangement of 
the set's contents has been cause for contro- 
versy, its also shows their commitment to EB 
as more than just a reference tool — as an 
instrument of self-education as well. After 
more than 220 years of publishing history, EB 
"continues to provide both outstanding schol- 
arship and balanced coverage of world learn- 
ing" and retains its undeniable authority, 17 
"Throughout the English-speaking world and, 
for that matter, anywhere in the world, the 
Encyclopaedia Britannica is by far the most 
famous encyclopedia in the English lan- 
guage." 18 


Encyclopaedia Britannica: or, a Dictionary of Arts 
and Sciences ... By a society of gentlemen in 
Scotland. Edinburgh, 1768-1771. 3 vols. Re- 
printed in facsimile. Chicago: Encyclopaedia 
Britannica, Inc., 1968. 

Encyclopaedia Britannica; or, a Dictionary of Arts, 
Sciences, etc. . . . 2nd ed. Edinburgh, 1777- 
1784. 10 vols. 

Encyclopaedia Britannica; or, a Dictionary of Arts, 
Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature . . , 3rd 
ed. Edinburgh, 1788-1797. 18 vols. Supple- 
ment to the third edition. Edinburgh, 180L 2 

Encyclopaedia Britannica; or, a Dictionary of Arts, 
Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature . . . 4th 
ed. Edinburgh, 1801-1809. 20 vols. 

Encyclopaedia Britannica; or a Dictionary of Arts, 
Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature,. . . 5th 
ed. Edinburgh, 1815. 20 vols. 

Encyclopaedia Britannica; or, a Dictionary of Arts, 
Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature ... 6th 
ed. Edinburgh, 1820-1823. 20 vols. 

Supplement (to the 4th, 5th, and 6th eds.) Edinburgh, 
1815-1824. 6 vols. 

The Encyclopaedia Britannica; or, a Dictionary of 

Arts, Sciences, and General Literature. 7th ed. 

Edinburgh, 1827-1842. 21 vols. 
The Encyclopaedia Britannica; or, Dictionary of 

Arts, Sciences, and General Literature, 8th ed. 

Edinburgh, 1853-1861. 21 vols, plus index vol. 
The Encyclopaedia Britannica; a Dictionary of Arts, 

Sciences, and General Literature. 9th ed. 

Edinburgh, 1875-1889. 24 vols, plus index vol. 
The Encyclopaedia Britannica; Dictionary of Arts, 

Sciences, and General Literature. 10th ed. Lon- 
don, 1902-1903. 34 vols. 
The Encyclopaedia Britannica: a Dictionary of Arts, 

Sciences, Literature and General Information. 

1 lth ed. Cambridge andNew York, 1910-191 1. 

29 vols. 
The Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1 2th ed. London and 

New York, 1921-22. 32 vols. 
The Encyclopaedia Britannica. 13th ed. London and 

New York, 1926. 32 vols. 
The Encyclopaedia Britannica. 14th ed. Annually 

revised. Chicago , 1929-1973. 24 vols. 
The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. 15th ed. Chi- 
cago and London, 1974- . 30 vols, through 

1984; 32 vols. 1985 to date. 


The best, most easily accessible historical 
survey appears in Britannica itself, in the 
Micropaedia. Kogan's The Great EB is the 
official company history and stresses corpo- 
rate matters more than the content of the set. 
Collison has valuable historical information 

up through the fourteenth edition, as does 
Walsh. The fifteenth edition was widely re- 
viewed; see the 1974 volume of Book Review 
Digest for citations. Lengthy reviews of re- 
cent printings can be found in Kister and 
Sader. Reviews of many editions of Britannica 


* <■ i 


can be found in various issues of Reference 
Books Bulletin in Booklist. Know: A Maga- 
zine for Britannica People Everywhere is the 
corporate house organ and has many interest- 
ing articles but is rarely available in libraries, 

American Library Association. Reference Books 
Bulletin Editorial Board. Purchasing an Ency- 
clopedia: 12 Points to Consider* 3rd ed. Edited 
by Sandy Whiteley. Chicago: Booklist, 1989, 

Ashmore, Harry S. Unseasonable Truths: The Life of 
Robert MaynardHutchins. Boston: LittleBrown, 

Collison, Robert. Encyclopaedias: Their History 
throughout the Ages.Naw York: Hafner, 1964. 

Einbinder, Harvey. The Myth of the Britannica, New 
York: Grove Press, 1964. 

. "The New Britannica: Pro and Con." Li- 
brary Journal 1 12 (April 15, 1987): 48-50. 

"Encyclopaedia Britannica. " Hie New Encyclopaedia 
Britannica. Chicago: EncyclopaediaBritannica, 
1990. Vol. 4: 487-88. 

Fine, Sheila. "This Day is Published: A Condensed 
History of Encyclopaedia Britannica" Know: 
A Magazine for Britannica People Everywhere. 
22 (Spring, 1986): 10-13. 

Hyman, Sydney. The Lives of William Benton. Chi- 
cago: University of Chicago Press, 1969. 

Kister, Kenneth. Kister's Concise Guide to Best 
Encyclopedias. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1988. 

Kogan, Herman. The Great EB: The Story of the 
Encyclopaedia Britannica. Chicago: Univer- 
sity of Chicago Press, 19S8. 

Koning, Hans. "Onward and Upward with the Arts: 
the Eleventh Edition." Hew Yorker 51 (March 
2, 1981): 67-83. 

Kruse, Paul. The Story of the Encyclopedia Britannica, 
1768-1943. Ph.D. dissertation, University of 
Chicago, 1958. 

McClintock, Robert, Enkyklios Paideia: The Fif- 
teenth Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. 
National Academy of Education, 1976. Also 
published in the Proceedings of the National 
Academy of Education, vol, 2. 

McCracken, Samuel. "The Scandal of 'Britannica 
3'." Commentary 61 (February, 1976): 63-67. 

"The New Encyclopaedia Britannica." Booklist/ 
Reference Books Bulletin 171 (June 1, 1975): 

Sader, Marion. General Reference Books for Adults. 
New York: R.R. Bowker, 1988. The article on 
Britannica also appears in a slightly different 
version in Reference Books for Young Readers, 
Marion Sader, ed. New York: R.R. Bowker, 

Walsh, S. Padraig. Anglo-American General Ency- 
clopedias: A Historical Bibliography, 1703- 
1967. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1968. 

Wells, James M. The Circle of Knowledge: 
Encyclopaedias Past and Present. Chicago: 
Newberry Library, 1968, 

Wolff, Geoffrey, "Britannica 3 , Failures of." Atlan- 
tic 238 (November, 1976): 107-10. 

"Britannica 3, History of." Atlantic 233 

(June, 1974): 37-47. 


1 The statistics for this edition and subsequent editions 
described here are from Robert Collison, Encyclo- 
pedias: Their History Throughout the Ages (New 
York: Hafner, 1964), 138-45. 

J Herman Kogan, The Great EB (Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press, 1958), 10. 

3 Ibid., 13. 

4 Ibid,, 24. 

s For a history of pirated editions in Ihe U.S., see Padraig 
Walsh, Anglo-American General Encyclopedias 
(New York: Bowker, 1968), 52-54. 

6 Collison, 145. 

7 Kogan, 162-163. 

8 Walsh, 50 

9 Ibid. 

10 Kogan, 212. 
"Ibid., 222. 

12 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., press release, n.d, 

13 "New Encyclopaedia Britannica," Reference and Sub- 

scription Books Review (1 January 1975): 

14 "Who Owns EB, Inc?, News from Encyclopaedia 

Britannica, press release, n.d, 

15 "The Biggest Publishers," Publishers Weekly (21 

December 1990): 12. 

16 "The 400 Largest Private Companies in the U.S.," 

Forbes 146 (10 December 1990): 246. 

17 "Reference Books Bulletin," Booklist (15 October 

1989): 488. 

18 Walsh, 44. 

The Book that Built Gale Research: 
The Encyclopedia of Associations 

Carol M. Tobin 


The Encyclopedia ofAssociations arose out of 
one man's desire to find the information he 
needed to do his job. Because of the character 
of the man and the need of others for the 
information he sought, that one book became 
the foundation of Gale Research, a publisher 
that specializes in reference materials for li- 

Frederick G. Ruffner 

In 1954 Frederick G. Ruffner was a re- 
search manager for General Detroit Corpora- 
tion. He needed to find information about 
some trade associations and assumed that there 
would be a listing of such organizations. He 
came across one, National Associations of the 
United States, that the U.S. Commerce De- 
partment had put out in 1 949, but it was out of 
date. He concluded that there was a market for 
a directory of organizations. "It seemed so 
basic that I thought if I needed such a book, 
others must need it too." He decided to publish 
such a book himself, and with his wife Mary 
worked on what would become the Encyclo- 
pedia of American Associations. At first the 
newlyweds worked in a corner of their bed- 
room and later expanded to renting desk space 
in the aptly named Book Building in down- 
town Detroit. Ruffner eventually quit his job 
to work on the project full-time. 1 

He sought advice from C. J. Judkins, chief 
of the Trade Association Division of the U.S. 

Department of Commerce, the compiler of the 
Commerce Department directory; Charles M. 
Mortensen, manager of the Trade Association 
Department of the U.S. Chamber of Com- 
merce; and Walter E. Forster, chief librarian 
of the Business and Commerce Division, De- 
troit Public Library. 

Method of Compilation 

The method of compilation of the first 
edition is still used today: identifying associa- 
tions by scanning various listings and then 
confirming the information by mail or phone 
inquiries to the organizations themselves. 
While compiling the directory, Ruffner moved 
from a shared office to a private one, and in 
1956 he hired his first part-time employee 2 
and published the Encyclopedia of American 
Associations (EAA). The EAA was described 
in the Preface as "a directory of non-profit 
organizations of national scope." Readers were 
given the caveat that "the nature and magni- 
tude of the directory make it impossible for the 
publisher to guarantee complete accuracy. 
Listing in this book does not confer status 
upon any organization, nor should omission 
imply lack of status." No editor was listed for 
the first edition. The acknowledgements were 
signed "Gale Research Company," with the 
name "Gale" taken from Ruffner's middle 

From the beginning, Gale has seen librar- 
ies as one of its prime markets. The preface to 
the first edition of EAA stated "this book has 




been designed as a reference tool for librar- 
ians, businessmen, educators, government of- 
ficials and research workers." Ruffner has 
said "Right from the start we sold by mail, 
mostly to libraries and go vernment agencies . ' ' 3 
The first edition of the EAA started a 
number of practices continued by the later 
editions and by Gale to this day. The preface 
asks that "errors of omission or commission" 
and suggestions be sent to the publisher. The 
postage paid reply cards for orders and sug- 
gestions still found in the 1991 edition ap- 
peared in the first edition. There was a reply 
form to add, change, or delete information 
about an organization. A footnote added "Upon 
receipt of this card the publisher will send 
questionnaire for detailed data on new organi- 

The EAA started the Gale practice of 
using a lengthy title reminiscent of older En- 
glish works. The full title of the first edition is 
Encyclopedia of American Associations: A 
Guide to the Trade, Business, Professional, 
Labor, Scientific, Education, Fraternal and 
Social Organizations of the United States. 
The EAA announced itself from the start as a 
first edition and two supplements were prom- 
ised for December 1956: Supplement I, Func- 
tional and Topical Listings, and Supplement 
II, Additions and Corrections, also to include 
Labor Unions. Thus EAA began another Gale 
tradition, supplementing works between edi- 

A section entitled "How to Use this Direc- 
tory" has been a standard feature from the 
start. In the first edition it took two pages; in 
the 1991 edition it took four. That first edition 
was divided into six sections: Trade, Business, 
Agricultural and Governmental Associations; 
Scientificand Engineering Associations; Edu- 
cation and Social Welfare Associations; Health 
and Medical Associations; General Associa- 
tions; and Chambers of Commerce. Section 
seven was a "Finding Guide Index." 

The entries were arranged within each 
sectionalphabeticallyby keyword, exceptthat 
the Chambers of Commerce were listed alpha- 

betically by state and city. The Finding Guide 
Index listed each association under its name 
and by each keyword in the name. 

The entries provided information on the 
name of the organization, its address, the chief 
paid official or secretary, the staff, the found- 
ing date, and a description that included the 
activities, purpose and membership, and num- 
ber of local groups or chapters. Old names and 
predecessor organizations' names were given 
if a merger had occurred. In the Chambers of 
Commerce section, population figures for cit- 
ies and towns from the 1950 Census were 

Critical Reception 

The work was well received by the library 
press. The Booklist and Subscription Books 
Bulletin in October 1957 gave the most de- 
tailed review. It took the book to task for 
calling itself an encyclopedia rather than a 
directory, when even the publisher "always 
refers to the book as a ' directory' , never as an 
'encyclopedia.'" The review criticized the 
lack of running titles in the sections and men- 
tioned some problems with the keyword group- 
ing. Significantly, the review mentioned that 
there was no truly comparable directory. The 
reviewer's comparison of EAA with the Na- 
tional Associations of the United States and its 
1956 supplement revealed "a similarity of 
content but totally different presentations." 
The review noted that EAA had 30 percent 
more entries under the letter G. Some discrep- 
ancies in names of personnel for library orga- 
nizations between the .£4/4 and the ALA Mem- 
bership Directory were mentioned; however, 
the review noted that a spot check of the New 
York City addresses with the Manhattan phone 
directory revealed no errors. The binding, 
paper, and typeface were judged to be good. 
The review concluded: 

Until the publication of the Encyclopedia of 
American Associations^ there has been no 
current directory of this type available for use 
as a reference tool by librarians, businessmen, 


educators, government officials, and research 
workers. While there are some discrepancies 
and inaccuracies in individual entries, they do 
not appear to be numerous enough to detract 
from the value of the volume as a current 
listing of American associations. It is there- 
fore recommended for purchase by libraries 
having a definite established demand from 
their clientele for directory material. 4 

Paul Wasserman's review of EAA for 
Library Journal in December 1956 also com- 
pared it favorably with National Associations 
of the United States, whose 1956 supplement 
he judged "very slight and inadequate." He 
said the EAA "should prove a highly useful 
and frequently thumbed through volume." 
Wasserman did mention the high price ($ 1 5), 
but said that in spite of it, "this work will be 
required in virtually every library where busi- 
ness is being served in even a minor way." 5 
The EAA was also cited in Frances Neel 
Cheney *s "Current Reference Books" column 
in the Wilson Library Bulletin in October 
1956. 6 

Perhaps the best indication that Ruffner 
and Gale had created a classic was the inclu- 
sion of EAA in a list of 1 1 titles for 1956 "that 
gave promise of high reference potential." 
The list was compiled by the independent 
Reference Checklist Committee chaired by 
Louis Shores. In that checklist, the EAA is 
recommended for public, academic, and re- 
search libraries; only school libraries were 
excluded. 7 

No other source of information about 
associations published prior to the EAA, in- 
cluding the Commerce Department's Na- 
tional Associations of the United States* and 
the Public Administration Clearing House's 
Public Administration Organizations 9 could 
boast the breadth of EAA, which encompassed 
fraternal, women's, sports, educational, and 
religious organizations among others. 

The Second Edition and Beyond 

With the critical and financial success of 
the first edition, Gale was able to proceed with 

a second edition, although the EAA did not 
become the hoped-for annual until the ninth 
edition, nearly 20 years later. The second 
edition was published in 1959. The price had 
gone up to $20 but for this one got half again 
as many listings, a subject index, andanumber 
of items added to the description. The work 
now had 19 sections instead of 6 as well as a 
section of items "received too late to classify." 
The descriptions were expanded to include 
acronyms; affiliated organizations; sections, 
divisions or special committees; publications, 
including frequency; and convention or an- 
nual meeting. The how-to-use section showed 
a sample listing to illustrate the different ele- 
ments of the description, a feature retained to 
this day. The introduction now specified a 
Reader Service Bureau maintained by Gale 
that could supply at no charge additional data 
that might result as part of the continuing 
program of editing the EAA. The Reader Ser- 
vice Bureau is mentioned through the thir- 
teenth edition in 1979, but the twelfth and 
thirteenth editions cautioned: "The staff can- 
not, however, answer inquires concerning the 
general history of associations and does not 
compile statistical surveys." The second edi- 
tion was also financially successful andhelped 
Gale become "a full-fledged publishing com- 
pany." 10 

The third edition came a little more 
quickly. It was published in 1961 under the 
now familiar name of the Encyclopedia of 
Associations (EA). Once again the price rose, 
this time to $25. However, for this buyers 
received 30 percent more listings and a second 
volume, the Geographic andExecutive Index. 
The introduction mentioned other volumes in 
preparation, Volume III, "State and Local 
Associations of the U.S.-East"; Volume IV, 
"State and Local Associations of the U.S.- 
Wesf"; and Volume V, "National Organiza- 
tions of Canada." These volumes never ap- 
peared, but they show the idea behind titles 
that did appear much later, i.e., Encyclopedia 
of Associations: Regional, State, and Local 
Organizations (1987- ) and Encyclopedia of 




Associations; International Organizations 

The title change occasioned some more 
reviews. Eric Moon cited some errors ofinfor- 
mation but concluded ''Despite such errors 
and omissions, which are probably unavoid- 
able to some degree, this is a valuable refer- 
ence work which should be in all but the 
smallest libraries." 1 ' EA appeared on the "Out- 
standing Reference Books of 196 1" list, as "a 
useful compilation of information hard to find 
elsewhere." 12 

The fourth edition in 1964 was significant 
both because Ruffner was listed for the first 
time as editor along with three others and 
because of the mention of the idea that the EA 
can be used as a guide to information as well 
as a directory of organizations. In the fifth and 
subsequenteditions the information functions 
of organizations have been likened to "switch- 
boards" to connect "persons needing informa- 
tion to highly-qualified sources of informa- 
tion." The fifth edition billed this function as 
EA's primary value. The acceptance of EA by 
librarians was acknowledged in the introduc- 
tion to the fourth edition: "Surveys of refer- 
ence librarians repeatedly show that the Ency- 
clopedia of Associations is among the three or 
four most-used books in any reference depart- 
ment." In December of 1 964 a supplementary 
loose-leaf volume entitled New Associations 
was launched. Originally appearing quarterly, 
it listed newly formed associations. 

In subsequent years the EA continued to 
receive good reviews, along with some sug- 
gestions for improvements, most of which 
were eventually incorporated in EA. Running 
titles were added and the early troubles with 
keywords were corrected. Librarians were not 
always happy with some of the "improve- 
ments." Eugene Sheehy says that a new edi- 
tion is always "cause for rejoicing in the 
reference department," but the enthusiasm for 
the seventeenth edition was dampened when it 
was found that volume one came in two physi- 
cal volumes, which Sheehy felt made EA less 
convenient to use. 13 There was also consider- 

able discussion in the reviews about the use- 
fulness of volume three, New Associations, 
because its price soon approached that of 
volume one alone. 14 

By 1959 EA was listed in A. J. Walford's 
Guide to Reference Material, and appeared in 
the eighth edition of Constance Winchell's 
Guide to Reference Books in 1967 where it 
was characterized as the "most comprehen- 
sive list for the United States." It was recorded 
in the fifth edition of the Enoch Pratt Free 
Library's Reference Books: A Brief Guide in 
1 962 and by 1 965 the appearance of the fourth 
edition was noted without comment in Choice 
as befitted a "new edition of standard refer- 
ence works . . . recommended for purchase." 
BohdanWynar in the second edition of Ameri- 
can Reference Books Annual in 1971 de- 
scribed it as the "standard directory well- 
known to all librarians." 15 A 1982 feature 
article on EA in Reference Services Review 
noted that "because of its uniqueness, diver- 
sity, and accuracy the Encyclopedia of Asso- 
ciations merits recognition as a 'landmark of 
reference.'" 16 

Expanding Scope 

With few exceptions, expanding scope 
has characterized EA throughout its history. 
The fifth edition added nonmembership groups 
if they might seem to be voluntary member- 
ship groups; some foreign groups if they were 
deemed to be of interest to Americans (e.g., 
the Tennyson Society); and some regional and 
local groups if their subjects or objectives hold 
interest outside their immediate vicinity, (e.g., 
Anti-Coronary Club) . The state and local cham- 
bers of commerce were dropped because of 
space considerations and because they are 
adequately covered by other directories. The 
sixth edition added international groups hav- 
ing a large American membership, (e.g., the 
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament); citizen 
action groups (e.g., theNational Interreligious 
Service Board for Conscientious Objectors); 
and governmental advisory bodies (e.g., the 


President's Council on Youth Opportunity), 
The sixteenth edition added "information en- 
tries," which describe a group or project for 
which no address was given. This category 
included groups that moved around, ad hoc 
committees, and underground groups like the 
Students for a Democratic Society. With the 
addition of volume four, International Orga- 
nizations, in the eighteenth edition in 1983, 
those groups formerly in volume one moved to 
volume four except for listings for groups with 
American sections or bi-national groups. In 
1987, Encyclopedia of Associations: Regional, 
State, and Local Organizations, a multi -vol- 
ume set, started publication. Except for "a 
hundred or so regional organizations" consid- 
ered to be of national interest and thus also 
listed in EA, the material in this work was all 

The 19 sections of the second edition 
stayed more or less stable with only the sub- 
traction of chambers of commerce in the fifth 
edition, the dropping and reassigning of hor- 
ticultural organizations and general organiza- 
tions in the eighth, and the addition of cultural 
organizations in the eighth and fan clubs in the 
twenty-second. The items included in the de- 
scription continued to grow with zip codes and 
phone numbers (fifth edition); computerized 
services and telecommunications service 
(twentieth edition); budget of the organiza- 
tion and presence of exhibits at conventions 
(twenty-first edition); and additional informa- 
tion about publications (i.e., circulation fig- 
ures, prices, former and alternative names, 
ISSN, online and microfiche availability) 
(twenty-fourth edition). 

The indexing of EA has become increas- 
ingly sophisticated over the years. Additional 
keywords were added over time, and, with the 
twentieth edition, the separate name and key- 
word indexes had grown to occupy a separate 
volume. A catchword was added to the top of 
the index pages in the twenty-third edition to 
make use more efficient. One of the reasons 
for the separate index volume with the twen- 
tieth edition was the inclusion of all the entries 

from the international organizations volume 
and from eight other related Gale directories. 
This was expanded in the twenty-first edition 
to include more Gale directories and some 
non-Gale publications such as the US Govern- 
ment Manual and the Federal Yellow Book for 
a total of 15. In the twenty-fourth edition, the 
editors reverted to the practice of indexing 
only Gale directories. 

As the EA grew from several thousand 
entries to nearly 22,000, its editorial staff also 
grew. It has had ten editors (sometimes work- 
ing in pairs or, as on the twenty-fourth edition, 
in a group of three). The range of editorial 
titles is perhaps best illustrated by the twenty- 
first edition (1986). It had one editor, three 
associate editors, a contributing editor, three 
senior assistant editors, thirteen assistant edi- 
tors, two editorial assistants, a contributing 
editor, two contributing senior assistant edi- 
tors, two contributing assistant editors, a con- 
tributing research editor, an editorial director, 
an associate editorial director, and, finally, a 
senior editor of thz Encyclopedia of Associa- 
tions Series. In reading the masthead of the 
various editions, one can follow an editor's 
movement up through the various editorial 
ranks thus providing a historical perspective 
and a consistency of vision foriL4 . The current 
staff is smaller than that of the twenty-first 
edition because of rearrangements in the 
workflow. The EA National staff is ten people 
but only 5.5 FTE; the International is four and 
the Regional three, There is no longer a re- 
search department devoted just to EA, Instead 
Gale's research department works on a vari- 
ety of directories and otherprojects as needed. 17 

The work is still done basically the same 
way as it was for the first edition, although 
greatly expanded. The staff scans for new 
associations and sends out questionnaires. Cur- 
rent organizations are sent revis ion forms with 
two follow-up mailings. The research depart- 
ment also makes calls both to new groups and 
to check up on previous listings. Through the 
years the introductions have cited 90 percent 
as the number of entries that receive some kind 


of revision orupdating. Each year about 1,000 
new organizations are added, while 500 to 600 
groups drop out. The current practice is to list 
as "missing" those groups which cannot be 
located. Requests forupdated information from 
these organizations have "remained unan- 
swered for at least three editions or have been 
returned by the Post Office" as undeliverable. 
In the index these organizations* entries bear 

Computerized Production 

Computerization has helped the staff of 
EA. Ruffner wrote in 1 97 6 that "In the late 60s 
and early 70s, it took two years to produce a 
600-page Encyclopedia of Associations. To- 
day, it takes less than half that time to produce 
a 3000-page, three-book set, a companion 
international volume, and a printed 'update' 
service." 18 The ninth edition (1975) is the first 
to mention computerized photo composition 
and it was from this date that EA became an 

As with so many other sources, the exist- 
ence of a computer tape led to new services. In 
September 1979 Gale made the thirteenth 
edition of EA available as File 114 on DIA- 
LOG. This file now includes International 
Organizations and Regional, State, and Local 
Organizations. In the 1 9th edition ( 1 9 84) Gale 
announced the availability of tapes and also 
stated that it would do custom computerized 
selection sorts, e.g,, on locations. Gale Global 
Access: Associations a CD-ROM product that 
used the Knowledge Access International soft- 
ware became available from Gale in January 
1989 at a price of $1495 a year. It included all 
the EA volumes, supplements, and updates 
and also the records from Association Peri- 
odicals. It was reviewed favorably. 19 A press 
release from SilverPlatter dated January 3, 
1990, announced that SilverPlatter would co- 
produce Gale's CD-ROM products. EA was 
the first product chosen for production; the 
SilverPlatter CD continued to use the name 
Gale GlobalAccess: Associations. 10 

EA not only kept pace with modern tech- 
nology, using computer composition and pro- 
viding fax numbers in the listings, but it also 
kept up with the demand for more informa- 
tion. But as quick as Gale and Ruffner were to 
pick up on a good idea, they were also able to 
drop ideas that did not work. In 1978 a Youth 
Sewing Organizations Directory based on the 
twelfth edition of EA appeared for one edition. 
Along the way, EA had at various times a 
Rankings Indexes volume (twenty-first edi- 
tion), and a Research Activities and Funding 
Programs (Volume V) published only for the 
seventeenth edition. A related publication, 
Association Periodicals (1987) was discon- 
tinued after only a year. It provided more 
information about association publications but 
with the twenty-fourth edition of EA increas- 
ing the amount of information given about 
periodicals, it is not needed. The Updating 
Service for volumes I and III begun in 1985 
and the New Associations and Projectsbegun 
in 1964 were combined in the twenty-fifth 
edition (1990). 21 

In the first edition Ruffner included a 
quote from Alexis de Tocqueville's Democ- 
racy in America that appeared in the next 
twenty-three editions: 

The Americans of all ages, all conditions and 
all dispositions constantly form associations. 
They have not only commercial and manufac- 
turing companies in which all take part but 
associations of a thousand other kinds, reli- 
gious, moral, serious, futile, restricted, enor- 
mous, or diminutive. The Americans make 
associations to give entertainments, to found 
establishments for education, to send mis- 
sionaries to the antipodes Wherever at the 

head of some new undertaking you see the 
government of France or a man of rank in 
England, in the United States you will be sure 
to find an association." 

This observation on the American pro- 
pensity for associations helps explain why the 
EA was such a success and found such a 
welcome niche in reference departments. It 
also explains why the national organizations' 
entries take two volumes while the interna- 
tional organizations' entries fill only one vol- 


ume. And perhaps it explains why this type of 
reference work found its fullest flowering in 
United States. The EA itself is a fascinating 
ground for social history. Some of the reviews 
in nonlibrary journals emphasize the more 
humorous aspect of this. Richard Kern in 
Sales and Marketing Management picked out 
the American Association of Dental Victims, 
the Texas Barbed Wire Collectors Associa- 
tion, and the National Association of Insect 
Electrocutor Manufacturers as worthy of men- 
tion. 23 A New York Times article was entitled 
"Banana Club Meets Electrical Women." 24 

The EA is, however, worthy of deeper 
study. Starting in the twenty-first edition, 
(1986) the editor(s) wrote mini-essays on the 
types of new associations listed and how they 
"mirror the current interest and concerns of 
the American public." In that edition hunger, 
national economic issues, children's rights, 
and Central America were particularly high- 
lighted. In the twenty-fourth edition, Central 
America was still mentioned and environ- 
mental concerns (spurred by the Alaskan oil 
spill), senior citizens rights, and surrogate 
parenthood were among the areas that had 
newly formed groups. Just a comparison of the 
subjects listed under Social Welfare Organi- 
zations in the table of contents in the sixth 
edition (1970) and the twenty-fourth edition 
(1989) reveals some of the changes in the 
United States during that period. Anti-pov- 
erty, nutrition, rehabilitation, sex information, 
crime and delinquency, family life, alcohol- 
ism, and narcotics were listed only in the sixth 
edition and child welfare, community action, 
criminal justice, disabled, family planning, 
gay/lesbian, homeless, population, recreation, 
selfhelp, service clubs, social work, substance 
abuse, surrogate parenthood, and voluntarism 
only in the twenty-fourth edition. In some 
cases only the terminology had changed (e.g., 
"substance abuse" instead of "narcotics"); 

but in others (e.g., selfhelp and homeless) the 
changes demonstrated newly articulated con- 

The EA has been used to trace trends in 
American life. For example, the author of a 
1985 article in the Annals of the American 
Society of Political and Social Science con- 
sulted it to study the growth of religious re- 
form movements. 25 Other authors use it to 
compile mailing lists for surveys, as did the 
author of "Fee Sharing Between Lawyers and 
Public Interest Groups." Lawyers seem to find 
it a particular favorite because it has the facts 
that can bolster their arguments, e.g. , the num- 
ber of groups concerned with drinking and 
driving, the founding dates of associations, the 
number of people who have taken transcen- 
dental meditation courses. 26 It seems that the 
only limits on EA 's uses are its users' imagi- 

Gale's Growth 

As the EA grew and matured so did Gale. 
However, in a 1984 profile of Ruffner, John 
Baker was still able to say "Gale is still so 
much the creation of one man . . . that it's 
difficult to imagine where it would go without 
Ruffner at the helm." 27 When Ruffner was 
asked about how Gale would be without him 
he said that he hoped it would survive as the 
Bowker Company did without R. R. Bowker. 
In 1985 Gale was sold to International 
Thomson. 28 

Ruffner left Gale and EA shortly after the 
company was sold and he has since started 
another publishing company, Omnigraphics, 
with offices in the same building in downtown 
Detroit as the Gale offices. However even 
without its creator, EA continues to this day, 
changing to meet new demands while main- 
taining its established strengths to satisfy the 
old needs it was created to fulfill. 



Encyclopedia of American Associations. Detroit: 
Gale Research. 1st ed.,1956; 2nd ed., 1959. 

Encyclopedia of Associations. 3rd ed.,1961; 4th 
ed.,1964; 5th ed.,1968; 6th ed.,1970; 7th 

Encyclopedia of Associations. Annual, Detroit: Gale 
Research Company, 1975-. Vol. 1, National 
Organizations of the United States. Vol. 2, 
Geographic and Executive Index, Vol. 3, New 
Associations, Dec. 1964- , 1970 changed to 
New Associations and Projects, 1990 changed 
to Supplement, Vol. ^International Organiza- 
tions, 18th ed., 1983-. Vol.5, Research Activi- 
ties and Funding Programs, 17th ed., 1982 
only. Updating Service for vols. 1 and 3, 1985- 

1989. International Organizations Supplement 
1985- . Rankings Indexes 21st ed., 1987 only. 

Encyclopedia of Associations: Regional, State, and 
Local Organizations. Detroit: Gale Research, 
1987- . Biennial. 

Encyclopedia of Associations: Association Periodi- 
cals, edited by Denise Allard and Robert Tho- 
mas. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1987. 

Encyclopedia of Associations. DIALOG File 114. 
Palo Alto, CA: Dialog Information Services, 
Sept. 1979- . 

Gale GlobalAccess: Associations. CD-ROM. De- 
troit: Gale Research, 1989-1990. 

Gale GlobalAccess: Associations. CD-ROM. 
Wellesley Hills, MA: SilverPlatter Informa- 
tion, 1990- . 


Through its introductions the Encyclope- 
dia of Associations provides a good explana- 
tion of the publishing history and editorial 
policy changes. Baker gives important back- 
ground about Frederick G. Ruffher and Davis ' s 
review article is a good summary of EA to 
1982, Bradley is good on both Ruffher and 
Gale. There are many reviews of different 
editions of EA and its parts. Only reviews that 
go beyond description are listed here, 

Adams, John. Review of Encyclopedia of Associa- 
tions, 14th ed. Reference Services Review 8 
(July/September 1980): 78-79, 

Angelo, Frank. "A Fact? A List? Answer Man Has 
It." Detroit Free Press, July 17, 1974. Re- 
printed in Biography News 1 (August, 1974): 

Baker, John F. " Portrait of a Publisher: Frederick G. 
Ruffher." Publishers Weekly 226 (December 7, 
1984): 25-27. 

"Bibliophile Prevails with Written Words "Nation 's 
Businesses (May, 1980): 94-95. 

Bradley, Philip. "A Founding Father: Frederick 
Ruffner and the Gale Research Co. "Indexer 16 
(April 1, 1988): 22-31. 

Byerly, Greg. Review of database Encyclopedia of 
Associations. RQ 20 (Summer, 1981): 409. 

Davis, Mary Ellen Kyger. "Encyclopedia of Asso- 
ciations." Reference Services Review 10 (Sum- 
mer 1982): 11-14. 

Moon, Eric. Review of Encyclopedia of Associa- 
tions, 3rd ed. Library Journal 87 (January 15, 
1962): 209-10, 

O'Leary, Mick. "Encyclopedia of Associations Ex- 
pands Online Research." Database 12 (Octo- 
ber, 1989): 59-61. 

Quint, Barbara. "Connect Time." Wilson Library 
Bulletin 63 (March, 1989): 78-79, 125. 

Rettig, James. Review of Encyclopedia of Associa- 
tions: Association Periodicals, 1 st ed. Wilson 
Library Bulletin 62 (January, 1988): 99. 

Review of Encyclopedia of American Associations: 
A Guide to the Trade, Business, Professional, 
Labor, Scientific, Educational, Fraternal, and 
Social Organizations of the United States, 1st 
ed. Booklist and Subscription Books Bulletin 54 
(October 1,1957): 60-64. 

Review of Encyclopedia of Associations, 7th ed. 
Booklist 69 (April 1, 1973): 724-25. 

Ruffner, Fred.,"The Buzz Industry and the Book 
Industry." Reference Librarian no. 15 (Fall, 
1986): 131-37. 

"Ruffher, Frederick G." ALA Yearbook 10 (1985): 

"Ruffner, Frederick Gale." ALA Yearbook 13(1988): 

Shores, Louis. "Reference Checklist '56." Library 
Journal 82 (January 15, 1957): 145-57. 

Sturtevant, Anne F. "Reference Books of 1961." 
Library Journal 87 (April 5, 1962): 1533-41. 

Wasserman, Paul. Review of Encyclopedia oj Ameri- 
can Associations: A Guide to the Trade, Busi- 
ness, Professional, Labor, Scientific, Educa- 
tional, Fraternal and Social Organizations of 
the United States, 1st ed., Library Journal 81 
(December 15, 1956): 2961. 



1 John F. Baker, " Portrait of a Publisher: Frederick G. 

Ruffner," Publishers Weekly 226 (7 December 
1984): 25. 

2 Ibid, 25. 

3 Ibid. 

4 Review of Encyclopedia of American Associations: A 

Guide to the Trade, Business, Professional, Labor, 
Scientific, Educational, Fraternal, and Social Or- 
ganizations of the United States, Booklist and Sub- 
scription Books Bulletin, 54 (I October 1957): 60- 

5 Paul Wasserman, review of Encyclopedia of American 

Associations: A Guide to the Trade, Business, Pro- 
fessional, Labor, Scientific, Educational, Frater- 
nal and Social Organizations of the United States, 
in Library Journal 81 (15 December 1956): 2961. 

6 Francis Neel Cheney, "Current Reference Books," Wil- 

son Library Bulletin 31 (October 1956): 196-98. 

7 Louis Shores, "Reference Checklist ' '56 "Library Jour- 

nal 82 (15 January 1957): 146, 149. 

8 U.S. Department of Commerce, National Associations 

of the United States (Washington: Government 
Printing Office, 1949). 
9 Public Administration Organization, 7th ed., (Chicago: 
Public Administration Clearing House, 1954). 

10 Mary Ellen Kyger Davis, "Encyclopedia of Associa- 

tions" Reference Services Review 10 (Summer 
1982): 12. 

1 1 Eric Moon, review of Encyclopedia of Associations, 

3rd ed., Library Journal 87 (15 January 1962): 

12 Anne F. Sturtevant, "Reference Books of 1961," Li- 

brary Journal 82 (15 April 1962): 1533-41. 

13 Eugene Sheehy, "Selected Reference Books of 198 1- 

82," College and Research Libraries 44 (January 
1983): 54. 

14 Mary Allen, review of Encyclopedia of Associations, 

11th ed., Serials Review 3 (April/June 1977): 22; 
review of Encyclopedia of Associations, 9th ed,, 
Booklist 72 (15 October 1975): 326; Edwin G. 
Tyler, review of Encyclopedia of Associations, 7th 
ed., .Kg 12 (Spring 1973): 314. 

15 A. J. WalfordandL. M. Payne, eds., Guide toReference 

Materials (London: Library Association, 1959), 
51; Constance M. Winchell, Guide to Reference 
Books, 8th ed. (Chicago: American Library Asso- 
ciation, 1967), 77, 79; Mary Neill Barton and 
Marion V. Bcll,Reference Books: A Brief Guide for 
Students and Other Users of the Library, 5 th ed. 

(Baltimore: Enoch Pratt Free Library, 1962), 98; 
review of Encyclopedia of Associations, 4th ed., 
Choice 1 (February 1965): 545; Bohdan S. Wynar, 
review of Encyclopedia of Associations, 6th ed., 
American Reference Books Annual 2 (1971): 55. 

16 Davis, 11; Nancy Jean Melin, "Ending the Old Year 

with Some New Beginnings," Reference Services 
Review 8 (October/December 1980): 3. 

17 Deborah Burek,. coeditor of Encyclopedia of Associa- 

tions, 24th ed., telephone conversation with the 
author, 30 March 1990. 
l8 Fred Ruffner, "The Buzz Industry and the Book Indus- 
try," Reference Librarian, no. 15 (Fall 1986), 132. 

19 Jim Bloom and Vickey Bloom, "Gale Global Access 

Associations in Review," CD-ROM Librarian 4 
(November/December 1989): 57-59, 

20 SilverPlatter Information, Inc.," SilverPlatter Add Gale 

Databases on CD-ROM," Press release, 3 January 
1990; "Gale Joins Forces with SilverPlatter," The 
SilverPlatter Exchange 3 (June 1990): 2. 

21 Burek, telephone conversation with author, 30 March 


22 The ellipsis points have disappeared over time. The 

quote does not appear in the twenty-fifth edition. 
Deborah Burek, telephone conversation with au- 
thor, 23 April 1990. 

23 Richard Kem, "National Association of. . .," Sales and 

MarketingManagement 136 (3 February 1986): 15. 

24 Margaret Wills and Stewart Wills, "Banana Club Meets 

Electrical Women," New York Times, 1 1 August 
1986, A19. 

25 Robert Wuthnow, "The Growth of Religious Reform 

Movement," Annals of the American Society of 
Political and Social Science 480 (July 1985): 112, 

26 Roy D. Simon, Jr., "Fee Sharing Between Lawyers and 

Public Interest Groups," Yale Law Journal '98 (March 
1989): 1071-72; Douglas E.Lahammer, "The Fed- 
eral Constitutional Right to Trial by Jury for the 
Offense of Driving While Intoxicated," Minnesota 
LawReview73 (October 1988): 123; Marina Angel, 
"White-Collar and Professional Unionization," 
Labor Law Journal 33 (Februaryl982): 83; "Note: 
Transcendental Meditation and the Meaning of 
Religion Under the Establishment Clause," Minne- 
sota Law Review 62 (June 1 978): 911. 

27 John Baker, "Portrait of a Publisher," 27. 

28 John Mutter, "International Thomson Buys Gale Re- 

search for S66 Million," Publishers Weekly, 227 
(24 May 1985): 19. 

Code of Courtesy from the Roaring 
Twenties: Emily Post's Etiquette 

Richard W. Grefrath 


The history of Emily Post's Etiquette and the 
biography of Emily Post are virtually insepa- 
rable. Edition after edition, her famous book 
has embodied the values she lived by. Emily 
Post was born Emily Price on October 3,1873, 
in Baltimore to an aristocratic family which 
could be traced back to the seventeenth cen- 
tury. Bruce Price, her father, was a famous 
architect who designed Chateau Frontenac in 
Quebec and most of the buildings in Tuxedo 
Park, New York, a high society country club 

The Prices moved toNe w York City when 
Emily was five. As a child she often accompa- 
nied her father during work on his buildings, 
and she enjoyed scampering around the scaf- 
folding. She grew up in the conventional man- 
ner of the wealthy, with summers in Europe or 
Bar Harbor, Maine, and winters at her family's 
four-story, red brick house at 12 West 10th 
Street in Greenwich Village. Her mornings 
were spent with lessons from her German 
governess and afternoons featured a walk in 
the park. 

Tall and strikingly beautiful, she created 
a sensation as a debutante in 1892. Four men 
were often required to carry her cotillion fa- 
vors to her carriage after a ball' When some 
years later she wrote about the etiquette of 
debutante balls, she did so from personal 
experience, as was the case with the many 
other high society topics on which she became 
an authority. 

Marriage and Divorce 

Within a year of her debut she married 
Edwin Main Post, a handsome young banker 
from one of New York's Vanderbilt families. 
Soon the Posts had two children, Edwin Main 
Post, Jr., and Bruce Price Post, named after 
Mrs. Post's father. 

The first setback for the family came 
when Edwin Post lost most of his money 
following the panic of 1901. Then, being 
somewhat of aplayboy, his philandering came 
to the attention of a scandal sheet titled Town 
Topics which published accounts of Post's 
infidelities. The resulting scandal ended the 
Posts' marriage in 1906. 

Divorced and without means of support, 
Emily Post and her young sons had to econo- 
mize. Although hardly destitute, the enterpris- 
ing Mrs. Post attempted to forge a career for 
herself. At the time of her divorce, Mrs. Post 
had published two novels, which had been 
drawn from long entertaining letters written to 
hermother while vacationing in Europe. Since 
novel writing was not considered an accept- 
able occupation for a woman in her social 
realm, she reluctantly accepted payment of 
$3,000 for one of them. For this same reason 
she hesitated to turn to writing as a career after 
her divorce. 

Nevertheless, she continued to write nov- 
els, and she published four additional books 
by 1920. These successes made her a minor 
celebrity and additional income from gossipy 
fictional articles published in magazines had 


greatly improved her financial situation by 
1 92 1 when Richard Duffy, an editor at Funk & 
Wagnalls, sent a message to Mrs. Post asking 
for an appointment to speak with her about an 
"encyclopedia." She sent back word that she 
already owned five encyclopedias and hardly 
needed another. But Duffy persisted: '"We do 
not want you to buy an encyclopedia, we want 
you to write one.'" 1 Mrs. Post was enthused 
with the prospect and wondered what type of 
encyclopedia it might be. However, as she 
herself relates, "All the lovely balloons of 
vague fantasy collapsedatthe word 'etiquette. 1 
... To me at that time the word meant a lot of 
false and pretentious fuss over trifles." 2 Duffy 
persuasively argued that all her published 
writings abounded with people of fashionable 
manners, with scenes set in the high society of 
New York, Tuxedo Park, London, Paris, and 
Rome. But Mrs. Post was adamant. She was 
not interested in "thousands of silly and per- 
fectly mechanical little rules or in trying to 
exaltthe obvious." 3 Mrs. Post declinedDuffy's 
subsequent appeals for further meetings. 

But after a time, Duffy called again, bring- 
ing with him a stack of the then popular books 
on etiquette to demonstrate the need for a new 
one. "I really thought him a little mad," Mrs. 
Post recalled; but to get rid of him, she agreed 
to peruse the volumes. 4 

In her account of these events she was too 
discreet to name the book she examined first, 
but whatever it was, Mrs. Post was aghast over 
the "shocking misinformation" contained in 
the book she examined and was appalled at its 
condescending tone. In disgust, she slammed 
the book shut and at 3:00 a.m. telephoned Mr. 
Duffy at his home. "I will write the hook for 
you," she said, "and at once! It will only be a 
little primer — -just a few of the essential prin- 
ciples of taste. I'll begin it tomorrow morn- 
ing." 5 

The First Edition of Etiquette 

With dogged persistence, she worked on 
the book day after day for a year and a half. 
The final manuscript ran 692 pages, hardly "a 

little primer." Her richest source was her own 
memory of incidents and personalities. To 
organize her data she thumb-tacked various 
headings, "weddings," "correspondence," and 
so on around her workroom and under these 
headings fastened notes on each subject. She 
would disappear for days in her study, work- 
ing at the typewriter, emerging only for tea by 
the open fire and some welcome conversation 
at the Tuxedo Park clubhouse. 

The first edition of Emily Post's Etiquette 
was published in July 1922, during the Prohi- 
bition Era. Persistent publisher Richard Duffy 
contributed "Manners and Morals," an intro- 
ductory essay. Without really naming names, 
Duffy deplored the "blunt, unpolished hero of 
melodrama and romantic fiction" and offered 
readers aj aunty, belletristic discussion of trends 
in English and American manners from the 
Ten Commandments, through Confucius, 
English knighthood, and Samuel Coleridge, 
among others. 6 He offered the public Mrs. 
Post as this tradition's new standard bearer 
and quoted her definition of its premises; 
'"Best Society is not a fellowship of the 
wealthy, nor does it seek to exclude those who 
are not of exalted birth; but it is an association 
of gentlefolk, of which good form in speech, 
charm of manner, instinctive consideration 
for the feelings of others, are credentials by 
which society the world over recognizes its 
chosen members,"' 7 Inher first chapter, "What 
is Best Society?" Mrs. Postpursued this theme : 

"Best Society is not at all like a court with an 
especial queen or king, nor is it confined to 
any one place or group, but might better be 
described as an unlimited brotherhood which 
spreads over the entire surface of the globe, 
the members of which are invariably people of 
cultivation and worldly knowledge, who have 
not only perfect manners but a perfect manner. 
Manners are made up of trivialities of deport- 
ment which can be easily learned if one does 
not happen to know them; manner is personal- 
ity — the outward manifestation of one's inti- 
mate character and attitude toward life." 8 

Many people today, as many did during 
the Roaring Twenties, consider Emily Post's 
etiquette rules to be mere "trivialities." Mrs. 



S d "! 

Post herself was ever mindful of the ease with 
which etiquette can degenerate into mindless 
following of rules. Her emphasis on the true 
spirit of etiquette* a system designed to smooth 
over the awkward moments of life by taking 
into account the feelings of others and the 
happiness of all involved, is a major theme in 
her book and probably accounts in large part 
for its endurance through so many editions 
and through so many eras of varying manners 
and mores. The appeal of an egalitarian broth- 
erhood of the courteous has proved to be 
timeless, expressed as it is by a true lady of not 
only wealth and social standing but of human- 
ity and sensitivity as well. 

Throughout her subsequent career as the 
preeminent arbiter of taste and decorum, Mrs. 
Post was known to belittle the "trivialities" of 
etiquette, perhaps most notably in her 1929 
article in Collier's, "Any Fork WillDo." Since 
publication of the first edition of Etiquette, the 
question she was asked most frequently in 
letters had been "How can I tell which is the 
proper fork to use?" when confronted by sev- 
eral at a table setting. "Those who ask me 
about the most unimaginable trivialities of 
table manners are most often the very same 
people who unknowingly break the rules of 
genuine importance." 9 What, then, is impor- 
tant? The effect of conversation and behavior 
on others is the primary and abiding concern 
throughout Mrs. Post's writings. Among other 
breaches of taste, she deplored "screaming 
voices and loud, raucous laughter" and the use 
ofpoor grammar both ofwhichshe considered 
embarrassing to those one is with. 

After laying a philosophical foundation in 
the first chapter, thepractical advice followed. 
The second chapter started, logically, with 
"Introductions," such as "Mr. Distinguished, 
may I present Mr. Young?" Here Mrs. Post 
introduced the technique of using names in- 
dicative ofa person's social standing, age, and 
personality. In subsequent chapters the reader 
comes to know Mr. and Mrs. Toplofty; Mr. 
and Mrs. John Appleyard (who until now had 
not left their home state of Iowa); Mr. andMrs. 

Newlyrich; Mrs. Wellborn; Mr. and Mrs. 
Oneroom; and Mr. Richard Vulgar, among 
many others. This was not an innovative liter- 
ary conceit; similar symbolic names had been 
used at least as far back as the medieval 
morality plays such as Everyman, and in more 
recent history Charles Dickens had invented 
characternames such as Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton 
Veneering to indicate a polished superficial- 
ity. Nonetheless, Mrs. Post was a master of the 
technique, populating her text with an excep- 
tionally large number of such symbolic names, 
each one skillfully fitted to the situation, dis- 
armingly witty, and drawn from her own ex- 
periences in society. In fact, the book's dedi- 
cation reads: "To you my friends, whose iden- 
tity in these pages is veiled in fictional dis- 
guise." 10 Readers could easily identify them- 
selves in the proceedings, whether Newlyrich 
or Toplofty, and the comical overtones helped 
to make this whole world of etiquette rules less 
stuffy and formidable for the uninitiated wish- 
ing to learn the ropes. Reading Mrs. Post's 
book could be downright entertaining. 

"Introductions" progressed to "Greet- 
ings," including from Younger to Older, in 
church, informal greetings, and so on. She 
gave particular attention to handshakes. A 
gentleman on the street never shakes hands 
with a lady without first removing his glove, 
but the glove stays on if the handshake occurs 
at the opera. Mrs. Post's witty banter reigned 
supreme in a heartfelt discussion of the "per- 
sonality of the handshake." She asked "Who 
does not like a 'boneless' hand extended as 
though it were a spray of sea-weed, or a 
miniature boiled pudding?" Rather, the proper 
handshake is made briefly, but there should be 
a "feeling of strength and warmth in the clasp, 
and — one should atthe same time look into the 
countenance of a person whose hand one 
takes." 11 

Two subsequent chapters pursued saluta- 
tions of courtesy (including the proper way for 
a gentleman to tip his hat, informal bows, the 
Bow of Ceremony, the Bow ofa Woman of 
Charm) and how to conduct oneself in public 


(including how a gentleman offers his arm, 
how to deal with the restaurant check, and 
behavior in stores and shops). "Do not attract 
attention to yourself in public," Mrs. Post 
insisted, "is one of the fundamental rules of 
good breeding." 12 In discussing conduct in 
stores, the book emphasized its theme of kind- 
ness towards others, saying that "lack of con- 
sideration for those who in any capacity serve 
you, is always an evidence of ill-breeding, as 
well as of inexcusable selfishness."' 3 

The chapter on "Conversation" carried 
the credo "Think Before you Speak." It spoke 
much common sense, such as advising to try 
not to repeat oneself, either by telling a story 
again and again or by going back over details 
of a narrative that seemed especially to amuse 
a listener. This is surely another reason for the 
continuing popularity of Emily Post. Since the 
rules prescribed follow common sense, they 
do not appear arbitrary and artificial. Obvi- 
ously people of high society spend a great deal 
of time sitting around talking, so the art of 
conversation is a serious matter. Bores and 
"tactless blunderers" were censured. Rather 
than let an amiable conversation turn into an 
argument, the tactful person should keep his 
opinion to himself, suggested Mrs. Post. And 
readers were advised to switch to another 
topic of conversation than argue with a speaker 
whose opinion was opposed to their own. 

An entire chapter on "Words, Phrases, 
andPronunciation" included "Phrases Avoided 
in Good Society" and a brief table of phrases 
one could use: "Let me help you" (not "permit 
me to assist you") "I will find out" (not "I will 
ascertain"); and "had something to drink" (not 
"partook of liquid refreshment"). 14 This 
newly wealthy people who had attained a 
higher social standing suddenly and who were 
assured by its unpretentiousness that they did 
not have to learn a whole new sophisticated 
language to converse properly in the their 
new-found society. 

A quaint little parable about "the Bank of 
Life" highlighted the chapter on "One' s Place 

in the Community," Life is a bank in which 
one deposits funds of "character, intellect, 
and heart, or other funds of egotism, hard- 
heartedness, and unconcern." 1 s One can only 
withdraw from (the bank of) life what one has 
deposited. This also applies to the community, 
where one gets out what one puts in. In this 
instance Mrs. Post invoked a somewhat moral 
tone, that etiquette is a system of rules and 
traditions based not only on good common 
sense but also on ethics and morality. Formal 
written invitations and the procedures of vis- 
iting one's friends on formal and informal 
occasions were discussed in subsequent chap- 
ters. The book's title page reads, "Illustrated 
with Private Photographs and facsimiles of 
social forms," and, true to that promise, there 
are innumerable examples of engraved cards 
and invitations for all types of occasions. 
Examples of acceptances and regrets were 
also furnished. 

An entire chapter was devoted to letter 
writing, with examples of business and social 
letters; and several chapters explored the many 
procedures involved in maintaining a proper 
household, including teas, afternoon parties 
and formal dinners. Many household proce- 
dures are described thoroughly, including 
"How a Cook Submits a Menu" and the daily 
duties of the butler. Also specified in detail are 
the dress and decorum of other servants, such 
as the house footman, the kitchen maid, the 
parlor maid, the housemaid, the lady's maid, 
the valet, the housekeeper, and the nurse. 

The whole matter of servants has received 
considerable attention throughout the various 
editions of Emily Post's Etiquette. To those 
readers of the first edition who had lately 
earned a position in society, its extensive 
instructions about servants were undoubtedly 
most welcome. But each new edition of Eti- 
quette reduced the emphasis on servants, re- 
flecting the changing times as well as the 
expansion of the book's audience to social 
strata below the highest levels. As in all rela- 
tions with others, courtesy to one's servants 
was counseled consistently. 


Acknowledging that not all readers of 
Etiquette were able to accumulate a large 
servant staff, Mrs. Post suggested ways to 
entertain graciously with few or no servants. 
One of the key ingredients in her formula is 
use of the buffet, allowing all guests to serve 
themselves. Mrs. Post was so enamored of this 
food service technique, she expanded on the 
topic in her book How to Give Buffet Suppers 
(Waterbury, CT: Chase Brass & Copper Co., 
193 3), which included eight pages of selected 
menus and recipes. 

The architect's daughter also paid special 
attention to the way a distinguished house 
reflects thegood taste and charm of its owners. 
Furniture should be suitable for the architec- 
ture of the house. Mrs, Post even proposed a 
four-question test to determine an art object's 
suitability for a particular house. She pursued 
these concerns in her The Personality of a 
House: The Blue Book of Home Design and 
Decoration (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 

One of the more controversial topics in 
Etiquette through the years and one which 
critics like to cite to demonstrate the hope- 
lessly outdated conventions prescribed by 
Emily Post is the matter of the chaperon. "A 
young lady who is unprotected by a chap- 
eron," she wrote, "is in the position precisely 
of an unarmed traveler walking among 
wolves." 16 The chaperon does a great deal 
more than simply being present when young 
people congregate; she coordinates the social 
life of the young lady, sends out invitations on 
her behalf, and even stays up until the young 
lady returns home from a date to let her in the 
door since no proper young lady lets herself in 
with her own key ! Yet Mrs. Post did insist that 
the best chaperon is "the young girl's own 
sense of dignity and pride," 17 and were it not 
for the conventions of propriety, this should be 
more than adequate. Later editions of Eti- 
quette progressively toned down the impor- 
tance of the chaperon. 

Arguably the most popular and widely 
read section in Etiquette, from the first edition 

to the present day, is the chapter on weddings. 
For many this is one of the very few occasions 
in life when formal dress is rented, profes- 
sional caterers hired, and florists engaged, all 
at once, at a time which seems the most 
important celebration of a lifetime. Mrs. Post 
covered all the details so graciously that the 
whole ordeal seems almost enjoyable rather 
than intimidating. 

The other major rites of passage, christen- 
ings and funerals, each warranted their own 
chapters. According to son Edwin, Mrs. Post 
was not a religious person, but she interpreted 
the details of church ceremony with her char- 
acteristic simplicity and thoughtfulness. 18 

Chapters entitled "The Country House 
and Its Hospitality," "The House Party in 
Camp," and "Clubs and Club Etiquette" pro- 
vide good advice for these activities. The 
"Games and Sports" chapter covers mostly 
how to play bridge courteously, as well as 
golf. The most important considerations are 
playing for the sake of playing rather than 
winning, never losing your temper, being a 
good loser, and giving your opponent the 
benefit of the doubt. 

The "Fundamentals of Good Behavior" 
chapter is especially central to the philosophy 
of Etiquette. A lengthy succession of do's and 
don'ts attempted to advise those who would be 
true ladies and gentlemen! A gentleman does 
not borrow money from a woman; no gentle- 
man goes to a lady's house when he is affected 
by alcohol; a gentleman never takes advan- 
tage of another's helplessness or ignorance. 
These are manifestations of a fundamental 
code of honor which demands the "inviolabil- 
ity of his word, and the incorruptibility of his 
principles." 19 She added that "the instincts of 
a lady are much the same as those of a gentle- 



When Etiquette: In Society, in Business, 
in Politics, and at Home was published in mid- 
summer, 1 922, the timing did not appear ideal, 
coming after the rush of June weddings, one of 
the major social occasions with which Eti- 
quette was designed to help. 21 Nonetheless, 


Etiquette was an immediate success, steadily 
scaling the bestsellers lists. 22 

As Funk & Wagnalls had expected, a 
large number of Etiquette's purchasers were 
people who had suddenly made a lot of money 
on the stock market during the post-war boom. 
These people were traveling abroad, buying 
new large houses, hiring servants, joining 
clubs, and putting on large-scale fashionable 
weddings. For them, Etiquette was a practical 
guidebook, a manual for the newly rich. 23 

Another aspect of the book's appeal was 
the glimpse it offered into the world of the 
aristocracy. For a middle-class housewife who 
bought Etiquette to plan a wedding, it was 
fascinating to read about "double service din- 
ner service" for 12 persons, where the food 
starts at opposite ends of the table, progresses 
clockwise, the butler stationed directly behind 
the hostess at the end of the table. Other 
chapters, such as the one on the debutante ball, 
held similar interest for those who would 
never attend such affairs. 

Many fell under the spell of Emily Post 
the storyteller. Critic Edmund Wilson said that 
Etiquette's first edition had "the excitement of 
a novel" and "snob appeal," both important 
factors in its success. Wilson reported that F, 
Scott Fitzgerald was so taken by the atmo- 
sphere and drama in Emily Post's book that he 
was "inspired with the idea of a play in which 
all the motivations should consist of trying to 
do the right thing." 24 

Nowhere was Mrs. Post's skill with witty, 
entertaining prose more apparent than in the 
five-page tale, "How a Dinner Can be 
Bungled," in the "Formal Dinners" chapter. 
Mr. and Mrs. Newwed give a formal dinner 
and everything goes wrong. The fire in the 
drawing room fills the house with smoke so 
everyone starts blinking and sneezing. The 
clear soup is not clear, is barely tepid, and 
tastes like dishwater. The fish with Hollandaise 
sauce arrives in a huge mound too big for its 
platter with a narrow gutter of water around 
the edge and a curdled yellow mess dabbed 
over the center. None of the guests eats any- 

thing, except for Mrs. Kindheart who sips at 
the cold soup. After the guests have gone, Mr. 
Newwed tries to console his weeping wife. 
"Remembering the trenches" of World War I, 
he tries to convince her that dinner was not so 
bad! 25 

The authoritative tone of Mrs. Post's writ- 
ing also accounts for the book's success. She 
wrote effortlessly and with great wit and charm 
about a social world she and her family had 
been solidly a part of for several generations. 
Not since Mrs. Sherwood, whose Manners 
and Social Usages (New York: Harper & 
Bros. , 1 884) was popular when Mrs. Post was 
a girl, was an etiquette manual published by a 
woman of such high social position. 26 

Critical and Popular Reception 

Contemporary book critics were enthusi- 
astic and laudatory reviews from hundreds of 
newspapersbeganpouringintothepublisher. 27 
"Up-to-date, sensible, comprehensive," 
praised Booklist. 2 * In a lengthy treatise en- 
titled "A School for Better Manners in 
America," novelist Gertrude Atherton claimed 
that "as a nation, we are the most ill-mannered 
in the world," populated by the "awful" char- 
acters portrayed in Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt, 
another popular book of the day. But, she 
implied, Mrs. Post's excellent text would lift 
the country out of its rudeness. Atherton ech- 
oed others in her observation that "Not only is 
its style delightful, but it reads like a first-class 
society novel " 29 Will Cuppy of the New York 
Tribune also found it entertaining and said 
"Mrs, Post is a delightful writer — humorous, 
wise, witty, worldly, sympathetic, human." 30 
The Literary Digest perceptively saw behind 
the innumerable rules in Etiquette to its true 
purpose; "Not to teach us to display our so- 
phistication, but to enable us to live without 
friction." 31 

Soon after the publication of Etiquette, 
hundreds of readers wrote to Mrs. Post asking 
for rulings on specific situations not covered 
in the book. This was an unexpected develop- 




ment since nowhere in Etiquette had Mrs. Post 
invited inquiries. Dutifully she read, consid- 
ered, and answered all the letters. Those in 
haste sent telegrams, including one reading 
flood of letters served a crucial function in the 
Following years, providing material to revise 
and make additions to revisions of Etiquette. 
This corpus of letters composed the kind of 
market survey which in more recent years 
publishers have paid considerable sums for. 
, As the sales of Etiquette continued to 
increase steadily (within ten years it had sold 
more than 500,000 copies), Mrs. Post was able 
to parlay her new found celebrity status into 
other successful ventures. Soon she began a 
monthly column on etiquette for McCall's 
magazine; a full-time secretary was hired to 
assist her with this. The column was a conve- 
nient way to share with many the answers to 
questions she received in her bulging daily 

Mrs. Post was continually besieged by 
manufacturers who wished her to endorse 
their merchandise. She ordinarily declined to 
endorse a particular brand, as in the case of a 
ginger ale company, which paid $3,000 for a 
pamphlet written by Mrs. Post saying that 
"ginger ale is a refreshing drink to serve at 
parties," without specifically mentioning the 
brand of the company sponsoring this "en- 
dorsement." She wrote pamphlets for linen, 
silver, and glass manufacturers as well, never 
endorsing a brand name, but describing the 
correct use of these items in entertaining. 
These manufacturers paid up to $5,000 apiece 
for these advertisements, 33 

By 1929, her fame was sufficiently estab- 
lished for Collier's magazine to state, in the 
caption to her photograph accompanying her 
article "Any Fork Will Do," that Mrs. Post "is 
perhaps the highest authority on just what you 
should do at the right moment." 34 

In the early 1930s Mrs. Post stopped writ- 
ing her McCall 's column in favor of doing her 

own radio program on NBC, a program that 
aired for eight years until the outbreak of 
World War II. 35 Shortly after leavingMcCo// 's, 
she contracted with the Bell Syndicate for a 
syndicated newspaper column on etiquette; 
called "Social Problems."Thiscolumn'spopu- 
larity increased continually and, at the time of 
her death in 1 960, was still being syndicated to 
more than 200 papers. 36 

Early Revised Editions 

None of these many activities deterred 
Mrs. Post from paying attention to the book 
that had brought her celebrity. In 1927, 193 1 , 
and 1934 revised editions of Etiquette were 
published and, though the revisions were mi- 
nor, each of these new editions enabled Mrs. 
Post to incorporate into her famous book some 
of the situations readers had frequently asked 
about in letters. The deluge of letters that 
followed publication of the first edition re- 
mained steady; an average of 6,000 arrived 
each week through the 1930s. 37 The 1927 
edition of Etiquette carried a new subtitle, 
"The Blue Book of Social Usage," which was 
used in all further editions until Mrs. Post's 
death in 1960. 

The 1927 edition added a chapter on 
"American Neighborhood Customs," includ- 
ing bridal showers, singing groups, and sew- 
ing circles, topics which readers had brought 
to Mrs. Post's attention through letters. In this 
edition the first edition's "The Chaperon and 
Other Conventions" was changed to "The 
Vanishing Chaperon," though much of the 
content remained, including the infamous sen- 
tence about a young girl without a chaperon 
being like "an unarmed traveler walking among 
wolves." 38 

Servants still occupied a major section, 
somewhat expanded by new members such as 
the business or social secretary; yet there is 
also a new, modern wife, Mrs. Three-in-One, 
who manages to be cook, waitress, andhostess 
when conducting servantless entertaining. The 
chapter "When Mrs. Three-in-One Gives a 


Party" shows the multitude of Etiquette read- 
ers who were of moderate means and without 
servants how to throw a party. "Again the 
Buffet!" counseled Mrs. Post— "One of the 
nicest and most fashionable entertainments 
that can be given," whether for lunch, supper 
or dinner. 39 Following Mrs. Post's instruc- 
tions, Mrs. Three-in Once could give a dinner 
yet never leave the table. One trick that helped 
make this possible was keeping a tea wagon at 
the hostess's side. For many years the oft- 
repeated query, "How can I serve a formal 
dinner for eight without a maid?" met the 
reply, "You can't." But eventually Mrs. Post 
determined to find a solution to this dilemma. 
To test her plan she invited six good friends to 
dinner with her and her son Bruce, Mrs. Post 
ladled soup from a tureen and all courses were 
served from, and plates stacked on a tea wagon 
at her side . Her success went a step beyond the 
buffet! 40 

Like its predecessors, the 1937 edition 
was a "complete new edition: rewritten, re- 
vised, reset," according to the note on its title 
page, and completely "modernized," accord- 
ing to the announcement of its publication in 
the September 18, 1937, Publishers Weekly. 
Funk & Wagnalls launched an energetic pro- 
motion campaign with special emphasis on 
New York and advertisements in The New 
York Times Book Review, This Week, the New 
Yorker, Bride 's Magazine, and others. Book 
sellers received window and counter displays 
and imprinted circulars. Publishers Weekly 
said that "All of the editions, from 1922 to 

1936, retained the rather unbending attitude 
towards certain forms of behavior which has 
been relaxed in the present rewriting." 41 

"The Vanishing Chaperon" of the 1927 
edition became "The Vanished Chaperon" in 

1937. The old idea of "protection," Mrs. Post 
then explained "is out of tune with the world 
today." A girl, she believed, should chaperon 
herself. Still, Mrs. Post gave up the point 
grudgingly, suggesting that when girls are too 
free, trouble results. "Continuous pursuit of 
thrill and consequent craving for greater and 

greater excitement gradually produces the 
same result as that which a drug produces in an 
addict," she warned, and likened the promis- 
cuous girl to cheapened merchandise thrown 
on the mark-down sale table in a clothing 
store. 42 

"Modern Man and Girl," a new chapter 
reflecting the jazz age's effect on mores since 
1922. "How Can a Man with Almost No 
Money Take a Nice Girl Out"? asked one 
section. Rather than direct a young man to a 
particular type of date, it suggested that if 
Sally Hiborn is really worth the trouble she 
won't care if they dine in a neighborhood 
cafeteria instead of the Fitz-Cherry Hotel. 
This is typical Emily Post, the parrying of the 
question and an answer based on common 
sense and the feelings of all concerned. 

New characters joined Etiquette's cast in 
1937. One was Gloria Gorgeous who needed 
to learn to stop applying makeup in public lest 
men wonder: If she really is gorgeous, why 
does her face need such constant attention? 43 

The 1937 edition includes a few letters 
from readers, including one asking what if she 
is high society and "he is from over the car 
tracks." "Go out on those car tracks and take 
a good look at them," stormed Mrs. Post, and 
"ask yourself if you are really such a snob that 
you can't see true values except as some of 
your friends happen to appraise them for you. 
And if the car track boundaries still seem that 
of a foreign country, break your engage- 
ment!" 44 What a firebrand! It calls to mind the 
Emily Post who campaigned for the repeal of 
Prohibition although she herself was a 
nondrinker. And how perfectly modern this 
advice is, yet based on one of Emily Post's 
basicprinciples — that the most important value 
is the happiness of all. A similar letter from a 
female reader who was from the wrong side of 
town drew a similar response. 

Some of the 1937 edition's additions ex- 
hibited a timeless modernity, for example, the 
new section on smoking. Characteristically, 
Mrs. Post, a nonsmoker, saw both sides of the 
argument. She advised smokers to be more 


discreet and careful about smoking habits 
(e.g., don't put out cigarettes on lamp bases, 
etc.) and advised nonsmokers to be tolerant of 

New technology generates new questions 
of courtesy. Of those who blasted radios at full 
volume, Mrs. Post said, it "is something that 
causes too much misery to need comment 
further than to beg them to remember the 
rudeness they are perpetrating in putting oth- 
ers to the torture of blaring noise." 45 On the 
other hand, she considered it acceptable to 
turn down a dinner invitation to stay home to 
hear a program on the radio. Mary Littlehouse 
liked the opera, but, not being able to afford 
tickets, listened on the radio. So she was not 
being rude when she declined the dinner invi- 
tation from Mrs. Onthehill 

She also addressed other technologies. 
She cautioned that those who did not own a 
telephone should not make frequent calls on a 
neighbor's phone, especially not toll calls. 
And she added a new chapter on "Manners for 
Motorists." Though she herself never learned 
to drive, Mrs. Post loved traveling by car; one 
of her early publishing successes was her 
account By Motor to the Golden Gate (New 
York: D. Appleton, 1916). Predictably, she 
advised motorists to be courteous and to avoid 
unnecessary horn honking because of impa- 
tience. Motorists are to make the hand signal 
for "stop" the moment they know they are 
about to apply the brakes, and no drinking and 
driving. 46 

Other new chapters covered "Etiquette in 
Washington and State Capitals" and "Restau- 
rant Etiquette." Another new chapter on the 
"Fraternity House Party and Commencement" 
analyzed the concept of "popularity." Here 
Mrs, Post warned college freshmen of both 
sexes not to make an excessive effort to be 
popular, but to be themselves. This, she as- 
sured them, would cultivate fine andgenerous 
friends. Who pays what and appropriate dress 
and behavior at major college events were 
also thoroughly described. 

The 1937 edition (in numerical sequence 
the fifth edition of Etiquette, although not so 

designated) was very well received by the 
book-buying public as well as the critics. 
Euphemia Van Rensselaer Wyatt envisioned 
"an exquisitely ordered universe in which 
everyone from debutantes to motorists put 
courtesy first," thanks to following Emily 
Post's principles which she likened to a "mod- 
ern code of chivalry" rather than a mere com- 
pilation of social do's and don'ts. 47 Though the 
price of Etiquette had remained $4 for 1 5 
years from the first edition to the fifth, Mrs. 
Wyatt thought the cost high, but nonetheless 
well worth it. In Etiquette, The New York 
Times perceived "a philosophy of behavior 
which insists that no line of conduct can be 
correct that is not kindly and wise." 48 

After the outbreak of World War II, sales 
of Etiquette continued to climb. One reason 
was U.S .0. Clubs throughout the United States 
and overseas made a special point of obtaining 
the book and they reported that requests for it 
ran second only to requests for the Rand 
McNally atlas. Public libraries discovered that 
more copies of Etiquette were borrowed and 
not returned (or simply stolen) than any other 
book except the Bible. The great war corre- 
spondent Ernie Py le boosted sales of Etiquette 
by writing in one of his published dispatches 
that when he was in Ireland, the candidates for 
officer training schools had to know their 
Emily Post. Later he coined the term "Emily 
Posters." The Chicago Daily News picked up 
the idea and did a story reporting that while 
Betty Grable was their Number One Pin-up 
Girl, Emily Post was their Number One Look- 
Up Girl. 49 

The 1942 revised edition of Etiquette 
came with a special separate 20-page War 
Time Supplement addressing many of the 
specific situations occurring in a nation at war. 
One of her Bell Syndicate columns titled "Our 
Wounded Come Home: How to Treat Them," 
was widely reprinted in 1943, appearing in 
This Week Magazine and the Reader 's Digest. 
"From now on more and more of our serious 
wounded will appear in public " Mrs. Post 
said. "What are we going to do and say when 
they leave the hospitals and take theirplaces in 


the world for which they have given so much?" 
She advised, "Don't stare, don't point, don't 
make personal remarks.*' She added that it is 
rude to ask a man how he lost an eye or leg or 
what injuries caused the scars on his face and 
that commiseration from strangers is obnox- 
ious. Wives and mothers, she warned, must 
school themselves to keep tears under con- 
trol. 50 

The 1945 edition of Etiquette carried the 
expected addition, "Concerning Military and 
Postwar Etiquette." It covered many situa- 
tions involving returning veterans. In it she 
noted that it is inconsiderate to tell a veteran 
how difficult the hardships of war-time living 
were at home and cautioned against imitating 
the girl at a soda fountain who said, "I guess 
you're glad to be home to get a real job." 51 
There was a new, brief section on Reformed 
and Orthodox Jewish weddings and "Simpli- 
fied Wedding Details for a Bride in Everyday 
Clothes," this being anot uncommon carryover 
practice from the war years, An expanded 
section on telephone etiquette suggested that 
"Hello" remained the correct way to answer 
the phone at home; furthermore, giving one's 
name, as in "Mrs. Jones speaking," leaves one 
without chance of retreat from salesmen and 

The 1955 edition of Etiquette appeared 
with minor revisions. Mrs. Post was then 82 
years old and more and more of the activity 
concerned with the world of "Emily Post's 
Etiquette" was being handled by the Emily 
Post Institute, founded by son Edwin Post in 
1946 and operated under his direction. The 
institute handled the voluminous mail Mrs. 
Post received, did research for her books, and 
prepared a cookbook, published as the Emily 
Post Cookbook in 1951 (New York: Funk & 
Wagnalls). 52 Some of the 1955 edition's revi- 
sions diluted the vigor and originality of Mrs. 
Post's original text. The famous bungled din- 
ner episode was abridged; the concluding line 
from every previous edition had been "What- 
ever you do, don't dine with the Newweds 
unless you eat your dinner before you go, and 

wear black glasses so no sight can offend 
you." The 1955 edition shortened this to 
"Whatever you do, don't dine with the 
Newweds unless you eat your dinner before 
you go," 53 without the cleverly extravagant, 
amusingly snide remark about wearing dark 
glasses. And the ill-rnannered fire, which up 
through the 1945 edition had smoked every- 
one out of the drawing room, was eliminated. 
In a New Yorker article entitled "The Waning 
Oomph of Mrs. Toplofty," Geoffrey Hellman 
cleverly explored this watering-down. He cited 
another example along the same lines: the first 
edition's statement, "To be a slattern in a 
vulgar household is scarcely an elevated 
employment, but neither is working in a sweat- 
shop," had by the 1955 edition been changed 
to "To be a slattern in a vulgar household is 
scarcely an elevated employment, but neither 
is belonging to the lower ranks of any other 
calling." 54 The sharp, poetic "sweatshop" im- 
age is gone, perhaps revealing acute politic 
instincts in not making smart comments which 
might offend labor or management. 

The Tenth Edition — Mrs. Post's 

The tenth edition of Etiquette was the last 
edition "by Emily Post;" it appeared in the 
spring of 1960, the year of her death. Mrs. Post 
died inNew York City onSeptember 25, 1960, 
at the age of 86. A front-page obituary in The 
New York Times pointed out how Mrs. Post 
had pioneered the simplification of good man- 
ners whi ch at the time of the 1 922 edition were 
unnecessarily elaborate. "Every edition of her 
book emphasized the basic rule of etiquette: 
make the other person comfortable." 55 

A helpful improvement in format in the 
1960 edition was expansion of the table of 
contents by several pages, allowing listing of 
all subheadings in each chapter, thus permit- 
ting easier browsing. New topics reflecting 
the times were discussed, including the "blind 
date" (but only if the third party gets approval 
from Gloria Gorgeous before giving her phone 


number to John Handsome). The chapter on 
"Military and Postwar Etiquette" from the 
previous edition was boiled down to a small 
chapter limited to the display, care, etc., of the 
U.S. flag. Most revisions were minor. Tele- 
phoning and smoking, for instance, previ- 
ously covered in a single chapter, received 
their own chapters. The classic chapter "Mrs. 
Three-in-One Gives a Dinner Party," a staple 
since the 1927 edition, was eliminated. In- 
deed, little by little many of the famous char- 
acters with the symbolicnames had departed — 
too corny, perhaps was the thought; but with 
them left much of the charm of the first edition. 

The tenth edition added a brief four-page 
concluding chapter titled "For and About 
Young People." It emphasized "fair play," 
respect for others* property and rights, and 
counseled children "to give credit to others 
and not take too much credit to themselves," 56 
In short, the philosophy of courtesy and con- 
sideration towards others, the Emily Post phi- 
losophy, applies to children as well as adults. 

Funk & Wagnalls, publisher of every edi- 
tion through the tenth (1 960), was acquired by 
Reader's Digest in 1965; Reader's Digest 
published the eleventh edition that same year. 
In 1 97 1 Reader's Digest sold Funk & Wagnalls 
to Standard Reference Library, Inc., then later 
the same year ownership of Funk & Wagnalls 
was transferred to the Donnelly Corporation. 
Donnelly subsequently assigned trade pub- 
lishing operations to Thomas Y.Cro well Com- 
pany. Eventually Harper & Row acquired 
Etiquette and published the fourteenth edi- 
tion, the current edition, in 1984. 

Reader's Digest published the eleventh 
edition in 1965 although it still carried the 
Funk & Wagnalls imprint. This, the first edi- 
tion published after Emily Post's death, was 
revised by Elizabeth L. Post, Emily Post's 

Elizabeth L Post 

Elizabeth Post seemed true to the spirit of 
the Emily Post philosophy. In her "Preface" 

she described her first apprehensive meeting 
with Mrs. Post. "I found that the supposedly 
unapproachable authority on all our manners 
and behavior was the sweetest most natural 
warm-hearted unaffected person I had ever 
met." Elizabeth Post understood that perfect 
manners can only be achieved "by making 
consideration and unselfishness an integral 
part of your behavior." 57 

Elizabeth Post made several bold addi- 
tions. An entirely new chapter advised how to 
make successful appearances on radio and 
television. Emily Post, for eight years a suc- 
cessful radio celebrity, could have written a 
chapter such as this, but never did. The new 
chapter on public speaking was an excellent 
primer on the subject, advising how to pre- 
pare, what kind of notes to bring, opening 
words, use of humor and props, what to do 
with one's hands, and even how to dress, as 
well as how to introduce a speaker. A new 
chapter on pets and people described how to 
keep a dog or cat without allowing the animal 
to become nuisance to others. Consideration 
of others' feelings was extended to animals. 

Emily Post's "Sports and Games" section 
had consisted mostly of the card game of 
bridge and some discussion of golf. The 1965 
edition added a major discussion of skiing 
along with advice on "conduct at a profes- 
sional match," including football, baseball, 
basketball, ice shows, and even rodeos! Ac- 
knowledging the increasingly important role 
of etiquette in the business world, Elizabeth 
Post added a chapter on "Conducting Meet- 
ings" that covered both business meetings and 
meetings held in the home for planning charity 
fund raisers and the like. 

The 1965 Elizabeth Post edition made a 
decided effort, as have subsequent editions, to 
be trendy and au courant. In a sense, therein 
lies a problem. In the 1922 first edition, Emily 
Post truly captured the personality of the post- 
World War I realm of high society and of its 
breeding and manners which today, as they 
did in 1965, seem old-fashioned and artificial. 
Though the aristocracy she described appeared 


^ P ^S 

exclusive, there was a genuine noblesse oblige 
in her writing. Emily Post's etiquette code was 
tied to Victorian tradition, which made hers a 
conservative approach. Through the many 
editions of Etiquette, one sees traditions up- 
held for the sake of tradition, long after they 
have ceased to be common practice. 

Elizabeth Post has made a conscientious 
effort to be relevant to the times but has been 
burdened by the old baggage of much of the 
Emily Post approach. Among other conven- 
tions indicative of this dilemma, the chaperon 
was still discussed, at unnecessary length, in 
the 1965 edition. The Emily Post text retained 
in Elizabeth Post editions has often been re- 
vised, smoothing out its delightfully rough 

Some of Emily Post's symbolic charac- 
ters have been retained along with her text, but 
few if any new ones have been created. Little 
by little through the years they have faded into 
the wings. In the 1965 edition, the "Blind 
Date" section, for instance, retained the sec- 
tion Emily Post wrote about Gloria Gorgeous 
and John Handsome, but Elizabeth Post added 
paragraphs describing Cindy, Charlie, and 
Jane. This supplanting of colorful, witty, sym- 
bolic names with dull, generic, android names 
is characteristic of the increasing lack of ex- 
citement in Etiquette, a gradual dehumanizing 
process making it progressively more difficult 
for the reader to sense the author's personal- 

As if inviting comparison, in 1 969 Funk & 
Wagnalls/Reader's Digest published two edi- 
tions of Etiquette, one the twelfth edition by 
Elizabeth Post and the other a reprint facsimile 
of the original first edition of Etiquette by 
Emily Post. (The latter sold for $10, $6 more 
than in 1 922.) Reviewing the two in the Satur- 
day Review, Jerome Beatty found the 1922 
edition "a delight to read" and "more interest- 
ing" than the newcomer. 58 Justin Kaplan 
couldn't resist comparing the two in a fasci- 
nating Harper's article, "A Rose for Emily." 
He perceived that the book's concept had 
shifted over the years "from a guide to forms 
and etiquette to a general encyclopedia of 

modern living which now gives practical and 
for the most part sensible advice on how to 
conduct yourself." He observed the effect of 
retaining in the newer editions the sections 
Emily Posthad written. That nowhere in those 
sections is "sex" mentioned except in the term 
"the opposite sex," that one should avoid 
discussing religion and politics, and that one 
should never write a letter that would be 
embarrassing if printed in the newspaper sug- 
gest that "things haven't changed all thatmuch 
in Emily Post's world in nearly fifty years . . . 
under twelve layers of writing and revision 
there is still Emily Post's Troy, a rather crusty 
place." 59 

This captures the perpetual dilemma. The 
truly captivating passages, those of genuine 
literary merit, are holdovers written by the 
cantankerous, lively Emily Post. Conscien- 
tiously excising these would make the book 
less old-fashioned and Victorian, but then 
much of the appeal would be lost. The bright- 
est literary gem, the bungled dinner episode, 
which appeared in one form or another in all 
of Emily Post's editions, was removed by 
Elizabeth Post in the 1965 edition, never to 
reappear. One can speculate about the rea- 
sons; but whatever they were, Etiquette lost a 
memorable story. 

The twelfth edition added a section on the 
Bar Mitzvah and expanded discussion of teen- 
agers' social interactions. An analytical as- 
pect crept into this edition, at one point caus- 
ing Elizabeth Post to disagree with Emily Post 
on introductions. "Best Society has only one 
phrase in acknowledgement of an introduc- 
tion: 'How do you do?' It literally accepts no 
other," according to Emily Post in the first 
edition. 60 She did allow, however, that "Hello" 
suffices for greetings on informal occasions. 
Challenging this supposedly absolute dictum, 
Elizabeth Post declared, "If you think about it, 
the phrase 'How do you do?' has little mean- 
ing. Therefore, except on very formal occa- 
sions when tradition is important and desir- 
able, I prefer the less formal responses: 'Hello,' 
or 'I'm very glad to meet you.'" 6 'Insisting that 
expressions make literal sense was a new 




concept; Emily Post's approach had been to 
affirm the traditional greetings with which 
people were familiar and comfortable. 

The 1975 edition was called The New 
Emily Post Etiquette. In it Elizabeth Post ad- 
vised, "Don't panic if you find your child has 
smoked marijuana," though she thought it 
prudent to persuade him or her not to graduate 
to harder drugs. 62 Other formerly forbidden 
topics were now discussed, including sex, but 
only in the context of "sexual relations during 
engagement." Typical of the attempt in recent 
editions tobe all things to all people, Elizabeth 
Post concluded that "each couple must decide 
this question for themselves." Although rel- 
evant factors in that decision are discussed, 
including the alleged nonapproval of society 
in general, the reader is left without the opin- 
ionated lectures Emily Post delivered when 
she was at the helm, In other words, "permis- 
siveness" had crept into the rules of etiquette; 
allowing that may have been a serious tactical 
error. As Charles Bunge observed, Elizabeth 
Post "has tried to revise this edition to keep up 
with today's informal, open way of life, thereby 
diminishing the distinction between Post and 
other guides." 53 Other new sections included 
"You and Your Neighbor," geared to subur- 
banites. In this section the advice is more a 
collection of homilies than true insights, with 
Elizabeth Post advising, "Apply the Golden 
Rule, treat them as you would like them to treat 



A sampling of quotes from the 1922 edi- 
tion were scattered throughout the 1975 edi- 
tion, perhaps to resurrect some of the charac- 
ter which had been disappearing from recent 
editions. But this is an awkward device since 

the quotes are not integrated into the text but 
just sit here and there as amusing but insular 

Elizabeth Post is also author of the current 
edition, the fourteenth, Emily Post 's Etiquette, 
published in 1 984 by Harper and Row. A huge 
new section, "Your Professional Life," incor- 
porates what is often called "business eti- 
quette" and which in previous editions re- 
ceived little attention. This section includes 
chapters on getting ahead in business, busi- 
ness clubs and associations, leaving your job, 
and traveling on business. This in-depth treat- 
ment of business issues is consistent with the 
modernization of Etiquette, which the four- 
teenth edition's dust jacket describes as "A 
Guide to Modern Manners," 

Described by one critic as "blunt and 
homely*' 65 compared to the Emily Post's origi- 
nal work, the Elizabeth Post 1984 edition 
continues the practice of reproducing quotes 
from the 1922 edition, as if to recapture past 
glories, but with no greater success than be- 

The Elizabeth Post revisions are compe- 
tent and comprehensive. They can be useful 
guides in coping with the rapidly changing 
social situations of recent decades. The one 
thing they lack is the true genius of Emily Post, 
whose skills as a literary stylist, combined 
with a playful sense of humor which matured 
to jaunty cantankerousness in her later writ- 
ings, made her editions of Etiquette a true 
delight. Emily Post was a celebrity whose 
personality caught the American imagination 
in the Roaring Twenties and maintained that 
hold until her death. 


Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at 

Home, by Emily Post. New York: Funk & 

Wagnalls, 1922. 627p. 
Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, by Emily 

Post. New and enlarged ed. New York: Funk & 

Wagnalls, 1927. 692p. 
Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, by Emily 

Post. New and enlarged ed. New York: Funk & 

Wagnalls, 1931. 740p. 

Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, by Emily 
Past. Complete new ed., rewritten, revised, and 
reset. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1937. 877p. 

Etiquette: War-Time Supplement, by Emily Post, 
New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1942. 20p. 

Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, by Emily 
Post. Complete new ed., rewritten, revised, and 
reset, including War-Time Supplement. New 
York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1942. 913p. 


Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, by Emily 

Post. New York: Funk &Wagnalls, 1945. 654p. 
Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, by Emily 

Post. 9th ed. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 

1955. 671p. 
Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, by Emily 

Post. 10th ed. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 

1960. 67 lp. 
Emily Post's Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social 

Usage, revised by Elizabeth L. Post. 11th rev. 

ed. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1965. 707p. 

Emily Post's Etiquette, by Elizabeth L. Post. 1 2th 

rev. ed. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1969. 

The New Emily Post 's Etiquette, by Elizabeth L. 

Post. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1975.978p. 
Emily Post's Etiquette, by Elizabeth L. Post. 14th ed. 

New York: Harper & Row, 1984. l,018p. 


Truly Emily Post, the only book-length 
biography of Post is her son Edwin's enter- 
taining and loving tribute to a memorable 
personality. Owing to Edwin Post's some- 
times overly respectful approach to his sub- 
ject, other sources, especially the articles in 
the Dictionary of American Biography and 
Notable American Women are valuable for 
filling in some of the factual details of her life. 
Among commentators on Etiquette, Atherton 
and Wyatt evoke the book's initial impact. 
The front-page New York Times obituary did 
justice to one of New York' most celebrated 
citizens, skillfully summarizing and evaluat- 
ing her distinguished career. A long standing 
institution is always ripe for iconoclastic at- 
tack, but among modern critics, Kaplan's 
thoughtful piece is the most balanced. 

Ames, William E. "Post, Emily Price." {^Dictionary 
of American Biography, Supplement 6: 1956- 
1960, edited by John A. Garraty, 514-15. New 
York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980. 

Aresty, Esther B. The Best Behavior: The Course of 
Good Manners from Antiquity to the Present as 
Seen Through Courtesy and Etiquette Books. 
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970. 

Atherton, Gertrude. "A School for Better Manners in 
America." The Literary Digest International 
Book Review 1 (March, 1923): 10-11+. 

Burrell, Martin. "Manners and Etiquette." InBetwixt 
Heaven and Charing Cross, 123-31. Toronto: 
Macmillan Company of Canada, 1928. 

Carson, Gerald. Polite Americans: A Wide-Angle 
View of Our More or Less Good Manners over 
300 Years, New York: William Morrow, 1966. 

Cate, James L. "Keeping Posted." University of 
Chicago Magazine 64 (May/June, 1972): 24- 

Dolson, Hildegarde. "Ask Mrs. Post." Independent 
Woman 20 (April, 1941): 103-104+. A con- 

densed version appeared in Reader's Digest 38 
(April, 1941): 7-12. 

Downs, Robert B. "Social Arbiter: Emily Post's 
Etiquette: TheBlueBookof Social Usage, 1922." 
InFamous American Books, 266-73. New York: 
McGraw-Hill, 1971. 

"Emily Post is Dead Here at 86; Writer Was Arbiter 
of Etiquette." New York Times, September 27, 
1960, sec. l.pp. 1,37. 

Harriman, Margaret Case. "Dear Mrs. Post." In 
More Post Biographies, edited by Joseph E. 
Drewry, 255-73. Athens, GA: University of 
Georgia Press,- 1947. This was originally pub- 
lished in The Saturday Evening Post 209 (May 
15, 1937): 18-19+. 

Harris, Neil. "Post, Emily Price." In Notable Ameri- 
can Women, The Modern Period: A Biographi- 
cal Dictionary, edited by Barbara Sicherman 
and Carol Hurd Green, 554-56. Cambridge, 
MA: Belknap Press ofHarvard University Press, 

Hellman, Geoffrey T. "Onward and Upward with the 
Arts: The Waning Oomph of Mrs. Toplofty." 
The New Yorker 31 (June 18, 1955): 80-86. 

Kaplan, Justin. "A Rose for Emily." Harper's 238 
(March, 1969): 106-09. 

Mencken, H, L. Review of Etiquette, by Emily Post. 
In The American Mercury 13 (February, 1928): 

O 'Rourke, P. J, "ComeBack, Mrs. Kindheart." House 
and Garden 157 (August, 1985): 18+. 

Perkins, Jeanne, "Emily Post: America's Authority 
on Etiquette." Life 20 (May 6, 1946): 59-60+. 

Post, Edwin. Truly Emily Post. New York: Funk and 
Wagnalls, 1961. 

Post, Emily. "AnyForkWiUDo."Co///er^83 (April 
10, 1929): 21+. 

. "How I Came to Write About Etiquette." 

Pictorial Review 38 (October 1936): 4 +. 

"Post, Emily." Current Biography (1941): 681-83. 

Schlesinger, Arthur M. Learning How to Behave: A 
Historical Study of American Etiquette Books. 
New York: Macmillan, 1947. 

Smith, Helena Huntington. "Profiles: Lady Chester- 
field." The New Yorker 6 (August 16, 1930): 



Sypher,Wylie. "Mrs. Post, May I Present Mr. Eliot." 
American Scholar 54 (Spring, 1985): 250-52. 

Wilson, Edmund. "Books of Etiquette and Emily 
Post." /« Classics and Commercials: A Literary 
Chronicle of the Forties, 572-82. New York: 
Farrar, Straus, 1 950. This is a revisionof "Books 

of Etiquette and Emily Post." The New Yorker 
23 (July 19, 1947): 51-58. 
Wyatt, Euphemia Van Rensselaer. "Courtesy First." 
The Commonweal 27 (November 26, 1937): 


1 Emily Post, "How I Came to Write about Etiquette," 

Pictorial Review 38 (October 1936): 4. 

2 Ibid. 

3 Ibid, 

4 Ibid. 

3 Ibid, 56. 

6 Richard Duffy, "Manners and Morals," introduction to 

Etiquette by Emily Post (New York: Funk & 
Wagnalls, 1922), ix. 

7 Ibid, xvi, 

8 Emily Post, Etiquettein Society, inBusiness, inPolitics, 

and at Home (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1 922), 

» Emily Post, "Any Fork Will Do," Collier 's 83 (20 April 

1929): 21. 
10 Emily Post, Etiquette in Society, 1922, iii. 
" Ibid., 20 
n Ibid., 28. 
" Ibid., p. 33. 

14 Ibid, 60-61. 

15 Ibid., 65. 
14 Ibid, 288. 

17 Ibid., 289. 

18 Edwin Post, Truly Emily Post (New York: Funk & 

Wagnalls, 1961), 66. 

19 Emily ?0&l, Etiquette in Society, 1922, 506. 
10 Ibid., 509. 

31 Edwin Post, Truly Emily Post, 211. 

22 Gerald Carson, Volile Americans (New York: William 

Morrow, 1966), 238. 

23 Edwin Post, Truly Emily Post, 213. 

24 Edmund Wilson, "Books of Etiquette and Emily Post," 

in Classics and Commercials (New York: Farrar, 
Straus, 1950), 374. 

25 Emily Post, Etiquette in Society 1922, 179-84. 
2 « "Post, Emily," Current Biography (194 1): 682. 

27 Hildegarde Dolson, "Ask Mrs, Post," Independent 

Woman 20 (April 1941); 104. 

28 Review of Etiquette in Society, in Business, inPolitics, 

and at Home, by Emily Post, Booklist 19 (April 
1923): 206. 

29 Gertrude Atherton, "A School for Better Manners in 

America," The Literary Digest-International Book 
Review 1 (March 1923): 10. 
3l> Review of Etiquette in Society, in Business, inPolitics, 
and at Home, by Emily Post, in New York Tribune, 
2 September 1922, 7, 

31 Review of Etiquette in Society, in Business, inPolitics, 

and at Home,by Emily Post, TheLiteraryDigestlA 
(19 August 1922): 33, 

32 Edwin Post, Truly Emily Post, 2 15. 

" Margaret Case Harriman, "Dear Mrs. Post," in More 
Post Biographies (Athens, GA: University oFGeor- 
gia Press, 1947), 263. 

34 Emily Post, "Any Fork Will Do," 21. 

35 Edwin Post, Truly Emily Post, 235-37. 

36 "Emily Post is Dead Here at 86/Wew York Times, 27 

September I960, sec. 1, p. 1. 

37 Hildegarde Dolson, "Ask Mrs. Post," 103. 

3 * Emily Post, Etiquette (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 
1927), 287. 

39 Emily Post, Etiquette: 1927, 646. 

40 Edwin Post, Truly Emily Post, 226. 

41 Review of Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, 

by Emily Post (1937), Publishers Weekly 132 (18 
September 1937): 1102. 

42 Emily Post, Etiquette (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 

1937), 355. 

43 Ibid, 370. 

44 Ibid,, 375. 

45 Ibid., 547. 

46 Ibid., 69. 

47 Euphemia van Rensselaer Wyatt, "Courtesy First," The 

Commonweal 27 (26 November 1937): 135. 
4 " Review of Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, 
by Emily Post (1937), The New York Times Book 
Review, 10 October 1937, 23. 

49 Edwin Post, Truly Emily Post, 246. 

50 Emily Post, "Our Wounded Come Home: How to Treat 

Them," Reader 's Digest 44 (February 1944): 72- 

51 Emily Post, Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage 

(New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1 945), 637. 

52 "Obituary Notes: Emily Vost,"Publishers Weekly 17S 

(3 October 1960): 41. 
" Emily Post, Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage 
(New York: Funk &. Wagnalls, 1955), 176. 

54 Geoffrey T. Hellman, "The Waning Oomph of Mrs. 

Toplofty," The New Yorker 31 (18 June 1955): 87. 

55 "Emily Post is Dead Here at 86," p. 37. 

i6 Emily Post, Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage 
(New York; Funk & Wagnalls, I960), 641. 

"Elizabeth L. Post, Emily Post's Etiquette, 1 1th rev. ed. 
(New York; Funk & Wagnalls, 1965), iii. 

58 Jerome Beatty, Jr., review of Emily Post 's Etiquette, by 

Elizabeth L. Post, Saturday Review 52(15 February 
1969): 22. 

59 Justin Kaplan, "A Rose far Emily," Harper's 238 

(March 1969): 106-09. 

60 Emily Post, Etiquette, 1922, S. 

61 Elizabeth L. Post, Emily Post's Etiquette, 12threv. ed. 

(New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1969), 10, 

62 Elizabeth L. Post, TheNew Emily Post 's Etiquette (New 

York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1975), 917. 

63 Charles Bunge, review of The New Emily Post's 

Etiquette, by Elizabeth L. Post, Wilson Library 

Bulletin 49 (June 1975): 757. 
44 Post, TheNew Emily Post's Etiquette, 1975, 937. 
* s P. J. O'Rourke, "Come Back, Mrs. Kindheart," House 

and Garden 157 (August 1985): 19. 

"Of Permanent Use and Usefulness": 
Granger's Index to Poetry 

Milton H. Crouch 


Granger 's Index to Poetry has been a standard 
reference work since its appearance in 1904 
and the purpose of the index has remained 
substantially unchanged: "to assist the reader 
in identifying and locating poems or selec- 
tions from poems which have appeared in the 
most generally accessible anthologies." 1 Ev- 
ery edition has been a long and heavy book. 
The first edition indexed 369 volumes and 
contained 30,000 titles; the second edition, 
460 volumes and 50,000 titles; the third, 592 
volumes and 75,000 titles. The most recent 
edition, the ninth, indexes 781 volumes con- 
taining 150,000 titles. 

The index is the outgrowth of work by 
employees in the poetry department of 
McClurg's retail book store in Chicago who 
needed information to help customers locate 
poetry and short prose works. P.W. Coussents 
prepared the manuscript that was subsequently 
edited by Edith Granger, an employee as- 
signed to McClurg's book publishing opera- 
tion. 2 Little more about this famous index's 
obscure namesake has been preserved for 
posterity. By the time McClurg and Company 
terminated publishing activities in the early 
1940s, Granger 's, along with the Tarzan books 
and the Hopalong Cassidy books, had become 
one of the company's most important publica- 
tions. 3 The Columbia University Press began 
editing and publishing the index in the early 
1940s, and the second supplement, published 
in 1945, was the first of the series it has 

published. Columbia University Press short- 
ened the title to Granger 's Index to Poetry and 


After 1 945, some important changes were 
introduced. Recitations and all prose works 
were dropped from the listing, and the practice 
of having separate indexes for title and first 
lines ceased when the two indexes were com- 
bined into a single alphabetical list. A most 
important new feature was a subject index 
produced by Elizabeth J. Sherwood, which 
took the place of what had been termed an 
"Appendix" in earlier editions. These changes 
were made with the fourth edition, published 
in 1 953 , and arguably the watershed edition of 
the entire series. Combining the two major 
indexes (title and first line) eliminated dupli- 
cation of entries and served to cut "out the 
paralysis over which index to begin on.' M 

Prior to editor Sherwood's subject index 
in the fourth edition, users needed to study 
titles grouped under broad subject categories: 
"Special Days," "Charades, Dialogues, Drills, 
etc.," "Noted Personages," "Temperance Se- 
lections." Poems concerning temperance were 
dropped from the third edition and a substan- 
tial new subject entry — "Choral Reading," 
listing 170 selections — was added. The index 
was expanded for the fifth edition and by the 
sixth poems were itemized under approxi- 
mately 5,000 subject headings. 



Subject indexing of poetry is difficult and 
the better the poem, the more difficult the 
classification under an arbitrary subject head- 
ing. William James Smith, editor of the sixth 
edition, wrote: "We have tried to avoid the 
more obvious pitfalls of subject arrangement, 
but we have included a number of somewhat 
doubtful subject classifications on the theory 
that the individual can make his own judgment 
as to the suitability of our suggestions." 5 One 
reviewer of the sixth edition found the subject 
index an anomaly and complained that the 
editors had placed Robert Frost's "The Road 
Not Taken, 1 ' under "Roads." 6 


Edith Granger intended for the index to 
prosper. The first short preface promised that 
future editions would index more anthologies 
and invited librarians to take an interest in the 
work. Both of Granger 's publishers have used 
questionnaires to glean comments from refer- 
ence librarians and both have responded to 
these suggestions. 7 In addition to requesting 
more complete subject indexing, librarians 
expressed the need for the index to include 
more contemporary poets and to expand cov- 
erage to include poetry in translation. 

The third edition began to address these 
requests and indexed 3 5 titles by 14 of the best 
known contemporary poets. The sixth edition 
contained recent poetry written on such timely 
subjects as ecology and women's liberation. It 
also included a number of volumes devoted to 
Afro- American poetry. The seventh edition 
represented a major effort by the editors to 
include more contemporary poets. The num- 
ber of anthologies carried over from previous 
editions was limited in order to include 128 
new volumes of poetry. 

With the eighth edition, a major effort was 
made to include more poems by Asian Ameri- 
cans, Chicanos, and Native Americans; an 
anthology of poems written by American pris- 
oners was also included. The ninth edition, 
entitled Columbia Granger's 91 Index to Po- 

etry ; is perhaps more international than previ- 
ous editions, indexing more than 50 collec- 
tions of translated poetry. Its subject index 
leads users to English translations of hundreds 
of poems, including translations from Urdu, 
Hebrew, Gaelic, Yiddish, and Maori. 

Major British and American poets have 
always been well represented. All major or 
minor poets included in Donald E. Stanford's 
British Poets, 1 91 4-1945 (Detroit: Gale Re- 
search, 1983) are found in the early editions of 
Granger 's. Many winners of the Pulitzer Prize 
for poetry between 1922 and 1976 have been 
included in Granger 's prior to receiving the 
prize and those few who were not included in 
an earlier edition are to be found in the very 
next supplement or new edition. The index 
enables users to trace the disappearance of 
minor poets from recently published antholo- 
gies and to identify the ever popular minor 
poets, such as John Greenleaf Whittier, Edwin 
Arlington Robinson, and James Whitcomb 

Critical Reception 

Granger's has received little critical at- 
tention, but an enthusiastic reviewer of the 
first edition helped establish its status as a 
classic reference work: "This may fairly be 
said to be an indispensable reference work, 
and one assured of permanent use and useful- 
ness in large and small libraries." 8 The work 
reached its sixth edition before being reviewed 
by the American Library Association ' s Refer- 
ence and Subscription Books Reviews. 9 Com- 
ments gleaned from brief reviews in library 
publications center on production and format 
concerns. For example, reviewers complain 
of narrow inside margins, small print, lack of 
thumb indexing guides (which disappeared 
with the publication of the seventh edition), 
and point out that heavier paper stock should 
be used for "Keys to Symbols," a frequently 
consulted section of the index. 

The index has not had an exciting publica- 
tion history. However, as one of the first 


indexes to composite books, it has been a 
major influence in the area of reference book 
publishing. The name "Granger's" has be- 
come synonymous with poetry indexing and is 
now a registered trademark. Two early ex- 
amples of indexes intended to supplement 
Granger's are Herbert Bruncken's Subject 
Index to Poetry; a Guide for Adult Readers 
(Chicago: American Library Association, 
1940) and John and Sara Brewton's Index to 
Children 's Poetry (New York: H.W. Wilson, 
1942). Herbert Hoffman compiled his index to 
Latin American poetry to serve as a non- 
English language complement to Granger J s. i0 
A new monographic series entitled Poetry 
Index Annual, published since 1 982 by Poetry 
Index Press, Great Neck, New York, provides 
access to anthologized poetry which is not 
indexed elsewhere. It is in effect a supplement 
to Granger 's since it functions as a kind of up- 
dating service between Granger's installments. 
The latest edition of Granger's has been 
joined by a volume briefly reviewing each of 
the anthologies it indexes. William and Linda 
Katz's The Columbia Granger's® Guide to 
Poetry Anthologies groups the anthologies by 
type (e.g., Afro- American poetry, ballads and 
songs, children's poetry, Finnish poetry, holi- 
day poetry, love poetry, Scottish poetry, vam- 
pire poetry) and describes the internal organi- 
zation of each. The Katzes also comment on 
the overall quality of each anthology's con- 
tents and single out examples of quality and 
representative poems. This book should help 

librarians whose budgets cannot support a full 
collection of the indexed anthologies decide 
which to buy. 

Since 1904, Granger's has had ten edi- 
tors. The illnesses and deaths of these men and 
women who have worked at the Columbia 
University Press are reported in various edi- 
tions of the index. However, no information is 
given in any of the editions concerning Edith 
Granger. None of the major library publica- 
tions have featured her or reported her death. 
Staff of the Chicago Public Library have been 
unable to locate information in indexes to 
local newspapers. We know from the prefaces 
to the first two editions that she completed 
university; we alsoknow she initiated an index 
that has enabled thousands to locate needed 
poems and to learn from poets what it is like to 
be alive. 

Although the history of its creator is un- 
known, the future of the index she created is 
assured. In 1991, the index will be released on 
CD-ROM. An inherent limitation of Granger 's 
has always been the need to search titles or 
first lines by their first significant words but 
not by other words. A CD-ROM Granger's 
will allow new avenues of access to poems 
that will make Granger's, always the most 
useful of poetry indexes, even more useful and 
versatile. One feature that will enhance its 
usefulness is the inclusion of the full texts of 
8,500 poems on the CD-ROM. 11 Whatever its 
medium, Granger 's will continue to grow and 


An Index to Poetry and Recitations; Being a Practi- 
Bookseller, Elocutionist, etc., edited by Edith 
Granger. Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Co., 
1904. 970p. 

Granger's Index to Poetry and Recitations; Being a 
Practical Reference Manual for the Librarian, 
Teacher, Bookseller, Elocutionist, etc., edited 
by Edith Granger. Revised and enlarged edition 
[2nd ed.]. Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Co., 
1918. l,059p. 

A Supplement to Granger's Index (1919-1928). Chi- 
cago: A. C. McClurg and Co., 1929. 519p. 

Granger 's Index to Poetry and Recitations, edited by 
Helen Humphrey Bessey. 3rd ed., completely 

revised and enlarged, Chicago: A. C. McClurg 
and Co., 1940. l,525p. 

Granger's Index to Poetry and Recitations: Supple- 
ment, 1938-1944, edited by Elizabeth J. 
Sherwood and Gertrude Henderson. New York: 
Columbia University Press, 1945. 415p. 

Granger's Index to Poetry, edited by Raymond J. 
Dixon. 4th ed., completely revised and en- 
larged, indexing anthologies published through 
December 31, 1950. New York: Columbia Uni- 
versity Press, 1953. l,832p. 

Granger 's Index to Poetry: Supplement to the Fourth 
Edition, edited by Raymond J. Dixon. Indexing 
anthologies published from January 1, 1951 to 
December 31,1955. New York: Columbia Uni- 
versity Press, 1957. 458p. 

• i:l 

■tf I 


Granger's Index to Poetry, edited by William F. 
Bernhardt, 5th ed., completely revised and en- 
larged, indexing anthologies published through 
June 30, 1 960. New York: Columbia University 
Press, 1962. 2,123p, 

Granger's Index to Poetry; Supplement to the Fifth 
Edition, edited by William F. Bernhardt and 
Kathryn W. Sewny. Indexing anthologies pub- 
lished from July 1 , 1 960 to December 31,1965. 
New York: Columbia University Press, 1967. 

Granger's Indexto Poetry, edited by William James 
Smith. 6th ed., completely revised and en- 
larged, indexing anthologies published through 
December 31,1 970. New York: Columbia Uni- 
versity Press, 1973. 2,223p. 

Granger's Index to Poetry, 1970-1977, edited by 
William James Smith. New York: Columbia 
University Press, 1978, 63 5p. 

Granger 's Index to Poetry, edited by William James 
Smith and William F. Bernhardt. 7th ed., index- 
ing anthologies published from 1970 through 

1981. New York: Columbia University Press, 

1982. l,329p. 

Granger's® Index to Poetry, edited by William F. 
Bernhardt. 8th Edition, completely revised and 
enlarged, indexing anthologies published 
through June 30, 1985. New York: Columbia 
University Press, 1986. 2,014p. 

The Columbia Granger 's* Index to Poetry, edited by 
Edith P. Hazen, and Deborah J. Fryer. 9th ed., 
completely revised indexing anthologies pub- 
lished through June 30, 1989. New York: Co- 
lumbia University Press, 1990. 2,082p. 


As noted, Granger '$ has received little 
critical or historical attention. The reviews 
listed below are the most significant. Baier 
offers historical information on A.C. McClurg 
and Co. Only time can tell whether or not a 
companion such as the Katzes ' book becomes 
a standard for future editions of Granger 's. 

Baier, Andrew, "Book Wholesaler to the Nation." 
Illinois Libraries 47 (September, 1965): 665- 

Breit, Harvey. "In and Out of Books." New York 
Times, April 26, 1953, sec. 7, p. 8. 

Katz, William, and Linda Sternberg Katz. The Co- 
lumbia Granger's* Guide to Poetry Antholo- 
gies. New York: Columbia University Press, 

Review ofAn Index to Poetry and Recitations; Being 
a Practical Reference Manual for the Librar- 
ian, Teacher, Bookseller, Elocutionist, etc., 
edited by Edith Granger (1904 ed.). Library 
Journal 29 (September, 1904): 489. 

Review of Granger 's Index to Poetry, 6th ed. Booklist 
70 (April, 1974): 830. 

Review of Granger 's Index to Poetry, 6th ed. Choice 
10 (January, 1974): 1698. 

Tangorra, Joanne. "Granger' s World of Poetry Comes 
to CD-ROM." Publisher's Weekly (June 7, 
1991): 41. 


1 William James Smith and William F. Bernhardt, "Pref- 
ace," in Granger's Index to Poetry^ 6th ed. (New 
York: Columbia University Press, 1973): v. 

1 Edith Granger, "Preface," in An Index to Poetry and 
Recitations; Being a Practical Reference Manual 
for the Librarian, Teacher, Bookseller, Elocution- 
ist, e/c, (Chicago: McClurg and Co., 1604): 5. 

5 Andrew Baier, "Book Wholesaler to the Nation," Illi- 
nois Libraries 47 (September 1965): 666-67. 

4 Harvey Breit, "In and Out of Books," New York Times, 

26 April 1953, sec. 7, p. 8. 

5 Smith and Bernhardt, v. 

"Review of Granger 's Index to Poetry, 6th ed., Choice 1 
(January 1974): 1698. 

'Helen Humphrey Bessey, "Preface," in Granger's In- 
dex to Poetry and Recitations (Chicago, McClurg 
and Co,, 1940): vii. 

B Revicw of An Index to Poetry and Recitations; Being a 
Practical Reference Manual for the Librarian, 
Teacher, Bookseller, Elocutionist, etc., ed. by Edith 
Granger 1904, Library Journal 29 (September 
1904): 489. 

' Review of Granger 's Index to Poetry, 6th ed., Booklist 
70 (April 1974): 830. 

'"Herbert H. Hoffman, "Preface," in Hoffman 's Index to 
Poetry: European and Latin American Poetry in 
Anthologies (Metuchen; NJ: Scarecrow Press, 
1985): iv. 

11 Joanne Tangorra, "Granger's World of Poetry Comes 
to CD-ROM," Publisher's Weekly (7 June 1991): 

A Cornerstone of Musical 

Scholarship: Grovels Dictionary of 

Music and Musicians 

William S. Brockman 


George Grove did not underestimate the size 
or the character of the audience for the first 
edition of his Dictionary; in the preface, he 
maintained that "this work is designed to 
supply a great and long acknowledged want 
.... It is designed for the use of Professional 
musicians and Amateurs alike." 1 The music 
industry had ballooned in the latter half of the 
nineteenth century, musical journals and soci- 
eties had proliferated, and despite the nine- 
teenth century's interest in encyclopedias and 
syntheses of knowledge, no one (in Great 
Britain, at least) had published anything like 
the Dictionary. 

It has become commonplace to assert that 
the quality of British music during the nine- 
teenth century was far inferior to that of the 
Continent. 2 Yet Great Britain's burgeoning 
economic power during the Victorian era cre- 
ated a mass market for music. 3 Higher in- 
comes and an increase in leisure time offered 
people the means to seek and to afford enter- 
tainment. Theaters, music halls, and other 
venues proliferated. The building of railroads 
made travel rapid and painless, encouraging 
the development of seaside resorts (with ac- 
companying theaters to provide evening en- 
tertainment), and providing work for an in- 
creasing number of itinerant musicians. De- 
cennial censuses in Great Britain identified 
1 1 ,200 music teachers in England and Wales 

in 1851; the number rose to 38,600 by 1901. 
An even more telling statistic identifies musi- 
cians per population of 10,000: 6.2 in 1851, 
and 12.1 in 1901. 4 Moreover, music was a 
status symbol for the middle class: 

In a society which was profoundly conscious 
of class yet offered chances of social mobility, 
it was necessary for the ambitious to recog- 
nize and exhibit appropriate symbols of aspi- 
ration and achievement. Some of the most 
potent badges were pinned to music, particu- 
larly in respectable settings: ownership of a 
piano; music lessons for daughters; atten- 
dance at the oratorio, the quintessentially Vic- 
torian socio-musical event; membership of a 
concert society, preferably exclusive like all 
good clubs; appearance at the theatre or ball, 
suitably clad and preferably bejewelled. 5 

George Grove 

George Grove himself, even before he 
began compiling the Dictionary, played no 
small part in the creation of this world. Bom 
August 13, 1820, in the London suburb of 
Clapham, the son of a fishmonger and venison 
dealer, Grove attended Clapham Grammar 
School from 1834 to 1835 and was appren- 
ticed to civil engineer Alexander Gordon in 
Westminster in January 1836. He was admit- 
ted a graduate of the Institution of Civil Engi- 
neers on February 26, 1839, and traveled to 
Jamaica in 1841 and to Bermuda in 1843 to 
erect lighthouses. His engineering career de- 


veloped steadily with his involvement in the 
construction of a railroad station at Chester 
from 1847 to 1 848 and in the Britannia Tubu- 
lar Bridge across the Menai straights in Wales 
from 1848 to 1 850. Grove had always been an 
avid aficionado of music. Biographer Percy 
Young relates that in 1837 he "invested" the 
first guinea ever given to him in a piano score 
of the Messiah? At about the same time, he 
began compiling the first of many common- 
place books he was to keep throughouthis life. 
These transcriptions of music that interested 
him served as his conservatory, the closest 
Grove ever approached to a formal study of 

Grove's appointment as joint secretary of 
the Society of Arts in February 1 850 could not 
have brought him to London at a more advan- 
tageous time. The Society was planning an 
exhibition "which could serve as a shop-win- 
dow for British industry." 7 The Great Exhibi- 
tion opened on May 1, 1851, in a newly 
constructed vast building of glass in Hyde 
Park, soon nicknamed "the Crystal Palace." In 
May 1852, Grove was appointed secretary to 
the Crystal Palace Company, which disas- 
sembled the entire structure and moved it to 
the London suburb of Sydenham where it 
remained until destroyed by fire in 1936. 

From its opening on June 1 0, 1 854, at 
which an orchestra of 1,700 vocalists and 
instrumentalists performed for the queen and 
prince consort, the Crystal Palace served as a 
major force in the popularization of music in 
London. On July 21, 1855, Grove offered the 
job of conductor of the Crystal Palace Band to 
German-born August Manns. Manns' s Satur- 
day Crystal Palace concerts along with Grove' s 
program notes became a most significant force 
in the musical life of London in the ensuing 
decades: "the combination of Manns and Grove 
was to prove formidable, and, perhaps, the 
true generator of modem British music." 8 

Grove's Preparation for Editorship 

In retrospect, one could see Grove's ca- 
reer over the next 20 years as a training ground 

for his work on the Dictionary, What Grove 
lacked in formal training in music and editing, 
he compensated for with hard work and judi- 
cious use of the plentiful acquaintances he had 
made in school and through his prominent 
position at the Crystal Palace. He became a 
central figure in London's musical life through 
his friendships with Clara Schumann and 
Johannes Brahms, and in his championing of 
the music of Franz Schubert and Robert 
Schumann at Crystal Palace concerts. He made 
one of the significant musical discoveries of 
the century when, on a trip with Arthur Sullivan 
to Vienna in 1 867, he located the complete 
manuscript of Schubert's Rosamunde in a 

Grove was recommended through a mu- 
tual friend to edit A.P. Stanley's study of 
biblical geography, Sinai and Palestine (Lon- 
don: J. Murray, 1856). He edited William 
Smith's Dictionary of the Bible (London: J. 
Murray, 1860-63) after a trip in 1858 to Pal- 
estine and Egypt, and, also for Smith, An Atlas 
of Ancient Geography, Biblical and Classical 
(London: Murray, 1874). Grove's friendship 
With Alexander Macmillan and, by 1866, his 
established experience in editing earned him a 
position as an assistant editor at Macmillan 's 
Magazine, one of the leading periodicals of 
the day. He became editor of Macmillan 's 
Magazine in 1868. 

The financial stability of the Macmillan 's 
editorship allowed Grove to resign the Crystal 
Palace appointment in 1 873 (although he con- 
tinued for nearly the rest of his life to write its 
program notes). He was already making plans 
for the Dictionary of Music and Musicians. In 
January 1 874, the Macmillan publishing firm 
issued a prospectus for a work intended to 
comprise two volumes: "Within [the last 25 
years] music in England has made immense 
progress and the number of persons who at- 
tend concerts and practise music has very 
largely increased, It is no longer regarded as 
mere idle amusement, but has taken, or is 
taking, its right place beside the other arts, as 
an object of study and investigation." 9 


That music had become "an object of 
study and investigation" during the previous 
two or three decades is certainly no exaggera- 
tion. The year 1874 marked the formation of 
the Musical Association (now Royal Musical 
Association) and of the first publication of its 
annual Proceedings. More significant in dem- 
onstrating interest in the study of music was 
the spectacular proliferation of its treatment in 
periodical literature, both in magazines de- 
voted to music (such as the Musical Times and 
Singing Class Circular, begun in 1 844 and still 
published as Musical Times; its circulation in 
1 873 was 1 5,000) and in magazines of general 
interest, such as Macmillan 's and Fortnightly 
Review.™ These periodicals could count on 
not only a broad, but also a sophisticated, 
audience: "Readers must have had an aware- 
ness of past and present trends in music, 
besides technical knowledge and a real musi- 
cal curiosity; otherwise, the printed music 
examples, considerations of formal symmetry 
and emotional meaning, and constant refer- 
ences to specific works, operas, opus num- 
bers, and keys would have been meaning- 
less." 11 Yet, while sophisticated, this was 
largely an audience of amateurs: "The image 
of the musical scholar in British life was not 
that of the professional musician, but rather of 
the gentleman amateur, best represented by 
the country clergyman quietly pursuing his 
own antiquarian interests, or by the semi- 
retired engineer or business man returning to 
an interest neglected since his youth." 12 Grove 
himself mighthave fit such a description. Seen 
from this perspective, he was the 
quintessentially appropriate editor of a musi- 
cal reference work. 

The First Edition 

A letter dated July 29, 1877, from Grove 
to George Craik (a partner in the Macmillan 
firm) setoutGrove's timetable for completing 
editorial work on the Dictionary at semian- 
nual intervals from 1 877 to December 1 880. ' J 
The first separate unbound parts of the Dictio- 

nary were published throughout 1878. The 
first volume gathered parts I-IV, and was 
published in April 1 879. Succeeding unbound 
parts appeared through 1889. These were gath- 
ered in volume 2 in 1880, volume 3 in 1883, 
and volume 4 in 1889. The full set was then 
reprinted with the index and an appendix in 

What are some of the salient features of 
this first edition? First, the chronological bar- 
rier of the year 1450. It was not until years later 
that interest in music of the Middle Ages 
developed; so it was reasonable and not sur- 
prising for a latter-day Victorian work to set 
such a limit, just as it is not surprising to find 
Grove maintaining in the preface that "all 
investigations into the music of barbarous 
nations have been avoided, unless they have 
some direct bearing on European music." 14 
Grove similarly made clear that an English 
dictionary should pay special attention to En- 
glish music and musicians. The scope of the 
Dictionary in these and in other areas ex- 
panded considerably in succeeding editions. 

Articles in the Dictionary ranged in length 
from several sentences to dozens of pages. A 
majority of the articles were biographies of 
composers, performers, publishers, and in- 
strument makers. Those of major composers 
included bibliographies and lists of composi- 
tions. Other articles covered societies; instru- 
ments; ethnic musics of Europe (such as 
"Welsh Music"); musical works with distinc- 
tive titles (such as "Messiah"); forms of com- 
position ("Sonata"); theory ("Key"); schools, 
academies, and conservatories; and terms 
("Sharp"). Other articles were broad in scope 
and not easily classified, such as "Schools of 
Composition," "Musical Periodicals," or "Mu- 
sical Libraries." Grove himself wrote three 
major biographical articles, those on 
Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Schubert. Il- 
lustrations, including diagrams, music, and 
engraved portraits, were plentiful. The index 
volume was a significant feature that succeed- 
ing editions dropped; with it was a catalog of 
articles contributed by each writer, a feature 
also since dropped. 




Grove was concerned that the writing 
stylebe "anxiously divested of technicality." 15 
Certainly, as in the article on "Form," writers 
of technical articles had to presume a certain 
shared vocabulary between themselves and 
readers; outmost held to Grove's ideal. Infact, 
though the style was divested of technicality it 
was often clothed in pathos, as in Grove' s own 
description of Schubert on his deathbed: "Poor 
fellow! no wonder he was so depressed! ev- 
erything was against him, his weakness, his 
poverty, his dreary house, the long lonely 
hours, the cheerless future . . ." 

Critical tQactiontofhSi Dictionary was, on 
the whole, enthusiastic, Long reviews ap- 
peared in the leading periodicals. 16 Several 
harped on the profusion of minor errors which 
even Grove acknowledged in the preface to 
the first volume. 17 To remedy these, and to 
supplement some important material in the 
first half of the alphabet on which the Dictio- 
nary had skimped when it was still being 
planned at two volumes, the fourth volume 
included an appendix of some 300 pages giv- 
ing corrections, supplemental material, and 
additional articles. Grove was faulted for the 
disproportionate length of some of the bio- 
graphical articles. 18 The article on Mendels- 
sohn stretched to over 60 pages, longer even 
than the Beethoven article at 50 pages. A. 
Maczewski' s article on Bach was only 5 pages 
in length, andhis article onBrahms — although 
Maczewski asserted he was "one of the great- 
est living German composers" — only 2. 

The Dictionary made good use both of 
fledgling contributors and of established schol- 
ars. There were 1 1 8 in all, including Grove, by 
far the most prolific. Hubert Parry had studied 
music at Oxford and piano with Edward 
Dannreuther; he was to become one of the 
major figures of late-Victorian and Edwardian 
musical life, succeeding Grove as director of 
the Royal College of Music, and becoming 
professor at Oxford and president of the Mu- 
sical Association. William Baiclay Squire's 
article on "Music Libraries" presaged his ap- 
pointment to a post in the Department of 

Printed Books at the British Museum. J.A. 
Fuller Maitland became music critic for The 
Times, and edited the appendix to the first 
edition of the Dictionary and the entire second 
edition. Edward Hopkins ("Organ"); A.J. 
Hipkins ("Pianoforte," "Harpsichord," "Mu- 
sical Instruments, Collections of); and Carl 
Ferdinand Pohl, librarian of the Gesellschaft 
der Musikfreunde in Vienna ("Mozart," 
"Haydn"), all contributed articles in their ar- 
eas of established expertise. W.H. Husk, li- 
brarian of the Sacred Harmonic Society, was 
second only to Grove himself in number of 
articles contributed. William S. Rockstro, con- 
tributor of major articles on "Mass," "Nota- 
tion," "Opera," "Orchestra," and "Schools of 
Composition," was a successful teacher and 
arranger in London, but did not publish his 
biographies of Handel, Mendelssohn, and 
Jenny Lind and his works on music history and 
theory until after his Grove contributions, 
when he was well into his fifties. Women, 
suchas Mrs. Walter Carr,Mrs.JulianMarshall, 
Miss Middleton, and Mrs. Edmond 
Wodehouse (compiler of the index) contrib- 
uted significant portions of the Dictionary. 

Grove's Dictionary was the first of the 
modem generation of musical reference works. 
Such encyclopedic compilations are conser- 
vative in recognizing the maturity of a disci- 
pline — a maturity that is able to sum itself up 
and to present itself with confidence. They are 
also forward-looking in providing a spring- 
board from which the discipline can leap. As 
the first parts of the Dictionary were appear- 
ing, Hugo Riemann in Germany was publish- 
ing the first edition of whathas become through 
successive editions an equally venerable 
work — his Musik-Lexikon (Leipzig: Verlag 
des Bibliographischen Instituts, 1882). Rob- 
ert Eitner's Biographisch-bibliographisches 
Quellen-Lexikon der Musiker und Musik- 
gelehrten (Leipzig; Breitkopf & H3rtel, 1900- 
1904), whose short biographies and detailed 
lists of published works and manuscripts es- 
tablished primary bibliographical and source 
material in Europe from the Middle Ages to 


the mid-nineteenth century, became an in- 
valuable complement to succeeding editions 
of the Dictionary. In the United States, 
Theodore Baker published his Dictionary of 
Musical Terms in 1895 and his Biographical 
Dictionary of Musicians in 1900 (both New 
York: G. Schirmer). The former has been 
reprinted numerous times, and the latter has 
been revised and expanded by Nicolas 
Slonimsky through an eighth edition due in 
late 1991 or early 1992. 

In 1883, Grove left Macmillan's to be- 
come director of the newly formed Royal 
College of Music, and remained in the posi- 
tion until 1894. He continued to gather mate- 
rial for a new edition of the Dictionary until 
his death on May 28, 1900. 

J.A. Fuller Maitland 

J. A. Fuller Maitland assumed the 
editorship of the second edition. Five volumes 
were published from 1904 to 1910. Fuller 
Maitland integrated the articles and correc- 
tions from the appendix to the first edition, 
added Grove's revisions to the three major 
biographies, and inserted bracketed additions 
into many of the original articles. Whereas the 
first edition had often drawn without attribu- 
tion on biographical material from other works , 
particularly F etis' Biographie universelle, the 
second edition credited such borrowings at the 
ends of articles. In accord with their subjects' 
importance, the Bach and Brahms articles 
were enlarged. Fuller Maitland's significant 
changes included enlarging the scope to in- 
clude music of the Middle Ages and of se- 
lected American musicians and societies, add- 
ing cross-references to the body of the text, 
and eliminating the index. A review of the first 
volume found it "not merely a revision of the 
Grove Dictionary but the beginning of a new 
dictionary." 19 

Recognition of the significance of Ameri- 
can music (including both the United States 
and Canada) came with the publication in 
1920 of $\q American Supplement. Its editor 
was Waldo Selden Pratt, a theologian, organ- 

ist, and music historian. The novelty of such a 
focus on a land in which music was seen less 
as a succession of the compositions of major 
composers but more as an intrinsic part of 
society led the editors to provide an unusual 
structure for the work. A^Historical Introduc- 
tion with Chronological Register of Names" 
occupying the first quarter of the volume was 
organized chronologically into sections giv- 
ing biographical data on 1,700 composers, 
performers, publishers, and other individuals 
of musical importance, and was interspersed 
with short narratives summarizing not only 
musical, but also social, political, and eco- 
nomical history. The main body of One Supple- 
ment, arranged in alphabetical order, gave 
fuller treatment of some 700 of the names, 
served as an index to the others, and included 
specialized articles, such as "Orchestras," 
which treated their subjects firom an American 
point of view. The Supplement also served to 
update the second edition of Grove through its 
inclusion of some 100 updated articles. Pratt 
went onto compile what was originally planned 
as a one- volume abridgement of the second 
edition and its supplement, but actually be- 
came a separate work inits ownright, TheNew 
Encyclopedia of Music and Musicians (New 
York: Macmillan, 1924). 

Henry Cope Colles 

Henry Cope Colles succeeded Fuller 
Maitland as music editor of The Times in 1 9 1 1 , 
and became editor of the third edition of 
Grove, published from 1927 to 1928. Colles 
continued to employ the Dictionary's original 
text, but with some 50 years having intervened 
since the publication of the first parts of the 
first edition, he found it necessary to revise 
substantially or to replacemany of the articles. 
Grove's own articles on Beethoven, 
Mendelssohn, and Schubert remained, albeit 
with supplementary footnotes. 20 A number of 
the new contributors, such as Eric Blom, Ed- 
ward Dent, Alfred Einstein, E.H. Fellowes, 
Anselm Hughes, and Oscar Sonneck, were to 
become some of the century's major musico- 




logical figures. Illustrations included 96 plates, 
some in color. The third edition included the 
American Supplement, reprinted without revi- 
sion from its 1 920 version, but with an appen- 
dix which updated and added articles. 

This third edition was reprinted numerous 
times, sometimes with minor revisions, well 
into the 1 940s. A fourth edition was published 
in London in 1940, hut revisions consisted 
primarily in the addition of dates of death and 
of bibliographical references. With irony, the 
editor acknowledged the beneficial proximity 
in England of such scholars as Egon Wellesz, 
Karl Geiringer, Hans Redlich, and Alfred 
Loewenberg who had fled the Holocaust. 21 
The most significant addition to Grove during 
this time was the Supplementary Volume dated 
1940, whose title page in the New York im- 
print identified it as part of the third edition, 
and in the London imprint as part of the fourth 
edition. It added many articles and updated 
biographies and lists of compositions. Articles 
in the supplement on "Broadcasting" and 
"Twelve Note Music" show Grove catching 
up with the twentieth century. Its short article 
on "Jazz" was regressive at best ("unrestrained 
Corybantic frenzy alternating with passive 
hopeless melancholy"), but undermined its 
derision by listing the major composers whom 
jazz had influenced — Igor Stravinsky, Paul 
Hindemith, Darius Milhaud, Ernst Krenek, 
Kurt Weill, and Constant Lambert. 

The irregular publication of the Supple- 
mentary Volume signalled an uncertainty (un- 
doubtedly influenced by the war) as to the 
direction of Grove. A. Hyatt King seized upon 
this uncertainty in a 1946 article which at- 
tacked the fourth edition and the Supplemen- 
tary Volume for inaccuracies, outmost impor- 
tantly for the disproportionate amount of space 
allotted to Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, 
Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Weber, 
and Wagner, "a legacy from Grove's own 
predilection." 22 These sentiments undoubtedly 
influenced Eric Blom's extensive revision and 
expansion to nine volumes of Grove for its 
fifth, edition in 1954, which Macmillan of 

London, due to the severing of its relationship 
with its American office, published in New 
York through St. Martin's Press. 

Eric Blom 

Blom, a critic and editor, had published in 
1946 Everyman 's Dictionary of Music (Lon- 
don: Dent), which, through successive edi- 
tions into the 1970s, continued to be a most 
valuable, concise, andpopular reference work. 
His elegant and detailed preface shows the 
care he took in the selection of articles, the 
treatment of geographical names, the translit- 
eration of Russian words, the choice of termi- 
nology, and the physical appearance of the 
text. Negotiating between the amateurs and 
the increasingly influential musicologists, 
Blom addressed the fifth edition to "a user 
who possesses a general musical knowledge, 
or hopes to acquire one." 23 In all, half of the 
fifth edition was completely new material. 
The rest (including articles by original con- 
tributors Sir Hubert Parry and William S. 
Rockstro) was thoroughly revised. In striving 
for balance, one of Blom's most dramatic 
steps was to replace Grove's venerable ar- 
ticles on Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and 
Schubert with shorter, updated versions. 24 The 
"Jazz" article, expanded to 6 pages, was con- 
tributed by French jazz critic Hugues Panassie. 
New was a massive (some 240 pages) article 
by several contributors on "FolkMusic." Cross- 
references wereplentiful. Bibliographies were 
greatly expanded and typeset in a manner that 
distinguished them easily from the text; yet, 
citations were often scanty, and sometimes 
inaccurate. For the first time Grove took a 
serious interest in non-Western material in the 
form of surveys (such as "Arabian music") 
and in more specific articles on theoreticians, 
composers, and instruments. 

■ The fifth edition became notorious for 
toutingits British origin; Blom' spreface main- 
tained that "though Grove gives information 
on an international scale, it is in the first place 
an English work." 25 This national bias which 


developed from Blom's aversion to German- 
trained American musicologists was to work 
against his favor, particularly with the publi- 
cation by 1 954 of the first three volumes of the 
West German Die Musik in Geschichte und 
Gegen ww* (edited by FriedrichBlume [Kassel: 
Barenreiter- Verlag, 1 949-86] ; abbreviated as 
MGG), which rapidly became recognized as 
the major scholarly reference work in music. 
Any evaluation of Grove of necessity com- 
pared it to MGG, usually to Grove's detri- 
ment. In an editorial in The Musical Quarterly ; 
Paul Henry Lang complained of Grove's 
"somewhat belligerent British bias that is very 
different from the engaging parochialism of 
the old edition." 26 A review in Notes had 
similar objections, and concluded that MGG 
"is a far sounder publication on all counts." 27 
In a direct tabular comparison of a selection of 
articles from the two works, A. Hyatt King 
found MGG to be more thorough in its cover- 
age of historical topics, but Grove to be better 
in coverage of the twentieth century. 28 

The prominence of Grove and the appear- 
anceof other comprehensive works with which 
it could be compared made tempting the search 
for errors and omissions in its text. Musical 
Times published several hundred of these, 
collected from contributors, not long after the 
publication of the fifth edition. 29 To correct 
these, and to update and add articles, Blom 
compiled material for a Supplementary Vol- 
ume which was assembled by Denis Stevens 
in 1961 two years after Blom's death. 

Stanley Sadie 

Valid criticism of the fifth edition and the 
comparatively esoteric nature of MGG (not to 
mention its inaccessibility for those unable to 
read German) left an open field for a new 
Grove. Macmillan engaged scholar and critic 
Stanley Sadie, Musical Times editor and au- 
thor of, among other works, Mozart (London: 
CalderandBoyars, 1 965), Handel (London: J. 
Calder, 1966), andBeethoven (London: Faber 
and Faber, 1967). Sadie set out in 1969 to 

develop an entirely new work. He established 
a panel of consulting editors, each of whom 
was responsible for outlining a given topical 
area and for recruiting contributors. Seven 
national advisors were each responsible for a 
given geographical part of the world. In an 
article published in 1975 that whetted appe- 
tites for a work that did not appear until five 
years later, Sadie announced a rigorous at- 
tempt "to set ourselves a series of objectives 
and standards that will make the dictionary as 
useful as possible within itself." Furthermore, 
"it will not share the xenophobia of Grove 
5." 30 

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and 
Musicians, published in 1 980 by Macmillan in 
London and two subsidiaries, Grove's Dictio- 
naries of Music in New York and Peninsula 
Publishers in Hong Kong, reflected not only 
new standards but also the availability of a 
prodigious amount of additional information 
made available through the intensive efforts 
of scholars within the varied branches of mu- 
sicology that have flourishedthrough the twen- 
tieth century. The thousands of biographies in 
Riemann's and Baker's works, the identifica- 
tion of manuscript and printed original sources 
in the volumes of the RISM (Repertoire inter- 
national des sources musicales, or Interna- 
tional Inventory of Musical Sources) series, 
and the establishment of terminology in dic- 
tionaries such as the Harvard Dictionary of 
Music (edited by Willi Ape! [Cambridge, MA: 
Harvard University Press, 1944]) indicated a 
breadth of material that was unavailable in the 
1 880s. Moreover, the growth of the field of 
ethnomusicology and the academic 
legitimatization of popular culture involved 
disciplines thathad henceforth had no place in 
musical studies. 

The New Grove could not reasonably be 
compared with earlier editions. In size alone, 
its 22,500 articles in 20 volumes made it more 
than twice as large as even the fifth edition. 
The nearly 2,500 contributors included most 
of the premier scholars throughout the world. 
Thirty-six percent of these were American, 20 


percent were British, and 12 percent were 
German. 31 More than half the articles (over 
1 1 ,000) were devoted to composers; those for 
the Viennese masters are nearly as long as 
George Grove's original essays. Other per- 
sons to whom it devoted individual entries 
include performers, musicologists, critics, li- 
brettists, dancers, patrons, publishers and print- 
ers, and instrument makers. Plentiful black 
and white illustrations were adequate to the 
task of showing persons, performance on in- 
struments, and manuscripts. Of particular in- 
terest to librarians and researchers were ex- 
tended articles supplemented by extensive 
lists on the materials andprocess of research — 
"Dictionaries and Encyclopedias/' "Editions," 
"Libraries," "Periodicals," and "Sources- 
Manuscript." 32 As a dictionary, The New Grove 
gave definitions for musical terminology. As 
a history, it covered genres and forms. As an 
encyclopedia, it explored broad issues in a 
range of survey articles, 

One of The New Grove's most notable 
features was the attention it gave to music on 
an international scale. Hundreds of articles 
surveyed the musics of countries and regions 
of the world, defined terms, examined instru- 
ments, and offered biographies from non- 
Western cultures. The articles on individual 
countries generally drew a distinction be- 
tween "Art" music and "Folk" music. In the 
last volume of The New Grove was an exten- 
sive index of ethnomusicological topics. 

Sadie and his staff paid extraordinary 
attention to the physical format of The New 
Grove. The introduction expanded on Blom' s 
with an even more detailed presentation of 
alphabetization, usage, and other items of 
format. Virtually every biography included 
references, and, in the case of composers, 
work lists. Although (especially in the case of 
major figures) these extended to hundreds of 
listings, the rigorous standards for style and 
the carefully planned typographical format 
eased their use. 

Critical Reception of The New 

Reviewers of The New Grove tempered 
near-unanimous praise with several recurring 
complaints. The increased space devoted to 
popular music and jazz was still inadequate. 33 
Moreover, reviewers criticized the lack of 
space devoted to American music; Michael 
Tilson Thomas, for instance, regretted that "in 
general, American music takes a back seat." 34 
With electrical sound recording available in 
one form or another since the 1920s, The New 
Grove was faulted for its omission of thorough 
discographies, particularly in areas such as 
jazz or non- Western music in which standard 
musical notation is of limited use. 35 A more 
cutting criticism was that Grove had aban- 
doned its traditional audience of learned ama- 
teurs for a more select and literate coterie of 
musicologists. 36 A review essay by Leon 
Botstein brings to the fore this change in 
audience: "The New Grove is a monument to 
the fact that while the study of music has 
become more professionalized, the audience 
for music has suffered from waning passion 
and sophistication." 37 

Some of these criticisms undoubtedly 
spurred the well-tuned corporate editorial ap- 
paratus created for The New Grove to continue 
work on offshoots which in their own special- 
ized areas have dwarfed the parent work. The 
New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, 
also under Sadie's direction, appeared in 1984. 
Its articles included some 10,000 non-West- 
ern instruments and delved into great detail 
regarding topics treated more briefly in The 
New Grove ("Violin," for example, extended 
to over 3 5 pages with a bibliography of several 
pages). The New Grove Dictionary of Ameri- 
can Music (1986) traversed a region that the 
Am erican Supplement had only peered at from 
afar — "a different cultural model, of a more 
pluralistic character than that of Europe, and 
without the same foundation in ecclesiastical, 
aristocratic, and state patronage." 38 Sadie drew 
as co-editor for this work noted American 


musicologist H. Wiley Hitchcock. Criticism 
of scanty coverage of jazz in the American 
volume presaged The New Grove Dictionary 
of Jazz (1988), edited by Barry Kernfeld. 3 * 
Jazz applied the critical vocabulary and rigor- 
ous historical standards of The New Grove 
itself to a music that previously had been 
served primarily by an anecdotal literature, 
and employed extensive discographies in the 
same way that The New Grove supplemented 
articles with bibliographies and lists of com- 

Other Grove projects are presently under- 
way. 40 Most notable is a four-volume New 
Grove Dictionary of Opera edited by Sadie 
and scheduled for publication in late 1991. 
Most of its articles on maj or composers will be 
newly written, and it will include nearly 2,000 
entries on individual operas, as well as new 
articles on singers, librettists, and librettos. 
Copublished with W.W. Norton in New York 
are more modest spinoffs of The New Grove. 
The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music (Lon- 
don: Macmillan Press, 1988; in the United 
States as The Norton/Grove Concise Encyclo- 
pedia of Music [New York: W.W. Norton, 
1 988]) is a one-volume abridgement and con- 
densation of its parent volume which, in def- 
erence to an audience of students and listen- 
ers, includes articles for individual works. 
Some two dozen volumes in the Composer 
Biography Series, such as The New Grove 
Mozart (London: Macmillan, 1982; New York: 
W.W. Norton, 1983), extract, revise, update, 
and index articles from the parent volume. 
Volumes in the Handbooks in Music Series 
derive in varying degrees from TheNew Grove; 
these include the History of Opera, edited by 

Stanley Sadie, (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1 989; 
New York: Norton, 1990), and Music Printing 
and Publishing, edited by Sadie and D.W. 
Krummel (Basingstoke: Macmillan; New 
York: Norton, 1990). In Japan, the Kodansha 
publishing firm is translating The New Grove 
into Japanese. 41 Anew edition of Grove itself 
is presently "an active possibility ... but no 
firm plans are made as yet." 42 

Both George Grove and Stanley Sadie 
saw their work as being all-inclusive. Grove 's 
Dictionary covered "all the points ... on which 
those interested in the Art, and alive to its 
many and far-reaching associations, can de- 
sire to be informed.' ,4J TheNew Grove "seeks 
to discuss everything that can be reckoned to 
bear on music in history and on present-day 
musical life." 44 Rather than a progression of 
more fully developed editions, the Grove dic- 
tionaries should be seen as a series of indi- 
vidual works sharing a common heritage. Each 
was a product, not only of its editors and 
contributors, but also of its time. The avail- 
ability of the world's music through broad- 
casting and recording, the presence of MGG 
and other reference works, the increasing so- 
phistication of musicology, the upheaval of 
the Second World War, and the Victorian 
confidence of a musical amateur were only 
some of the social and intellectual factors that 
determined the substance of the various 
Groves. Taken together, the editions and their 
derived works nevertheless have been a col- 
lective cornerstone of musical scholarship — 
not the whole building, certainly, but an inte- 
gral part within which the edifice has been 
summarized and upon which it has been built. 


A Dictionary of Music and Musicians (A.D. 
1450-1889) by Eminent Writers, English 
and Foreign, edited by Sir George Grove 
with Appendix edited by J. A. Fuller Maitland 
and Index by Mrs. Edmond Wodehouse. 
London: Macmillan; New York: Macmillan, 

1879-1889, 1890. 4 vols, and index. Re- 
printed 1890-1898, 1900; Philadelphia: T. 
Presser, 189-?. 
Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 
edited by J A. Fuller Maitland. [2nd edj 
London: Macmillan;New York: Macmillan, 




1904-1910, 5 vols. Reprinted 1911; Phila- 
delphia: T. Presser, 1916. 

Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians: 
American Supplement, edited by Waldo 
Selden Pratt; associate editor, Charles N. 
Boyd. New York: Macmillan, 1920. 412p. 

Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 
edited by H.C. Colles. 3rd ed. London: 
Macmillan; New York: Macmillan, 1927- 
1928. 5 vols. Reprinted 1929, 1932, 1948. 

Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians: 
American Supplement, edited by Waldo 
Selden Pratt; associate editor, Charles N. 
Boyd. New ed. New York: Macmillan, 
1928. 438p. Reprinted 1935. 

Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 
edited by EC. Colles. 4th ed. London: 
Macmillan, 1940, 5 vols. 

Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians: 
Supplementary Volume, edited by H.C. 
Colles. London: Macmillan; New York: 
Macmillan, 1940. 688p. 

Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 
edited by Eric Blom. 5th ed. London: 
Macmillan; New York: St, Martin's Press, 
1954. 9 vols. Reprinted 1961. 

Grove 's Dictionary of Music and Musicians: 
Supplementary Volume to the Fifth Edition, 
editedbyEricBlom; associate editor.Denis 
Stevens. London: Macmillan; New York: 
St. Martin's Press, 1961. 493p. 

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musi- 
cians, edited by Stanley Sadie. London: 
Macmillan Publishers; Washington, DC: 
Grove ' s Dictionaries of Music; Hong Kong: 
Peninsula Publishers, 1980, 20 vols. 

The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instru- 
ments, edited by Stanley Sadie. London: 
Macmillan Press; New York: Grove's Dic- 
tionaries of Music, 1984. 3 vols. 

The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, 
edited by H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley 
Sadie. London; Macmillan Press; New 
York: Grove'sDictionariesofMusic, 1986. 
4 vols. 

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, edited by 
Barry Kernfeld. London: Macmillan Press; 
New York: Grove's Dictionaries of Music, 
1988. 2 vols. 

The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, edited by 
Stanley Sadie. Forthcoming. 


The following is a selective list of works 
that examine individual Grove dictionaries or 
that offer background material on the devel- 
opment of the first edition. Percy Young's 
biography is invaluable in establishing the 
facts of George Grove's life and the details of 
publication of the Dictionary. Of special im- 
portance are articles by editors Blom, Sadie, 
and Hitchcock which set out their intentions. 
Peggy Daub's article in Reference Services 
Review is a history of the publication of the 
successive editions which benefits from her 
editorial involvement with the New Grove 
staff. Encore is a newsletter distributed to 
purchasers of The New Grove; it features 
articles on performers and on publishing ac- 
tivities of the Grove organization. Highly use- 
ful in evaluating changes between editions 
and in gauging overall response are reviews. 

While these have not been included in the 
bibliography, an attempt has been made to cite 
in the endnotes those that are most significant, 

Blom, Eric. "Grove V: A Task of Restoration." 
Musical Times 95 (June, 1954): 300-03. 

Daub, Peggy. "Grove 's Dictionary of Music and 
Musicians'. From George Grove to the 'New 
Grove'," Reference Services Review 10 
(Fall, 1982): 15-22. 

Duckies, Vincent. "Musicology." In The Ro- 
mantic Age, 1800-1914, edited by Nicho- 
las Temperley, 483-502. Athlone History 
of Music in Great Britain, vol. 5. London: 
Athlone Press, 1981. 

Ehrlich, Cyril. The Music Profession in Britain 
since the Eighteenth Century: A Social 
History. Oxford; Clarendon Press, 1985. 

Encore. The Grove Music Society, v. 1-, March 
1986- New York: Grove's Dictionaries of 


Giddens, Gary. "The Grove of Academe." Vil- 
lage Voice 32 (January 13, 1987): 75-76. 

Graves, Charles L. The Life and Letters of Sir 
George Grove, C.B. London: Macmillan; 
New York: Macmillan, 1903. 

"Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians 
(Fifth Edition)." Musical Times 96 (No- 
vember, 1955): 591-96; (December, 1955): 

Hitchcock, H. Wiley. "On the Path to the U.S. 
Grove." Notes 41 (March, 1985): 467-70. 

Howes, Frank, and Dyneley Hussey. "Grove's 
Dictionary." Music and Letters 9 (April, 
1928): 98-110; (July, 1928): 195-210. 

King, A. Hyatt. "Grove V and MGG." Monthly 
Musical Record 85 (June 1955): 115-19; 
(July-August, 1955): 152-57; (September, 
1955): 183-85. 

King, A. Hyatt. "Grove: Some Suggestions and 
Reflections." Monthly Musical Record 76 
(June, 1946): 99-1 02; (July-August, 1946): 

Langley, Leanne. "The Musical Press in Nine- 
teenth-Century England." No tes 46 (March, 
1990); 583-92. 

"New SI 900 Grove Music Dictionary to be 
Distributed by St. Martin's," Publishers 
Weekly 218 (November 14, 1980): 40, 42. 

O'Meara, Eva Judd. "Marginal Notes to Grove's 
Dictionary." Music Library Association 
Notes no. 1 (1934): 1-7. 

Parry, Ann. "The Grove Years 1868-1883: A 
'new look' for Macmillan 's Magazine^" 
Victorian Periodicals Review 19 (Winter, 
1986): 149-56. 

Sadie, Stanley. "Ethnomusicology and the New 
Grove." Ethnomusicology 23 (January, 
1979): 95-102. 

Sadie, Stanley. "The New Grove." Notes 32 
(December, 1975): 259-68. 

Stevenson, Robert. "The Americas in European 
Music Encyclopedias." Inter-American 
Music Review 3 (Spring-Summer, 1981): 

Thompson, Kenneth L. "Grove and Dates." 
Musical Times 104 (July, 1963); 481-84. 

Young, Percy M. George Grove, 1820-1 900: A 
Biography. Washington, DC: Grove's Dic- 
tionaries of Music, 1980. 


1 "Preface," in A Dictionary of Music and Musicians 

(A.D. 1450-1889) by Eminent Writers, English and 
Foreign, ed, by Sir George Grove with Appendix 
ed. by J.A. Fuller Maitland and Index by Mrs. 
Edmond Wodehouse (London: Macmillan; New 
York: Macmillan, 1879-89, 1890), v. 

2 See, for example, H.C. Colles, The Oxford History of 

Music, Vol. VII: Symphony and Drama, 1 850-1 900 
(London; Oxford University Press, 1934), p. 445: 
"While the Continent was reaping its rich harvest of 
music, and incidentally exporting it across the 
channel, English music was represented only by 
some rather thin sowings in a soil, rich enough 
indeed, but very poorly tilled." 

3 Cyril Ehrlich, The Music Profession in Britain since the 

Eighteenth Century: A Social History (Oxford: 
Clarendon Press, 1985), 54-59. 

4 Ibid., 236. 
5 Ibid„ 68. 

'Percy M. Young, George Grove, 1820-1900: A Biogra- 
phy (Washington, DC: Grove's Dictionaries of 
Music, 1980), 28. 

7 Ibid., 52. 

8 Ibid., 64. 

'Charles L. Graves, The Life and Letters of Sir George 
Grove, C.B. (London: Macmillan; New York: 
Macmillan, 1903), 205-06. 

l0 Learme Langley, "The Musical Press in Nineteenth- 
Century England," Notes 46 (March 1990): 585- 

"Ibid., 587, 

n Vincent Duckies, "Musicology," in The Romantic Age, 
1800-1914, ed. by Nicholas Temperley, Athlone 
History ofMusic in Britain, vol. 5. (London: Athlone 
Press, 1981), 483, 

13 Young, 140-41. Also in the letter, Grove emphasizes 
the time needed for the project — in terms with 
which any editor can sympathize: "To drive a team 
of contributors half of whom are amateurs, andhalf 
can get 3 times the pay we can give them elsewhere, 
takes a frightful amount of goading and coaxing 
and correspondence: and the editing and correcting 
and checking and completing — as I feel bound to do 
it — is a matter of great labour and incessant thought 
and occupation." 

M "Preface," Dictionary, vi. 

15 Ibid., v, 

"These included Edinburgh Review 153 (January 1881): 
212-40; Quarterly Review 148 (July 1879): 39-53; 
and Temple Bar 64 (April 1882): 541-56. 

17 "The body of the dictionary absolutely swarms with 
mistakes," Athenaeum 3221 (20 July 1889): 106. 

' s "What it has wanted has been a stronger guiding hand, 
a general and comprehensive editing," review in 
Edinburgh Review 153 (January 1881): 239. 




w George P. Upton, review of the second edition of 
Grove, Dial 38 (May 1905): 311, 

M Frank Howes and Dy neley Hussey look askance at "the 
Mendelssohn article, which stands a huge monu- 
ment to Victorian musical taste, like a sortof Albert 
Memorial in the very middle of the book," in Music 
an<! letters 9 (My 1928): 195. 

2 ' "Preface," ia Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musi- 
cians, ed. by H.C. Colles, 4th ed. (London: 
Macmillan, I WO), v. ■ 

23 A. Hyatt KJug, "'Grove': Some Suggestions and Re- 
flections," Monthly Musical Record 76 (July-Au- 
gust 1946): 132. 

""preface," Grove's Dictionary of Mush and Musi- 
cians, ed.byEricBlom, 5 th ed. (London; Macmillan; 
New York: St. Martin's Press, 1954), v. 

"The original essays were reprinted in a separate vol- 
ume: George Grove, Beethoven, Schubert, 
Mendelssohn (London: Macmillan, 195 1), 

15 "Preface," Grove's Dictionary, 5th Ed., vi. 

76 Paul Henry lAt&Mwoal Quarterly 41 (April 1955): 

"Richard S.HiU,tfote 12 (December 1954): 91. 

3 A. Hyatt King, Monthly Musical Record 85 (July- 
August 19S5): 183-84. 

""Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Fifth 
Edition)," Musical Times 96 (November 1955): 
591-96; (December 1955): 643-51. 

30 Stanley Sadie, "The New Grove," Notes 32 (December 
1975): 260-63. 

31 Peggy Daub, "Grove 's Dictionary of Music and Musi- 
cians: From George Grove to the 'New Grove'," 
Reference Services Review 10 (Pall 1982): 20, 

31 See Ann Basart, ''An Index to the Manuscripts in the 
New Grove Articles on 'Sources'," Cum Nods 

Variorum nos. 117-34 (November 1987 — July- 
August 1989). 

33 See, for example, reviews by Billy Taylor regarding 

jazz and by Paul Wittke regarding American musi- 
cal theater in Musical Quarterly 68 (April 1982): 
27 1—73 and 274—82; the entire issue is devoted to 
individual reviews of The New Grove. 

34 Michael Tilson Thomas, Notes 38 (September 1981): 

55; Robert Stevenson examines in detail The New 
Grove's coverage of North and South American 
composers in "The Americas in European Music 
Encyclopedias," Inter-American Music Review 3 
(Spring-Summer 1981): 159-207. 
3! Joshua Rifkin, review ofTheNew Grove, Journal of the 
A merican Musicological Society 35 (Spring 1 982): 

36 Charles Rosen, review of The New Grove, New York 

Review of Books 28 (28 May 1981): 26-38. 

37 Leon Botstein, "Orpheus in Academe," Harper 's 262 

(June 1981): 74. 

38 "Preface," The New Grove Dictionary of American 

Music, ed. by H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley 
Sadie (New York: Grove's Dictionaries of Music; 
London: Macmillan Press, 1986), vii. 

39 Gary Giddens, "The Grove of Academe," Village Voice 

32 (13 January 1987): 75-76. 

40 Stanley Sadie summarized ongoing publication activi- 

ties related to the The New Grove in a letter to the 
author, 22 March 1990. 

41 Hiroko Kishimoto, "Grove in Japanese," Encore 3 

(March 1988): unpaged. 

42 Sadie, letter to author, 22 March 1990. 

43 "Preface," Dictionary, v. 

44 "Preface," The New Grove, viii, 


Eument 95 : Guide to 
eference Books 

Stuart W. Miller 


The names Kroeger, Mudge, Winchell, and 
Sheehy evoke nearly mythic and possibly 
even reverential thoughts in the minds of 
almost any librarian trained in the United 
States since 1902. In that year, the American 
Library Association (ALA) published what 
would become the first edition of the premier 
compendium of reference materials for North 
American libraries, a work that has endured 
down to the present day in the form of a tenth 
edition, with a supplement planned for March 
or April 1 992 and an eleventh edition sched- 
uled to appear sometime in 1995. 

In the nearly 90 years since the first edi- 
tion in 1902, only four librarians have acted as 
chief author/editor of the Guide to Reference 
Books. For almost 75 years of that period, 
three of those four librarians have all in turn 
served as head of the Reference Department 
of the Columbia University Libraries. Such 
continuity has created an almost worshipful 
atmosphere that continues to hover around the 
Guide down to the present day and represents 
both a strength and a weakness for those now 
charged with the task of keeping the Guide in 
the mainstream of library reference work. 

The individual circumstances surround- 
ing the inception and production of most of the 
ten editions and their interim supplements can 
probably never be known in their entirety. 
Other than reviews and news announcements, 
there appears to be virtually no secondary 
literature discussing any aspect of the Guide. 

Both Robert Balay (editor of the forthcoming 
supplement to the tenth edition) and Eugene 
Sheehy (compiler of the ninth and tenth edi- 
tions) report that they received almost no 
written materials or information when they 
accepted their responsibilities. 1 Furthermore, 
while Sheehy has some copies of his corre- 
spondence with ALA Publishing, most of the 
replies to his letters came via telephone, 2 When 
one talks with Sheehy, Balay, and Robert 
Michaelson (coordinator of the science sec- 
tion for the next supplement and also a con- 
tributorto the tenth edition), one receives the 
impression of an almost informal undertaking 
(from a business/operations point of view) 
with past practices and traditions handed down 
only orally, 3 This researcher may, therefore, 
be forgiven for suspecting that even with 
access to the repositories where remnants of 
earlier editors ' efforts may survive, little would 
be found, since little appears to have been 

Genesis and Characteristics 

One can speculate that Alice Bertha 
Kroeger, the originator of what would eventu- 
ally become the Guide, simply had an idea for 
a guide to reference works, convinced ALA to 
publish it, and she and her successors took it 
from there. Or, given the eventual size of the 
work, one cannot help but speculate that it was 
the Guide that really took hold of its compil- 
ers. 4 




Of course, some obvious facts can be 
ascertained about the history of the Guide. 
First, it has always been published by ALA. 
While this may seem a trivial point, it does in 
fact verify that the association has always 
recognized the professional value of the Guide 
and has undoubtedly also recognized its mon- 
etary value as well. The Guide is one of ALA' s 
best-selling titles of all time. ALA has sales 
figures readily available only for the last four 
editions: the total number of copies sold to 
date for the seventh through tenth editions is 
127,572, a very large number indeed when 
most reference books rarely exceed printing 
runs of 5,000 copies. 5 Since nearly every pub- 
lic, college, university, and even some school 
libraries can be expected to buy any new 
edition sight unseen, ALA Publishing has a 
virtually captive market to exploit. 

Second, it has always been compiled by 
working reference librarians and has consis- 
tently aimed to be a practical guide for every- 
day use. 

Third, the longevity of the work indicates 
a strong perception on the part of its intended 
audience that the Guide has always served and 
continues to serve a very useful purpose. While 
some have taken issue with the Guide's selec- 
tion criteria and unevenness of coverage, the 
overwhelming critical response to the Guide 
has been very positive, if not downright adu- 
latory. The perceived usefulness of the work 
is also reflected in the attempts to keep it up to 

Keeping Current 

There have been many schemes to keep 
the Guide current, an ongoing theme in its 
history and a recurring request from the re- 
viewing community. After the first edition 
appeared in 1902, supplemental listings ap- 
peared at least annually in issues of either 
Library Journal or the A.L.A. Booklist until 
1928. The second, third, and fourth editions 
appeared at irregular intervals in 1908, 1917, 
and 1923 with two supplements to the second 

edition in 191 1 and 1914. After the fifth edi- 
tion of 1929, ALA published three supple- 
ments in 1 930, 193 1 , and 1 934. After the sixth 
edition of 1 936, four supplements appeared in 
1939, 1941, 1944, and 1947. The seventh 
edition in 1951 was followed by four supple- 
ments in 1954, 1956, 1960, and 1963. The 
eighth edition came out in 1967 with supple- 
ments in 1968, 1970, and 1972, and the ninth 
edition was issued in 1976. A four-year hiatus 
then occurred until the first supplement to the 
ninth edition was published in 1 980, followed 
by a second in 1982. In 1986, ALA issued the 
tenth edition, keeping with the "pattern" es- 
tablished since the seventh edition, of issuing 
a new edition four years after the last supple- 
ment to the previous edition. This pattern is 
also discernible in the 40-year period 1936— 
1976: three or four supplements to an edition 
followed by a new edition. None of it really 
suggests a carefully planned approach from 
the publisher's point of view; on the other 
hand, this could be interpreted as an unsuc- 
cessful implementation of the intent to ob- 
serve a regular schedule. 

As any reference librarian will attest, sub- 
stitutes for a regular pattern of updating for the 
Guide have chiefly consisted of regular fea- 
ture articles in Wilson Library Bulletin and 
College & Research Libraries that have ap- 
peared over the years, edited by various people 
(among them, Charles Bunge, Frances Neel 
Cheney, and Eugene P. Sheeny), reviewing 
and/or annotating selected reference works 
issued in a specific time frame. And the same 
reference librarians will also attest that this 
coverage, while helpful, is no substitute for 
regular supplements or revised editions. 

A number of reasons have been suggested 
as to why the Guide has never successfully 
achieved a regular schedule of supplements 
and revisions. Certainly, the Great Depression 
and World War II interrupted many publish- 
ing operations for at least 15 years between 
1930-1 945 . 6 It speaks well of ALA that it saw 
fit to issue several supplements and a new 
edition during that period. Since 1945, the 


ever-growing scope of the compilation task 
occasioned by the enormous increase in the 
number of reference titles suitable for inclu- 
sion in the Guide> coupled with the absence of 
a computerized database for editing purposes, 
have made the preparation of each new edition 
an enormous task. (Indeed, the compilers 
working on the tenth edition received pages of 
the ninth edition with pasted-on additions cut 
out from the two supplements.) While reviews 
of the various editions of the Guide have 
generally complained about the lack of regu- 
lar updating, 7 not until very recently has ALA 
made a commitment to create a computerized 
database to allow for vastly easier updating 
and revising processes. As a matter of fact, 
ALA Publishing itself did not begin to move 
towards computerized processes until the late 

The Columbia Connection 

Another interesting fact about the Guide 
is that, despite the long association with refer- 
ence librarians at Columbia University and 
popular impressions to the contrary, no formal 
agreement has ever existed between ALA and 
Columbia University concerning compilation 
of the work. Whatever formal contractual 
agreements have existed have been between 
individuals and ALA, However, since most 
academic libraries recognize that work on a 
project such as the Guide is a legitimate use of 
staff time (presumably to an extent estab- 
lished by policy or custom), it is clear that at 
least some of the cost of compiling the Guide 
over the years has been subsidized by Colum- 
bia University. (How much can probably never 
be determined.) This in no way minimizes the 
extraordinary amounts of personal time de- 
voted to the compilation by the editors and 
their collaborators. 8 (Constance Winchell in 
fact took a year's leave of absence to work on 
the seventh edition. 9 ) 

Following completion of the tenth edi- 
tion, ALA Publishing and Columbia Univer- 
sity discussed the possibility of negotiating an 

agreement to establish a formal, contractual 
relationship for the production of a future 
edition with possible remuneration to the uni- 
versity; no agreement was reached. While 
Columbia University librarians are still in- 
volved with the planned supplement to the 
tenth edition, future editions of the Guide will 
probably no longer have the strong identifica- 
tion with Columbia University that has been a 
feature for almost 75 years. Under these new 
arrangements, the hidden costs of compiling 
the work will undoubtedly be spread among 
more institutions. 

Given the continuity of author/editorship 
over the years, the stated purposes of the 
Guide have remained consistent. The Guide 
has always served as a selection tool for refer- 
ence librarians and has also been meant to 
serve as a "reference manual for the library 
assistant, research worker, or other user of 
library resources who needs a finger post to 
point out the reference tools available for 
some particular investigation." 10 As Sheehy 
notes in the preface to the tenth edition, "the 
criterion of usefulness which governed Miss 
Kroeger's first edition remains salient," 11 

The Guide has always been compiled and 
edited by working reference librarians who 
have taken a very practical approach to deci- 
sions regarding inclusion or exclusion. Even 
by the time Sheehy began working on the 
Guide, no editor had articulated a policy on 
inclusion/exclusion. Sheehy avers that the only 
real guiding principle was whether or not a 
title was useful for the compiler's clientele. 
Robert Michaelson, one of the current section 
coordinators, agrees that selection criteria have 
always purposefully been left vague, leaving 
it to individual reference librarians to identify 
those works which have shown value in actual 
reference situations. 12 This goes a long way 
toward explaining phenomena such as the 
otherwise perplexing presence of standard 
topical texts in the Guide and, on the other 
hand, the omission of many titles viewed as 
vital in some libraries. 

At no time in its history has the Guide had 
an editorial advisory board in the sense of a 


group empowered to determine policy issues 
and develop guidelines on such matters as 
inclusion/exclusion criteria. Various ad hoc 
groups have met over the years, apparently 
either at the suggestion of the editor or of ALA 
Publishing; some were formed to advise on 
specific issues, Winchell describes one group 
in the "Preface" to the seventh edition. 13 None 
appears to have perpetuated itself. 

Critical Reception 

Even a cursory glance through the re- 
views of the various editions and supplements 
will show that the inevitable result of such an 
approach has been viewed as a weakness, 
particularly when editions one through eight 
were very much a reflection of reference work 
as performed in one (albeit very large and 
multi-disciplinary) reference department. 1 ' 1 Bill 
Katz remarked in a review of the ninth edition: 
"The Guide is beginning to suffer from lack of 
criticism. Since 1 902 it has been handed down 
from the American Library Association 
mountaintop via the Columbia University 
Reference Department. The superb work of 
Mudge and Winchell is in danger of being 
codified." 15 Katz was particularly concerned 
about the reuse of annotations from prior 
editions, the lack of timeliness, and the lack of 
truly critical annotations. While acknowledg- 
ing the overall worth of the Guide, Katz sug- 
gested that division of the compilation among 
more people and more libraries might be a 
solution — a strategy that in fact began to evolve 
with the seventh edition and continues today. l6 

On the other hand, the very practical 
nature of such an approach has been a strength 
as well, and the Guide, more often than not, 
has received extremely positive reviews. Some 
border on the embarrassingly effusive. The 
seventh edition in particular garnered almost 
fulsome evaluations: "It is a book for 
Everyman, for general reading, . . . this work 
is a great one; it deserves the confidence and 
the affection of librarians, scholars, and gen- 
eral readers;" 17 and". . . an accomplishment of 

the first magnitude , . . Miss Winchell has 
made the present work so much her own that 
it is fitting that her flag should fly from the 
masthead; only a sense of dedication of her 
profession, certainly not hope of pecuniary 
reward of which there is not likely to be a 
surfeit, could have inspired her to undergo the 
vast amount of labor required, even with the 
help of numerous collaborators whose assis- 
tance she so graciously acknowledges " J * 

Role as a Textbook 

In addition to being a tool for practicing 
reference librarians, the Guide was originally 
designed to be a textbook for the student who 
wished to pursue a systematic study of refer- 
ence works. This explains why earlier editions 
carry sections on the reference department in 
a library and suggestions on how to read a 
reference work. In the past several years, the 
use of the Guide as a textbook has, for the most 
part, been abandoned. However, a reviewer of 
the seventh edition concluded that its "pleas- 
ing format and readable style should recom- 
mend it to reference librarians for daily read- 
ing." 19 While one may wonder if any reference 
librarian has ever really read the Guide as part 
of a daily routine, such a statement suggests 
the authority that the work commands, (Even 
1 5 years ago in library school, it was suggested 
in an enumerative bibliography class that stu- 
dents forego purchasing the then current eighth 
edition, but only on the grounds that a new 
edition was expected shortly and, after all, the 
students could expect to find a copy in virtu- 
ally any library in which any would eventually 
work. 20 ) 

Earlier editions also attempted to define 
what good reference work really means. The 
"Introduction: Reference Department" was 
reprinted essentially unchanged in almost all 
of the earlier editions. The feature was not 
dropped until the tenth edition in 1986. An- 
other feature eventually abandoned was the 
"Suggestive List of 100 Reference Books" 
that appeared in the first through sixth edi- 


tions. Meant for the small to medium-sized 
public library, the concept obviously became 
unworkable once the number of titles included 
increased drastically. It also reflected the in- 
evitable fact that a work compiled in a univer- 
sity library will typically reflect the needs of 
an academic audience, although the compilers 
have always been fairly successful in incorpo- 
rating more general-interest titles as well as 
the more esoteric ones useful in an academic 
setting. However, the Guide is "essentially a 
working aid for larger libraries and serious 
research." 21 

Over the years other less comprehensive 
guides to reference works for other types of 
libraries and audiences have been issued, in- 
cluding the American Library Association's 
Reference Sources for Small and Medium- 
sized Libraries (4th ed., Chicago: American 
Library Association, 1984). The tenth edition 
of the Guide identifies more than 30 guides to 
reference material in the "Selection of Books" 
section (pp. 43-47); these guides typically 
focus on a particular kind of library or subject/ 
geographic area. Many of these works have 
obviously been patterned after the Guide, an- 
other indication of its far-reaching influence. 
Most are of fairly recent origin; some are 
review media. Their existence indicates a 
need for more selective guides consistent with 
the missions and budgets of smaller libraries, 
ongoing tracking and evaluation of new titles, 
and more in-depth coverage in certain topical 
areas. All of these titles offer their own 
strengths, but none can be said to supersede or 
replace the Guide. Plans for the future of the 
Guide (see below) suggest that the latter two 
needs are well within the scope of the Guide's 
purpose and its future capabilities; the first 
need probably falls outside the Guide's pur- 
pose, although perhaps there will someday be 
a "Concise Guide." 

Meanwhile, consistent growth has char- 
acterized the Guide. The increase in numbers 
of titles included in the Guide is certainly one 
of the most noticeable differences among the 
editions. The very modest 1 04 pages of the 

first edition has expanded to 1 ,560 pages in the 
tenth. The sixth edition in 1936 already listed 
4,000 items; the seventh increased the total to 
about 5,500; the eighth reached 7,500; the 
ninth expanded to approximately 10,000; and 
the tenth ended up with about 16,000 titles. It 
is thought that the tenth edition supplement 
will contain about 4500 titles. The numbers 
explain why the acknowledgments, even in 
the earlier editions, identify persons who pro- 
vided assistance, the numbers of which have 
increased significantly over the years. By the 
seventh edition, Winchell began acknowledg- 
ing assistance from librarians outside of Co- 
lumbia; and for the ninth edition, Sheehy had 
further expanded the coterie of assistant com- 
pilers to the point where title-page acknowl- 
edgment was made. 

The Future 

The current work on the suppl ement to the 
tenth edition has coordinators for the various 
sections from Syracuse University and North- 
western University as well as at Columbia. In 
addition, associate editors in charge of sub- 
sections now represent a broad range of librar- 
ies noted for various specializations, e.g., the 
Family History Library of the Church of Jesus 
Christ of Latter-Day Saints; the Yale Law 
Library; the Yale Divinity Library; the Ap- 
plied Life Sciences Library at the University 
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and the John 
Crerar Library of the University of Chicago. 
The ever expanding group of compilers from 
a variety of library settings should continue to 
broaden the scope of the Guide and perhaps 
address the criticisms of uneven coverage that 
inevitably resulted from a work compiled pri- 
marily in one institutional setting. And those 
concerned with tradition qua tradition, should 
recognize that such an approach was really 
begun long ago by Constance Winchell her- 
self and continued by Eugene Sheehy. 

After publication of the tenth edition, 
ALA Publishing sent out questionnaires to a 
variety of people asking for input about how 



the Guide should be handled in the future — 
Sheehy had already announced that the tenth 
edition was his last — and also talked with 
Columbia about a formal arrangement, as 
noted above. Eventually, ALA decided to 
assign responsibility for the Guide to the 
Choice editorial office, certainly a logical 
enough decision based on Choice's role as a 
review medium for academic library collec- 
tion development. 22 Robert Balay, former head 
of the Reference Department at Yale Univer- 
sity and now an editor at Choice, took on the 
position of editor of the Guide. Balay cur- 
rently spends approximately 50 percent of his 
time each week working on the Guide. To 
assist him he has recruited many of the tenth 
edition's compilers as section and subsection 
compilers/editors for a supplement to that 
edition, scheduled to appear in 1 992. An elev- 
enth edition is scheduled for 1995 but, for 
now, efforts are focused on the supplement. 23 

Another very important project for the 
future is the creation of a machine-readable 
database to make the compilation process far 
easier than before. Even as late as the 1986 
tenth edition, Sheehy still used the 4-x-6" card 
file system that had been utilized by his prede- 
cessors. 24 Attempts to combine the computer 
tape used for production of the ninth edition 
with its two supplements to create a working 
tool for compilation of the tenth edition came 
to naught when the company hired for the task 
went bankrupt. For the tenth edition's supple- 
ment, LC-MARC tapes are being used to 
supply the bibliographic citations; this should 
also greatlyaidthe compilation process. Plans 
now call for the eventual availability of an 
online database or a CD-ROM product, up- 
dated at regular intervals, with a printed edi- 
tion produced at regular intervals. 

There is every reason to believe that the 
Guide will continue to be a useful work. Two 
of the most consistent and persistent criticisms 
of the Guide — lack of timeliness due to the 
irregular updating patterns and unevenness of 

content due to its singular compilation meth- 
ods — can be addressed by the creation of an 
online database and a broadening of the num- 
ber of compilers. Should the former become a 
reality and the latter trend continue, the Guide 
should remain a source to be reckoned with in 
the reference department. A greater number 
of compilers may also allow for more in-depth 
assessment of related titles, resulting in a more 
consistently critical rather than descriptive 
approach to the Guide's annotations. The ex- 
istence of a larger pool of compilers also 
suggests that more formal editorial policies 
will eventually have to be developed in order 
to provide for a more rigorously consistent 
approach regarding compilation criteria. Oth- 
erwise, quality may suffer as increasingly 
larger numbers of compilers incorporate their 
own decisions and approaches into the Guide. 
On the other hand, the commitment to using 
practicing reference librarians as compilers is 
surely the only way to insure the Guide's 
continuing appeal to the profession as a useful 
tool for everyday work. 

As one reads through the prefaces and 
introductions to the various editions of the 
Guide, change is a constant theme, whether it 
is the arrangement of the work itself, signifi- 
cant additions of titles in particular topical 
areas due to ever-shifting current events, or 
just concerns about maintaining adequate cov- 
erage, It is certain that none of the editors ever 
thought that any one edition of the Guide was 
a work for all time. The constant renewal 
through supplements and new editions proves 
the existence of a world in which demands for 
information grow and change constantly and 
the willingness of the Guide's compilers to 
change with it. The latest steps in the evolution 
of the Guide demonstrate, paradoxically, con- 
tinuity amidst change and a realization that the 
Guide can continue indefinitely if it continues 
to meet the needs of its audience. May we all 
be fortunate enough to see a centennial edition 
in 2002. 



Guide to the Study and Use of Reference Books: A 
Manual for Librarians, Teachers and Students, 
by Alice Bertha Kroeger. A.L.A. Annotated 
Lists. Boston: American Library Association, 
Publishing Board, 1902. 104p. 

Guide to the Study and Use of Reference Books, by 
Alice Bertha Rroeger. 2nd. ed., rev. and enl. 
Boston: American Library Association, Pub- 
lishing Board, 1908. 147p. 

Guide to the Study and Use of Reference Books, by 
Alice Bertha Kroeger. Supplement 1909-1910, 
by Isadore Gilbert Mudge. Chicago: American 
Library Association, Publishing Board, 1911. 

Guide to the Study and Use of Reference Books, by 
Alice Bertha Kroeger. Supplement 1911-191 3, 
by Isadore Gilbert Mudge. Chicago: American 
Library Association, Publishing Board, 1914. 

Guide to the Study and Use of Reference Books, by 
Alice Bertha Kroeger, Isadore Gilbert Mudge. 
3rd. ed., rev. and enl. Chicago: American Li- 
brary Association, Publishing Board, 1917. 

New Guide to Reference Books, by Isadore Gilbert 
Mudge. [4th ed.] Chicago: American Library 
Association, 1923. 278p. "Based on the Third 
Edition of Guide to the Study and Use of Refer- 
ence Books by Alice Bertha Kroeger as Revised 
by I. G. Mudge." 

Guide to Reference Books, by Isadore Gilbert Mudge. 
5th ed. Chicago: American Library Associa- 
tion, 1929, 370p. 

Reference Books of 1929, by Isadore Gilbert Mudge, 
Doris M. Reed, Constance M. Winchell. Chi- 
cago: AmericanLibrary Association, 1930. 47p. 
"An informal supplement to Guide to Reference 
Books, Fifth Edition." 

Reference Books of 1930, by Isadore Gilbert Mudge, 
Doris M. Reed, Constance M. Winchell. Chi- 
cago: AmericanLibrary Association, 193 1 . 39p. 
"An informal supplement to Guide to Reference 
Books, Fifth Edition." 

Reference Books of 1931-1933: Third Informal 
Supplement to Guide to Reference Books, Fifth 
Edition, by Isadore Gilbert Mudge assisted by 
Constance M. Winchell. Chicago: American 
Library Association, 1934. 87p. 

Guide to Reference Books, by Isadore GilbertMudge. 
6th ed. Chicago: American Library Associa- 
tion, 1936. 504p. 

Reference Books ofl 935-193 7: An Informal Supple- 
ment to Guide to Reference Books, Sixth Edi- 
tion, by Isadore GilbertMudge. Chicago: Ameri- 
can Library Association, 1939. 69p, 

Reference Books of 1938-1940, by Constance M. 
Winchell. Chicago: American Library Associa- 
tion, 1941. 106p. "Second Informal Supple- 

ment to Guide to Reference Books, Sixth Edi- 
tion, by Isadore Gilbert Mudge." 

Reference Books of 1941-1943, by Constance M. 
Winchell, Chicago: AmericanLibrary Associa- 
tion, 1944. 1 15p. "Third Informal Supplement 
to Guide to Reference Books, Sixth Edition, by 
Isadore Gilbert Mudge." 

Reference Books of 1944-1946, by Constance M. 
Winchell. Chicago: AmericanLibrary Associa- 
tion, 1947. 94p. "Fourth Informal Supplement 
to Guide to Reference Books, Sixth Edition, by 
Isadore Gilbert Mudge." 

Guide to Reference Books, by Constance M. Winchell. 
7th ed. Chicago: American Library Associa- 
tion, 1951. 645p, 

Guide to Reference Books: Supplement, 1950-1952, 
by Constance M. Winchell and Olive A. John- 
son. Chicago: American Library Association, 
1954. 11 7p. 

Guide to ReferenceBooks: Second Supplement, 1953- 
1955, by Constance M. Winchell. Chicago: 
American Library Association, 1956. 134p. 

Guide to ReferenceBooks: Third Supplement, 1956- 
1958, by Constance M. Winchell assisted by 
John Neal Waddell and EleanorBuist. Chicago: 
American Library Association, 1960. 145p. 

Guide to Reference Books: Fourth Supplement, 1959- 
June 1962, by Constance M. Winchell assisted 
by John Neal Waddell, Eleanor Buist, Eugene P. 
Sheehy. Chicago: American Library Associa- 
tion, 1963. 15 lp. 

Guide to ReferenceBooks, by Constance M. Winchell. 
8th ed. Chicago: American Library Associa- 
tion, 1967. 741p. 

Guide to Reference Books: First Supplement 1965- 
1966, by EugeneP. Sheehy. Chicago: American 
Library Association, 1968. I22p. 

Guide to Reference Books: Second Supplement 1967- 
1968, compiled by Eugene P. Sheehy with the 
assistance of Rita G. Keckeissen. Chicago: 
American Library Association, 1970. 165p. 

Guide to Reference Books: Third Supplement 1969- 
1970, compiled by Eugene P. Sheehy with the 
assistance of Rita G. Keckeissen and Eileen 
Mcllvaine. Chicago: American Library Asso- 
ciation, 1972. 190p. 

Guide to Reference Books, compiled by Eugene P. 
Sheehy with the assistance of Rita G. Keckeissen 
and Eileen Mcllvaine. 9th ed. Chicago: Ameri- 
can Library Association, 1976, l,015p. 

Guide to Reference Books, Ninth Edition: Supple- 
ment, edited by Eugene P. Sheehy with the 
assistance of Rita G. Keckeissen, Eileen 
Mcllvaine, Diane K. Goon; Pure and Applied 
Sciences compiled by Richard J. Dionne, Eliza- 
beth E. Ferguson, Robert C Michaelson; Major 
Data Bases compiled by Martha E. Williams. 
Chicago: American Library Association, 1980. 

* I*"- 



Guide to Reference Books, Ninth Edition: Second 
Supplement, edited by Eugene P. Sheehy with 
the assistance of Rita G. Keckeissen, Eileen 
Mcllvaine, Diane K. Goon; Pure and Applied 
Sciences compiled by Richard J, Dionne, Eliza- 
beth E. Ferguson, Robert C, Michaelson. Chi- 
cago: American Library Association, 1982, 243p. 

Guide to Reference Books, edited by Eugene P. 
Sheehy withtheassistance ofRitaG. Keckeissen, 
Eileen Mcllvaine, Diane K. Goon, Janet 
Schneider; Science, Technology, and Medicine 
compiled by Richard J. Dionne, Elizabeth E. 
Ferguson, Robert C. Michaelson, 10th ed. Chi- 
cago: American Library Association, 1986. 


Other than the reviews and a very few 
news articles, the only secondary literature of 
any substance on the Guide is Plotnik' s article 
on the compilation of the ninth edition. Bio- 
graphical information on Kroeger and Mudge 
can be found in Grotzinger's and Waddell and 
Grotzinger's respective articles in the Dictio- 
nary of American Library Biography; on 
Winchell in Richards' s article in the Supple- 
ment to the Dictionary of American Library 
Biography and in her New York Times obitu- 
ary; and on Sheehy in The ALA Yearbook 
1978. Significant reviews are listed below; 
others can be found through standard book 
review indexes. However, since most of the 
reviews are basically descriptive and/or lau- 
datory, they are not particularly illuminating. 
Katz is probably correct in his assessment that 
rigorous criticism of the Guide has been rare. 

"Constance Mabel Winchell.'* New York Times, May 

25, 1983, p. A24, Obituary. 
Grotzinger, Laurel A. "Kroeger, Alice B ertha ( 1 864- 

1909)." In Dictionary of American Library Bi- 

ography, edited by Bohdan S. Wynar, 295-98. 

Littleton, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1978. 
Jensen, Joan W., et al. Review of Guide to Reference 

Books, 10th ed., by Eugene P. Sheehy. Choice 

24 (May, 1987): 1361-64. 
Katz, Bill. Review of Guide to Reference Books, 9th 

ed., by Eugene P. Sheehy. Journal of Academic 

Librarianship 3 (March, 1977): 37-38. 
Plotnik, Art. "From Winchell' s Sthto Sheehy' s 9th." 

American Libraries % (March, 1977); 129-32. 
Richards, Pamela Spence. "Winchell, Constance 

Mabel (IB96~\9^)" In Supplement to theDic- 

tionary of American Library Biography, edited 

by Wayne E. Wiegand, 163-65. Englewood, 

CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1990. 
"Sheehy, Eugene."^L4 Yearbook! (1978): 66-67. 
Tolley, C. W, Review of Guide to Reference Books, 

7th ed., by Constance M. Winchell. New Zealand 

Libraries 16 (April, 1953): 66-68 
Waddell, JohnN., and Laurel A. Grotzinger. "Mudge, 

Isadore Gilbert ( 1 875-1 957)." InDictionary of 

American Library Biography, edited by Bohdan 

S. Wynar, 377-79. Littleton, CO: Libraries 

Unlimited, 1978. 
"Winchell, Constance M[abel]." Current Biography 

(1967): 465-68. 
Wynar, Bohdan S. Review of Guide to Reference 

Books, 9th ed., by Eugene P. Sheehy. American 

Reference Books Annual % (1978): p. 3-7. 


! Robert Balay, Editor, Guide to Reference Books, Tenth 
Edition: Supplement, and Eugene Sheehy, (retired) 
Head, Reference Department, Columbia Univer- 
sity Libraries, telephone interviews with the author, 
April 1990. 

2 Sheehy, interview with the author, April 1990. 

3 Balay and Sheehy interviews with the author, April 

1990; and Robert G. Michaelson, Head Librarian, 
Seeley G. Mudd Library for Science and Engineer- 
ing, Northwestern University, personal interview 
with the author, April 1990. 

4 Asked by the author if he would do it again, Mr. Sheehy 

replied that he suspects he would, even given the 
"agony" that occasionally went with it. 
'Figures obtained from a telephone interview (March 
1991) with Robert Herschman, Manager, Sales & 
Operations, ALA Publishing. 

*The author thanks Eugene Sheehy for suggesting this 
fact, one that does not come naturally to a member 
of the post- World War II generation. 

7 Several reviews of the ninth edition make this point. 
Charles Bunge, writing in his "Current Reference 
Books" column (Wilson Library Bulletin 5 1 [Janu- 
ary 1977]; 442), noted that "because of the neces- 
sary time lag in publishing such a large work . . . this 
fine guide will need to be supplemented in day-to- 
day reference work by other specialized guides and 
by the librarian's own strategies for staying cur- 
rent." The review in Choice 14 (June 1977); 516 
observed that "The work was nearly two years in 
production, and the lists are already three years out 
of date." See also Bohdan S. Wynar' s review of the 
ninth edition, American Reference Books Annual 8 
(1977): 3-7. The tenth edition received somewhat 


better marks for currency, See, for example, Joan 
Jensen and others' review in Choice 24 (May 
1987): 1361-64, and Bohdan S. Wynar's review in 
American Reference Books Annual 18 (1987): 8-9. 

8 In Eugene Sheehy's conversation wilh the author, Mr. 
Sheehy spoke of the "all-consuming" nature of the 
task of editing the Guide, mentioning how he some- 
times felt almost guilty if he took an evening stroll 
after dinner instead of resuming work. 

* Constance M. Winchell, "Preface," Guide to Reference 
Books, 7th ed. (Chicago: American Library Asso- 
ciation, 1951), v-vi. 

10 Isadore Gilbert Mudge, "Preface," Guide to Reference 
Books, 6th ed. (Chicago: American Library Asso- 
ciation, 1936), iii. 

1 ' Eugene Sheehy, "Preface," Guide to Reference Books, 
10th ed. (Chicago: American Library Association, 
1986), ix. 

12 Michaelson and Sheehy, interviews with the author, 

April 1990. 

13 Winchell, "Preface," v-vi. Sheehy states that he was 

invited to attend several meetings about the Guide 
organized by ALA Publishing at various ALA 
conferences that considered a variety of topics. He 
cannotclearly recall any particuiartopics discussed 
but is certain that none of the groups continued on 
a regular basis. 

14 For examples, see C. W. Tolley, review of Guide to 

Reference fioofa,7thed., by ConstanceM. Winchell, 
New Zealand Libraries 16 (April 1953): 66-68 and 
Bohdan S. Wynar, review of Guide to Reference 
Books, 9th ed., by Eugene P, Sheehy, American 
Reference Books Annual 8 (1978): p. 3-7. 
" Bill Katz, review of Guide to Reference Books, 9th ed., 
by Eugene P. Sheehy, Journal of Academic 
Librarianship 3 (March 1977): 37-38. 

16 Ibid. The preface to the seventh edition indicates that 
an advisory committce{withmernbers from. outside 
of the Columbia University libraries) reviewed 
parts of the work. The preface to the eighth edition 
identifies members of an advisory committee and 
special mention is made of the work on the science 
sections by the staff at the University of Wisconsin 
libraries. The number of other libraries involved 
has increased in each of the two subsequent edi- 

" W.B. Ready, review of Guide to Reference Books, 7th 
ed., by Constance M. Winchell, Library Quarterly 
23 (January 1953): 64, 

18 Harold Russell, review of Guide to Reference Books, 
Seventh Edition, by Constance M. Winchell, in 
College and Research Libraries 13 (July 1952): 

19 Review of Guide to Reference Books, Seventh Edition, 
by Constance M. Winchell, in Library Journal 77 
(March 1, 1952): 419. 

20 Robert Herschman of ALA Publishing reported total 
number of copies sold for the last four editions as 
follows: Seventh edition (1951) 40,149; Eighth 
edition(1967)51,597>Ninthedition(1976) 24,030; 
Tenth edition (1986) 1 1,796. He believes the drop 
between the eighth and ninth editions is explained 
by the abandonment of the Guide as a textbook in 
reference classes. Herschman, interview with the 

21 Art Plotnik, "From Winchell's 8th to Sheehy's 9th," 

American Libraries 8 (March 1977): 132. 

22 Robert Balay, "Guide to Reference Books," Choice 27 

(November 1989): 433. 
"Balay, interview with the author, April 1990. 
24 Sheehy, interview with the author, April 1990. 


h. IS 

"Unbeatable": The Guinness Book 

of Records 

Christine C. Whittington 


The idea for publishing the record book that 
the New York Times once called "a wacky 
collection of superlatives" 1 originated with an 
argument among sportsmen hunting ducks 
and geese in the autumn of 195 1 near Wexford, 
in the southeast tip of the Irish Coast, After his 
shot at a golden plover missed its mark, Sir 
Hugh Beaver, managing director of the Anglo- 
Irish brewery Arthur Guinness, Son and Com- 
pany, Ltd., debated with his companions 
whether the golden plover was the fastest 
game bird in Europe. Sir Hugh consulted 
various encyclopedias and other reference 
sources, discovering that none provided infor- 
mation about records and extremes that would 
prove him correct He was surprised that such 
a source did not exist and felt that a book like 
this would be useful for settling bets and 
arguments, especially those taking place in 
pubs or bars where Guinness's famous lager 
and stout were consumed. Several years later, 
thinking that it might be a good business 
undertaking for Guinness to publish a book 
that would be popular in pubs, Sir Hugh asked 
Guinness executive Christopher Chataway, 
holder of the world 5000-meter track record, 
if he knew of anyone who would be able to 
compile a book of superlatives. Chataway 
recommended his friends from Oxford, the 
twins Norris and Ross McWhirter, "a pair of 
track fanatics," and owners of a fact-finding 
enterprise, 2 

The McWhirter Brothers 

The McWhirters were born in London, 20 
minutes apart, on August 12, 1925. Their 
father was the editor of three national newspa- 
pers — the Sunday Pictorial, Daily Mail, and 
Sunday Dispatch — and eventually became the 
managing director of Associated Newspa- 
pers. 3 The twins grew up in a home full of 
reference books "devoted to the establishment 
of facts." 4 According to J. A. Maxtone 
Graham's article in Sports Illustrated, the 
young McWhirter twins asked so many ques- 
tions that their mother complained to their 
father, who advised her to "tell them to look it 
up for themselves." 5 They kept a file of news- 
paper clippings containing unusual informa- 
tion, including lists of the largest buildings, 
and memorized every important date in Brit- 
ish history, the names of every river, mountain 
range, and nation's capital. 6 They insisted 
upon checking everything they were told 
against reference books, causing their teach- 
ers to call them the "McWhitakers" 7 in refer- 
ence to the famous British almanac. 

The McWhirters were already supplying 
information on extraordinary record-setters 
and unusual topics when Sir Hugh Beaver 
began to search for someone to write a book of 
superlatives. After study at Oxford and war- 
time service with the Royal Navy, the 
McWhirters returned to London in 1 95 1 , where 
they set up and registered McWhirter Twins, 
Ltd., a "press and periodicals features ser- 


vice" for supplying facts and figures to news- 
papers, publishers, and advertisers. 8 The 
McWhirters were also involved in 
sports writing and sportscasting. Norris 
McWhirter was commenting on an Iffley Road, 
Oxford, track meet for the BBC and Ross was 
reporting for the Star on May 6, 1954, when 
their friend Roger Bannister broke the four- 
minute mile. 9 

On September 12, 1954, the McWhirters 
attended a lunch with Sir Hugh Beaver and 
other Guinness executives to discuss Beaver' s 
plan to publish a book of superlatives. The 
Guinness representatives quizzed the 
McWhirters about records, including those 
for the longest river that has ever frozen and 
the longest time a human squatted on top of a 
pole. 10 When Norris revealed that he knew 
that the Turkish language had only one irregu- 
lar verb, not because he knew Turkish but 
because he had made an effort to discover 
which language had the fewest, Sir Hugh 
Beaver "seemed to decide that he had discov- 
ered people with the right kind of quirkish 
mind for producing the book."' l It was agreed 
that the McWhirters would write it and that 
Guinness Superlatives, Inc., a Guinness sub- 
sidiary, would publish it. 12 

From an office at 107 Fleet Street, the 
McWhirters began the enormous task of com- 
piling a collection of superlatives, "extracting 
the 'ests' (highest, lowest, smallest, oldest, 
fastest, heaviest, etc.) from the 'ists' (ichthy- 
ologists, paleontologists, dendrochronologists, 
etc.)" 13 They wrote thousands of letters to 
governments officials, university professors, 
various experts, museums, and libraries in 11 
countries. 14 The twins compiled entries as 
they received responses to their queries and 
arranged for the printing and binding of the 
book. The first printing of 5 0,000 copies of the 
Guinness Book of Records was finished on 
August 27, 1955. 15 The book contained 198 
pages, cost $35,000 to publish, and sold for 
about 75 cents. 16 Its green cover was em- 
bossed with the Guinness trademark, a gold 
Brian Boru harp. It contained a foreword by 

Guinness chairman Rupert Guinness, the Earl 
of Iveagh, introducing the book as a tool for 
settling arguments. Among the 96 agencies, 
businesses, and organizations listed in the 
acknowledgments are the British Speleologi- 
cal Association, the United States Coast Guard, 
and the Embassy of Japan. The McWhirters 
were not listed by name but identified only 
anonymously as "the compilers." 

The First Edition 

The book contained sections on the hu- 
man being, the animal kingdom, the natural 
world, the universe, the scientific world, the 
human world, the business world, the world's 
structures, the mechanical world, accidents 
and disasters, human achievements, and sport. 
Each chapter was further divided. For ex- 
ample, the chapter on the human being in- 
cluded sections on dimensions, longevity, 
reproductivity, and physiology. The longest 
chapter was that on sports, including records 
for more than 60 activities. Each section in- 
cluded individual records. For example, the 
section on dogs included entries for age, larg- 
est litter, highestprice, mostpopular, andmost 
dogs in a single team. Superlatives included 
"earliest," "tallest," "shortest," "heaviest," 
"thinnest," "oldest," "largest," "smallest," 
"most," "lowest," "highest," "rarest," plus 
other less common "-ests" such as "busiest" 
(junction), "remotest" (island), "bloodiest" 
(assize), and "brightest" (planet). The book 
included black and white photographs and an 
index. For many categories, world records 
were listed first, followed by those for En- 
gland, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. For ex- 
ample, the chapter on the world's structures 
includes entries for the Great Britain's tallest 
structure (the General Post Office radio masts 
near Rugby) as well as the world's (the televi- 
sion transmitting tower of station KWTV in 
Oklahoma City). Many of the world records 
included in the Guinness Book of Records 
were American, including the largest mail 
order house (Sears Roebuck), the fastest sell- 



ingrecording ("The Ballad of Davy Crockett"), 
the largest insurance company (Metropolitan 
Life), the country with greatest number of 
telephones (the United States, with 50 mil- 
lion), and the most expensive hotel 
(Fountainebleu, Miami Beach). 

Within four months, the Guinness Bookof 
Records was the bestselling book in England, 
with approximately 187,000 copies sold. The 
McWhirters each earned about $10,000 in 
royalties from the sale of the book. 17 

A second, enlarged edition of the Guinness 
Book of Records was published in England in 
1956. This edition contained more photo- 
graphs, new material from the United States 
and the Soviet Union, which the McWhirters 
had visited, and new records. The tallest tree 
in the British Isles, for example, had grown 
eight feet, six inches since last measured, and 
73 new records were added to track and field 
athletics. 18 Other records changed as a result 
of technological advances, such as new mea- 
surements for the deepest Atlantic sounding, 
the diameter of the Earth, and the speed of 
light, 19 

First American Edition 

An American edition of 50,000 copies 
was produced in 1956, entitled The Guinness 
Book of Superlatives . Although the book in- 
cluded the same categories as the British edi- 
tion, the content was adjusted to appeal to the 
American audience. The 1956 British edition 
contained records for fox hunting, snooker, 
polo, public houses, the largest and fastest 
British motorcycles, a lengthy section on 
cricket, and the London Stock Exchange. The 
American edition of the same year contained 
much longer sections on baseball, basketball, 
and American football, and entries for harness 
racing, rodeo, ranches, and grain elevators, 
none of which were included in the British 

At first, the Guinness Book of Superla- 
tives did not sell rapidly and distribution was 
not well organized. Then, a copy of this Ameri- 

can edition on the shelves of the De Wolfe and 
Fiske bookstore in Boston drew the attention 
of David Boehm. Boehm had founded Ster- 
ling Books in 1949 with six titles, mostly how- 
to books. Intrigued by the book, Boehm of- 
fered to take over the distribution of the 32,000 
copies remaining to be sold in the United 
States. Sterling re-titled the American edition 
the Guinness Book of World Records, pack- 
aged it with a new cover, and spent four years 
selling the excess copies. In 1 960, Boehm and 
Norris McWhirter agreed that Sterling would 
produce a paperback version of the book i n the 
United States with only world, not national, 
records, using proofs of the British edition. 
The success of the paperback version in Ameri- 
can bookstores and the requests of bookstore 
owners convinced Sterling to publish a hard- 
cover edition in 1961. In that year, Sterling 
sold paperback rights to Bantam Books. Until 

1 973, the book was not published annually in 
the United States as it was in Great Britain, but 
only as supplies were exhausted. 20 

Enduring Popularity 

Thirty-five years after it was first pub- 
lished, the Guinness Book of Records contin- 
ues to be immensely popular. In December 

1974, it became the fastest selling nonaction 
book in history, excluding versions of the 
Bible. It surpassed Dr. Benjamin Spock'sifa^y 
and Child Care to reach total sales of 24 
million and achieve its own record in the book. 
Hardcover sales have averaged 100,000 cop- 
ies per year and paperback sales two to three 
million per year; an additional 250,000 to 
400,000 are sold per year through premium 
sales. 21 By October 1989, 61 million copies 
had been sold in 262 editions in 35 languages, 
including Icelandic, Tamil, Malayalam, and 
Telugu. 22 Arrangements for compiling the first 
Russian edition were completed in 1989. 23 
Sales of the Finnish and Serbo-Croatian edi- 
tions have been credited with boosting the 
sales to the record. 24 In his introduction to the 
1990 edition, Benjamin Guinness points out 


that the book was "No. 1 on the best sellers list 
. . . every year except 1957 and 1959, when it 
was not published, and that the global sales to 
date would equal 171 stacks, each as high as 
Mount Everest." 25 

There have been many attempts to ex- 
plain the fascination Guinness holds for its 
readers. McWhirter believes that "People are 
fascinated by extremes. People crave delinea- 
tion and points of reference. It's a matter of 
orientation, but it's also part of the natural 
competitiveness that most of us have." 26 The 
United States provides the largest market for 
Guinness. In an interview with Digby Diehl 
for the Los Angeles Times, Ross McWhirter 
stated that "This curious American dedication 
to the fact, as well as your competitive spirit, 
your betting sense, seems to account for our 
book's popularity," but added that worldwide 
commitment to literacy has aided expansion 
of the market for paperback books, including 
the paperback version of Guinness. 2 '' Promo- 
tions and product licensing, including "Oddball 
Olympics" in various cities, seven Guinness 
World Records exhibition halls, a comic strip, 
greeting cards, t-shirts, and television shows 
have increased the book's exposure. 18 Fund- 
raising events have attracted attention and 
publicity through attempts to break records 
listed in Guinness. 

Guinness has also increased its exposure 
through the numerous spinoffs that have been 
published under its name. Many of these ex- 
pand upon the numerous sports records found 
in the parent book. These include The Guinness 
Book of World Championship Boxing (Lon- 
don: Guinness Superlatives, 1990); The 
Guinness Book of Olympic Records: 1988 
(New York: Bantam, 1988); and the annual 
Guinness Sports Record Book (New York: 
Sterling, 1972-1990; New York: Facts On 
File, 199 1- ). Other spinoffs appeal to teenag- 
ers, young adults, and trivia fans who also 
enjoy the parent book. These include titles in 
the Guinness Oddfax Series such as The 
Guinness Book of Almost Everything You 
Didn 7 Need to Know About Dogs (London: 

Guinness Superlatives, 1987) and The 
Guinness Book of Almost Everything You 
Didn 't Need to Know About the Movies (Lon- 
don: Guinness Superlatives, 1987). 

Critical Reception 

Reviewers have mentioned the book's 
use of "deadpan humor," "arcane erudition," 
and "air of indisputable authority." 29 In a 
single sentence, another reviewer noted both 
the book's "useless information" and its abil- 
ity to "captivate all ages." 30 Curiosity about 
the grotesque no doubt plays a role. One 
reviewer wrote that the book offered a "chance 
to peep behind the curtain concealing life's 
freak show" to find gruesome records for 
obesity, gluttony, deformity, and inhuman- 
ity. 31 Most reviewers, even one who surmised 
that "the Guinness Book of World Records 
includes more useless information than any 
other book in the world," 12 cannot resist listing 
the records they find most fascinating. The 
Village Voice gave Guinness a one word re- 
view: "Unbeatable." 33 

Types of Records 

Teachers have found that the Guinness 
Book of World Records can be used to tempt 
children and young adults to read. 34 School 
classes and other children's groups have turned 
breaking a "Guinness record" into a learning 
experience. A fifth grade class researched and 
measured the 201-foot Roe River in Montana 
and submitted evidence that earned it a place 
in the 1 989 Guinness as holding the record for 
the world's shortest river. 35 

While most records included in earlier 
editions of the book were for naturally occur- 
ring phenomena (the fastest snake); athletic 
(most lawn bowling titles); or unintentional 
(the youngest vice president); many of the 
records in the more recent editions reflect an 
activity J. Kirshenbaum has dubbed 
"Guinnessport." 36 The book's popularity has 
resulted in campaigns all over the world, ex- 


treme in themselves, to set new "Guinness 
records" or "get into Guinness." Norris 
McWhirterbelieves that because "Americans 
have such a high level of achievement. The 
underachievcrs are driven into zanier out- 
lets." 37 Perusing newspaper and periodical 
indexes turns up many accounts of record- 
breaking activities such as eating a tree, 38 
catching in one's mouth a grape dropped from 
a 60-story building, 39 making the world's long- 
est pasta nood le, 40 or stacking bowling balls. 41 
Individuals have attempted not only to break 
records in order to have them listed in the 
book, buthave attempted to achieve the record 
for holding the most "Guinness" records. 
Ashrita Furman of New York City holds the 
record for the most records in diverse catego- 
ries/ 2 including squats done in one hour, skip 
running, and pogo stick jumping in the Ama- 
zon River. Peter Dowdeswell of London holds 
many eating records, including those for raw 
eggs (13 in one second), eels (1,300 in 13.7 
seconds), and sushi (1.5 pounds in 1 minute, 
13.5 seconds). South Korea is attempting to 
achieve the mostrecords in the GuinnessBook 
of Records, hoping by the mid-1990s to sur- 
pass the30percentheldby Americans. Records 
already held by South Korea include those for 
shipbuilding, the largest drydock, and the most 
sets of twins within a single community. 43 

In response to the popularity of record- 
setting, each edition of the book includes 
guidelines for determining whether an activ- 
ity will be considered a record, rules and 
procedures, and documentation and verifica- 
tion. The guidelines state that thebook is likely 
to publish "only those records which improve 
upon previously published records or which 
are newly significant in having become the 
subject of widespread and, preferably, world- 
wide competition.'"' 4 Hence one wonders why 
pogo stick jumping in the Amazon river, mak- 
ing a jumpsuit out of pennies, or catching 
grapes in the mouth from greatheights qualify. 
The book no longer publishes any records in 
the "gratuitously hazardous categories, such 
as the lowest starting height for a handcuffed, 
free-fall parachute jump" 45 or new records for 

other "extremely inadvisable" activities, such 
as those for sword swallowing 46 or "glut- 
tony." 47 

Guinness Book of World Records has a 
reputation for excluding morally questionable 
records. Robert Lacey in the London's Sun- 
day Times Magazine noted that the Guinness 
Book of Records included records for the 
oldest and most prolific mothers, but not the 
youngest mothers, unwed mothers, or abor- 
tions, 48 while Peter Buckman in Punch found 
Ripley's Believe It or Not (described by Norris 
McWhirter as "cynical, successful, and thor- 
oughly unreliable") 49 a better source of infor- 
mation on sexual feats, 50 and a reviewer for the 
Listener noted that "sex scarcely enters the 
Guinness Book of Records " i{ 

Format and Organization 

The purpose and format of the Guinness 
Book of Records, if not the records them- 
selves, remain similar to that of the early 
editions. Like the first edition, the 1990 edi- 
tion began with an introduction by the Earl of 
Iveagh, President of Arthur Guinness & Sons. 
In his foreword to the first American edition, 
Rupert Guinness, the current Earl of Iveagh, 
defined the purpose of the book, adapted for 
the American audience: 

Wherever people congregate to talk, they will 
argue, and sometimes the joy lies in the argu- 
ing and would be lost if there were any definite 
answer. But more often the argument takes 
place on a dispute of fact, and it can be very 
exasperating if there is no immediate means of 
settling the discussion. Who was the tallest 
President? Who is the richest man and the 
most married woman? Where is the highest 
point in our state? How many died in the 
world's worst earthquake? Who hit the long- 
est measured home run? Who holds the corn- 
husking record? And sd on. How much heat 
these innocent questions can raise! The House 
of Guinness in producing this book hopes that 
it may assist in resolving many such disputes 
and may, we hope, turn heat into light. 52 

In their preface, the McWhirters defined 
the scope of the book as "... a collection of 


facts — finite facts expressed in quantitative 
terms predominantly those which by mea- 
surement are superlative or are records in their 
respective fields. The world's greatest man is, 
for this book, the man with the greatest girth 
rather than the man with the greatest intel- 
lect." 53 The book continues to be divided into 
sections similar to those of the early editions, 
with sections on the arts and entertainment, 
newly verified records, and sports games and 
endurance marathons (e.g., playing Monopoly 
for 600 hours) the only added categories. The 
index of the American edition includes entries 
for the superlatives themselves, e.g., "fast- 
est," "longest," "earliest," followed by the 
subject. About one quarter of the book's 
records change each year. Obviously, many 
records have changed because of technologi- 
cal advances, such as the record for the fastest 
aircraft. Also many athletic records, such as 
those for speed skating or bicycle racing, were 
set in recent years. 

Ways to Use Guinness 

In the library reference environment, the 
Guinness Book of World Records can supply 
information not easily available in any other 
source. Sir Hugh Beaver was correct in his 
assumption that there was no comprehensive 
book of superlatives when he conceived his 
idea for a record book, and no competitor has 
been published since. It is easy to locate infor- 
mation about museums in directories, for ex- 
ample, but no other single source lists the 
oldest museum (Ashmolean, Oxford), largest 
single museum (American Museum of Natu- 
ral History), or the most popular museum (the 
Smithsonian's National Air and Space Mu- 
seum). The charts included in recent editions 
are especially useful for those who want infor- 
mation in one place; for example, a chart in the 
1 990 American edition entitled "Worst Acci- 
dents and Disasters in the World" ranks by 
number of deaths disasters resulting from 
causes as diverse as the Black Death (75 
million deaths); panic in an air raid shelter 

(4,000 deaths); and the mass suicide at the 
People's Temple in Jonestown, Guyana (913 
deaths). Guinness is often used as a first step, 
providing enough information about a ques- 
tion to enable a librarian or library patron to 
identify appropriate sources for further infor- 
mation. For example, a person investigating 
the popularity of motion pictures could use 
Guinness to identify the films with the highest 
box office gross, highest film rentals, the most 
expensive film, the highest earnings by actors, 
and the largest number of Academy Awards 
before looking for information on the indi- 
vidual films in sources devoted to film. 

A New American Publisher, A New 
American Title 

Sterling Books' involvement with the 
Guinness Book of World Records ended with 
publication of the 1 990 edition. Beginning 
with the 1 99 1 edition, the American edition of 
Guinness has been published by Facts On File . 
Facts On File is best known as the publisher of 
the weekly news digest entitled Facts On File, 
Facts On File has brought the American edi- 
tion closer to the currentBritish edition in size, 
format, and appearance. The book is larger (9" 
x 12"), the photographs are larger and in color, 
and the book contains color charts and other 
graphics. Like the British edition, the new 
American edition lists both world andnational 
records for many categories, To reflect this 
change, the title has officially been changed to 
Guinness Book of Records* the same title used 
for the British edition. Facts On File plans to 
maintain strong editorial involvement and com- 
munication with Guinness, Ltd., the publisher 
of the British edition. Two editors are working 
full time on the American edition — one for 
Facts On File in New York and the other for 
Guinness Ltd. in London. The Facts On File 
editor, Mark Young, is responsible for "Ameri- 
canizing" Guinness. He tracks down records 
in much the same way the McWhirters did for 
the first edition. He screens numerous letters 
(including one containing a cockroach that 




fell short of the record length) and telephone 
calls (Facts On File has installed a separate 
telephone line and answering machine for this 
purpose); consults other reference sources; 
and has tapped into networks of experts. Un- 
like the McWhirters as they compiled the first 
edition, Young uses computer files to keep 
track of Tecords and update information. 
Donald McFarlan is the present editor of the 
British Guinness Book of Records, Norris 
McWhirter maintains his involvement with 
the book he created by serving as editorial 
adviser. Ross McWhirter, who participated 
actively in conservative politics and litigation, 
was shot to death at his home onNovember 27, 
1975. Fifteen months later, Irish Republican 
Army members were convicted for his mur- 
der. 54 

Facts On File has enhanced the reference 
quality of the Guinness Book of Records by 
increasing the number of substantive records 
and weeding out those of less interest while 
maintaining many of those that appeal to ca- 
sual readers, especially children and adoles- 
cents. To correspond to this more authorita- 
tive approach, copies of the book are not to be 
offered at discount prices. The Facts On File 

editions will retain the introductory material 
regarding rules and verification for record- 
setting; acceptance of records will be deter- 
mined by the editors. A mass market paper- 
back edition will continue to be produced by 
Bantam, using material purchased from Facts 
on File, but with black and white photographs ." 

A CD-ROM, the Guinness Disc of 
Records, has been produced by Pergamon 
Compact Solution of London. It contains ani- 
mation and music as well as photographs and 
text. Each word is searchable, so a user can 
retrieve all the records set by a particular 
person or find out why the Mississippi Queen 
is famous. 

The Guinness Book of Records is not only 
one of the best selling books in the world, but 
a reference source that is indeed "unbeatable" 
for finding superlatives throughout the years. 
It is up to Facts On File to set the future 
direction for the American edition. If the com- 
pany continues to increase the book's visual 
appeal and to enrich its authority while still 
retaining enough trivia records to attract ca- 
sual readers, the recently retitled Guinness 
Book of Records should become an even more 
effective reference tool. 


Guinness Book of World Records, 1956-1990. An- 
nual. Published irregularly in the United States 
until 1973 (1st ed., 1956, 2nd ed., 1961, etc.) 
First edition entitled The Guinness Book of 

Superlatives. Issued as Guinness Book of 
Records, 199 1-. Annual. Also issued in a Brit- 
ish edition, Guinness Book of Records 1955— 


There has been no comprehensive, schol- 
arly investigation into the origin, develop- 
ment, influence, or social impact of the 
Guinness Book of World Records. The most 
detailed information about its genesis appears 
inNorris McWhirter >s biography of his brother, 
Ross: The Story of a Shared Life. This book 
also addresses the twins' personal and profes- 
sional lives apart from their involvement with 
Guinness. Guinness: The Stories Behind the 
Records devotes more space than the Guinness 
Book of Records can to some of the more 

interesting record-setters, including a female 
powerlifting champion and the 1980 eruption 
of Mt. St. Helens (largest volcanic eruption in 
U.S. history). It also contains brief chapters 
entitled "How Guinness Came to America," 
the latter written by Sterling editor David 
Boehm, The book also includes a section of 
some of the stranger letters sent to Guinness 
("Dear Guinness: I believe I have the longest 
eyelash in the world . . ."). Reference librar- 
ians may find it most useful for its section on 
"Answers to Some Commonly Asked Ques- 


tions " ("What are the rules for rest breaks?"), 
Each edition of the Guinness contains the most 
recent information on categories, rules and 
procedures, documentation and verification, 
and revision, and should be consulted by po- 
tential record-breakers. Readers seeking brief, 
entertaining introductions to the origin and 
development of Guinness will enjoy the two 
articles \n Sports Illustrated, The biographical 
sources provide summaries of theMcWhirters' 
lives. Maria Simson's article in Publishers 
Weekly covers the current editorial and publi- 
cation status of The Guinness Book of World 

Graham, J. A. Maxtone. "Here is the Odd Paradise of 
the Record Maniac." Sports Illustrated 22 (Feb- 
ruarys, 1965): 54-62. 

Kirshenbaum, Jerry. "There's Music in the Where?" 
Sports Illustrated 51 (My 30, 1979); 56-70. 

Lacey, Robert. "Superlatives, Ltd." Sunday Times 
Magazine (London), January 16, 1972, pp. 22- 

McWhirter, Norris [Dewar] . "Facts and How to Find 
Them" [text of an address given to the Society 
of Indexers]. Inducer 12 (April 1981): 125-27. 

. Ross: The Story of a Shared Life, London: 

Churchill Press, Ltd., 1976. 

McWhirter, Norris [Dewar] et al. Guinness: The 
Stories Behind the Records. New York: Ster- 
ling, 1981. 

"McWhirter, Norris [Dewar]," Current Biography 
Yearbook (1979), 247^50. 

"McWhirter, Norris [Dewar]," Contemporary Au- 
thors 13 (1965), s.v. 

"McWhirter, Ross," Dictionary of National Biogra- 
phy, 1971-80 supplement, s.v. 

Simson, Maria. "Guinness Goes to Facts on File 
After 30 Years at Sterling." Publishers Weekly 
237 (February 16, 1990): 49-50. 


1 Robert Lasson, review of Guinness Book of World 

Records, 11th ed,, 1973, New York Times Book 
Review, 29 April 1973, p. 22. 

2 J.A. Maxtone Graham, "Here is the Odd Paradise of the 

Record Maniac," Sports Illustrated 22 (8 February 
1965): 56. The story of the idea for the Guinness 
Book of Records originating with Sir Hugh Beaver's 
hunting party has appeared, with some variation, in 
Norris [Dewar] McWhirter, Ross: The Story of a 
Shared Life (London: Churchill Press, 1976), 141- 
44;Norris [Dewar] McWhirterand others, Guinness: 
The Stories Behind the Records (New York: Ster- 
ling, 1981), 113; Jerry Kirshenbaum, "There's 
Music in the Where?" Sports illustrated 5 1 (30 July 
1 979): 66; Robert Lacey, "Superlatives, Ltd.," Sun- 
day Times Magazine (London), 16 January 1972, 
27; Christopher Booker, "The Speed of a Golden 
Plover," Spectator 250 (1 9 February 1983): 1 9. 

3 Lacey, 27. 

A Norris [Dewar] McWhirter, "Facts and How to Find 
Them," [text of the address given to the Society of 
Indexers, 11 July 1980], Indexer 12 (April 1981): 

5 Graham, 56. 

* McWhirter and others, 1 12. 

7 Lacey, 27; McWhirter, 21. 

8 McWhirter, 101. 

9 Kenny Moore, "4 Minutes and 20 Years," Sports 

Illustrated Al (15 July 1974): 64; McWhirter, 128— 

10 McWhirter, 143; McWhirter and others, 1 13. 
" Ibid. 

12 Graham, 57; McWhirter, 149. 

13 McWhirter and others, 114. 

14 Graham, 57. 

15 McWhirter and others, 1 14. 

16 Graham, 57; McWhirter and others, 1 14. 

17 Graham, 57-58. 

18 Guinness Book of World Records, 2nd ed. (London: 

Guinness Superlatives, Ltd., 1956), 4. 

19 Ibid. 

20 See David Boehm's chapter entitled "Guinness Comes 

to America," in Norris McWhirter and others, 
Guinness: The Stories Behind the Records, 1 14—17. 
The American Guinness edition was published in 
October 1956. Sterling editions were published in 
October I960, April 1962, September 1963, Octo- 
ber 1 965 , June 1 966, March 1968, September 1 969, 
May 1970, April 1971, November 1972, and annu- 
ally since October 1 973. Bantam paperback edi- 
tions were published in October 1963, April 1964, 
June 1966,March 1968, May 1970, April 1971, and 
annually since March 1973, 

21 Maria Simson, "Guinness Goes to Facts on File after 30 

Years at Sterling," Publishers Weekly 237 (16 
February 1990): 43. 

22 Benj amin Guinness, Earl of Iveagh, "The Story Behind 

the Guinness Book" in Guinness Book of World 
Records (New York: Bantam Books, 1990), vii. 

23 Ibid. 

2 * Digby Diehl, "McWhirters: Matter-of-Fact Twins," 
Los AngehsTimes, 9 December 1974, sec. 4, 1. 

25 Guinness, vii. 

26 Kirshenbaum, 59. 

27 Diehl, sec 4, 1. 

28 N. R. Kleinfield, "Guinness Pace: A Record?" New 

York Times, 14 June 1980, 29; Kirshenbaum, 60. 
39 Peter Buckman, "The Biggest, the Fastest, the Most 
Fatuous," Punch 271 (17 November 1976): 942- 


30 Elizabeth Minot Graves, "Children's Books: A Se- 

lected List," Commonweal 93 (November 1970): 

51 Laurence Ulster, "The Bore's Bible" Listener 118 (17 
December 1987): 51. 

32 Guernsey Le Pelley, "Chandelier Munching," Chris- 
tian Science Monitor, 8 November 1988, 13, 

3J Review of Guinness Book of World Records, 13th ed. 
1975, Village Voice 20 (15 September 1975): 52. 
The Koiceagain called Guinness "unbeatable" three 
months later. Village Voice 20 (22 December 1975): 

34 Karin Agosta, "For Reinforcing Basic Skills, There's 

No Place Like Home," Instructor 9 1 (November 
1981): 80; Review of Review of Guinness Book of 
World Records, 9th ed. 1970 Grade Teacher 89 
(September 1971) 15 7; review aiReviewof Guinness 
Book of World Records, 10th ed., 1971, Library 
Journal^ (1 5 May 1 97 1): 1 834; review of Review 
of Guinness Book of World Records, I2thed., 1974, 
Library Journal 98 (15 December 1973): 3730. 

35 "5th Graders Zap Town's Claim to World's Shortest 

River," Chicago Tribune, 1 3 August 1988, sec. I, p. 
1S Kirshenbaum, 68. 

31 Ibid. 

31 Le Pelley, 13, 

3> '*Arlington Man Raisin' Record for Catching Grapes in 

His Mouth," Boston Globe, 4 September 1988, p. 


40 "Pasta Heights," Chicago Tribune, 5 October 1989, 
sec, 7, p. 5. 

4 ' "For David Kremer, Stacked Bowling Balls Are Right 
Up His Alley," People Weekly 30 (18 July 1988): 

«"Not Explainable," New Yorker65 (27 February 1989): 

■^"Just fortheRecord: South Korea'sMakingltsMove," 
Boston Globe, 7 July 1989, p, 2. 

44 Guinness Book of World Records (New York: Ban- 
tam, 1990), viii. 

« 5 Ibid. 

46 Ibid., 30. 

" ? Ibid., 463. 

48 Lacey, 27. 

49 McWhirter, "Facts and How to Find Them," 127. 
so Buckman, 942. 

5 ' E. S. Turner, "Cod and Blod," Listener 84 (26 Novem- 
ber 1970): 747. Kirshenbaum, 64, notes that the 
editors rule out gore, sexual feats, and stunts deemed 

" Rupert Guinness, Earl of Iveagh, foreword to Guinness 
Book of World Records (New York: Superlatives, 
Inc., 1956), iii. 

53 "Preface" to Guinness Book of World Records (New 
York: Superlatives, Inc., 1956), v. 

M rCirshenbaurn, 67, 

55 Simson, 49-50; Rachel Ginsberg and Gerard Helferich. 
of Facts On File, conversation with the author, 9 
May 1990. 

A Household Word for Four 
Generations: Moody's 

Elizabeth J. Wood 


Now comprised of eight separate manuals 
providing annual in-depth coverage of com- 
panies and other entities whose stock and/or 
bonds are available for public investment, the 
Moody's manuals started nearly a century ago 
in 1900 with a single volume entitled The 
Manual of Industrial and Miscellaneous Cor- 
poration Securities. After each day's work as 
a statistician in the banking firm of Spenser 
Trask, John Moody produced his manual at 
home with the help of a single assistant editor/ 
compiler and John's wife, Anna, as typist. 
Financing for the venture was a crazy quilt of 
advertising revenues, money borrowed from 
two friends, and promises of deferred billing 
from the printer. Although eager for a better 
income and more influence on Wall Street, 
Moody was not motivated solely by self- 
interest. His autobiography portrays a family 
at the mercy of the father's flyers on the stock 
market, moving annually to a drab, cramped 
rented house during bad times or to rather 
grand (albeit temporary) premises when for- 
tune smiled — ample motivation for a life's 
work of providing timely, uniform, reliable 
information for investors. A bright, venture- 
some lad, John had to leave school at the age 
of 15 to begin contributing to the family's 
income. Eventually achieving popularity as a 
writer of financial and autobiographical books 
as well as prominence in publishing annual 
financial manuals, he educated himself by dint 

of voracious reading on self-selected topics 
and a loosely structured home-study course in 
accordance with Chautauqua guidelines. Yarn- 
ing about his first job, Moody remembered the 
irony of his boss's comment at discovering 
that John was lending money on company 
premises at exorbitant rates: "You belong in 
Wall Street, you do." 1 

Henry Varnum Poor 

There could hardly have been a greater 
contrast to Moody 's background than the situ- 
ation of Henry Varnum Poor, founder of 
Moody's chief competitor in financial and 
investment publishing. A lawyer, Poor was 
editor of theAmerican Railroa d Jo urnal when 
he started the first of a projected three-volume 
set that became the progenitor of Poor's 
Manual. In an era when big business was king 
in this country, Henry Poor was the lone 
advocate of disclosure of company financial 
and operating information by railroads offer- 
ing their stock and bonds for public sale. To 
compile this manual, Poor wrung information 
from reluctant companies by virtue of his 
influence as editor of the leading trade jour- 
nal — goodwill and tact by themselves having 
failed with a number of firms. By 1 860 he had 
gleaned enough information to publish/! His- 
tory of the Railroads and Canals of the United 
States (New York: J.H. Schultz, 1860), a 200- 
page book providing operating and financial 
statistics about more than 120 railroad and 


canal companies. Although the other two vol- 
umes never were written, the first is now 
regarded as the "grandfather of all investment 
publications." 2 

In 1 868 (the year John Moody was born), 
Poor andhis son Henry WilliamPoorresumed 
publishing after a hiatus caused by the Civil 
War, this time calling the work The Manual of 
the Railroads of the United States (New York: 
H.V. andH.W. Poor, 1868), Lacking either an 
industry tradition or a legal requirement for 
uniform reporting of railway statistics, data 
was not comparable across companies. Be- 
fore the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, 
railway regulation was the province of state 
governments, and the only common operating 
principle was "practically unrestricted com- 
petition," 3 Undeniably the Manual of the Rail- 
roads of the United States reflected this flaw. 
But like Poor's earlier work, in all other re- 
spects it was a godsend to the hapless indi- 
vidual investor. 

Poor's early manuals were a curious ad- 
mixture of facts and advertising. For example, 
the 1891 manual devoted 219 initial and con- 
cluding pages as well as all four sides of the 
front and back covers to advertising; sand- 
wiched in between were directory informa- 
tion and financial statistics. The scope was 
eclectic, ranging from extensive coverage of 
larger systems such as the Southern Pacific to 
basic information aboutlinescovering asingle 
town and environs or even a section of a town. 
Besides the general index of companies, there 
were separate listings for advertisers and vari- 
ous railroad company officials, ranging from 
president to such lower echelon positions as 
assistant engineer or master mechanic. Stan- 
dard elements of entries for prominent compa- 
nies included a physical description of the 
railroad (weight and gauge of track, miles of 
track owned, etc.); a one-paragraph company 
history; a description of equipment owned 
("rolling stock"); a summary of activities both 
in volume (tons of freight and number of 
passengers) and in dollars; and the latest avail- 
able statements of income, expense, financial 

backing, and debts. Entries for smaller lines 
included a bare-bones paragraph giving char- 
ter date, officers, weight and gauge of rails, 
carfare, date of annual meeting, and brief 
description of outstanding debt. 

Although Poor 's Manual continued to be 
published through 1917, H.V. Poor's associa- 
tion with it declined after his retirement in 
1886 and ceased altogether with his death in 
1905. Poor's son continued to publish an an- 
nual directory of American railroad officials 
and a handbook of investment securities until 
1906 and 1893, respectively. However such 
efforts presented no real obstacle to Moody's 
entry into financial publishing. In his autobi- 
ography and in A Fifty Year Review of Moody's 
Investors Service (New York: Moody's In- 
vestors Service, [1949]), a personal reminis- 
cence about his early entrepreneurial activi- 
ties, Moody credited a Wall Street Journal 
editor with encouraging him to pursue the 
venture that ultimately made the manuals a 
household word. Clearly a large part of his 
inspiration must also have come from the 
founding father of financial publishing, Henry 
V. Poor. 

Moody's First Manual 

Moody's first Manual of Industrial and 
Miscellaneous Corporation Securities was a 
modest volume of 1,086 pages listing only 
1 ,800 companies (the majority of them newly 
incorporated) along with some 200 domestic 
and foreign bond issues. Described in a news- 
paper article as "largely a directory/'Wooc/y 's 
Manual in most respects represents an evolu- 
tionary stage in financial publishing rather 
than aradical departure fmmPoor 's; although 
Moody's inclusion of industrial companies 
together with the railroads and utilities cov- 
ered by Poor was a real breakthrough. More- 
over this first effort had the same sort of broad 
coverage that is the hallmark of today's 
Moody's manuals — including not only indus- 
trial companies but also banks and financial 
entities, and even U.S. and foreign govern- 


ment securities, in addition to utilities and 
railroads. The most complete company de- 
scriptions included type of business, financial 
condition of the firm, and a list of management 
personnel. Less important companies were 
accorded a cursory description. Coverage 
spanned "practically all" securities traded on 
the New York Stock Market; important com- 
panies from Boston, Philadelphia, and Chi- 
cago markets; and the larger companies from 
St. Louis, Louisville, and Cincinnati. 5 The 
collective capitalization (i.e., funds invested 
in firms listed) amounted to over $9,325,000, 
quite a sum for that time. Another harbinger of 
things to come was a section devoted to laws 
of incorporation in three eastern states and 
West Virginia, material typically included in 
either introductions or special features sec- 
tions of later manuals. Despite subsequent 
fulminations about advertisements jeopardiz- 
ingthe objectivity of financial reports, in 1900 
John Moody placed ads on the cover and on 
the 16 pages preceding the manual's title 
page. (In what Moody's Investor's Service 
calls the "modern manuals" published from 
1909 onward, a stronger financial position 
allowed the company to drop this practice.) As 
H. V . Poor had before him, Moody found data- 
gathering difficult. The magnitude of the task 
can be inferred from a statement in the preface 
that except for the 5 percent returning mailed 
questionnaires (some 100 companies), most 
firms required a "house to house canvass" and 
some took 12 to 15 visits before they re- 
sponded, 6 

The soul of honesty, Moody acknowl- 
edged that the first manual "of necessity con- 
tains both errors and omissions" while assert- 
ing that in no other single publication was 
"more than ten percent of the information 
embraced in this volume" available. 7 How- 
ever his early frankness was gradually diluted 
by the increasingly litigious nature of Ameri- 
can society. In 1915 the disciaimer-cum- de- 
fense of the publication's value read: "we do 
not guarantee the correctness of every figure," 
yet steadfastly maintained that it had "a much 
smaller percentage of errors than any other 

financial publication in existence." 8 In 1927 
Moody wrote that, while the magnitude and 
complexity of the compilation task precluded 
guarantees of the "absolute accuracy of the 
statements ... it is not likely that any serious 
inaccuracies will be found" and promised in 
subsequent editions to correct "any errors 
brought to his attention." 9 In I960 evidently it 
was dangerous to concede more than that 
Moody's sources were reputable but not infal- 
lible and that opinions expressed were inde- 
pendent and unbiased. And by the 1970s the 
standard disclaimer had become a note that 
Moody's could not assume liability for cor- 
rectness of reports, ratings, or data in the 

In the virtually total blackout of public 
information regarding securities, investors ap- 
parently greeted both Poor's and Moody's 
early efforts with nearly unanimous approval. 
The first editions of both titles were sold out 
just months after being released. A 
prepublication announcement for Moody's 
first manual is purely descriptive, 10 but four 
years later political science scholars would 
express approbation of another Moody book, 
The Truth About the Trusts (New York: Moody 
Publishing, 1904). These scholars' reviews 
are important because they bolstered the repu- 
tation of his yearly manual considerably and 
because one mentioned the manual as well as 
the monograph. The first reviewer praised the 
Truth About the Trusts for its "succinct analy- 
ses of . . , elements of strength or weakness" of 
the corporations, corroboratedMoody's claim 
of providing "the most thorough and accurate 
list of industrial trusts ever published in this 
country," and proclaimed the data to be "of 
the greatest interest and importance to every 
student of the trust problem "' ' A second gentle- 
man (albeit not totally uncritical of The Truth 
About the Trusts) echoed students' gratitude 
for the monograph and commented on the 
Manual of Industrial and Miscellaneous Cor- 
poration Securities saying that it had "within 
the short space of four years come to fill a 
useful place in the current literature regarding 
corporations." 12 


Riding a tide of critical and financial 
success with his publishing ventures and en- 
joying huge success with his own extensive 
investments, Moody suffered the loss of his 
personal and professional fortunes with the 
stock market downturn of 1907. After a short 
while in receivership, the company reorga- 
nized; and in 1908 the new Moody Manual 
Company (forerunner of Standard <& Poor's 
Corporation) published a manual with Louis 
Holschuh (former treasurer of the old com- 
pany and future president of Moody's Inves- 
tors Service) as editor and with Roger W. 
Babson (John Moody's competitor, founder 
of a stock andbond statistical service dissemi- 
nated on index cards) as owner. A third former 
Moody's employee, George Hoskins, became 
an editor with the new firm in 1909. From this 
time until 1924 (when he bought back the 
copyright) Moody was obliged to suffer his 
name being onPoor' s publication. Roy Porter, 
who bought the Moody Manual Company in 
1914 and changed its name to Poor's Publish- 
ing Company in 191 9 after buying the Poor's 
Railroad Manual Company, cheerfully admit- 
ted using both names on the manual cover 
from 1915-1924 because of the "nuisance 
value," 13 the chance to annoy John Moody. 
(The cover title for the 1922 edition, for ex- 
ample, was Poor 's and Moody 's Manual Con- 
solidated.) Another practice that was prob- 
ably salt in Moody's wounds was incorpora- 
tion of one-inch ads — not in the front and end 
matter- — but on the very page where a 
company's securities were described and 
evaluated, pulling in additional revenue to the 
tune of $20,000 a year. 

Because John Moody began publishing 
his own manuals again in 1909, confusion 
about which was the "real" Moody's manual 
reigned for years. A 1911 New York Times 
article announced the twelfth annual Moody 's 
Manual which was, in fact, not John Moody's 
manual, but the publication of his namesake 
competitor. 14 In appearance and content, the 
competing publication resembled early Poor' s 
manuals much more than Moody's manuals. 

In 1921, on the occasion of a Moody speech, 
the same newspaper erroneously identified 
him as the editor of the Moody's Manuals, 
Moody requested and received a retraction of 
the statement. 15 The stalemate was not to be 
resolved until a lawsuit in 1924 resulted in an 
out-of-court settlement wherein Moody re- 
purchased copyright to the name "Moody's" 
from Poor's Publishing Company. 16 

Moody's Modern Manuals 

The modernmanuals began withMoody's 
1909 reentry into publishing financial manu- 
als. Allegedly barred from engaging in such 
activity by the terms of the 1907-1908 bank- 
ruptcy and company reorganization,' 7 Moody 
nevertheless came out with a new railroad 
manual. As he later admitted, it covered "only 
a portion of the American steam railroad field" 
and lacked the "ordinary statistical facts found 
in the old-style railroad manuals" 18 He nar- 
rowly escaped being prevented from even this 
modest venture. In 1937, Roy Porter remi- 
nisced about the split vote of Moody Manual 
Company officials in the early 1900s which 
narrowly defeated a motion to convert a tem- 
porary injunction against John Moody's re- 
newed publishing activity into a permanent 
one, 19 

Moody's passion to excel in this field and 
his bitterness at having lost his old company 
are evident in introductory comments berat- 
ing "the average imitator" who "like any other 
robber of an idea, never permanently gets the 
confidence of the public" despite, as Moody 
saw it, having appropriated his ideas to "foist 
them on the public as the genuine article." 20 
On the same page he referred to "some publi- 
cation which, because of its name or method 
of promotion, conveys the false impression 
that Mr. Moody is identified with it;" 21 and 
having persuaded himself, he attempted to 
convince thereaderthat*'Nootherpublication 
of any financial character has any authority or 
right to the use of Mr. John Moody's name, 


either directly or indirectly." 22 Having been 
sued for libel in a brief youthful fling at 
newspaper publishing, he scrupulously 
avoided naming names. 

Careful not to use the term "manual* 1 in 
the work's title, Moody further differentiated 
Moody 's Analysis of Railroad Investments 
from the old manuals by introducing a totally 
new feature — a stock and bond rating system 
similar to company credit ratings issued by 
Dun & Bradstreet. (Like the founder of IBM, 
throughout his career John Moody was more 
the master of extending and refining a concept 
with popular appeal than a brilliant innova- 
tor.) Presenting his scale of ratings levels 
(from Aaa to E) to assess investment risk in 
terms of safety and resaleability of securities, 
Moody cautioned, "It must not be forgotten 
that arbitrary judgement is used to a large 
degree;" and he counseled the reader to use the 
ratings as indications of the security issue's 
investment quality but not as "specific opin- 
ion" or a "recommendation to buy." 23 Not 
surprisingly, some of the companies rated — 
none of which had even been obliged to pro- 
vide the public with information a decade or 
two earlier — balked at the assignment of rat- 
ings. They were displeased. with the whole 
idea and especially with the practice of rating 
pessimistically in the absence of complete and 
current information and giving the benefit of 
the doubt to the investor. The reluctant compa- 
nies raised "a storm of opposition, not to 
mention ridicule," 24 according to Moody. In 
contrast, a political scientist summed up what 
probably was the predominant reaction out- 
side the railroad industry: "The volume is 
indeed of high merit. ... It will doubtless be 
appreciated by both individual investors and 
. . , others . . . interested in railroad values." 25 

In 1914 Moody expanded the work's 
scope by adding a second volume to cover 
public utilities and industrials. Like previous 
editions, Part I: Steam Railroads covered 
Mexican and Canadian steam railroads as well 
as U.S. lines; in 1915 Cuban companies were 
added. Dissatisfied with just analyzing com- 

panies' investment offerings, Moody used 
this two-part 1914 edition to re-stake his claim 
to providing accurate and complete statistics 
instead of merely predigested "deductions 
and conclusions." 26 Both parts included di- 
gests of company annual reports adjusted to be 
more comparable than heretofore — no mean 
feat, since neither utilities nor railroads (un- 
less engaged in interstate business) were as yet 
required to report information in a uniform 
manner. Railro ad entrie s inc luded no t only ten 
years of annual income statements and bal- 
ance sheet data expressed in the common 
standard of dollars per mile, but also com- 
ments on strong and weak points in company 
operations. Physical characteristics of each 
"road" were given together with comments on 
the significance of various figures. Finally, a 
complete description of the public stock and 
bond offerings was shown along with their 
respective ratings and each rating's rationale. 
The preface pointed out that an expanded 
version of the railroad manual's introduction 
(published in 1912 by Analyses Publishing 
Company as a book entitled How to Analyze 
Railroad Reports) had been adopted as a text 
by many universities and colleges. A reviewer 
of that work commented that the textbook 
"deserves its well-earned success" and added 
that Moody's "well known manual . . . has 
been of service to investors as well as stu- 
dents." 27 

Six years after stock and bond ratings had 
been introduced, the 1915 edition ofthepublic 
utilities/industrials manual also assigned rat- 
ings to companies other than railroads. In 
addition to the ratings, the following salient 
facts regarding utilities were disclosed in the 
manual: physical condition; earning power (a 
combination of geographic location, popula- 
tion and its growth, quality of management, 
availability of "franchise" — meaning mo- 
nopoly, — and rates charged); strength of fi- 
nancial resources; and general credit-worthi- 
ness. Two additional factors especially ger- 
mane to industrial corporations — the regula- 
tory climate and the degree of their depen- 


dence on the country's general prosperity — 
were included in industrial manual entries. 
Never content to rest on his laurels for long, 
Moody upgraded the manuals within the next 
three years as follows: adding to the railroad 
manual complete five-year financial figures 
for smaller companies and issuing a monthly 
updating publication; augmenting the securi- 
ties rating system by three more categories at 
the low end of the scale; and increasing indus- 
trial/public utility coverage by more than 1 ,000 
additional companies. 

The next quantum leap in scope came 
with the issuance in 1 9 1 8 of a separate govern- 
ment securities manual. Covering more than 
30,000 bond issues, 25,000 of them issued by 
the U.S. government and its political subdivi- 
sions, themanual carried the subtitle "Founded 
to endure and Investors make secure." The 
fourrespective main sections were the federal 
government and U.S. dependencies (includ- 
ing Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the 
Philippine Islands); American states and mu- 
nicipalities; the Dominion of Canada together 
with its provinces and municipalities; and 
some 127 pages of data for foreign govern- 
ments and cities. By now the rating scale had 
been simplified to five grades ranging from 
Aaa to Ba plus a sixth category consolidating 
all lower ratings. 

Moody attributed the expanded scope to 
World War I activity in government securi- 
ties — not only U.S. liberty bonds but also 
European bonds payable in dollars, particu- 
larly those issued by Great Britain, France, 
and Belgium — and noted that both then and 
for years afterwards his was the only manual 
with extensive international coverage. Many 
U.S. allies supplied enough information to 
receive a rating; but to no one's surprise, 
Germany, Austria, and Russia did not. In 
1922, to gain depth of background and expe- 
rience in the international field, Moody's hired 
Max Winkler, Ph.D. "a walking statistical 
table of European affairs ," 28 After the war 
Moody announced his intention of consider- 
ably broadening the scope of the government 

and municipal volume since he felt "a large 
amount of American capital must necessarily 
be provided for government purposes in all 
parts of the world." 29 

In 1920 when industrials and public utili- 
ties were split into two volumes, the Moody's 
manuals became four in number. The "ampli- 
fied and enlarged" Public Utility Investments 
included a larger number of companies than 
ever before, particularly small companies. An 
18- page introductory essay about the industry 
included such details as a prediction that the 
"jitney bus" (a sort of unlicensed taxi) would 
be a short-lived phenomenon because its op- 
erators were "a comparatively irresponsible 
class of people." 30 There were 1,426 pages of 
company coverage plus a section giving ten- 
year price ranges for public utility stocks and 

Shortly after the war Major Maurice N. 
Blakemore was hired to get compilation of the 
manuals back on schedule. Unlike two prede- 
cessors, one who ended up in a "lunatic asy- 
lum" and a second who quit to take up chicken 
farming, Blakemore succeeded and served as 
managing editor from 1922 to 1924. 31 Soon 
put in charge of sales as well, he proved 
unsatisfactory at the dual responsibilities. At 
this juncture (1925) John Sherman Porter, an 
employee since 1916 and an experienced edi- 
torial board member, was promoted to editor- 

John Sherman Porter's Tenure 

It is difficult to determine how much any 
one individual influenced development of the 
Moody's manuals, because from the begin- 
ning editing has been the joint responsibility 
of the editor-in-chief, the editorial board, and 
the administrator titled "sales manager" in 
Moody's day and "publisher" since 1954. 
Although he yielded to others the title of 
"editor" (and from Blakemore 's tenure on, 
permitted their respective names to be embla- 
zoned on the title page), for years Moody 
retained ultimate control and stated in the 



front matter that the manuals were prepared 
under his general supervision. Nevertheless, 
Porter, who served as editor-in-chief for 38 
years, seems to have guided the Moody's 
manuals more than any other single person 
except John Moody himself. When Porter 
started, steam-powered engines held sway on 
land and sea with scant competition from any 
other form of transportation; in 1 962, when 
Dun & Bradstreet bought out the original 
stockholders and Porter resigned, advances in 
aerospace technology seemed about to prom- 
ise humankind mastery of the whole universe. 

Porter's first major project was adding a 
separate banking and finance manual in 1 928. 
The introduction gave an overview of such 
topics as banking in the U.S. and Canada, the 
Federal Reserve Banking System, and the 
potential importance of insurance stocks and 
real estate mortgage bonds to the investor. 
Coverage included American and foreign com- 
panies in the following categories, most previ- 
ously covered although less extensively in the 
industrial manual: banks and trusts; mortgage 
and finance; and insurance (fire, casualty, and 
miscellaneous). In addition, 11 pages dealt 
with federal reserve banks and some 57 pages 
presented information about various entities 
within the federal farm loan system. Unlike 
other manuals, this one carried no ratings. 
Porter instituted use of the subtitle "American 
and Foreign" on all manuals to emphasize 
Moody's foreign coverage, a significant 
change that remained in effect through 1 970. 

In the speculative boom of the late 1920s 
the company went public in a modest way, 
floating an issue of non- voting preferred stock 
with Moody and company old-timers 
Holschuh, McCruden, Shea, Leavitt, and Por- 
ter as company directors and majority stock- 
holders. For Moody's Investors Service, as for 
all U.S. businesses, the 1930s were difficult. 
As Moody remembered it, the firm survived 
only by cutting some staff and slashing sala- 
ries for the rest (including company directors) 
20 percent or more. 32 Apparently Poor's Pub- 
lishing Company fared even worse. Accord- 

ing to Moody, "Poor's was forced to give up 
the ghost in 1940;" and when Moody's took 
over the Poor 's Manual subscription list, total 
circulation had dropped to fewer than 7,000 
copies. 33 

During the pre-war years and World War 
II, financial publishing did not change a great 
deal except that, like other sectors of the 
economy, it occasionally was hampered by 
rationing of such essential commodities as 
paper. In 1935, under Porter's leadership, the 
company discontinued rating stocks (securi- 
ties reflecting equity or a share of ownership 
in a company) to concentrate on debt securi- 
ties (bonds). Critical reception remained fa- 
vorable. One reviewer praised the Moody's 
manuals handsomely for documenting not only 
business and economic conditions in Latin 
America atthe beginning of the Second World 
War, but also circumstances leading up to the 
war. 34 

During the 1 950s Porter continued to re- 
fine the manuals, In 1950 an explanation of 
bank examination procedures and federal in- 
vestment regulations became a regular feature 
of each manual's front matter, a practice con- 
tinued until 1975 (when, first, investors were 
assumed to be conversant with basic facts and, 
second, this short feature had become insuffi- 
cient for explaining the intricacies of the body 
of securities regulations by then in force). In 
1952, the railroad manual (still covering more 
than 1,000 railroad companies) expanded to 
include all commercial forms of transporta- 
tion and was retitled Moody's Manual of In- 
vestments. American and Foreign. Transpor- 
tation. Railroads-Airlines-Shipping Traction, 
Bus and Truck Lines. In 1954 and 1955 the 
subtitle "American and Foreign" was relegated 
to very small type on the title page and all titles 
were changed so that the industry classifica- 
tion would be the second word in the title (e.g., 
instead of Moody's Manual of Investments. 
American and Foreign. Bank, Insurance, and 
Finance, the 1 955 manual was c&VLQ&Moody 's 
Bank & Finance Manual). The next year an 
interview of John Moody featured glowing 


comments about the manuals. Prefacing a 
sketch of Moody's life as an entrepreneur and 
publisher, the author stated, "next to the Bible, 
Wall Streeters put their faith in Moody's In- 
vestors Manuals" and opined, "it can safely be 
said that nearly anything of a financial statis- 
tical nature available anywhere on a publicly 
owned corporation will be found in Moody's 
manuals." 35 While such comments are not the 
result of a rigorous analysis or critique, they do 
reflect popular opinion of the manuals at the 

Purchase by Dun & Bradstreet 

The next two decades were a period of 
rapidchange for Moody's, In 1962, four years 
after Moody's death, the company was sold to 
Dun & Bradstreet (another company with a 
long-standing tradition of excellence in finan- 
cial publishing) in part so that Porter and 
others could convert their equity in the com- 
pany into cash, Moody's then became a wholly 
owned subsidiary (a virtually independent unit 
of the parent company). 

After Porter came a fairly quick succes- 
sion of editors-in-chief, all of them former 
editorial assistants, The first, Frank St. Clair 
(1963-1969), madeno major changes. During 
the one-year tenure of the second, George H. 
Parson, the title page format was altered — the 
typeface less ornate, the page uncluttered, and 
his assistant positioned on the page above the 
editor-in-chief. More significant, in 1970 the 
ratings division of Moody's Investors Ser- 
vice, by then a separate part of the company, 
instituted fees for the considerable effort and 
expense of studying and rating companies' 
securities. This change, now standardpractice 
throughout the financial industry, was first 
disclosed to manual users in the 197 1 Public 
Utility Manual Although it did not affect 
Parson's department directly, the increased 
company resources with which to pay salaries 
and other mounting expenses doubtless indi- 
rectly facilitated maintaining the quality of the 
manuals. The most notable development dur- 

ing this period was the publication of the new 
Moody's OTC Industrial Manual, splitting 
over-the counter companies (meaning those 
traded on smaller and regional stock ex- 
changes) off from the industrial manual and 
also expanding the number of such companies 

1 973), oversaw expansion of the industrials to 
a two- volume set in 1972 and division of the 
municipals into volume one (Alabama-New 
Hampshire and U.S.A.-its dependencies) and 
volume two (New Jersey- Wyoming) in 1973. 
In October of the last year of his editorship, 
after nearly four decades of rating only debt 
issues (bonds), the company resumed rating 
preferred stocks (on a scale with seven grada- 
tions of quality/riskiness). Their rationale for 
reinstating the ratings was both increased in- 
vestor interest and "dilution of some of the 
protection afforded them." 36 While Krause 
had no influence over this decision, it surely 
increased the utility and value of the manuals 
to the investor. 

Robert Hanson accepted the post of edi- 
tor-in-chief in 1973, and has devoted 18 years 
to the position. With a bachelor's degree in 
finance from City College of New York, 
Hanson started out in 1 962 in the news reports 
department at Moody's and came up through 
the ranks to the editorial board in 1971. As 
editor he has worked with a distinguished list 
of publishers (Robert H. Messner 1973-1975, 
William 0. Dwy er 1975-1981, Sheila S. Lam- 
bert 1981-1989, and Howard Kiedaisch, as- 
sociate publisher since 1982, and responsible 
for the manuals since 1989). In 1989, to make 
the editor-in-chief job more manageable, 
Moody's top officials gave half of the editor's 
mantle to a seasoned editorial board member, 
Earl Stephens, who took on the Bank &. Fi- 
nance Manual, the OTC Industrial Manual, 
the Public Utility Manual, and the Transpor- 
tation Manual. Hanson retains responsibility 
for the Municipal & Government Manual, the 
Industrial Manual, the International Manual, 
and the OTC Unlisted Manual. 


Further Expansion 

The current pre-eminence of Moody's 
among financial publishers is the result of 
constant re-examination of what the market 
wants and needs and appropriate product de- 
velopment to meetsuch needs. Publisher Sheila 
Lambert played midwife at the introduction of 
two new manuals. In 1981 the burgeoning 
number of international and multinational en- 
terprises resulted in a separate International 
Manual. Duplicate entries were phased out 
gradually (companies paying for high visibil- 
ity still retaining the privilege of being listed in 
more than one manual if they so choose). 
Within a year or two, however, all foreign 
companies were shifted from the other manu- 
als into the International Manual; foreign 
countries and their political subdivisions were 
moved from the Municipal & Government 
Manual into the new manual. Then in 1986 
Moody's issued a new OTC Unlisted Manual 
giving investors access to information on com- 
panies not listed on any exchanges but traded 
exclusively via "pink sheets" or daily price 
quotes distributed only to stockbrokers. This 
manual was declared by Money, "your best bet 
for pinpointing smaller pink-sheet stocks." 37 

Beginning in 1976 half a dozen manuals 
expanded from one or two volumes to mul- 
tiple-volume sets: in 1976 the Bank & Finance 
Manual went to two volumes (banks, trust 
companies, savings and loan associations, and 
federal credit agencies in the first and insur- 
ance, finance, real estate, and investment com- 
panies in the second); in 1980 the Public 
Utility Manual split into two volumes; in 1 984 
the almost new International Manual came 
out as two units (Algeria-Ivory Coast and 
Jamaica-Zimbabwe); in 1986 the Bank & Fi- 
nance Manual was issued in three volumes, 
the third adding coverage of unit investment 
trusts, a relatively new form of investment 
product; in 1988 the Municipal & Government 
Manual, was published in three parts (Ala- 
bama-Kentucky, Louisiana-Pennsylvania, and 
Rhode Island- Wyoming); and in 1988 the 
Bank & Finance Manual's Unit Investment 

Trust volume divided into one part covering 
sponsors A-M and a second covering N-Z, for 
a total of four volumes. 

Technological Advances 

Spurred by competition from Standard 
and Poor's, the other giant of financial pub- 
lishing, and from smaller, newer firms, 
Moody's made two important, albeit some- 
what delayed, technological changes. Stan- 
dard & Poor's Corporation, formed by a 1941 
merger of Poor's Publishing and Standard 
Statistics, introduced the Compustat service in 
1962. Compustat, comprised of 20 years of 
annual data and theretofore distributed exclu- 
sively on tape compatible with mainframe 
computers, was offered in compact disc for 
microcomputer users around 1988. Moody's, 
however, loath to dilute a fine reputation by 
precipitous entry into nonprint technologies, 
did not follow suit. Apart from one brief 
attempt to construct a structured, computer- 
readable financial database (aborted because 
there seemed to be no demand for such a 
product), Moody's kept on doing what they 
had always done best — producing printed 
manuals and updating services. 

The first technological change involved 
overhauling the printing process in 1975. For 
years a cumbersome discontinuous arrange- 
ment of companies in the manuals was neces- 
sitated by the off-site linotype printing pro- 
cess. The logistics of maintaining a steady 
stream of work to the printer so that each 
annual volume could be completed and issued 
on time meant that similar companies were not 
integrated into their respective industry sec- 
tions. For example, in the same edition an 
initial section of American banks was fol- 
lowed first by foreign banks, then by another 
section of American banks, and again by a 
section of foreign banks. This process was 
terribly expensiveand inflexible. Both manual 
users and Moody's stockholders were better 
served by the new method of computerized 
typesetting, which reduced costs at the same 



time it "smoothed out" the production flow 
and permitted better organization of the manu- 
als. (Happily the separate index, covering all 
manuals except the Municipal & Government 
one, is still availableto help neophytes chart a 
course among the eight different manuals.) 

In 1986 when Moody's brought the com- 
puterized typesetting process inhouse and no 
longer depended on an outside printer, the 
second, even more significant technological 
advance was accomplished. Stored in com- 
puterized form, the data was no longer con- 
fined to the printed page. Moody's began to 
augment printed products with electronic dis- 
tribution of the data through cooperation with 
vendors such as DIALOG to offer interactive 
retrieval and manipulation of company finan- 
cial data supplied by Moody's. 

In 1988, the inhouse, computerized type- 
setting process also contributed to the devel- 
opment of the first of a series of compact disc 
products searchable offline via CD-ROM 
reader and microcomputer. This development 
permitted direct access to the manuals' vast 
compendia of facts without the significant 
expense of long distance phone charges in- 
curred in online searching. The first product, 
Moody's 5000 Plus, covering all companies 
traded on the New York and American Stock 
Exchanges as well as NASDAQ National 
Market companies was quickly followed by 
Moody 's International Plus covering the 1 ead- 
ing non-U.S. companies. At this writing a third 
CD product, Moody 's OTC Plus, designed to 
provide information about companies traded 
over-the-counter, has also been released. 

The final significant change in the manu- 
als during the past two decades was financial 
in origin. In 1975, when pressure on publish- 
ing firms to show a profit was mounting, 
Moody's instituted the option of purchasing 
more detailed coverage of company informa- 
tion. That is, for $1 ,000 dollars (in addition to 
the fee levied by the ratings department), a 
firmcould get increased visibility in the manual 
in the form of "full measure coverage." This 
option ensured that company narrative would 
be expanded, that financial data would be 

displayed across an entire page, and that in 
addition to a description of the firm, entries 
would provide up to seven years of financial 
and operating information together with ratio 
analysis putting the figures into perspective. 
Since its introduction, this service has under- 
gone several modifications. Today, four lev- 
els of expanded coverage (or Visibility) are 
offered. They included Corporate Visibility 
(CV), CV-Select, CV-Plus, and CV-Ultra. 
Presentation of company data is expanded 
with each level of coverage. Corporate Vis- 
ibility includes up to five years of financial 
statements with a medium-length description 
of the company's history, business, and other 
narrative. Corporate Visibility-Select includes 
up to a seven-year financial presentation and 
a more detailed narrative section. Corporate 
Visibility-Plus expands the narrative consid- 
erably, even including such details as the chief 
executive officer's letter to shareholders and 
the complete set of notes from financial state- 
ments. The highest level of coverage, Corpo- 
rate Visibility-Ultra, offers the listed com- 
pany an opportunity to include a full-page 
advertisement on the second page of its listing, 
(It should be noted that Moody's exercises 
considerable editorial judgment as to the con- 
tents of the ads.) 

Critical Reception 

Critical reception for the modern manuals 
has been almost as sparse as reaction to the 
very first ones. In the business community, the 
ratings and the ratings process are of para- 
mount importance; — the manuals, merely a 
transmittal mechanism, usually have not been 
deemed worthy of comment. Occasionally an 
article will favor a Standard & Poor's product 
or feature or state that Moody's "long domi- 
nant position in the municipal-rating field is 
being chipped away by an increasingly ag- 
gressive Standard & Poor's corporation, 1 ' 38 
However, most issuers of securities, with mil- 
lions of dollars in financing costs riding on 
ratings outcomes, practice the belt-and-sus- 
penders approach of using both services. 


Most large investors do too. A business pro- 
fessor noted that "splits [meaning materially 
higher or lower ratings for the same security] 
do occur and both issuers and purchasers 
normally seek ratings from both agencies," 3 ' 
and concluded, "the value of the second rat- 
ing, or opinion, arises primarily from the fact 
that it is independent from the first." 40 

Among librarians, Moody's is always 
mentioned in the same breath as Standard & 
Poor' s, and most are reluctant to pick a favor- 
ite. Some prefer the tidiness of Moody's an- 
nual bound volume for its suitability in build- 
ing a collection of retrospect! ve print holdings 
and the savings in staff time from having one 
less loose-leaf service to file. Others place a 
high priority on the regular updating of the 
Standard & Poor 's Corporation Records. If a 
handbook or bibliography mentions only one 
of the two, however, it is virtually always the 
old reliable Moody's manuals. 

Only three reviewers have been both 
knowledgeable enough and brave enough to 
make a detailed comparison of the Standard & 
Poor 's Corporation Records and the Moody ' s 
manuals. The first, Judith Truelson, pro- 
nounced Moody's "the most comprehensive 
source of this kind of information [summary 
and analysis of information in company an- 
nual reports], available to private investor and 
financial analyst alike" 4 'The second, Bernard 
Schlessinger, asserted that whether "Moody's 
or S&P should be the primary source of busi- 
ness materials, given a limited budget, ... is a 
matter of personal preference." 42 In another 
passage, however, he evaluated the Moody's 
manuals as "One of the most comprehensive 
sources for information of this kind, this ser- 
vice is recommended for all business, aca- 
demic, and public libraries medium-sized and 
larger." 43 Jean Kellough, the third reviewer, 
dealt with the compact disc products of the 
respective publishers, Moody's 500 Plus and 
DIALOG Ondisc Standard & Poor's Corpora- 
tion Records. Having noted that S&P covers 
more companies (9,000 versus Moody's 
slightly over 5,000), she concluded that 
"Moody's 5000+ [sic], which seems best suited 

for a financial analyst or researcher who would 
use it often, offers sophisticated features that 
the average undergraduate student would not 



Reorganized for the Electronic Age 

In early 1989, the company was reorga- 
nized and renamed to emphasize electronic 
services — with print products (the manuals 
and updating services) and two electronic 
products, Datastream and Interactive Data, 
forming a group called "Dun & Bradstreet 
Financial Services of North America" and 
only the ratings service still going by the name 
Moody's Investors Service. Early the follow- 
ing year, however, Dun & Bradstreet manage- 
ment decided, to divest the two electronic 
database units, restore the print publishing 
section to Moody's Investors Service, and 
revert to emphasizing what Moody's has al- 
ways done better than anyone else — publish 
the most complete and most reliable financial 
information available. 

Always striving for improvement, 
Moody's has a five-year strategic plan for 
operations. Both current and potential new 
products are subjected to a rigorous set of 
criteria and testing for compatibility with com- 
pany mission, a close fit with what customers 
want and need, and other key considerations. 
Broad editorial plans have a dual focus. While 
manuals and updating services will continue 
to be available in "hardcopy" form, the same 
wealth of information will become available 
in nonprint formats as Moody's expands its 
activity in the arena of electronic products 
currently offered. The market will dictate 
what, if anything, is done to expand existing 
printed manuals or introduce new ones. A 
more focused product, addressing a narrower 
niche of investor interest than the well known 
encyclopedic manuals, is one option under 
discussion. Whatever direction is taken, the 
Moody's manuals will remain a household 
word in this country and abroad for genera- 
tions to come. 



TheManual of Industrial and Miscellaneous Corpo- 
ration Securities. Annual. New York: 0. C. 
Lewis Co., 1900-07. 

Moody's Manuals. Annual. New York: Moody 
Manual Co., 1908-24, 

Moody 's Analyses of Railroad Investments, Annual. 
New York: Analyses Publishing Co., 1909-13, 

Moody's Analyses of Investments. Part I; Steam 
Railroads. Part H: Public Utilities and Industri- 
als. Annual, New York: Analyses Publishing 
Co., 1914-20. 

Moody's Analyses of Investments. Part III: Govern- 
ment and Municipal Securities. Annual. New 
York: Moody's Investors Service, 1918-1920. 

Moody's Analyses of Investments. Part I: Railroad 
Investments. Part II: Industrial Investments. 
Part III: Public Utility Investments. Part IV: 
Government and Municipal Securities. Annual. 
New York: Moody's Investors Service, 1920- 

Moody 's Man ual oflnvestments and Security Rating 
Service, Government and Municipal Securities. 
Annual. New York: Moody'slnvestors Service, 

Moody 's Manual oflnvestments and Security Hating 
Service. Public Utility Securities, Annual, New 
York: Moody's Investors Service, 1921-1927. 

Moody 's Manual oflnvestments and Security Rating 
Service. RailroadSecurities. Annual.New York: 
Moody's Investors Service, 1921-1927. 

Moody 's Manual oflnvestments and Security Rating 
Service. Industrial Securities. Annual. New 
York; Moody's Investors Service, 1921-1927. 

Moody 's Manual of Investments. American and For- 
eign. Government and Municipal Securities. 

Annual. New York: Moody ' s Investors Service, 

Moody 's Manual oflnvestments. American and For- 
eign. Banks-Insurance Companies-Investment 
Trusts-Real Estate-Finance and Credit Compa- 
nies . Annual. New York: Moody's Investors 
Service, 1928-1954. 

Moody 's Manual oflnvestments. American and For- 
eign. Public Utility Securities. Annual. New 
York: Moody's Investors Service, 1928-1953, 

Moody 's Manual oflnvestments. American and For- 
eign. Railroad Securities. Annual. New York: 
Moody's Investors Service, 1928-1951. 

Moody 's Manual oflnvestments. American and For- 
eign. Industrial Securities. Annual. New York: 
Moody'slnvestors Service, 1928-1953. 

Moody J s Manual oflnvestments. A merican and For- 
eign, Transportation. Annual. New York: 
Moody's Investors Service, 1952-1953. 

Moody's Industrial Manual. Annual. New York: 
Moody's Investors Service, 1954- . 

Moody 's Public Utility Manual. Annual. New York: 
Moody's Investors Service, 1954- . 

Moody's Transportation Manual. Annual. New York: 
Moody's Investors Service, 1954- . 

Moody's Bank & Finance Manual. Annual. New 
York: Moody's Investors Service, 1955- . 

Moody's Municipal & Government Manual. Annual. 
New York: Moody's Investors Service, 1955- . 

Moody's OTC Industrial Manual. Annual. New York: 
Moody's Investors Service, 1970- . 

Moody 's International Manual. Annual. New York: 
Moody's Investors Service, 1981- . 

Moody 's OTC Unlisted Manual. Annual. New York: 
Moody's Investors Service, 1986- . 


There must be somewhere (perhaps in the 
apocrypha) a biblical prohibition against in- 
depth comparisons of the Moody's manuals 
and their competitors. The prevailing senti- 
ment seems to be: "Let him who is a certified 
financial genius cast the first stone." There are 
scores of articles — -both popular and theoreti- 
cal — on the ratings process and bushel baskets 
foil of news notes on specific ratings being 
changed as well as discussions of esoteric 
changes in the rating scales or the types of 
securities that get rated. But few writers seem 
to have enjoyed the happy combination of 
sufficient skill, time, and interest to write a 
thorough critique of the Moody ' s manuals and 
the Standard & Poor *s Corporation Records. 

Slavens gives succinct, serviceable de- 
scriptions of the Moody's manuals but barely 
mentions the Standard & Poor 's Corporation 
Records. Ganly gives complete, accurate, and 
readable descriptions of the Bank & Finance^ 
Industrial, OTC Industrial, and Public Utility 
manuals, but he too passes over the Standard 
& Poor's Corporation Records. Walford de- 
scribes only the Industrial Manual and its 
News Reports. Sheehy concentrates on direc- 
tories and encyclopedias, covering neither 
Moody's nor S&P's manuals. Ulrich 's covers 
both briefly and Woy gives directory-type 
information on both (although the Industrial 
Manual is the only Moody's manual he lists 
under the heading "International Business")- 


Daniells's descriptive annotations compare 
favorably with Ganly in all respects and sur- 
pass him in covering all eight manuals and the 
Standard & Poor's Corporation Records. 

The three reviewers who go beyond simple 
description are Truelson, Schlessinger, and 
Kellough (covering compact disc versions). 
All compare and contrastMoody's and S&P's 
respective manuals more thoroughly and 
insightfully than any other writers on this 
topic. Since Moody* s and other financial pub- 
lishers always seem to have something new up 
their sleeves, it is devoutly hoped that some- 
one will provide timely updates for the library 
student and the practicing librarian. 

"A Century of Standard & Poor's." The Spectator. 
Employee Magazine of Standard & Poor's Cor- 
poration 7 (April, 1960): 1-16. 

Chandler, Alfred D., Jr. Henry Varnum Poor Busi- 
ness Editor, Analyst, and Performer. Cambridge, 
MA: Harvard University Press, 1956. 

Daniells, Lorna M. Business Information Sources. 
Rev. ed. Berkeley: University of California 
Press, 1985. 

Ganly, John V. Serials for Libraries. New York: 
Neal-Schuman, 1985. 

Inventing Our Future. Centennial Report. New York: 
McGraw-Hill, [1988]. 

Jensen, Dennis J. "The Research Library of Standard 
& Poor's Corporation." In Banking and Fi- 

nance Collections, edited by Jean Deus. New 
York: Haworth Press, 1984. 

Kellough, Jean. "Moody's 5000+ and DIALOG 
Ondisc Standard & Poor's Corporations: A 
Comparison of Two Full-Text Business Data- 
bases," Laserdisk Professional 2 (November, 
1989): 78-89. 

Moody, John. A Fifty Year Review of Moody's 
Investors Service. New York: Moody's Inves- 
tors Service, [1949]. 

. Long Road Home: An Autobiography. New 

York: Macmillan, 1933. 

National Cyclopedia of American Biography. New 
York: James T. White, 1918. 

Schlessinger, Bernard S. The Basic Business Li- 
brary: Core Resources. 2nd ed. Phoenix: Oryx 
Press, 1989. 

Sheeny, Eugene P. Guide to Reference Books. 10th 
ed. Chicago: American Library Association, 

Slavens, Thomas P. "Major Business Reference 
VTovks." ReferenceLibrarianno. 15 (Fall, 1986): 

Standard & Poor's 120 Years of Preserving the 
"RighttoKnow. "New York: Standard & Poor's 
Corporation, [1980]. 

Truelson, Judith A. "Hotonthe Corporate Trail." RQ 
15 (Spring, 1976): 223-28. 

Walford, Albert John. Watford's Guide to Reference 
Material, Volume 2: Social & Historical Sci- 
ences, Philosophy & Religion. London: Library 
Association, 1980. 

Woy, James. Encyclopedia of Business Information 
Sources. Detroit: Gale Research, 1988. 


1 John Moody, Long Road Home: An Autobiography 

(New York: Macmillan Co., 1933), 5 1 . 

2 Richard Rutter, "Statistics House Thrives on Facts," 

New York Times, 24 April I960, sec. 3, p. 1, 

3 G.B. Baker, "The Crisis at the Stock Exchange," Con- 

temporary Review 58 (November 1890): 680. 

4 Robert E. BedingfieJd, "Personality: Boswell of U.S. 

Corporations," New York Times, 6 May 1956, 3. 
s John Moody, Manual of Industrial and Miscellaneous 

Corporation Securities (New York: O. C. Lewis 

Co., 1900): 47. 
* Ibid., 50-51. 

7 Ibid., 47. 

8 John Moody, Moody 's Analyses oflnvestments. Part II: 

Public Utilities and Industrials (New York: Analy- 
ses Publishing Co., 1915): 4. 

9 John Moody, Moody 's Manual of Investments and 

Security Rating Service, Industrial Securities (New 
York: Moody's Investors Service, 1927); iii. 

10 "A Financial Reference Book," New York Times, 17 

November 1890, 10. 
" Alvin S. Johnson, "The Truth About the Trusts," 
Political Science Quarterly 19 (June 1904): 307. 

ia Emory R. Johnson, "The Truth About the Trusts," 

American Academy of Political and Social Science 

24 (1904): 387. 
13 Roy Porter, dictated by Mr. Porter in 1937, transcript, 

Standard and Poor's Corporation Library, New 

York City, 8. 
" "4,000 Pages About Railways" New York Times, 15 

December 1911, 619. 

15 "Not Editor of Moody's Manual," New York Times, 23 

October 1921, 18. 

16 Porter, dictated by Mr. Porter, 8. 

17 Ibid., 5. 

18 John Moody, Moody 's Analyses oflnvestments. Parti: 

Steam Railroads (New York: Analyses Publishing 

Co., 1916): 17. 
'* Porter, "Dictated by Mr. Porter," p, 5. 
29 Moody, Moody's Analyses oflnvestment. Part I, p, 17. 
21 Ibid. 

12 Ibid. 

13 John Moody, Moody's Analyses of Railroad Invest' 

ments (New York: Analyses Publishing Co., 1 909): 
193. Italics in original. 
2,, iahnM.QOdy,A Fifty Year Review of Moody 's Investors 
Service (New York: Moody's Investors Service, 
[1949]): 11. 


" Emory R, Johnson, "Moody's Analyses of Railroad 
Investments" American Academy of Political and 
Social Science. Annals 34 (1 909): 211. 

s6 John Moody, Analyses of Investments, Part I: Steam 
Railroads (19 14): 17. 

""How to Analyze Railroad Reports," Political Science 
Quarterly 29 (March 1914): 180. 

31 Moody, Fifty Year Review, 1 7. 

w Moody's Analyses of Investments. Part II: Public 
Utilities and Industrials (New York: Analyses 
Publishing Co,, 1919): 2. 

30 John Moody, Moody's Analyses of Investments. Part 

III; Public Utility Investments (New York: Moody's 
Investor's Service, 1920): 5. 

31 Moody, Fifty Year Review, 18. 

32 Ibid., 32. 

33 Ibid., 22. 

34 J, Fred Rippy, "Moody's Manual of Investments, 

American and Foreign," Hispanic American His- 
torical Review 23 {November 1943): 702. 

3i "Boswell of U.S. Corporations," 3. 

36 Moody's Industrial Manual (New York: Moody's 
Investors Service, 1974): viii. 

" Andrea Rock, "Got a Stock Hunch?" Money 17 (Au- 
gust 1988); 117. 

38 Victor F. Zonana and Daniel Hertzberg, "The Rating 
Game," Wall Street Journal, 2 November 1981, p. 

19 Louis H. Ederington, "Why Split Ratings Occur," 
Financial Management 15 (Spring 1986): 38. 

40 Ibid., 46. 

41 Judith A. Truelson, "Hot on the Corporate Trail," RQ 

15 (Spring 1976): 224. 

41 Bernard S. Schlessinger, The Basic Business Library: 
Core Resources (Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1989): 239. 

° Ibid., 39. 

44 JeanKellough, "Moody's 5000+ and DIALOG Ondisc 
Standard & Poor's Corporations: A Comparison of 
Two Full-Text Business Databases," Laserdisk 
Professional 2 (November 1989): 89. 

"The Bibliographical Wonder of the 
World": The National Union Catalog 

John R.M, Lawrence 


On Monday, January 12,1981, Pan American 
flight 106 to London left Washington, D.C., 
carrying a shipment of cards for the last vol- 
ume of the massive, 754-volume National 
Union Catalog, Pre- J 956 Imprints} The ship- 
ment constituted the final leg of a journey that 
had commenced more than 80 years before. 
The final printed product of that monumental 
effort, whose aim had been the compilation 
and publication of a record of the holdings of 
American research libraries, had been hailed 
as "the bibliographical wonder of the world" 2 
and the "greatest single instrument of biblio- 
graphic control in existence." 3 The final edit- 
ing and publishing of this catalog had cost 
more than 34 million dollars and taken over 1 4 
years to complete, but the total effort involved 
from the beginning is immeasurable. 4 


As early as 1850 the idea of a union 
catalog of books in American libraries had 
been proposed by Charles Coffm Jewett, li- 
brarian of the Smithsonian Institution from 
1847 to 1854. In his 1850 annual report he 
proposed the printing of a general catalog that 
would allow a scholar "the means of knowing 
the full extent of his resources for investiga- 
tion." Jewett proposed that the Smithsonian, 
by using stereotyped plates, would distribute 
records of its holdings to participating librar- 

ies, which in turn would submit plates for titles 
notheld in the Smithsonian. The latter in effect 
would act as a national bibliographic center. 
Jewett was well aware that this exchange of 
records would require that the participating 
libraries adhere to some sort of uniform cata- 
loging rules, and he included that idea in his 
ambitious plans. 5 

Unfortunately, a quarter of a century 
passed before Charles A. Cutter provided the 
impetus for standardizing cataloging with the 
publication of his Rules for a Printed Dictio- 
nary Catalogue (Washington: Government 
Printing Office, 1 875). 6 About the same time, 
various institutions began to consider the pos- 
sibility of reducing expenses by the use of 
centralized production and distribution of 
printed catalog cards. During the late 1890s, 
the American Library Association experi- 
mented with various card printing schemes for 
both books and journal articles. The first of 
these efforts was to provide short title-list 
cards for books cataloged by the publishing 
section; another project which began in 1 898 
provided cards for articles for scholarly jour- 
nals, such as those indexed by Poole 's Index 
to Periodical Literature (Boston: Houghton, 
1882) or the International Catalog of Scien- 
tific Literature (London: Royal Society of 
London, 1 902-2 1 ). 7 While these projects met 
with varying success, all of these efforts con- 
tributed to the gradual standardization of 
printed catalog cards, an innovation that would 
finally make practical not only the exchange 


of information about library holdings, butalso 
the easy integration of reports from various 
libraries into a single information source. 8 

In June 1898, the Library of Congress 
began to print catalog cards for books re- 
ceived for copyright. After January 1901, the 
Library began printing cards for all acces- 
sions, and plans for distributing the cards to 
other libraries were announced in July of that 
year. 9 In his 1901 annual report, Herbert 
Putnam, the Librarian of Congress, unveiled 
the ambitious scheme that woul d in fact create 
a national union catalog: 

Finally, it is fully recognized by the Library 
that next in importance to an adequate exhibit 
of its own resources, comes the ability to 
supply information as to the resources of other 

As steps in this direction may be men- 

First. The acquisition of printed cata- 
logues of libraries, both American and for- 

Second, An alphabetic author catalogue 
on cards of books in department and bureau 
libraries in Washington. 

Third. A similar catalogue of books in 
some of the more important libraries outside 

The Library of Congress expects to place 
in each great center of research in the United 
States a copy of every card that it prints for its 
own catalogues; these will form there a state- 
ment ofvhat theNational Library contains. It 
hopes to receive a copy of every card printed 
by the New York Public Library, the Boston 
Public Library, the Harvard University Li- 
brary, the John Crerar Library, and several 
others. These it will arrange and preserve in a 
card catalogue of the great collections outside 
of Washington. 10 

A Union Catalog on Cards 

The ideas of depository card collections 
and distributing catalog cards on demand 
proved immensely popular, and did much to 
accelerate the further standardization of cata- 
log cards, although not soon enough for the 
new union catalog. " Cards from Harvard were 
smallerthanthe standard and had to be mounted 
on larger cards, while those from Boston Pub- 

lic required trimming and retyping of head- 
ings lost by trimming. 12 Initially, the files from 
each library were maintained separately, but 
by 1909 were so extensive that it was deemed 
necessary to arrange them into a single author 
alphabet. 13 At that time the new merged file 
included entries contributed by nine libraries: 
New York Public, Harvard, Boston Public, 
John Crerar, Washington Public, the Bureau 
of Education, the Department of Agriculture, 
the Geological Survey, and the War Depart- 
ment, Despite the fact that there was a surpris- 
ingly small amount of duplication in the file 
(only 20 percent of the titles were held in the 
Library of Congress, and only 7 percent by 
any 2 other libraries), Putnam enthusiastically 
predicted that when completed the union cata- 
log would contain about 600,000 entries, and 
in combination with an equal number of en- 
tries from the the LC public catalogs, would 
constitute the "closest approximation now 
available to a complete record of books in 
American libraries." 14 

Nonetheless, for the first 25 years of its 
existence, the union catalog remained a tool 
used chiefly by the Library of Congress cata- 
loging staff as a source for cataloging copy 
and supplying card orders. Without a special 
staff for maintenance, the union catalog was 
maintained by the library's Card Division as a 
supplement to the public catalogs. As other 
libraries, including the University of Illinois, 
the University of Chicago, and the Newberry 
Library, joined the list of contributors, the 
catalog continued to expand. By 1926, the 
union catalog held some 1,960,000 cards, 
representing far more titles than the modest 
predictions made in 1909. 

Expansion of the Catalog 

However, by this time it was also apparent 
to scholars that this gigantic figure repre- 
sented less than a fourth of scholarly titles to 
be found in American libraries. In addition, 
the rapid expansion of graduate study follow- 
ing World War I made the inadequacy of this 
bibliographic record painfully obvious. 15 In 


1926, scholarship received assistance from 
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The businessman 
provided a $250,000 gift to be administered 
over a five-year period, for the specific pur- 
pose of extending the "bibliographic appara- 
tus." Project "B," as the effort came to be 
called in order to distinguish it from other 
specially funded projects administered by the 
Library of Congress, was headed by Ernest 
Cushing Richardson, former director of the 
Princeton University Library and at that time 
the consultant in bibliography and research at 
the Library of Congress. To assist him, Ernest 
Kletsch, a former member of the Library of 
Congress staff who had entered private busi- 
ness, was named curator of the union cata- 
log. 16 Their chief objective was expressed as 
locating "at least one copy of every useful 
book now in the possession of one or more 
American libraries." 17 In the five-year history 
of the project some 8,344,256 copies of 
6,775,936 works were located and more than 
6.3 million cards were added to the union 
catalog. 18 

A task of such massive proportions re- 
quired the adoption of some special rules, and 
the way certain problems were handled per- 
manently shaped the union catalog. For the 
first time, a complete set of all Library of 
Congress printed cards was added to the cata- 
log. 19 A decision was made to weed out dupli- 
cate entries, and in cases of conflict the LC 
cards were considered the masterentry While 
their presence also helped to standardize filing 
procedures, various deviations had to be de- 
veloped for such a massive catalog, for ex- 
ample, the use of chronological order for 
numerous editions of the same work and the 
arrangement of some special groups by lan- 
guage before subdividing by date. Cards for 
Slavic and Semitic titles and other titles repre- 
sented in non-Roman characters were trans- 
ferred to other divisions of the Library of 
Congress, which established union catalogs 
for materials in those languages. 

Another very basic problem that had to be 
solved was the selection of a method of assign- 
ing symbols to libraries reporting to the cata- 

log. The method chosen employed a mne- 
monic based on three groups of letters repre- 
senting state, city, and library. This same 
method, proposed by Frank Peterson, a volun- 
teer worker at the University of Nebraska 
Library, has since been employed in many 
important reference works, includingthe Union 
List of Serials and Newspapers in Micro- 
form. 20 

Several methods of expanding reports 
were employed, In addition to adding LC 
printed cards, project staff typed cards for the 
handwritten entries in the old official cata- 
logs. 21 At least 118 printed book catalogs, 
including those of both general and special- 
ized collections from state, academic, and 
large public libraries, were clipped and 
mounted on cards, creating more than a mil- 
lion new entries. 22 Libraries were encouraged 
to make routine contributions of all cards 
duplicated by mechanical means. Those li- 
braries financially unable to submitlarge num- 
bers of reports were encouraged to supply 
copies of shelflists of "treasure room" items. 
Occasionally libraries loaned shelflists of spe- 
cial collections for project staff to transcribe, 
and, in a few cases, particularly in Washington 
and at Harvard, project staff visited libraries 
and copied or made photostats of catalog 
entries, In the case of Harvard, more than 
700,000 cards were copied over a period of 3 
years. One final method of expanding the 
catalog was the solicitation of gifts of groups 
of cards discarded by institutions in the pro- 
cess of recataloging their collections. The 
wide variance in cataloging practices among 
these institutions, plus the large number of 
cryptic, one-line entries received in this man- 
ner would cause future editors many head- 
aches. 23 

When the Rockefeller grant expired on 
August 31 , 1932, the Union Catalog Division 
was established as a unit of the Library of 
Congress. The appropriation of $20,000 was 
less than half of that available during each of 
the previous five years, and staff was trimmed 
from 31 to 11 employees. Most projects for 
expanding the catalog were frozen as staff 


time was consumed in the routines of filing 
cards, revising entries, and providing libraries 
with information on locations. 24 Nevertheless 
growth of the file continued. Hard financial 
times for libraries during the 1930s did not 
mean fewer reports. While the number of 
libraries reporting declined, the number of 
reports remained at a steady level as many 
contributing libraries were forced to adopt 
mechanical means of reproducing cards in 
order to save on expenses. 25 

Regional Union Cataiogs 

During the late 1930s, various projects of 
the Works Projects Administration had sig- 
nificant impact upon the union catalog. Per- 
haps the most far-reaching was the establish- 
ment in 1935 of regional union catalogs around 
the country, including those at Chicago, Phila- 
delphia, Denver, North Carolina, Texas, and 
Cleveland. From the outset, these projects 
were viewed as possible important contribu- 
tors to the national union catalog, 2 * and early 
surveys of the Cleveland and Philadelphia 
catalogs indicated that as much 24 to 34 per- 
cent of the titles represented in the regional 
catalogs were not included in the union cata- 
log. 27 However despite great enthusiasm over 
their creation and the perennial recommenda- 
tions from the Library of Congress staff, an- 
other decade would pass before these valua ble 
resources could be added to the union cata- 
log. 28 

Of more immediate impactupon the union 
catalog were a number of projects sponsored 
through the Historical Records Survey of the 
Works Projects Administration. One was the 
filming on 16mm film of some 19 District of 
Columbia library catalogs. Being mostly the 
collections of federal agencies, these institu- 
tions had been excluded from the efforts of 
"Project B" because the emphasis of that 
project had been upon collections outside of 
Washington. Eventually some 600,000 author 
entries were filmed and later transcribed for 
the union catalog by the New Jersey Historical 
Records Survey. 29 

Another great enhancement to the biblio- 
graphic apparatus was provided in 1937 by the 
absorption of the American Imprints Inven- 
tory by the Historical Records Survey. Under 
the editorship of Douglas C. McMurtie, this 
undertaking was intended to provide a nation- 
wide inventory of books and pamphlets pub- 
lished in the United States before 1 876 and in 
some western states before 1 890. Field work- 
ers across the nation canvassed library collec- 
tions identifying relevant materials, transcrib- 
ing the appropriate information, and forward- 
ing entries to a central office in Chicago. 
Before publication in various state checklists, 
all entries were checked in the union catalog 
in Washington. This afforded Library of Con- 
gress staff the opportunity to add all locations 
and entries not previously included in the 
union catalog. 30 

In 1936 the Division expanded its grow- 
ing location service in order to assist libraries 
urgently needing materials not reported in the 
union catalog. In cooperation with the Asso- 
ciation of Research Libraries, weekly check- 
lists of unlocated titles were circulated to 50 
research libraries. The participating libraries 
checked their holdings for the needed titles 
and returned the lists to the Library of Con- 
gress which then notified the requesting li- 
brary of the available locations. The titles that 
were not located were cumulated in annual 
lists of desiderata. In return for acting as a 
clearinghouse for interlibrary loans, the Union 
Catalog Division was able to add hundreds of 
entries and holdings for important scholarly 
resources. 31 

In its earliest years, most use of the cata- 
log was made by Library of Congress staff or 
researchers who could physically use the cata- 
log themselves. However "Project B" had 
served to advertise the value of the catalog and 
to make many more libraries aware of its 
potential. From 1 927 onward the catalog staff 
received an ever increasing amount of corre- 
spondence; so much in fact that the burden of 
correspondence began to tax staff resources 
heavily. By 1940, George Schwegmann, the 
director of the Union Catalog Division esti- 




mated that 25 percent of staff time was spent 
answering such inquiries. 32 In addition the 
Library's independent Interlibrary Loan Ser- 
vice made regular use of the union catalog and 
in 1 935 alone made some 5,000 referrals based 
on information in the catalog. 33 

After 40 years in development, the union 
catalog had truly become a major national 
bibliographic resource. In fact it was deemed 
so important that at the start of World War II 
the catalog was removed from the capital as a 
precautionary measure. War and its accompa- 
nying research efforts further demonstrated 
the utility of the catalog. Requests for infor- 
mation on locations doubled during the first 
year of the war, and there was a conspicuous 
jump in requests for foreign technical and 
scientific materials. The fact that only two- 
thirds of the titles requested were located in 
the catalog highlighted the need to expand its 
coverage, 34 and Congress nearly doubled ap- 
propriations for the division during the 1942— 
43 fiscal year. 35 

Plans for a Book Catalog 

However, the most significant event af- 
fecting the union catalog during the war years 
was the agreement reached between the Asso- 
ciation of Research Libraries and the Library 
of Congress to publish in book form a deposi- 
tory collection of Library of Congress printed 
catalog cards. Over the years American librar- 
ies had found depository card sets increas- 
ingly expensive to maintain. In addition to 
space problems created by the huge files, it 
was estimated that each depository library 
spent over $1,200 each year simply for filing 
and new catalog furniture. In 1941, an Asso- 
ciation of Research Libraries committee 
chaired by William Warner Bishop proposed 
the publication of the card set in book form. 
The book catalog allowed costs to be evenly 
divided between the subscribing libraries and 
the Library of Congress, 36 In addition, the 
book format made it possible to extend the 
bibliographic resources of the Library of Con- 

gress to over 300 libraries, far more than had 
ever subscribed to the printed cards. 37 The 
resulting A Catalog of Booh Represented by 
Library of Congress Printed Cards Issued to 
July 31, 1942 ran 167 volumes and repro- 
duced approximately 1,900,000 cards. 
Edwards Brothers, Inc. of Ann Arbor, Michi- 
gan, produced the catalog over a span of 4 
years by photographing the cards, reducing 
the size of the image, and printing them 18 to 
a page. 38 

The immediate impact upon the union 
catalog of the new printed catalog and its 42- 
volume supplement which appeared in 1948, 
was a reverse of the decline in reports from 
contributing libraries that had been brought on 
by personnel shortages during the war. At the 
prompting of the Joint Committee on the Na- 
tional Union Catalog of the Association of 
Research Libraries and the American Library 
Association, 36 libraries agreed to check their 
holding against the printed catalog and report 
titles not represented in the Library of Con- 
gress collections. Another 24 research institu- 
tions agreed to search at least part of their 
collections. 39 In the first year alone, the union 
catalog received nearly 80,000 reports from 
these institutions. 40 

Increased appropriations during the pe- 
riod from 1 943-47 enabled the Union Catalog 
Division to finally add holdings from the Cleve- 
land and Philadelphia regional union catalogs. 
In 1948, in recognition of its growing use and 
importance, the union catalog was officially 
designated the National Union Catalog and 
efforts to expand its coverage increased anew. 
Complete holdings of Harvard University, the 
University of California at Berkeley, and the 
North Carolina union catalog were added. 
Libraries that had been reporting selectively 
were encouraged to report all new acquisi- 
tions, and the result was the rapid expansion of 
the catalog. 41 

This period also saw renewed calls for the 
publication of the entire catalog. As early as 
1928, Henry Putnam had discussed the need to 
publish the file. 42 The feasibility of publishing 



die catalog was considered again in 1941, but 
a decision was delayed until the end of the 
war/ 3 However, the obvious incompleteness 
of the catalog, the tremendous burden of keep- 
ing up with the ever-rising number of current 
cards, plus huge filing backlogs of earlier 
reports always made the task of editing appear 
impossible. 44 In 1952, as an experimental step 
in planning the printing of the catalog, the 
Union Catalog Division began to set aside 
current reports for imprints for 1 952 and later. 
The intention of the separate file was to estab- 
lish a means of estimating the eventual size 
and cost ofpublishingthe entire catalog. 43 The 
following year the American Library Asso- 
ciation Board on Resources was presented 
with a proposal for reproducing the entire 
National Union Catalog, but the estimated 
cost of some 4 to 5 million dollars to complete 
the project daunted even the m ost enthusiastic 
supporters. 46 

Meanwhile, following the proposals laid 
out in 1946 by Halsey William Wilson in his 
pamphlet, A Proposed Plan for Printing Li- 
brary of Congress Cards in Cumulative Book 
Form (New York: H.W. Wilson), the Library 
of Congress had discontinued the distribution 
of depository card sets and had begun in 1 947 
to publish the Cumulative Catalog of Library 
of Congress Printed Cards. In 1 950, a separate 
subject catalog was initiated and the Cumula- 
tive Catalog was renamed the Library of Con- 
gress Author Catalog. Three years later, with 
the appearance of separate catalogs for maps, 
motion pictures and filmstrips, and music and 
phonograph records, the series became the 
Library of Congress Catalog— Booh: Au- 
thors. Recognition by both the Library and the 
profession that this catalog failed to represent 
the annual increase in scholarly titles held in 
American libraries resulted in the suggestion 
that the Library of Congress Catalog be ex- 
panded into a current National Union Cata- 
log. 47 

The proposal was first made formally by 
C. Sumner Spauiding at the summer 1953 
ALA annual meeting, and actively advocated 
the following year by Frederick H. Wagman. 

Wagman saw the publication of a current 
catalog of American library acquisitions as a 
possible solution to the problem of publishing 
the entire catalog. The staff of the National 
Union Catalog might be relieved of the con- 
siderable tasks of arranging, filing, and main- 
taining current entries as well as responding to 
reference queries about them. Staff time saved 
might be spent in editing the retrospective file 
for eventual publication. 48 

It was recognized at the time that not only 
would this change greatly enhance the proven 
utility of the current printed catalog, but would 
also offer the hope of "lifting a great burden 
of frustration from the shoulders of the exist- 
ing union catalog staff and of preparing the 
way for the ultimate publication of that great 
bibliographical instrument." By providing a 
terminus point for the older file, a current 
catalog would allow for the stabilization of 
that file in terms of growth. In addition, with 
the passage of time the current publication 
would assume retrospective importance. 49 

The ALA Board on Resources established 
a subcommittee chaired by Wagman to exam- 
ine the proposal and to make recommenda- 
tions regarding its implementation. Using re- 
sponses from surveys of subscribers to the 
Catalog and statistics provided by the Library 
of Congress, the subcommittee found the pro- 
posal economically feasible 50 and selected 
1 956 imprints as the best starting point for the 
National Union Catalog: A Cumulative Au- 
thor List. The publication plan was formonthly 
updates with quarterly and annual cumula- 
tions. 51 Following the pattern of its predeces- 
sor, the annual cumulations were eventually 
succeeded by five-year cumulations, although 
the entries, for 1956 and 1 957 were eventually 
published in both the 1953- 1957 and the 1958- 
1962 cumulations. 52 

A major breakthrough in terms of nation- 
wide bibliographic control of library materi- 
als, the new printed catalog sparked an expo- 
nential growth in the number of reports of 
library holdings. The total number of titles 
reported to the catalog in 1956 numbered 
103,000; in 1957, 326,00; and by 1962, 


823,000." The size of five-year cumulations 
also reflected this same dramatic growth. The 
first numbered 28 volumes; while the last, for 
1973-1977, totaled 150 volumes. 54 

Plans for a Retrospective Union 

The success of the printed catalog of 
current titles made the need for publication of 
the retrospective file more apparent. The ex- 
istence of the self-contained and relatively 
compact file of 1952-1955 imprints allowed 
for the possibility of a small step in that direc- 
tion. In 1959 the ALA subcommittee on the 
National Union Catalog decided to sponsor its 
publication. Johannes L. Dewton was chosen 
as supervisor and editor of the project, and the 
30-volume National Union Catalog, 1952- 
1955 Imprints was distributed to subscribers 
inl961. 55 

Further encouraged by the sales of this 
publication and the execution of the project, 
the subcommittee decided to undertake publi- 
cation of the entire pre- 195 6 file. In 1962, the 
subcommittee began lengthy discussions of 
possible formats, including microfilm, 
microprint and even a "mechanized, central 
storage bank." Late that same year, the Com- 
mittee on Resources received a report from 
Johannes Dewton that estimated the editorial 
costs of the project to be $2,700,00. 56 

In October 1963, the Subcommittee on 
the NUC decided to invite bids for the publi- 
cation of the pre- 1 956 catalog. The successful 
bidder would be required to finance the edito- 
rial costs and allowed to recoup these from the 
sale of the catalog. If no satisfactory bid was 
accepted, the plan was to seek grant support 
for the editorial costs, or failing that, ask 
subscribing libraries to support these costs up 

A preliminary agreement between the 
Library of Congress and the American Li- 
brary Association was signed in June 1964. 
The agreement made publication possible, 
and, according to the terms, ALA agreed to 

obtain the funds necessary for the Library to 
edit the catalog. In March 1965, after consid- 
ering existing technologies and the likelihood 
of subscription support for each, the subcom- 
mittee decided on a bookformat for theplanned 
publication. After two mailings of invitations 
for bids, three bids with sample pages were 
received by the August 1966 deadline. The 
subcommittee selected the bid from Mansell 
Information/Publishing, Ltd., of London on 
the basis of the lowest sale price to libraries 
and the most satisfactory format. Contract 
negotiations between ALA and the company 
were concluded in January 1967. In February, 
the Library of Congress established the Na- 
tional Union Catalog Publication Project 
(NUCPP) to edit the catalog. Under guidance 
from John Cronin, work began with Johannes 
Dewton being selected as head of the project 
and Nathan N. Mendelldoffas assistant head. 
By March the first 27,000 edited cards to 
comprise the first volume were on their way to 

Mansell Publishing, although a British 
firm formed specifically for the purpose of 
publishing the National Union Catalog, had 
important advantages that enabled it to win the 
bidding process. The first of these was the 
experience its managing editor, John Com- 
mander, gained in publishing the British 
Museum's General Catalogue of Printed 
Books from 1961 to 1966. The second was the 
optical innovations of its parent company, 
Balding and Mansell, a subsidiary of Bemrose 
Publishing Company. 58 Essentially the firm 
had developed a system of sense-marking 
cards that made it possible to direct camera 
equipment to film only portions of cards in- 
stead of entire cards. The process not only 
made the filming of cards faster, but the effi- 
cient use of space in the final product resulted 
in lowered printing costs. 59 

The original contract called fora schedule 
of 60 volumes per year. The set was expected 
to take 1 years to complete and run some 610 
volumes. Each of the 14-inch volumes would 
contain about 700 pages and be priced at $15. 


An inflationary factor of 10 percent over the 
ten year length of the project was included in 
the contract, but proved grossly insufficient.* 
A supplement was also planned to accommo- 
date those reports received after publication 
began. 65 

Editorial Processes 

Once the contracts were in place, the 
Library of Congress was able to jump quickly 
into the editorialprocess. In eager anticipation 
of the event, John Cronin had years before 
spelled out the basic guidelines to be fol- 
lowed." The Library also had the previous 
experience of compilingthree 5-year cumula- 
tions of the current National Union Catalog, 
and many of the procedures and arrangements 
established for the publication of the pre- 1956 
imprints had precedents in these projects/ 3 

The task facing the project staff was sift- 
ing through some 20 million cards from vari- 
ous files, and to weed and edit them to an 
acceptable, consistent standard for publica- 
tion. The lack of standardization in a file built 
over a 67-year period that had seen three 
major revisions in cataloging codes plus innu- 
merable changes in filing rules posed tremen- 
dous problems. In addition, the individual 
entries varied greatly in terms of accuracy and 
completeness. For example, a large number of 
entries contributed by Princeton during the 
1920s were no more than one line long, while 
other records included incredible detail. De- 
spite the long-standing rule of Library of Con- 
gress cards taking precedence, a substantial 
amount of weeding needed to be done.*" In 
some cases, the duplicate entries numbered 
into the hundreds. 

Preparing the file forpublication required 
a number of processes. The first of these was 
interfiling seven different supplements with 
the main file. Pre-editors, or searchers, then 
reviewed the trays card-by-card, removing 
duplicate entries and transferring holdings 
information to thebestavailablerecord. Cross 
references were verified* filing adjusted, and 
all trays were compared to the Library of 

Congress Official Catalog to be sure that all 
LC printed cards were included in the Na- 
tional Union Catalog. 65 

The 25 to 30 project editors each re- 
viewed one 1,400-card tray each week, 65 
checking for correctness of entry and form, 
resolving conflicts, adding entries and cross 
references, arranging the filing order, and 
identifying entries that needed retyping. The 
cards were then examined by copy editors 
who, in preparing the cards for the filming 
pro cess, reviewed location symbols and elimi- 
nated extraneous information. If necessary, 
the cards were then retyped before review by 
a senior editor. 67 

The five senior editors who performed the 
final checking of entries ensured the biblio- 
graphic standards of the catalog. Checking 
some five trays each every week, they re- 
viewed the quality of the editors' work and 
resolved previously unsolved problems. 58 

After the final review, the cards were 
stamped sequentially, to insure the arrange- 
ment, and microfilmed. The film served as 
protection against loss of the shipment, and 
also provided an inhouse copy of the file for 
use until the printed volumes arrived. 69 The 
cards were then packed up and sent via air 
freight to London on Friday, and the whole 
process began again the following Monday. 

Amazingly, the staff never missed a dead- 
line, and the pace of five volumes per month 
was maintained unfailingly until the end of the 
685- volume main sequence in June 1979. 70 In 
order to meet the publication schedule, some 
voluminous authors and corporate bodies had 
to be assigned to senior editors as special 
projects, weeks ahead of the normal time- 
table. 71 Some sections required more elabo- 
rate treatment, Johannes Dewton continued 
working on the United States section even 
after his retirement in 1975. 72 By plan, only 
volumes 53-56 covering the Bible were pub- 
lished out of sequence after completion of the 
rest of the main set. 73 

The worst problems were encountered 
during the first 2 years, when the enormous 
scale of the difficulties involved, previously 


only imagined, was finally experienced in 
practice. It became apparent very early in the 
project that too much optimism and miscalcu- 
lation had resulted in insufficient staffto handle 
the editorial work. Perhaps the direst moment 
was at the end of the first year when the 
contract with Mansell was under renegotia- 
tion and the Librarian of Congress threatened 
to terminate the Library's involvement. 
Mansell agreed to finance a larger editorial 
staff, 74 and the work continued with as many 
as 57 employees. 75 

Editorial Flexibility 

Another key to the success of the project 
was the willingness of the editors to adapt their 
procedures. The project had begun with a few 
basic guidelines: 

1. Library of Congress printed cards took 
precedence for all items and multiple 
reports were to be transferred to these 
master cards. 

2. When alternative headings existed, Li- 
brary of Congress headings were cho- 

3 . The American Library Association cata- 

loging code of 1949 was the standard 
for form and choice of entries. 

4. Liberal use would be made of cross 
references from alternative headings. 

5. A unique form for author entries would 
be employed, and all holdings for an 
item would be listed in one place. 7 * 

In practice, strict adherence to even these 
few guidelines proved difficult. The publica- 
tion schedule required that weekly shipments 
be made in alphabetic sequence without de- 
lay. The unyielding deadline forced staff to 
become increasingly flexible and simplify 
procedures as the project progressed. 

The result was a shift in the nature of the 
printed catalog from one part to the next. Later 
volumes contained far fewer entries revised to 
meet the 1949 ALA rules, and even included 
entries following the 1967 Anglo- American 
Cataloging Rules. Staff had no time to make 

the new generation of reports received in the 
course of the project consistent with the old 
rules. Fewer added entries and cross-refer- 
ences were made as time went by. Filing rules 
for voluminous authors were simplified, and 
even the precedence of Library of Congress 
cataloging was not always acknowledged, 
particularly when more complete information 
was supplied by other libraries. 77 

When Johannes Dewton retired in 1975, 
leadership of the project was turned over to 
David A. Smith, who had already served sev- 
eral years as a senior editor. 78 By the time that 
the main sequence editing was completed in 
1979, over three million cards had been re- 
ceived for the supplement Before the main 
sequence was finished, the project's assistant 
head, Maria Laqueur, had designed and begun 
editing the supplement. Although a new pub- 
ing room, the supplement involved the addi- 
tional tasks of checking in the main sequence 
and publishing a register of additional loca- 
tions. 79 When the last editorial work was fi- 
nally completed in January 1981, some 14 
years after the project's start, the staff had 
reviewed over 23 million cards and prepared 
over 1 1 million for publication. 80 

In addition to the Library of Congress, the 
American Library Association, and Mansell 
Publishing, some 1 ,350 libraries in 5 1 nations 
had supported the project at a cost of over 
$35,000 each. 81 After 14 years, the result was 
a resource of unparalleled magnitude, of value 
to libraries in acquisitions, bibliography, cata- 
loging, interlibrary loan, reference, and re- 
search. The new printed catalog represented 
not only the largest print record of American 
library holdings, but also the most extensive 
record of the history of printing, particularly 
of the Western world. 82 

New Technology 

Yet by the time of completion of the pre- 
1956 catalog, the National Union Catalogwas 
already something of a dinosaur, With the 
advent of OCLC in the early 1970s and the 



application of large-scale time-share comput- 
ing to bibliographic systems, there was talk as 
early as 1976 of the National Union Catalog 
being displaced. 83 In fact, in 1 978, the Library 
of Congress itself had recognized that its in- 
ability to commit the necessary machine and 
human resources meant that OCLC would 
preempt the Library's own efforts to develop 
anational online bibliographic service. 84 Even- 
tually, in terms of both number of records and 
contributing libraries, OCLC would dwarf the 
National Union Catalog. 

The 1 980s saw the introduction of auto- 
mation and a new microfiche format for the 
current catalog. The new format included a 
register with cumulative annual name, title, 
series and subject indexes and resulted in 
substantial savings in time and cost. 85 How- 
ever, these innovations plus the expansion of 
coverage to include Oriental and Near Eastern 
languages, could not make up for the conve- 
nience of the online systems, which have 
gradually usurped most of the NUC ' s catalog- 
ing, interlibrary loan, and even reference func- 

Unfortunately, the development of com- 
peting bibliographic utilities has meant the 
impossibility of a true national union catalog. 
With many of the major research institutions 
that once constituted the bulk of contributors 
to the union catalog not contributing to OCLC, 
the latter does not reflect a complete picture of 
American library holdings, and particularly of 
many esoteric research materials. The result is 
that librarians and researchers must search 
multiple sources and systems to identify many 
hard-to-locate items. The situation will not be 
helped by the current plan of the Library of 
Congress for the National Union Catalog. 
Books. As of the 1 990 edition, the catalog will 
include only those reports from sources other 
than the three major bibliographic utilities, 
OCLC, RLIN, and WLN. In addition, staff in 
the division will be reduced significantly. 86 

These developments will leave 
unaddressed several important problems. As 
of 1 986, the year before the implementation of 

regular reports to the catalog in magnetic tape 
form, the collection of reports of pre-1956 
imprints not included in the National Union 
Catalog, Pre- J 95 6 Imprints main sequence or 
its supplement already stood at over 2 million 
cards. 87 In addition, although a Near East 
National Union List began to appear in 1 988, 8S 
six union catalogs containing another 2 mil- 
lion records for materials in Chinese, Hebraic, 
Japanese, Korean, South Asian, and Southeast 
Asian languages remain unpublished. 89 While 
these problems may eventually be solved by 
various retrospective conversion projects, in 
the meantime a wealth of bibliographic infor- 
mation gathered for such projects will go 
largely untapped. 

Unlike some other important reference 
works, the National Union Catalog was not 
the product of a single person's ideas or ef- 
forts. Being based at a large institution, such as 
the Library of Congress, allowed the catalog 
to evolve slowly in terms of both purpose and 
design. Over the decades, several individuals 
made important contributions to shaping the 
reference tool. While Henry Putnam provided 
the official support necessary to establish the 
catalog, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., gave the 
financial support needed to build the file into 
something significant. Ernest Richardson, 
Ernest Kletsch, and George Schwegmann, Jr., 
presided for nearly three decades over the 
massive work of building the catalog. John 
Cronin and Frederick Wagman were perhaps 
the most effective of many advocates of bring- 
ing the catalog to print form. Johannes Dewton, 
David Smith, and John Commander ably 
oversaw the tremendous task of editing the 
catalog and producing National Union Cata- 
log, Pre-1956 Imprints. However, this pio- 
neering effort in resource sharing was truly 
the result of thousands of hands. From the 
legion of filers and editors at the Library of 
Congress to the army of catalogers from hun- 
dreds of libraries throughout North America, 
all played a significant role in building a 
tremendous bibliographic resource. 

. L 




The National Union Catalog; a cumulative author 
list representing Library of Congress printed 
cards and titles reported by other American 
libraries. Washington: Library of Congress, 
1956-1982 (Monthly, with Quarterly and An- 
nual Updates). 

The National Union Catalog, Music and 
Phonorecords (title varies). Washington: Li- 
brary of Congress, 1956- . 

Tfie National Union Catalog, Motion Pictures and 
Filmstrips (title varies). Washington: Library 
of Congress, 1956-1982. 

The National Union Catalog, a Cumulative Author 
List, 1955-1957. Ann Arbor: J.W. Edwards, 
Inc., 1958. 28 vols. (v. 1-20, Authors; v.27, 
Music and phonograph records; v. 28, Motion 
pictures and filmstrips). 

The National Union Catalog, J 952-1 955 Imprints. 
Ann Arbor: J.W. Edwards, Inc., 1961. 30 vols. 

The National Union Catalog, a Cumulative Author 
List, 1958-1962. New York: Rowman and 
Littlefield, Inc., 1963. 54 vols. (v. 1-50, Au- 
thors; v.5 1 -52, Music and Phonorecords; v. 53- 
54 Motion Pictures and Film Strips). 

National Union Catalog, Register of Additional Lo- 
cations. Washington: Library of Congress, June 
1965- . (Published inbook form, 1965-1980; in 
microfiche format, 1 980- . Cumulative micro- 
fiche edition covers 1968-). 

The National Union Catalog, a Cumulative Author 
List, 1963-1967. Ann Arbor: J.W. Edwards, 
Inc., 1 968. 72 vols. (v. 1-59, Authors; v. 60-66, 
Register of Additional Locations; v. 67-70, 

Music and Phonorecords; v. 71-72, Motion 
Pictures and Film Strips). 

Library of Congress and National Union Catalog 
Author Lists, 1942-1962: A Master Cumula- 
tion. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1969. 
152 vols. 

The National Union Catalog, 1956-1967. Totowa, 
NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, Inc., 1970-1972. 
125 vols. 

The National Union Catalog, a Cumulative Author 
List, 1968-1972. Ann Arbor: J.W. Edwards, 
Inc., 1973. 128 vols. (v. 1-104, Authors; v. 105- 
1 19, Register of Additional Locations; v. 120— 
1 24, Music; v. 1 25-128, Films and Other Mate- 
rials for Projection). 

The National Union Catalog, a Cumulative Author 
List, 1973-1977. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and 
Littlefield, Inc., 1978. 150 vols. (v. 1-135, 
Authors; v. 136-143, Music; 144-150 Films 
and Other Materials for Projection). 

The National Union Catalog, Pre- 1956 Imprints. 
London: Mansell, 1968-1981. 754 vols. 

National Union Catalog. Books. (Microfiche) Wash- 
ington: Libraiy of Congress, 1983-. (Monthly, 
with Annual Cumulation. Register Format with 
Name, Title, Series and Subject indexes). 

National Union Catalog. Audiovisual Materials ^(mi- 
crofiche). Washington: Library of Congress, 
1983- . 

National Union Catalog. Cartographic Materials 
(microfiche). Washington; Library of Congress, 
1983- . 


While researchers are lucky in having a 
number of written accounts by individuals 
closely involved in the National Union Cata- 
log, there is considerable redundancy in what 
has been written about it, even in the brief list 
of sources provided here. The introductory 
section to the National Union Catalog, Pre- 
1956 Imprints, its printed prospectus, and the 
volume In Celebration (done to commemo- 
rate the completion of the project) conve- 
niently assemble a large amount of informa- 
tion on the catalog, but overlap considerably. 
The last is perhaps the most most comprehen- 
sive in coverage and includes articles by Wil- 
liam J. Welsh, Gordon R. Williams, David A. 
Smith, and John Commander. Somewhat al- 
tered versions of the articles by Smith and 

Welsh are also listed. For the most detailed 
discussion on the early development of the 
catalog, see the article by Schwegmann. For a 
discussion of developments during the 1950s, 
see the articles by Cronin (the first of which 
also appeared in the prospectus) and the col- 
lection of papers by Charles David and others. 
For lively descriptions of the editorial process, 
see either of the articles by David Smith. 
Finally, required reading for using and under- 
standing the scope and limitations of the Na- 
tional Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints is 
Johannes Dewton's introductory essay. 

Cronin, John W. "History of the National Union 
Catalog, Pre- 1956 Imprints." In Book Catalogs, 
compiled by Maurice F. Tauber and Hilda 
Feinberg, 118-32. Meruchen, NJ: Scarecrow 
Press, 1971. 


, 'The National Union and Library of Con- 
gress Catalogs: Problems and Prospects." li- 
brary Quarterly 34 (January, 1964): 77-96. 

David, Charles W., etal. "Proposed Expansion of the 
Library of Congress Catalog — Books: Authors 
into a Current National Union Catalog, 1956." 
College and Research Libraries 17 (Janu- 
ary, 1956): 24-40. 

Dewton, Johannes L. "Introduction to the National 
Union Catalog, Pre- 1956 Imprints." In National 
Union Catalog, Pre-1 956 Imprints, vol. 1, xi- 
xix. London: Manse]!, 1968. 

In Celebration: The National Union Catalog, Pre- 
1956 Imprints, edited by John Y, Cole. Wash- 
ington: Library of Congress, 1981. 

"National Union Catalog; Celebrates 30 Years." 
Library of Congress Information Bulletin 46 
(June;, 1987): 228-33. 

Prospectus for the National Union Catalog, Pre- 
1956 Imprints. London: Mansell, 1967. 

Schwegmann, George A., Jr. "The National Union 
Catalog in the Library of Congress." In Union 
Catalogs in the United States, edited by Robert 
B. Downs, 229-63. Chicago: American Library 
Association, 1942. 

Smith, David A. "The National Union Catalog Pre- 
1956 Imprints." The Book Collector 31 (Win- 
ter, 1982): 445-62. 

Welsh, William J. "The Last of the Monumental 
Book Catalogs." American Libraries 12 (Sep- 
tember, 1981): 464-68. 

Williams, Gordon R. "History of the National Union 
Catalog, Pre- 1 956 Imprints." In National Union 
Catalog, Pre- 1956 Imprints, vol. l,vii-x. Lon- 
don: Mansell, 1968. 


1 William Welsh, "The Last of the Monumental Book 

Catalogs," American Libraries 12 (September 
1981): 468. 

2 Richard Shoemaker, review of National Union Catalog, 

Pre- 1956 Imprints,Library Resources &Technical 
Services 13 (Summer 1969): 431. 

3 Annual Report of the Librarian ofCongress(\91\): 29. 
* Welsh, "The Last of the Monumental Book Catalogs," 

i John Y. Cole, "Introduction," in In Celebration: the 

National Union Catalog Pre-1956 Imprints, ed. by 

John Y. Cole. (Washington: Library of Congress, 

1981), 3-4. 
•Gordon R. Williams, "History of the National Union 

Catalog Pre- 1 956 Imprints," in The National Union 

Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints, vol. 1 (London: 

Mansell, 1968), vii. 
7 F. P. Jordan, "The History of Printed Catalog Cards," 

Public Libraries 9 (July 1904): 3 18-20. 

8 Williams, vii, 

9 Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1902): 


10 Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1901): 


1 ' A nnual Report of the Librarian of Congress ( 1 9 1 0): 7 1 . 

12 Annual Report of the Librarian o/Cowgrass (1908): 58. 

13 Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1928): 

u Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1909): 

ls George A. Schwegmann, Jr., "The National Union 
Catalog in the Library of Congress," in Union 
Catalogs in the United States, ed, by Robert B. 
Downs (Washington: American Library Associa- 
tion, 1942), 231, 

16 Ibid., 232. 

" Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1927): 

18 Schwegmann, "The National Union Catalog in the 
Library of Congress," 232. 

19 Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1927): 


20 Schwegmann, "The National Union Catalog in the 

Library of Congress," 233-35. 

21 Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (2927): 


22 Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1932): 78, 

25 Schwegmann, "The National Union Catalog in the 

Library of Congress," 235-37. 
24 Ibid., 247. 
"Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1935): 


26 Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1936): 52. 

27 Schwegmann, "The National Union Catalog in the 

Library of Congress," 252. 
u Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1944); 82. 

29 Schwegmann, "The National Union Catalog in the 

Library of Congress," 250-51. 

30 Ibid., 252-53. 

31 Ibid., 257, 

32 Ibid., 256. 

23 Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress ( 1 93 5): 47, 
^Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1942): 


35 Annual Report of 'the Librarian of Congress (1 943): 49. 

36 John W. Cronin, "The National Union and Library of 

Congress Catalogs, Problems and Prospects," Li- 
brary Quarterly 34 (January 1964): 80. 

Z1 Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1 943): 48. 

3S Cronin, "The National Union and Library of Congress 
Catalogs, Problems and Prospects," 80. 

Jg Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1943): 48, 

w Annual Report of the Librarian of 'Congress (1944): 82. 

41 Williams, viii. 

42 Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1928); 

" George A. Schwegmann, Jr. "The National Union 
Catalog in the Next Decade — Some Unsolved Prob- 
lems," Library Resources & Technical Services 1 
(Summer 1957): 159, 


44 Charles W.David, "Proposed Expansion oFthe Library 
of Congress Catalog-Books-. Authors into a Current 
National Union Catalog, 1 956," College and Re- 
search Libraries 17 (January 1956): 25. 

45 Cronin, "The National Union and Library of Congress 
Catalogs, Problems and Prospects," 82. 

"David, 24, 

11 Cronin, "The National Union and Library of Congress 
Catalogs, Problems and Prospects," 80-81. 

"George A. Schwegmann, Jr. and Robert D. Stevens, 
"The Proposal for a Current Author Catalog of 
American Library Resources," College and Re- 
search Libraries 17 (January 1956): 29. 

4 ' David, 25. 

"Schwegmann and Stevens, 28-29. 

51 Ibid., 31. 

53 Johannes Dewton, "Introduction to the National Union 
Catalog Pre-1 956 Imprints," in The National Union 
Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints, vol. 1 (London: 
Mansell, 1968), xii. 

"Cronin, "The National Union and Library of Congress 
Catalogs, Problems and Prospects," 81-82. 

* "1973-1977 National Union Catalog Goes to Press in 
Record Time," Library of Congress Information 
Bulletin 38 (March 9, 1979): 81. 

"Cronin, "The National Union and Library of Congress 
Catalogs, Problems and Prospects," 82. 

16 Ibid., 84-85. 

" John W. Cronin, "History of the National Union Cata- 
log, Pre-1956 Imprints," in Book Catalogs, com- 
piled by Maurice F. Tauber and Hilda Feinberg 
(Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1971), 129-32. 

is John Commander, "Publishing the NUC," in In Cel- 
ebration: The National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 
Imprints, ed. by John Y. Cole (Washington: Library 
of Congress, 1981), 28-30. 

w William Welsh, "The Library of Congress," in In 
Celebration: The National Union Catalog, Pre- 
1956 Imprints, ed. by John Y. Cole (Washington: 
Library of Congress, 1981), 10. 

60 Welsh, "The Last of the Monumental Book Catalogs," 


61 John Commander, "Production and Publication of the 

National Union Catalog Pre- 1 956 Imprints/'inTVie 
National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints, vol. 1 
(London: Mansell, 1968), xx. 

62 Cronin, "The National Union and Library of Congress 

Catalogs, Problems and Prospects,*' 83. 

63 "The 1968-1972 Quinquennnial Edition of the Na- 

tional Union Catalog," Library of Congress Infor- 
mation Bulletin 33 (October II, 1974): A213- 
44 David A. Smith, "The National Union Catalog Pre- 
1956 Imprints," The Book Collector 3 1 (Winter 
1982): 448^19. 

65 Margaret PorterSmith, "The National Union Catalog 

Pre-1956 Imprints; A Progress Report," Library 
Resources <& Technical Sen>ices20 (Winter 1 976): 

66 Smith, "The National Union Catalog Pre-1956 Im- 

prints," 453. 

67 PorterSmith, "The National Union Catalog Pre-1956 

Imprints: A Progress Report," 50-51. 

68 Smith, u Tha National Union Catalog Pre-1956 Im- 

prints," 454. 

69 PorterSmith, "The National Union Catalog Pre-1956 

Imprints: A Progress Report," 51. 

70 Smith, "The National Union Catalog Pre-1956 Im- 

prints," 450. 

7J PorterSmith, "The National Union Catalog Pre-1956 
Imprints: A Progress Report," 50, 

72 David Smith, "Editing the NUC," in In Celebration: 
The National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints, 
ed. by John Y. Cole (Washington: Library of Con- 
gress, 1981), 27. 

"PorterSmith, 50. 

74 Smith, "The National Union Catalog Pre-1956 Im- 

prints," 449. 

75 PorterSmith, 49. 

76 Smith, "The National Union Catalog Pre-1956 Im- 

prints," 449. 
"Ibid., 451-53. 

78 Welsh, "The Last of the Monumental Book Catalogs," 


79 Smith, "The National Union Catalog Pre-1956 Im- 

prints," 458. 

80 Ibid., 449-50. 

81 Welsh, "The Last of the Monumental Book Catalogs," 

82 A,Plotnik,"NewsThatStaysNews,'Mmerictt«iiirar- 

ies 12 (September 1981): 453. 
83 Joe A. Hewitt, "The Impact of OCLC," American 

Libraries 7 (May 1976): 271. 
u Role of the Library of Congress in the Evolving Na- 

tional Network (Washington: Library of Congress, 

1978), 7. 
w "The National Union Catalog: Celebrates 30 Years," 

Library of Congress Information Bulletin 46 (June 

I, 1987): 230-32. 
86 "Library of Congress Announces Changes in National 

Union Catalog," Library of Congress News Press 

Release, PR 90-77 (June 1, 1990): np. 
87 Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1986): A- 

88 "Library Launches Near East Union List," Library of 

Congress Information Bulletin 47 (June 20, 1 988): 

M Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress (1986): A- 



The Record of Record: 
The New York Times Index 

Jo A. Cotes 


On the ninth floor of the New York Times 
building on grubby West 43rd Street, in a 
room now shared with the newspaper's Rights 
and Royalties Department, about 20 editors, 
abstracters, indexers, and clerks produce one 
of the most influential and remarkable docu- 
ments of ourtime. If the New York Times is the 
newspaper of record, then certainly the New 
York Times Index is the record of record. 

Under the leadership of Adolph S. Ochs, 
the Times slogan became "All the News That's 
Fit to Print." "Ochs created the traditions that 
made the Times great — its full coverage, com- 
pleteness, and accuracy— and that are sus- 
tained by his descendents." 1 Even with a daily 
circulation ofmorethan onemillion, the Times 
still sells fewer papers than the Wall Street 
Journal or the New York Daily News, but it 
also has won more Pulitzer Prizes than any 
other newspaper. 

Back in 195 1 , Meyer Berger, one of those 
Pulitzer Prize-winning Tim es reporters, wrote: 

Because the Times has won universal recogni- 
tion as a newspaper of record, it is in demand 
in many forms — full size in bound newsprint, 
in rag paper for better preservation, on tiny 
microfilm where a full page is reduced to a 
little more than one inch. Libraries, parlia- 
ments, gteatbusiness houses all over the world 
subscribe for it in these forms. The semi- 
monthly New York Times Index for quick 
reference to the newspaper's contents, and an 
annual index that runs to some 1,500 pages, 
are also available. 2 

Early Days of Benign Neglect 

The Index, as highly regarded as it is 
today, has a peculiar history of almost benign 
neglect. All indexes since the newspaper's 
birth in 1851 are now widely available, but 
that was not always so. For decades, the Index 
was used simply as an in-house resource. 
From September 18, 1851, to September 1858 
the Index was compiled in longhand. "In the 
beginning, it was a brief and sketchy affair, 
entered painstakingly in longhand into a 
leather-covered ledger volume, and it was 
intended for staff use only. An index of this 
kind, with minor changes in format, was main- 
tained for more than sixty years except for two 
periods of suspension (September 1 858through 
1 862 and July 1905 through 1912), J "the rea- 
sons for which cannot now be determined." 4 
Indexes for the period covering September 18, 
1858, through December 31, 1862, were fi- 
nally compiled in the 1960s and published in 
1967. "The project to bridge this gap in the 
series of indexes to the Times was conceived 
and begun by Joseph C. Gephart, editor of the 
Index until his retirement in 1964, who also 
did most of the original indexing for this 
volume and others in the series." 5 

In 1 863, the indexes were compiled semi- 
annually and, for the first time, set in type. 
"Though still intended for the staff only, this 
was a far more sophisticated Index than its 
predecessor — It was arranged by year, and 
each year was divided into three- or four- 
month periods." 6 Butonce again the Index was 



suspended from mid- 1905 through 1912. More 
than 50 years later, indexes for those lost years 
were compiled and published beginning in 
1 968 . The earlier indexes, especially the hand- 
written ones, present some expected research 
glitches. For example, the longhand entries 
are not divided by year — they are strictly 
alphabetical. And the number directly to the 
right of those entries are not dates, but refer the 
user to an issue number. In addition, complete 
names are not always listed. 

Stability and Growth 

It was not until 1913 that a semblance of 
the Index that we know today was published. 
Indexes were compiled quarterly from 1 9 1 3 to 
1929, then monthly from 1930to 1947. It was 
during this latter time period that cumulative 
annual volumes were introduced. From 1948 
to the present, indexes have been published 
semimonthly. Since 1978, there have been 
quarterly cumulations. A subscription to the 
semimonthly issues plus the cumulative an- 
nual cost $50 in 1952. By 1990 the price had 
climbed to $645. 

The current New York Times Index is a 
unique subject, geographic, organization, and 
personal name indexing/abstracting tool to the 
final late edition of the New York Times. 
Almost every article, with the exception of 
some letters and advertisements, is indexed. 
Arranged in dictionary form, it refers the user 
to the date, page, and column where the article 
is located in the newspaper. It offers cross- 
references, and such detailed abstracts of ar- 
ticles that the user may not need to locate the 
entire article. 

In addition to serving as an almanac of 
sorts, the Index has also been used as a scien- 
tific tool, often playing a major role in social 
science research. For example, an article in 
the Journal of Consumer Affairs reported that 
the Index had been used to "test the vi ability of 
the resource mobilization perspective on the 
farm workers' movement" and was analyzed 
for indications of "macro-level changes in 
activities of the groups involved," 7 

Harvey L. Holmes, Jr., assistant director 
and editor, joined the Index staff in 1967, and 
became editor in 1975. He notes that "This is 
the best selling index on the market, and in 
many ways the most respected. Before we 
take our bows we must acknowledge that 
other papers are doing indexes and putting 
them out earlier." 8 The index to the Washing- 
ton Posi> for example, is issued monthly with 
an annual accumulation, but is available only 
from 1 972 on, (The Post index was published 
by Bell & Howell from 1972-1981 as part of 
its Newspaper Index project. Most of Bell & 
Howell's indexed newspapers are available 
from the mid- 1 970s on, but it has also indexed 
the New York Tribune, 1841-1924, available 
on microfilm.) The Wall Street Journal also 
offers a monthly index with annual cumula- 
tions, available from 1955 to the present. No 
other newspaper index today, however, offers 
the detailed abstracts and documentation avail- 
able in the Times Index. 

The New York Times Index has had seri- 
ous weight problems at times. The 196% Index 
boasted 1,713 pages, which led John Rothman, 
one of the great Index editors, to write in his 
foreword that year, "This volume lends sub- 
stance to our new slogan: 'If it's not in the 
Times Index, maybe it didn't happen.'" 9 "As 
the Times continued to grow in size and the 
news became even more complex, the number 
and length of the abstracts increased in pro- 
portion, and the Index got bigger . . . and 
bigger," wrote Rothman. 

Some of the annual Index volumes of the mid- 
30s were virtually cubic in shape. The paper 
shortage of the war years forcibly curtailed 
this, but with the end of World War II the 
newspaper returned to Us Former dimensions, 
and so did the Index. This led to the use of 
cross-references as a substitute for duplica- 
tion . . . and also led in 1948 to a change in the 
physical format of the Index: largerpages.and 
an arrangement of three columns, instead of 
two, per page. 10 

The 1940s almost saw the death of the 
Index, according to Holmes. "There had been 
very serious talk about ending the Index. John 
Rothman saved it by emphasizing quality and 


The 1965 Index offered the first signed 
foreword by Rothman along with an important 
new development. More than 200maps, graphs, 
charts, and photographs were included. 

Ia the mid- 1970s, after Rothman had left 
the Index to work on the computerized Infor- 
mation Bank, and other editors had come and 
gone, the newly appointed Holmes decided it 
was time to exercise some control over the 
Index's once again expanding girth. In 1971, 
the page size had increased. In 1973, it had 
split into two volumes. By 197 '4 ,the New York 
Times Index weighed in at nearly 3 ,000 pages. 
"We reined that in in 1975 and decided to do 
a lot more editing," Holmes said. "Now the 
Index is 1,200-1,500 pages, but we index 
more today than ever before." For example, in 
the 1988 Index, the subject heading "Plagia- 
rism" offers see also references to articles 
indexed under "Gallbladder," "Harvard Uni- 
versity," "Medicine and Health," "Music," 
and the "Presidential Election of 1988 " One 
of the entries under "Music" indicates that 
"Federal Jury in White Plains, NY, finds that 
Mick Jagger did not steal song, Just Another 
Night, from Jamaican reggae singer Patrick 
Alley (M), Ap 27, III, 22:1." This entry also 
indicates to the user that this is a story of 
medium length, and that it appeared in the first 
column on page 22 of section three on April 
27, 1 988. According to the Index, "Whenever 
possible, entries are made under 'subject' 
headings (e.g. Airlines, Mental Health, Steel). 
. . . Names of persons and organizations are 
usually covered by cross references to the 
subjects of their activities."" As such, this 
article also is cross-referenced under Jagger's 

Reform and Renaissance 

In the 1980s there was criticism of the 
Index once again. "We experienced a renais- 
sance in the 1980s with indexing," Holmes 
said. "Beginning around 1982, users felt the 
Index was too complicated. Like Ulysses, it 
was much admired but never read. And 

granted, there was a European bias; some 
headings were seen as labels. For example, 
under 'China, 1 it would say 'China, Commu- 
nist.' 'Homosexuality' was indexed under 
crime or medical headings. For the subject 
heading 'Women,' there would be a see also 
reference to 'Domestic Service.' We were 
behind the times." (For the record, the see also 
references for 'Women' now include the 'Equal 
Rights Amendment' and the 'Feminist Move- 
ment,' along with 'Housewives' and 'Femi- 
nine Hygiene Products.') Dr. Roy Peter Clark, 
of The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, has 
delighted in the cross references since exam- 
ining the 1976 edition of the Index. In that 
year, Dr. Clark wrote an article about religion 
and education. The cross reference under his 
name was "See also Jesus Christ." The Index 
does tell the user that "Cross references do not 
indicate the specific content of the entries to 
which they refer, and should not be so con- 
strued. Thus a cross reference from a person's 
name to a crime heading cannot and does not 
indicate whether that person is a defendant, a 
witness, a prosecutor, or a person merely 
commenting on the subject but not a party to 
it." 12 

"In the course of 125 years not all Index 
editors thought alike," Rothman wrote, "and 
so the Index users will find some years in 
which there was no 'BookReview' listing and 
no 'Deaths' listing. These aberrations of our 
forebears have been remedied in the separate 
cumulations of the New York Times Book 
Review Index and the New York Times ObitU- 
aries Index, respectively." 13 In the 1858-1968 
volume of the New York Times Obituaries 
Index, it was reported that 

in some years, accidental deaths and suicides 
were included under 'Deaths, * in other years 
they were not; in some years titles were given 
and in others omitted; in some years last name 
and initials only were given; in some years 
entries were limited to the news story of the 
death itself, in others they included stories on 
the preceding illness and on the aftermath. 
Our aim in producing this volume was to 
provide a convenient recompilation." 14 



It is precisely that, a recompilation; unfor- 
tunately the material was not re-edited. Vol- 
ume 2 of the New York Tim es Obituaries Index 
covers 1969-1978. This volume includes many 
individuals whose deaths are covered in the 
"murders" and "suicides" sections of the In- 
dex. It also contains a section of addenda and 
errata for the first volume. 

The lengthy, detailed abstracts available 
in the modern Index are a far cry from the 
early abstracts. According to Rothman: 

In the years before World War I, entries 
consisted generally of only one or a few words, 
often in 'telegram' style. Since the newspaper 
itself was small and there was no need or intent 
to use thtlndexhy itself, without reference to 
the original newspaper articles, these brief 
entries served quite adequately to identify the 
articles. But as the newspaper grew in size and 
complexity, it became necessary to character- 
ize the source articles more fully, and so, 
during the 1920s and 30s the abstracts gradu- 
ally became longer and more informative. 
This development was spurred further during 
the Second World War, when more detailed 
abstracts were needed to distinguish one battle- 
front report from another. 15 

The New York Times On Microfilm is 
available from the paper's beginnings in 1 8 5 1 . 
The Times purchased the Microfilming Cor- 
poration of America in the late 1960s and 
began to produce the microfilm and micro- 
fiche inhouse. The Index is now distributed by 
University Microfilms International, which 
purchased the Index licensing rights in 1983. 

Training Indexers 

Training for indexers and abstracters em- 
phasizes writing. "We stress old fashioned 
journalism," Holmes said. "Reading skills are 
important too. The indexers need to know 
when to stop reading and start writing. Index- 
ers mustproduce 70-1 00 abstracts a day while 
working on deadline. In addition, they have to 
be aware that users will be doing onl ine search- 
ing as well as reference searching." More than 
25 years ago Rothman said: 

Indexing is a giant guessing game. Indexers 
must assess in advance what information a 
user is likely to seek, where he is likely to look 
for it, and how much detail the abstract (or 
'entry') should include to possibly spare him 
a trip to the original item in the newspaper. 
They must devise ways of guiding the user to 
additional information that he may not be 
seeking but that would also be relevant to his 
quest. They must keep in mind that they are 
serving not only the users of today but also 
those of future generations (who, to compli- 
cate things still further, are bound to have a 
different perspective and only too likely to 
have a different vocabulary.) 16 

Some sections of the Times are more 
difficult and time-consuming to index than 
others, the frontpage and international stories 
among those. As early as 1924, Index editor 
Jennie Well and wrote, "An indexer needs 
psychological insight as much as an advertiser 
does. Certainly a good imagination is a vital 
element in his mental equipment." Welland 
went on to say that "The staff of the Index has 
turned specialist. Each person is held respon- 
sible for all articles on certain assigned sub- 
jects. For instance, one person takes care of 
prohibition in all its complications." 17 In 1 93 1, 
Charles N. Lurie, then editor of the Index, 
wrote, "In the writing of the entries, certain 
fields of work are assigned to each indexer; 
when possible, the subjects include fields in 
which she is personally interested." 18 At one 
time, indexers did indeed specialize in sub- 
jects, but, according to Holmes, "developed 
their own fiefdoms. We prefer indexers to be 

Computerized Production 

The current computer indexing system, a 
far cry from the typewriter and carbon slips or 
even the paper tape system of years past, 
provides instant editing. The 1968 Index fore- 
word indicates that the Index had just "com- 
pleted a two-year program of transition to a 
computer-assisted production process that 
enables us to abstract and index more material 
more accurately, more thoroughly and more 


efficiently." 19 The first edition of The New 
YorkTimes Thesaurus was published in 1968. 
A new Thesaurus was introduced in 1982. 

"We have high academic standards but 
we are not an academic enterprise," Holmes 
said. "We are a business and not part of the 
New York Times newsroom in any way." And 
according to Breckinridge Jones, Jr., deputy 
editor, "We do have more contact now with 
the newsroom and the library because of the 
online system." In 1983, Mead Data Central 
licensed the New York Times online data- 
bases. This includes the Information Bank 
Abstracls,vthich contains the Times abstracts 
as well as abstracts from dozens of other 
newspapers and magazines, A separate file 
called Advertising and Marketing Intelligence 
contains abstracts of articles from trade and 
professional journals. In addition, the New 
York Times is a full-text file on NEXIS, up- 
dated daily, which contains every article pub- 
lished in the paper since June 1980. Index 
entries are sent through a computer program 
at Mead, and the indexing terms are attached 
automatically to the corresponding full-text 
item. In January 1972 the Index was first 
processed through the New York Times Infor- 
mation Bank system. 


Seymour Topping of the New York Times 
wrote, "Readers have been attracted to elec- 
tronic media, in some cases to the exclusion of 
newspapers. In general, however, the two me- 
dia are supplementary and complementary." 
He went on to say that "There is a sense that we 
must be thinking about shaping the newspaper 
of the future so it can be more meaningful, 
more serviceable, more indispensable to the 
community." 20 Regardless, "for many people 
today's newspaper will not be dead tomorrow 
but will be then and perhaps forever a vital 
source of information," Rothman wrote. "It 
must have been this same conviction that 
prompted Henry Jarvis Raymond to start an 
index for the infant New York Times back in 
1851, and that has prompted his successors to 
maintain this service, to improve it and expand 
it, and to offer it to the public," 21 Their efforts 
have enhanced the value of the New York 
Times as a historical document. Thanks to 
them, this index, this road map to the New York 
Times, this record of record for nearly 150 
years, exists in convenient book format, readily 
available in many libraries, providing access 
to the newspaper of record. 

The New York Times Index. New York: Bowker, 
1966-1976. 15 Vols. (v. I, Sept. 185 1-1862; v. 
II, 1863-1874; v. Ill, 1875-1879; v. IV, 1880- 
1885; v, V, 1886-1889; v. VI, 1&9Q-1893; v. 
VII, 1894-1898; v. VIII, 1899-June 1905; v. 

IX, July 1905-Dec. 1906; v. X-XV, 1907- 
The New York Times Index. Semimonthly, with 
annual cumulations. New York: The Times, 


Though much has been written about the 
New York Times, its Index has largely been 
overlooked. John Rothman, editor of the New 
York Times Index through the mid-1970s, 
provides the richest historical overviews in 
"Preserving the News That' s Fit To Print" and 
"About the Times Index." Harvey L. Holmes, 
Jr., currently the Index editor, and Breck- 
inridge Jones, Jr., deputy editor, contributed a 
large amount of material for this essay in a 

personal interview at the New York Times 
Index office on 9 February 1990. 

Doebler, Paul. "New York Times Opens Its Informa- 
tion Bank to Commercial Clients." Publishers 
Weekly 203 (June 18, 1973): 60-61. 

Dolan, Donna R. "Subject Searching of the New York 
Times Information Bank." Online 2 (April, 
1978): 26-30. 

Greengrass, Alan R. "The Information Bank Thesau- 
rus." In The Information Age in Perspective, 
Proceedings of the American Society for Infor- 


mation Science, comp. EverettH. Brenner, 137- 
140. White Plains, NY: Knowledge Industry 
Publications, 1978. 

Lurie, CharlesN. "TheNew York Times Index, 1930." 
Wilson Library Bulletin 5 (April, 1931): 501- 

Morse, Grant W. Guide to the Incomparable New 
York Times Index. New York: Fleet, 1980. 

"New York Times Sues Over Index." Publishers 
Weekly 21 1 (20 June 1977): 28. 

Paneth, Donald. "The New York Times:' In The 
Encyclopedia of American Journalism, 345-49 . 
New York: Facts on File, 1983. 

Rothman, John. "About The Times Index" Paper 
presented at a workshop on "The Uses, Misuses, 
and Abuses of The New York Times Index" 
jointly sponsored by Metro and Microfilming 
Corporation of America, New York, April 28, 

. "Automated Information Processing at the 

New York Times" In Information Transfer, 
American Society for Information Science Pro- 
ceedings, 85-87. New York: Greenwood, 1968. 
-."Preserving the News That's Fit to Print." 

Saturday Review 48 (November 13, 1965): 89, 
Schwarzlose, Richard A. Newspapers, A Reference 
Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1987. 

Shepard, Douglas. "A Corrective Supplement to 
Morse's Guide to the Incomparable New York 
Times Index" Reference Services Review 9 
(October/December, 1981): 33-35. 

Slade, Rod, and Alex M. Kelly. "Sources of Popular 
Literature Online: New York Times Information 
Bank and the Magazine Index." Database 2 
(March, 1979): 70-83. 

Welland, Jennie. "Published Newspaper Index." Li- 
brary Journal 49 (February 15, 1924): 177-78. 

The following are indexes to the New 
York Times Index, not the newspaper. Each is 
an "independent work not published or ap- 
proved by the New York Times*' See "New 
York Times Sues Over Index" in Publishers 
Weekly, June 20, 1977. 

Persona! Name Index to The New York Times Index, 
J 85 1-1974, edited by Byron A. Falk and Valerie 
R. Falk. Verdi, NV:Roxbury Data, 1976-1983. 
22 vols. 

Personal Name Index to The New York Times Index, 
R. Falk. Verdi, NV: Roxbury Data, 1986-1988. 
4 vols. 


' Donald Paneth, Encyclopedia of American Journalism 
(New York: Facts on File, 1983), 345. 

2 MeyerBerger, The Story of The New York Times, 1851- 
1951 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1951), 563. 

3 John Rothman, "Preserving the News That's Fit to 

Print," Saturday Review 48 (13 November 1965): 

4 John Rothman, Foreword to the New York Times Index, 

1899-June 1905, iii. 

5 Foreword to the New York Times Index, July 1902- 

December 1906, v. 

^Foreword to the Mew York Times Index, 1863-1864, v. 

'Darlene Brannigan Smith and Paul N. Bloom, "Using 
Content Analysis to Understand the Consumer 
Movement," Journal of Consumer Affairs 23 (Win- 
ter 1989): 305. 

8 Harvey L. Holmes Jr., assistant director and editor, New 
York Times Index, interview with the author, 9 
February 1990. Many of the direct quotes in this 
essay derive from that interview with Holmes and 
his colleagues. 

"John Rothman, "Foreword" in the New York Times 
Index, 1968, unpaged. 

10 John Rothman, "About the Times Index," A paper 
delivered at a workshop on "The Uses, Misuses, and 

Abuses of the New York Times Index jointly spon- 
sored by Metro and Microfilming Corporation of 
America, 28 April 1977:2. 

11 "How to Use the New York Times Index," in the New 

York Times Index, 1988, unpaged. 

12 Ibid. 

13 John Rothman, "About The Times Index," 6. 

H John Rothman and Byron A. Falk, Jr., "Introduction" 
in The New York Times Obituaries Index, 1858- 
1968, (Sanford, NC: Microfilming Corporation, 
1970), unpaged. 

15 John Rothman, "About the Times Index" 2. 

!d John Rothman, "Preserving the News That's Fit to 
Print," 89, 102. 

17 Jennie Welland, "The Published Newspaper Index," 

Library Journal, 49 (15 February 1924): 177. 

18 CharlesN. Lurie, "TheNew York Times Index, 1930," 

Wilson Library Bulletin 5 (April 193 1): 502. 

19 John Rothman, "Foreword" to the New York Times 

Index, 1968, unpaged. 
""Seymour Topping," in Steven Friedlander, comp., 

"Stop the Presses," Avenue 12 (October 1988): 79. 
21 John Rothman, "Preserving the News That's Fit to 

Print," 103. 




"The Jewel in the Crown": The 

Oxford English Dictionary 

James Rettig 


In 1984, Robert Burchfield, editor of the four 
supplementary volumes of the Oxford English 
Dictionary, called that dictionary the "'jewel 
in the crown'" of the Oxford University Press .' 
It has not always been so. The Oxford Univer- 
sity Press formally emerged from its anteced- 
ents in 1690 to produce Bibles. 2 Its twofold 
mission was to publish learned books as well 
as the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible. 
The latter category proved more lucrative. 
Bibles, still a perennial item on OUP's list, 
remained its stock in trade through the nine- 
teenth century. The shift from being known 
primarily as a publisher of The Word to being 
the publisher about words began in the middle 
of the nineteenth century and was complete 
early in the twentieth. 

The history of English language dictio- 
naries antedates the history of the Oxford 
University Press by nearly a century and that 
of its great dictionary by yet another and more . 
Robert Cawdrey's A Table Alphabetical! 
(1604), generally acknowledged to be the first 
English dictionary, was simply a list of diffi- 
cult words. It explained their meanings and 
labeled those words having aFrench or Greek 
origin, but other apparatus familiar to today's 
dictionary users — etymology, identification 
of a word's part of speech, and illustrative 
quotations—were lacking. These features 
developed in later dictionaries, butuntil Nathan 
Bailey published his An Universal Etymologi- 

cal English Dictionary in 1721, English-lan- 
guage dictionaries largely followed that early 
model of listing only hard words. Although 
Bailey listed only about 40,000 words, he 
included many common, even some vulgar, 
words as well as difficult ones. 3 

Johnson's and Richardson's 

Later in the eighteenth century, Samuel 
Johnson broke new ground in two ways. First, 
in his Plan for a Dictionary of the English 
Language (1747), he examined various prin- 
ciples by which he could exclude categories of 
words from the dictionary and found all of 
them lacking. His Plan implies a theretofore 
unknown catholicity in lexicography. How- 
ever, the incredible demands of the task he 
imposed upon himself forced him to modify 
his plan in practice and the dictionary was not 
as inclusive as expected. Nevertheless, his 
intent was noble and it anticipated later lexico- 
graphical efforts managed by teams. Second, 
he illustrated the meanings of words and their 
various senses through quotations. This prac- 
tice dates back to at least 1598 when John 
Florio used it in his A Worlde of Wordes, an 
Italian-English dictionary that included quo- 
tations from Italian authors. But it was John- 
son who made the practice the foundation of 
serious English lexicography. In his famous 
preface to his dictionary, he advised his read- 
ers that "The solution of all difficulties, and 


the supply of all defects, must be sought in the 
examples, subjoined to the various senses of 
each word, and ranged according to the time of 
their authors." 4 With the first edition of his 
Dictionary (1755), Johnson set a powerful 
precedent, drawing many of his quotes from 
noted writers such as Shakespeare, Dryden, 
and Bacon whose works he "regardfed] as the 
wells of English undefikd" 5 Because neither 
he nor anyone else at the time understood the 
proper pronunciation of Middle English, he 
had little appreciation of Chaucer and other 
early authors; therefore in his dictionary John- 
son drew illustrative quotes principally from 
writers of the Elizabethan age and later. 
Johnson's dictionary went through four edi- 
tions in his lifetime, the last appearing in 1773; 
was reprinted numerous times thereafter; and 
was used as a foundation for later dictionaries, 
including Noah Webster's. 

The next significant advance in English 
lexicography was Webster's An American 
Dictionary of the English Language (New 
York: S. Converse, 1828). Webster did not 
think quotations were necessary and relied 
instead solely on precision in definitions to 
convey words' meanings. Webster advanced 
English lexicography, theretofore an art prac- 
ticed to advantage only in Great Britain, by 
treating terms of American origin or use with 
the same seriousness as those drawn from the 
canons of Shakespeare and Spenser. 

Charles Richardson also contributed to 
the principles of English lexicography. In his 
A New Dictionary of the English Language 
(London: W. Pickering, 1836-37), he col- 
lected illustrative quotations back to the four- 
teenth century; Johnson used quotes only as 
far back as Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586). 
However, because Richardson's purpose in 
compiling his dictionary and selecting his 
quotes was to demonstrate that each word 
"had a single immutable meaning," 6 his dic- 
tionary was flawed in conception and thus in 
execution. It did, nonetheless, offer some- 
thing more up-to-date than Johnson's dictio- 
nary, by then 80 years old. 

The Philological Society 

Thoughtful men recognized thatalthough 
Richardson's recorded a greater percentage 
of the English vocabulary than any other dic- 
tionary, it was incomplete. Hence on June 18, 
1857, the Philological Society of London ap- 
pointed a committee consisting of Herbert 
Coleridge, F.J. Furnivall, and Richard 
Chenevix Trench "to collect unregistered 
words in English.*' 7 The intent was to compile 
a supplement to Richardson's dictionary and 
thereby bring the lexicographic record of En- 
glish up to date. But then, on November 5 and 
19 of that year, Trench, then Dean of 
Westminster and later Anglican Archbishop 
of Dublin, presented to the Society a two-part 
paper entitled "On some Deficiencies in our 
English Dictionaries." Trench faulted exist- 
ing dictionaries on seven points: 

I. Obsolete words are incompletely regis- 
tered; some inserted, some not; with no rea- 
the insertion of those other. 

II. Families or groups of words are often 
imperfect, some members of a family in- 
serted, while others are omitted. 

III. Oftentimes much earlier examples of the 
employment of words exist than any which 
our Dictionaries have cited; indicating that 
they were earlier introduced into the language 
than these examples would imply; and in case 
of words now obsolete, much later, frequently 
marking their currency at a period long after 
that when we are left to suppose that they 
passed out of use. 

IV. Important meanings and uses of words are 
passed over; sometimes the later alone given, 
while the earlier, without which the history of 
words will be often maimed and incomplete, 
or even unintelligible, are unnoticed. 

V. Comparatively little attention is paid to the 
distinguishing of synonymous words. 

VI. Many passages in our literature are passed 
by, which might be usefully adduced in illus- 
tration of the first introduction, etymology, 
and meaning of words. 

VII. And lastly, our Dictionaries err in redun- 
dancy as well as in defect, in the too much as 



well as the toolittle; all of them inserting some 
things, and some of them many things, which 
have properly no claim to find room in their 
pages. 8 

Trench's trenchant criticism of the state of 
English lexicography, supported by copious 
examples, convinced the Society to abandon 
its inadequate plan to issue a supplementary 
dictionary in favor of a plan to create an 
entirely new dictionary. The faults Trench 
found in existing dictionaries implied the 
desiderata for the new dictionary. These 
formed the foundation for what was to become 
the Oxford English Dictionary. 

As the OED's. legendary editor, James 
A.H. Murray noted, "the English Dictionary, 
like the English Constitution, is the creation of 
no one man, and of no one age; it is a growth 
that has slowly developed itself adown the 
ages." 9 Murray was speaking not of the dictio- 
nary he was editing, but of English dictionar- 
ies collectively, of which the OED is but the 
exemplar. As those that came before it and the 
many that have with heavy indebtedness to the 
OED followed, the plan that developed for the 
OED had antecedents in earlier dictionaries. 

The nineteenth century was the golden 
age of philology. In. Germany Jacob and 
Wilhelm Grimm pioneered the study of lan- 
guage on historical principles. They estab- 
lished the practices of basing definitions of 
words on historical principles, that is, of dis- 
cerning their meanings through use and of 
charting changes in meaning through changes 
in use over the life of a word. At the time 
Trench had influenced the Philological Soci- 
ety to embark upon a new English dictionary, 
the Grimms had already been at work on a 
historical dictionary of German for several 
years. The first part of their Deutsches 
Worterbuch (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1852-1960) 
appeared in 1 852, The project suffered andyet 
survived setbacks, including two world wars, 
and concluded in 1960. 

The Grimms' Deutsches Worterbuch was 
not the only model for the Philological Society 
to imitate. Hans Aarsleff has shown that 
Herbert Coleridge, the dictionary's first edi- 

tor, credited George Liddell and Robert Scott's 
Greek-English Lexicon Based on the German 
Work of Francis Passow (Oxford: Oxford 
University Press, 1 843) as an exemplar for its 
reliance on quotations for clues as to usage, 
meaning, etc. In a letter to Trench, Coleridge 
said that "the theory of lexicography we pro- 
fess is that which Passow was the first to 
enunciate clearly and put into practice suc- 
cessfully — viz., 'that every word should be 
made to tell its own story'— the story of its 
birth and life, and in many cases of its death, 
and even occasionally of its resuscitation." 10 
Passow, a German philologist, firstpropounded 
these principles in 1812. u 

From the examples provided by the 
Deutsches Worterbuch and Passow as embod- 
ied in Liddell and Scott' s Lexicon and from the 
inspiration of Trench's critique of English 
dictionaries, the Society on January 7, 1858, 
resolved "That instead of the Supplement to 
the Standard English Dictionaries now in 
course of preparation by the order of the 
Society, a New Dictionary of the English 
Language be prepared under the Authority of 
the Philological Society." 12 Just two weeks 
later F.J. Furnivall read to the Society "a 
circular which the New Dictionary Commit- 
tee proposed to issue, stating the plan of the 
Dictionary and asking for help in carrying it 
out," 13 The help sought was readers to record 
occurrences of words in the works of noted 
English writers. When the intention had been 
to issue a supplementary rather than a com- 
pletely new dictionary, members of the Soci- 
ety voluntarily read books and prepared re- 
ports of "unregistered words." Thus was es- 
tablished the manner in which the editors 
would obtain the basic building bricks they 
would fashion into the monumental dictio- 

Coleridge's and Fumivall's 

The next year Herbert Coleridge, grand 
nephew of the famous poet, accepted the 


dictionary's editorship. That same year saw 
publication of the Proposal for the Publica- 
tion of a New English Dictionary by the Philo- 
logical Society (London: Trtibner, 1859). The 
founding principles enunciated in this docu- 
ment attest to the influence of Trench' s ideas. 
The proposal calls for the inclusion of "every 
word occurring in the literature of the lan- 
guage it professes to illustrate," the gathering 
of quotations back to "the end of the reign of 
Henry III [i.e., 1272]," the uniform adoption 
of the historical principle in the treatment of 
individual words, and the inclusion in every 
etymology of "that language which seems to 
present the radical element contained in the 
word in its oldest form." 14 The list of principles 
put forth in the proposal echo Trench again 
and again. 

This proposal and other appeals by the 
Society generated interest in the dictionary on 
both sides of the Atlantic. Lists of authors and 
works to be read for the dictionary were com- 
piled, volunteers enlisted, and assignments 
made. Three lists of authors and books were 
drawn up, one for the period of 1250-1526, 
one for 1526-1674, and the last for 1674- 
1858. A proposal by Coleridge that "Ameri- 
cans should make themselves responsible for 
the whole of eighteenth century literature, 
which probably would have a less chance of 
finding as many readers in England" came to 
naught. 15 Nevertheless, American readers con- 
tributed to the dictionary, scouring many books 
both British and American from various peri- 
ods and reporting on their reading. In his 
presidential address to the Philological Soci- 
ety for 1880, Murray singled out Americans 
for special commendation. 16 In 1 860 Coleridge 
estimated that the first installment of the dic- 
tionary would appear in two year's time. The 
estimate was much too optimistic; indeed, 
Coleridge died in April 1861 at age 3 1 . 

With Coleridge's death, the editorship 
fell to Fumivall; this proved to be a mixed 
blessing for the dictionary project. Fnrnivall, 
by profession a solicitor and by nature a man 
of great energy with many interests, devoted 

his life to literature and education. Fumivall 's 
tenure as editor proved very beneficial to the 
dictionary project, for this indefatigable 
founder of organizations did much to create 
the environment the dictionary needed to meet 
its ambitious goals of all inclusiveness, of 
using quotations from as far back as the thir- 
teenth century, rigorous application of histori- 
cal principles, and of supplying full etymolo- 
gies, Fumivall created or was instrumental in 
the foundings of numerous literary societies, 
most significantly for the dictionary, the Early 
English Text Society (1864). It had become 
obvious that to carry out the plan of the dictio- 
nary, something would have to be done to 
improve the availability of texts of literature 
from the Old English and Middle English 
periods. As it was, the Philological Society 
was taking rare books from the sixteenth cen- 
tury and cutting them up for distribution to 
readers and for the editors' use! Fortunately, 
early manuscripts were safely out of its reach 
in various repositories. But they were also 
outside the grasp of readers and thus these 
texts' wordhoards could not disgorge their 
treasures to the readers . Hence the importance 
of the Early English Text Society. Without its 
successful efforts to provide printed editions 
of these early documents, the OED 's founda- 
tion would have been built on the sand of 
conjecture rather than the rock of research. 

But whilst Fumivall busied himself with 
important ancillary matters, work on the dic- 
tionary itself just inched along, and haphaz- 
ardly at that. With regard to the dictionary 
proper, Fumivall developed a system of as- 
signing responsibility for words beginning 
with various letters to subeditors. Readers sent 
the subeditors "slips," the 4" x 6" cards on 
which they noted words, provided the words' 
illustrative quotes, and noted the quotes' 
sources and dates. The subeditors were re- 
sponsible for organizing these materials, a 
responsibility they carried out with varying 
degrees of quality. With modification and 
refinement this system later proved to be an 
important element in the actual creation of the 


James AH Murray 

Happily several events in 1 876 converged 
to revitalize the dictionary project. An Anglo- 
Americanpublishing partnership of Macmillan 
and Harper and Brothers approached James 
A.H, Murray, a master at Mill Hill School 
south of London and a philological scholar of 
note, about the possibility of editing a dictio- 
nary to rival Webster's. Murray, a largely self- 
educated man of eclectic interests, received 
his doctorate from Edinburgh University in 
recognition of his achievements, He was a 
man who steadfastly believed that any task 
worth doing was worth doing well, a trait that 
assured the dictionary's quality but also its 
slow progress. At the same time they ap- 
proached Murray, the publishers inquired 
about the availability of the Philological 
Society'smaterialsforthe enterprise. Someof 
these materials were made available to Murray. 
Basing his work on these, he prepared sample 
entries and, at the publishers' request, scaled 
these down, but not enough to satisfy them. 
Since Murray was not willing to cut them 
further and since the publisher was not willing 
to support an enterprise on the scale Murray's 
standards demanded, the proposal came to 
naught. However the epiphany of Murray's 
sample entries renewed the Philological 
Society's interest in the new dictionary. 

Initial arrangements with publishers for a 
dictionary that was to have been published 
more than ten years earlier had long since 
lapsed. However in 1878 the Society began 
negotiations with the Oxford University Press. 
These concluded successfully March 1 , 1879, 
when the two parties signed a contract for a 

to occupy not less than 6,000 nor mote than 
7,000 pages, . . . and the said Dictionary shall 
be edited and prepared on the same principles 
and on the same lines ofhistorical and linguis- 
tic evidence as to the forms and meanings of 
its words, as are shown on the Specimen page 
. . . , and shall contain on its title page 
'Founded mainly on the materials collectedby 
the Philological Society. 17 

The contract not-so-modestly underestimated 
the dictionary's ultimate length by half. 

Earlier in 1 878 the Society had persuaded 
Murray to accept the editorship. And thus was 
the project rejuvenated and set on its sure-but- 
lengthy course, Murray began preparing for 
the task ahead. On the lawn of his home at Mill 
Hill he erected a small building, made of iron 
to minimize the threat of fire, and dubbed it the 
Scriptorium. He also lined the walls of the 
Scriptorium with pigeon holes, "1 ,029 in num- 
ber, for the reception of the alphabetically 
arranged slips" 1 * to accommodate each word's 
slips, to be arranged in alphabetical order, as 
the dictionary progressed from A to Z. Over 
the years Furnivall had received many of the 
materials from subeditors when they gave up 
on the project; Murray reported that on Lady 
Day (March 25) he "received from Mr. 
Furnivall some ton and three-quarters of ma- 
terials which had accumulated under his roof 
as sub-editor after sub-editor fell off in his 
labors." 19 

The value of the materials Murray re- 
ceived varied considerably. They came from 
diverse sources. The letter H's slips arrived 
from Florence; the slips for "Pa" had been 
stored in a bam in Ireland and its stock con- 
tinuously depleted as slips were used to light 
fires; one bag of slips arrived inhabited by 
mice and another held the corpse of a rat! 20 
Some were damp and many scrawled illeg- 
ibly. But nearly two tons of slips, sans mice, 
were not enough. To adhere to his rigorous 
standards and produce the dictionary envi- 
sioned by the Society, Murray needed more 
slips, byproducts of a still more ambitious 
reading project. In 1879 Murray appealed for 
"a thousand readers ... to complete the work 
as far as possible within the next three years." 21 
Readers were directed to 

Make a quotation for every word that strikes 
you as rare, obsolete, old-fashioned, new, 
peculiar, or used in a peculiar way. . . . 

Take special note ofpassages which show 
or imply that a word is either new and tenta- 
tive, or needing explanation as obsolete or 


archaic, and which thus help fix the date of its 
introduction or disuse. 

Make as many quotations as convenient 
to you for ordinary words, when these are used 
significantly, and help by the context to ex- 
plain their own meaning, or show their use,- 22 

Not enough readers took the last instruction 
sufficiently to heart. As a result, when Murray 
and his assistants came to write the articles on 
common words, they often had to do addi- 
tional reading to obtain a sufficient number of 
quotations of enough value from enough peri- 
ods to demonstrate properly such a word's 
history. Murray also began a practice, also 
followed by later editors, of issuing lists of 
books to be read and of words for which 
examples, both early and recent, were lacking. 

Murray had other editorial issues to settle 
before the dictionary could progress beyond 
the sample entries that had rekindled the 
Society's interest and persuaded the Oxford 
University Press to publish it. The most sig- 
nificant was devising a manner of showing 
pronunciation. Murray consulted with various 
experts on the subject and created a system 
thatreceived the Society's approval on March 
17, 1882. 23 A typographical style also had to 
be established and followed consistently. The 
typography had to help identify and maintain 
distinctions among the parts of each entry — 
headword, etymology, definitions, quotations, 
etc. More than a century later Murray was to 
win the gratitude of computer programmers 
and systems engineers for the precision with 
which he designed his dictionary's typogra- 

In May 1 882, nearly a quarter of a century 
after the idea of the dictionary was first pro- 
posed, its first batch of copy went to the 
printer. 24 A-Ant, the first 352-page installment 
of the New English Dictionary, appeared on 
February 1, 1884, two weeks after Murray 
proudly laid three advance copies on the table 
before his colleagues in the Philological Soci- 
ety. 25 (Eventually each fascicle numbered 64 
pages.) That spring Murray estimated that the 
dictionary, provided he received enough as- 
sistants, would be completed in less than 12 

years. 26 This was but one of many instances in 
which Murray's optimistic estimates proved 
to be wishful thinking. 

Needed Help 

Help was needed and it came from an 
unexpected source. Henry Bradley, a largely 
self-educated philologist then supporting his 
family by freelance literary work and review- 
ing, wrote a two-part review of the first fas- 
cicle for the Academy in its February 16 and 
March 1 issues of 1884. Bradley praised the 
dictionary for its willingness to accommodate 
all words, its historical sweep, the clarity of its 
typography, the value of its illustrative quota- 
tions, and its concern for etymology. He also 
noted that "there are few indeed of the ety- 
mologies given in this first part of the Dictio- 
nary which we are inclined to dispute." 27 Yet 
in disputing several, he demonstrated his au- 

The Delegates of the Oxford University 
Press, its governing board, expressed concern 
throughout the protracted publication of the 
dictionary about the slowness of its pace and 
continually urged its editor to move faster. In 
order to further the dictionary's progress, 
Murray resigned his teaching duties to devote 
full time to his editorial duties and moved to 
Oxford in 1885. At the urging of the Del- 
egates, the staff was enlarged. In May 1886, 
due largely to his insightful review of A-Ant, 
Henry Bradley joined Murray's staff. Late in 
1 887 he was put at the head of a team charged 
with responsibility for the letter E and worked 
thereafter independently of Murray. 

Both Murray's team and Bradley's team 
followed Fumivall's model whereby sub- 
editors did preliminary work. Their assistants 
prepared a draft of each word's article and 
then the editor reviewed and corrected it 
Among assistants a division of labor devel- 
oped based on each one's expertise. However 
some questions could not be answered within 
the Scriptorium, The lack of adequate space 
and library resources often forced the staff to 



> i 

make time-consuming trips to the Bodleian or 
college libraries, And to answer some ques- 
tions, such as the intended meaning of a par- 
ticularword as used by a contemporary writer, 
Murray corresponded with the likes of Lord 
Tennyson, Robert Meredith, Thomas Hardy, 
Robert Browning, James Russell Lowell, and 
a wide range of experts, including "the Direc- 
torofthe Royal Botanic Gardens atKew about 
the first record of the name of an exotic plant; 
... to a Jesuit father on a point of Roman 
Catholic Divinity; [and] to the Secretary of the 
Astronomical Society about the primum-mo- 
hile or the solar constant," 28 

The dictionary progressed under Murray 
and Bradley's guidance. The Deceit to Deject 
fascicle published January 1, 1895, bore the 
title The Oxford English Dictionary, the title 
that in time came to supplant New English 
Dictionary. To speed its progress even more, 
William Alexander Craigie of the University 
of St. Andrews joined Bradley in 1 897 and 
assisted with the letter G and assisted Murray 
with the letters I and K. In 1901 Craigie 
assumed independent editorial responsibility 
for the letter Q. 29 Charles Talbut Onions be- 
came the dictionary's fourth editor in 1914, 
having joined Murray's staff in 1895. "Be- 
tween 1906 and 1913 [he had] prepared spe- 
cial portions of M, N, R, and S" and in 1914 
"began with a separate staff to edit the later 
portion of that letter (Su-Sz)." 30 Even with 
four editorial teams working on the dictionary 
simultaneously, Murray's hope to see its 
completion by his eightieth birthday was frus- 
trated. He died at age 78 on July 26, 1 9 15, after 
a brief illness; the dictionary was well into the 
letter S and Murray had begun planning for the 
letter U. In recognition of his achievement, 
Murray had been knighted in 1 908; at that time 
the dictionary had been published through the 
letter P. Murray's death slowed progress, as 
did the loss of staff members to military ser- 
vice during the Great War and Bradley's death 
on May 23, 1923. Fortunately the system of 
several editors working independently assured 
continuity and the work moved forward. 

Critical Reception 

Seventy-one years after Dean Trench had 
criticized existing dictionaries, the dictionary 
he had envisioned finally appeared. In April 
1928 the first copies were presented to King 
George and President Coolidge, "the highest 
representatives of the two great English-speak- 
ing nations." 31 It was received with universal 
acclaim. The Nation, anticipating its comple- 
tion a bit prematurely in 1927, said that "No 
similar work . , , is comparable in magnitude, 
accuracy, or completeness." 32 The unsigned 
review in the Times Literary Supplement called 
' it a "monumental and inalienable public pos- 
session. " 33 The Saturday Review hailed it as "a 
monument which will last when a thousand 
best-sellers are forgotten" and called it "the 
topmost peak of a long range of gloss-collec- 
tors and lexicographers." 34 Ernest Weekley, 
writing in the Quarterly Review called it a 
"noble monument of the English language." 35 
And Floyd Knight said that "one might look 
for flaws in the 'New English Dictionary', or 
lament that it does not include proper names; 
but its scholarship is so monumental as to 
make fault-finding seem petty." 36 

Yet it had been 44 years since A-Ant 
appeared. During those four decades mankind 
had learned how to fly, how to talk across the 
miles over radio, how to make moving pic- 
tures, and how to record sound and play back 
recordings. Inescapably a product of its times, 
much of the OED was behind the times. Well 
before the dictionary was complete, some had 
recognized that it would be incomplete. In 
1919, Craigie himself outlined the work that 
needed to be done to supplement the dic- 
tionary's historical coverage. In a paper pre- 
sented to the Philological Society in 1919 he 
called for work to commence on historical 
dictionaries for the Old English; the Middle 
English (1175-1500); the Tudor and Stuart 
(1500-1675); the 1675-1800; and the older 
Scottishperiods. 37 More than 70years later the 
tasks Craigie outlined are not yet complete. 
The OED Supplement, edited by Craigie and 
Onions, appeared in 1933. A plan for a new 


Dictionary of Old English was announced in 
the late 1960s butthus far hasyielded fascicles 
for only several letters, but progress contin- 
ues. 38 The Middle English Dictionary, (Ann 
Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1952- ) 
begun in 1925 and whose first fascicle did not 
appear until 1952, has reached "So," Some 
quotations have been collected for a diction- 
ary of the Tudor and Stuart period for the Early 
Modem English Dictionary, but that project 
has been suspended, perhaps permanently. No 
effort has been made towards a dictionary of 
the 1675-1 SOOperiod, one that Craigie thought 
might not differ enough from the nineteenth 
century, a period we) 1 represented in the OED, 
to require its own dictionary. A Dictionary of 
the Older Scottish Tongue, (Chicago: Univer- 
sity of Chicago Press, 193 1- ) begun under 
Craigie's editorship, had reached "Re" at the 
end of the 1980s. Several years after calling 
for these dictionaries, Craigie concluded 
American English also needed its own histori- 
cal dictionary and, even while helping bring 
the OED to its conclusion, departed for the 
University of Chicago to assume the editorship 
of A Dictionary of American English on His- 
torical Principles (Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press, 1938-44). 

Flaws in the Dictionary 

Despite the praise it received in 1928, 
many of the dictionary's users did "look for 
flaws in the 'New English Dictionary'" and 
found them. Even though readers in North 
America had contributed thousands of slips 
for the dictionary, the sorts of sources they 
read differed little in nature from the sources 
being read in England. As a result, peculiarly 
American senses of words common to the two 
national vocabularies and distinctly Ameri- 
can words were badly underrepresented in the 
dictionary, as were distinctly Australian, South 
African, etc., English words. In this signifi- 
cant way the dictionary fell short of Murray's 
stated goal of "containing] all English words 
ordinary and extraordinary," 39 A much more 

common form of criticism was antedatings of 
the earliestrecordeduse of particular words or 
notations of later uses of words labeled as rare 
or obsolete. Murray himself anticipated just 
this form of criticism, inevitable given the 
sometimes haphazard way in which early vol- 
unteer readers did their work. In 1884 he 
estimated that "Earlier instances will . . . yet be 
found of three-fourths of all the words re- 
corded, above all, of the words introduced 
fromLatinsince the Renascence." 40 Andnearly 
five decades after the dictionary's comple- 
tion, one prominent scholar declared that "in- 
stead of providing an unquestioned basis for 
further research, the O.E.D. has to become its 
object." 41 Rather than contribute to the endless 
line of articles relating hit-and-miss antedat- 
ing and postdating of single words that, as 
Murray himself predicted, hadbecome a staple 
in the pages of Notes & Queries and other 
learned journals, Jiirgen Schafer did a system- 
atic study of the works of Shakespeare and 
Nashe to derive an overall estimate of how 
many of the 260,000 headwords in the OED 
(includingthe 1933 supplement) are subject to 
antedating. He concluded that more than 
96,000 can be antedated, some by more than a 
century, One imagines that Murray would 
have been pleased that his own estimate had 
been so far above that established scientifi- 
cally, or at least as scientifically as possible, 
for Murray considered himself not a literary 
man but a scientist whose object of study was 
the English language. 

Antedating and postdating of OED words 
can become a game and, like any game, canbe 
corrupted. Marghanita Laski, credited with 
submitting more than 250,000 slips for the 
four- volume supplement begun in 1957, has 
been a very adept player at the game. In 1 968, 
noting that the editors like to have five ex- 
amples of a word to establish its meaning, 

"admitted] to certain plantings, though not 
furtive ones, For instance, when the editor 
asked me if I could produce evidence to show 
that OED was wrong in supposing that berate, 
v. was obsolete in England, 1 couldn't imme- 


diatety iaymy hands onan example, so slipped 
it into my next review and carded it — but 
several implanted ones turned up in the next 
few weeks. And when it occurred to me that 
ironmonger (the shop) now has two meanings, 
corresponding respectively toFr. quincailkrie 
and Fr. droguerie, it seemed to me unlikely I 
would find quotations illustrating this. So I 
wrote an article on changes in shop functions 
. . . offered it to the Guardian '$ women's page, 
explaining why I'd written it, and then, when 
it was published, carded it."** 

The Supplement and the second edition of the 
OED quote Laski's 1952 use of "berate" as a 
verb! Although it is not clear that this is the 
planting she submitted* it seems likely. 

No dating in the OED of the earliest 
occurrence of any word can be taken as a 
certainty of its earliest appearance in written 
English; rather that dating denotes the earliest 
reference available to the editors. The method 
by which the slips for the original were com- 
piled was imperfect. Most readers, Craigie 
noted, "as a rule did their duty pretty effec- 
tively by taking out at the most two or three 
thousand quotations from a single work." 43 
However some fell below the editors' stan- 
dards and too few fully heeded Murray's 
entreaty to give sufficient attention to ordi- 
nary words. Several years into the project he 
told the Philological Society "I have often 
thought that if I could find time to direct it, or 
if the Society could find someone else to direct 
it, the reading of all books over again, with the 
instructions, Take out quotations for all words 
that do not strike you as rare, peculiar, or 
peculiarly used, 1 would be of enormous ser- 
vice." 4 " Furthermore, the readers often worked 
from incomplete or less-than-authoritative 
texts of early works. Only if every text of 
every literary creation of the previous seven 
centuries had been available to the editors and 
only if every word in every one of those 
documents had been concordanced and linked 
to its contextual phrase — only if this 
unimaginably unmanageable task had been 
performed and only if Murray and others had 
had time to examine every use of every word 

thus recorded, could one say with certainty 
that the editors had recorded the earliest use of 
each word in each of its senses. 

The First Supplement 

Upon completion of the dictionary, work 
began immediately on its first supplement, a 
contingency provided for in the 1879 agree- 
ment between the Philological Society and the 
Oxford University Press. Craigie and Onions 
were engaged to produce the supplement. 
Already a considerable body of additional 
slips, many providing antedatings of words, 
had accumulated. However, a supplement in- 
corporating all of this information as well as 
new words and new senses of old words 
"could not be contemplated" at thattime "and 
it was therefore resolved to produce a supple- 
mentary volume the scope of which would be 
in the main restricted to the treatment of those 
accessions of words and senses which had 
taken place during the preceding 50 years." 45 
Onions and Craigie allowed two categories of 
exceptions: "items of modern origin and 
present currency that had been either inten- 
tionally or accidentally omitted would be in- 
cluded, and account would be taken of earlier 
evidence for American uses, which Sir Wil- 
liam Craigie was in a position to supply." 46 
And so "appendicitis,""burg"meaningatown, 
"chop-suey," "intelligentsia," "movie," 
"mushiness " "peachy" meaning agreeable, 
"radio," "Rayon," "speedway," "tyrannosau- 
rus," and "wave-length" entered the OED. 
Scientific and technical terms, treated inad- 
equately in the original OED even as such 
terms proliferated rapidly, figure prominently 
in the supplement. The tale of how Murray 
decided against including "radium" because 
he doubted the word would take hold is leg- 
endary. Given the gift of hindsight, the 
supplement's editors corrected this notorious 
omission and others less celebrated. 

Upon completion of the supplement, the 
staff was disbanded and the OED became a 
document frozen in time. However the Ian- 


guage continued to grow through the coinage 
ofnew words; some words took on new senses; 
some words fell out of favor and others gained 
respectability. Yet there was no one to record 
these changes systematically and to keep the 
dictionary up to date. Its users, meanwhile, 
continued to report antedatings and postdatings 
and journal editors continued to publish these 
reports. Other dictionaries, of course, carried 
on,butnone ofthese chart the life of each word 
through every period as minutely as does the 
OED. The decision to dismantle the lexico- 
graphic machine that had been operating con- 
tinuously for more than fifty years was most 
unfortunate. The only effort by the Oxford 
University Press to update the OED was ob- 
lique in that it was done through the revised 
third edition of The Shorter Oxford English 
Dictionary. This dictionary, derived from its 
namesake, was first published in February 
1933, and reprinted with corrections the next 
month, in a second edition in 1936, in a third 
edition in 1944, and with revised addenda in 
1955. Entries in the 40-page 1955 addenda 
and corrigenda section are stripped down ver- 
sions of OED entries all but bereft of illustra- 
tive quotations. 

As a product of its times, the OED inevi- 
tably shared some of the prejudices of the 
period. Victorian prudishness led to its falling 
short of Murray 's goal to make it all-inclusive. 
For example, two well known four-letter words, 
one referring to the act of sexual intercourse, 
the other to female genitalia, were excluded. It 
has been taken to task for failing "not only the 
smut-hound but also the student of literature 
by omitting any blush-making sub-meanings 
of familiar words, whatever the eminence of 
the authors who have used them." 47 Not until 
1968 did the Delegates of the Oxford Univer- 
sity Press approve their inclusion. 48 Also ex- 
cluded were many dialect and slang terms, 
with those included always labeled as such. 
The OED gave preference to the Received 
Standard dialect of England, thereby implic- 
itly endorsing it as "proper" English. Just what 
is "proper" English and what is not, indeed 
whether or not such a thing exists or can exist, 

has been and continues to be a matter of 
considerable debate, brought to white-heat 
intensity in 1961 with publication of Webster's 
Third New International Dictionary (Spring- 
field, MA: G. & C. Merriam, 1961), a dictio- 
nary that departed from the practice of making 
such distinctions. Suffice it to say that the 
OED's practices have figured in the debate. 
Uponits initial completion in 1928,thatanony- 
mous reviewer for the Times Literary Supple- 
ment praised it for capturing the language 
before it had been degraded when "the newly 
literate received their charter to treat the lan- 
guage as they pleased in hourly print." 49 This 
reviewer counted himself as one of "those 
who respect the purity of the language, who 
try to honour and understand its traditions and 
its idioms, who feel doubtful whether even so 
supple an instrument as English can bear with- 
out grave deterioration the incessant strain put 
upon it by modern democracy, [and who] . . . 
rejoice[s] that the Dictionary has come into 
being when it has and as it has." 50 The very 
historical principles upon which the OED is 
founded and from which its well-deserved 
reputation rests mock such praise! One could 
just as well say that it would have been better 
had the OED come to completion in 1612 or 
1756 or 1857 so as to have captured the 
language before its corruption by some other 
forces. Entry after entry after entry in the OED 
demonstrates unequivocally the inevitability 
of change in language. And that is why, if one 
can commit a crime against the English lan- 
guage, dispersal of the dictionary staff upon 
completion of the 1933 supplement was surely 
such a crime. 

Robert Burchfield 

The Oxford University Press began to 
atone for this grave mistake in 1957 when it 
appointed Robert Burchfield, aNewZealander 
who had studied Old English and related lan- 
guages while a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, to 
edit a new supplement to the OED to replace 
the 1933 supplement. Burchfield has related 
that, '"The very hard-headed publishers at the 



time looked at me more or less sternly . . . and 
they said, "Look, 1275 pages, one volume, 
seven years: there is the format,"'" 51 The 
lessons of 1879-1928 had been forgotten. 
When the first volume of the supplement 
appeared in 1 972, eight years after the proj ect 
had been scheduled for completion, it alone 
contained 1,331 pages covering "a" through 
"gyver." Burchfield estimated at the time that 
the supplement would be complete in two 
more volumes and within six years. Fourteen 
years later the fourth and final volume of the 
supplement appeared. He adhered to the same 
high standards Murray established and went 
to the same painstaking steps to establish just 
what a word meant, consulting Buckminster 
Fuller about"dymaxion"J.R.R,Tolkeinabout 
"hobbit," and Murray Gell-Mann about 

The 1972-86 four- volume supplement 
lists antedatings of words, new senses, and 
new words. It is the most catholic part of the 
OED, for in it Burchfield' s "aim, doubtless not 
fully achieved, was to give parity of treatment 
to the English of the United States and that of 
the United Kingdom. The same broad demo- 
cratic line was taken for other varieties of 
English, in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, 
South Africa, and so on." 52 But, great as its 
contribution is in bringing the OED up to date 
and in including words from vigorous En- 
glish-speaking traditions outside the United 
Kingdom, the OJEDplus its supplements is still 

An Incomplete Record of the 
English Language 

From its inception, the OED has been a 
print-based dictionary. In its original Pro- 
posal, the Philological Society said the new 
dictionary "should contain every word occur- 
ring in the literature of the language it pro- 
fesses to illustrate?™ The examples readers 
collected in the 1 860s and for many years 
thereafter necessarily came from printed 
sources. And although the OED 's ten original 

volumes cited popular usages from newspa- 
pers and the like, it looked, much as had 
Johnson, upon the established canon of great 
writers as the source of the core vocabulary of 
English. Jiirgen Schafer determined that 
Shakespeare, whose every word was put on a 
slip for the editors' consideration, is much 
overrepresented in the OED, especially as a 
source of first use. This tradition continued in 
the 1972-86 supplement for, as Burchfield 
said, "Every single word andmeaning of great 
ancient writers like Geoffrey Chaucer were 
recorded in the OED. And I could see no case 
that could be made to leave out of the supple- 
ment the words of the corresponding 20th- 
century writers, Stephen Spender, W.H. 
Auden, T.S. Eliot, Graham Greene, Evelyn 
Waugh, Iris Murdoch, and so forth." 54 Leav- 
ing aside the question of the merits of 
Burchfield' s comparative literary assessments, 
the point is that the OED is a dictionary of 
written English emphasizing the written En- 
glish of its well educated and most literary 
users. At the same time that his editorial poli- 
cies upheld this tradition, Burchfield also de- 
mocratized the OEDby including popular and 
ephemeral sources in greater numbers than 

It has come under some fire for this. 
Insofar as spoken English differs from written 
English, the OED presents an incomplete 
record . Works such as the Dictionary of Ameri- 
can Regional English (Cambridge: Harvard 
University Press, 1985- ) and the English 
Dialect Dictionary (London; H. Frowde, 1 898- 
1905), of course, compensate for this. The 
OED's editors have always had to make 
choices and impose limits; if they had not, 
their work would still be in the preparatory 
stages. But, the criticism that the OED prac- 
tices "black-and-white lexicography" 55 is valid 
to the extent that it reminds one that the OED 
falls short of Murray's goal of all-inclusive- 
ness. That goal will always be a chimera if for 
no reason other than the print medium of the 
OED. Even while Burchfield and his team 
labored away at their supplement, a monu- 


mental achievement in itself, some of the 
OED's most ardent advocates questioned its 
future viability. 

Marghanita Laski, a true friend of the 
OED and indefatigable contributor of quota- 
tion slips for the four-volume supplement, 
shared those concerns about "black-and-white 
lexicography." In describing her practices 
while reading for the dictionary, she said "I do 
not hesitate to send in words I have only heard, 
whether in speech or on the radio, since the 
date I give ... is evidence that the word or 
phrase was in use at the time." 56 Other limita- 
tions in the aging OED were also evident by 
the time its supplement began to appear. Laski 
presented the case forcefully just one day after 
publication of the first volume of the supple- 
ment. In a letter to the Times Literary Supple- 
ment she asked whether or not the OED was in 
serious danger of becoming "an object of 
veneration rather than a tool for modern use." 57 

The Second Edition 

Work continued on the supplement, of 
course, but another decade passed before the 
Oxford University Press began planning for 
the long-range viability of the dictionary. Study 
of the problem began in early 1982. In a press 
conference held May 15, 1984, at the Royal 
Society in London, the Press announced its 
plan to issue a new edition combining the ten- 
volume 1928 dictionary (re-issued in twelve 
volumes in 1933 with the supplement as vol- 
ume 13 and reprinted in 1961 and 1970) and 
Burchfield's four supplements. To do this, 
however, required new ways of operating. 
Even in the 1980s Burchfield and his staff 
continued to produce the dictionary's supple- 
ment much as Murray had in his Scriptorium. 
Just as with editing the supplement the time 
had come to include more scientific and tech- 
nical terms, so with preparation of the second 
edition the time had come to rely on state-of- 
the-art technology. 

The project required the combined efforts 
of several organizations, IBM United King- 
dom, Ltd., donated equipment and assigned 

personnel to work with OUP on planning and 
executing the project; Great Britain's Depart- 
ment of Trade and Industry supported it; and 
the University of Waterloo in Canada pro- 
vided programming expertise to supplement 
that of OUP staff. OUP directed and managed 
the project. Initial hopes to use optical scan- 
ners to convert the dictionary's text into ma- 
chine-readable form were dashed. The com- 
plexities of the typography made that tech- 
nique impractical. The entire dictionary had to 
be keystroked onto computer tape! Interna- 
tional Computaprint Corporation (ICC) in the 
United States was awarded the contract for 
this herculean task. The contract specified a 
maximum of 7 errors per 10,000 keystrokes; 
its 1 20 typists performed the entire job with a 
remarkably good error rate of between 4 and 
4.5 per 10,000. 58 Murray's typographic de- 
sign, faithfully followed save for minor ex- 
ceptions for more than a century, proved a 
great boon to the electronic conversion pro- 
cess. The typographical conventions cued the 
typists to different parts of each article and 
thereby cued them to insert various codes to 
identify the start of each part. Computer pro- 
grams had to be devised to merge the 1 928 text 
and the text of the supplements. This was a 
complex task since many entries in the supple- 
ments had to be inserted into existing entries in 
the base set. It was further complicated by the 
fact that in some cases different parts of an 
article in the supplements had to be inserted 
into various locations in the original article. 
Some human intervention was required, but 
most of this difficult work was accomplished 
by machine. 

The result, published in 20 volumes in the 
spring of 1989, was The Oxford English Dic- 
tionary, second edition. Its introduction forth- 
rightly states that "Whereas the Supplement 
can be regarded for practical purposes as up to 
date, it is a matter of common knowledge that 
many elements of the original OED require 
revision. That is the very purpose for which 
the New OED Project, of which the present 
work is the first printed product, was initiated. 
Several of these requirements have been ad- 


dressed in this edition." 59 One of those re- 
quirements was to convert Murray's pronun- 
ciation system to a more modern system. The 
editors prudently chose to employ the Interna- 
tional Phonetic Alphabet, developed at the 
end of the nineteenth century. OED2 includes 
"an additional 5,000 words, combinations, 
and senses , . . located chiefly in the first third 
of the alphabet, where work done for the 
£wppZeme«iisnowtwentyyearsoTmoreold," 60 

Desiderata for the Future 

OED2 is but a first step toward a New 
OED, for indeed a new OED is needed. Take, 
for example, a representative definition. Its 
article on "gasoline," published in 1898, de- 
fines it as "a volatile inflammable liquid, one 
of the first products in the distillation of crude 
petroleum, employed for purposes of heating 
and illumination," The first part of the defini- 
tion remains valid, but the latter part is at best 
misleading. At that time the dictionary pro- 
vided one 1895 illustration hinting at this 
fuel's use in motor vehicles; the other four 
illustrations relate to illumination and cook- 
ing. Both the 1933 and 1972 supplements add 
illustrations related to automobiles, two also 
dating from 1 895. This is not an isolated case. 
Many of the definitions need to be brought up 
to date; additional reported antedatings and 
postdatings need to be recorded; and the En- 
gltshof Great Britain's former colonies needs 
to be more fully represented. 

These examples are indicative of broader 
problems, problems most clearly enunciated 
in 1972 by MarghanitaLaski in the same letter 
to the Times Literary Supplementm which she 
expressed the fear that the OED might soon be 
little more than "a magnificent fossil." 61 Like 
Trench in his criticism of the dictionaries of 
the mid-nineteenth century, Laski outlined 
seven areas requiring attention: 

1. Antedatings. ... An enormous number of 
"first examples" in OED can now be ante- 
dated, of important as of trivial words and 
usages, and often by centuries. 

2. Postdatings. Most "latest examples" in 
OED, even in the later volumes, are nine- 
teenth-century, often early nineteenth- 
century. From OED one can have no indica- 
tion whether the bulk of words and usages 
cited continue to be current. . . 

3. Reading. . . . two people can read the same 
book and record almost non-identical lists of 
words to be found in it. . . . In addition, 
. . . many of OED's original readers were 
inept. . . . 

... it is clear that extended reading in 
the trivia of past centuries could be as valuable 
to a revision of OED as the reading of contem- 
porary trivia has been to the new Supplement. 

In addition, the past century has seen the 
publication of much useful material, espe- 
cially in the field of diaries and letters. . . . 

4. Subjects, . . . One need only consider the 
kind of people who read for OED to guess, 
usually rightly, what kinds of subjects will be 
inadequately covered. 

5. Corrections. A few examples: Words and 
usages categorized by OED as "obsolete" 
have often proved to be in later use than 
recorded; as "rare" have proved to be com- 
paratively common; as "nonce" have proved 
to be more than that. Whole categories of 
usage have been capriciously treated or virtu- 
ally ignored. . , . Words missed by 0£Z>and 
obsolete before the new Supplement ' s period 
could be recorded. 

6. Spellings. In several cases words are en- 
tered only under spellings now unfamiliar and 
without cross-reference. 

7. Place of entry. In several cases, compound 
words and phrases are entered onlyunder their 
most unlikely component and without cross- 
reference. 62 

The first step towards a new OED, converting 
the existing OED to machine-readable form, 
has been completed, 

Already the complicated process of con- 
verting the OED to machine readable form has 
provided benefits that one could only dream 
about just a few years ago. In early 1988 the 
text of the original ten-volume New English 
Dictionary was made available on CD-ROM 
for searching and manipulation through a mi- 
crocomputer. The entire text can be searched 


through a number of approaches, including 
quotation author, quoted work, quotation text, 
sense/definition, etymology, headwords and 
usage, and other sorts of labels. This empow- 
ers linguists and others to use this rich re- 
source on the history of the language in new 
ways. One way is to search a word in the 
quotations then to check the word's date of 
first appearance in its own article and compare 
dates of quotations. In this way reports of 
antedatings andpostdatings can, one assumes, 
be generated in quantities that the late Jiirgen 
Schafer could only imagine. Furthermore, they 
can be generated from within the OED itself! 

Determining more accurate dates for the 
first or last recorded appearances of words is 
but one use of the electronic OED. Since the 
database is in machine-readable form, editors 
are finally free of Murray's slips-and-cubby- 
holes process and its later analogs. They can 
work on the OED without regard for its alpha- 
betical sequence and, conceivably, from any 
location on the globe where there is a phone 
line. The New OED has the potential of being 
a truly international record of world 
English. Editors working via computer and 
telecommunications lines from offices in each 
nation in which English is the predominant or 
a significant language could make contribu- 
tions. If users have access to the database in its 
daily updated state, the OED will, thanks to the 
electronic medium, be more up-to-date and be 
kept more up-to-date than it has been in the 
print medium. 

These are possibilities, not yet fully real- 
ized in late 1989. The staff today is largely 
centralized in Oxford. Editorial work contin- 
ues to rely on 4" by 6" paper slips and "the 
drafting of new entries goes on all the time." 63 
Keyboarding of completed entries is carried 
out as a separate operation. Ten of the 14 full- 
time staff entrusted with keeping the OED 
healthy "are concerned solely with the prepa- 
ration of entries for new vocabulary items." 64 
Three of these ten specialize in scientific and 
technical terminology. The others tend to "da- 
tabase improvement andplans forrevision, as 

well as senior editorial work." 6S These four- 
teen are assisted by a number of freelancers 
who "carry out support activities such as file 
searching and library research." 66 As for em- 
bracing all varieties of English, the editors are 
aware of the challenge of doing this from 
Oxford. In at least a partial response to this 
challenge, they began in 1989 to organize a 
North American reading program through the 
Press's New York office to parallel the pro- 
gram conducted from the Oxford headquar- 
ters. Lexicographer Dr. Jeffery Triggs directs 
the program's American component from an 
office in New Jersey. 67 This international pro- 
gram, explains a staff member, is principally 
"a directed reading exercise, i.e., a number of 
freelancers 'read* sources selected by us, and 
submit illustrative quotations, at the moment 
about 12,000 per month" from readers in the 
United Kingdom, plus those from readers 
elsewhere. 68 Their efforts are supplemented 
by voluntary contributors throughout the world, 
the very means by which the original two tons 
of quotation slips delivered to Murray in 1 879 
had been collected. 

The agenda before that staff, much of it 
echoing Laski ' s seven-point critique of 1 972, 
is best summarized in the concluding pages of 
the second edition's history of its production: 

There is much in the style of the Dictionary, 
the punctuation, the capitalization, the defini- 
tional terminology, and the spelling (within 
entries and even of some headwords) that calls 
for modernization. In the cross-reference sys- 
tem, many improvements are desirable, nota- 
bly in the citation of variant spellings as 
headwords and in the more precise specifica- 
tion of parts of speech, homonym numbers, 
and sense numbers. In the etymologies, the 
varying systems of transcription should be 
harmonized, the linguistic nomenclature 
shouldbe brought up to date, and the results of 
recent research should be added. The organi- 
zation of senses within many entries needs to 
be rethought. Numerous scientific and techni- 
cal definitions need to be brought into line 
with present-day knowledge (though the 
Supplement amended the treatment of many 
of the most important terms). Many of the 
definitions of general vocabulary need to be 



reworked lo take account of recent techno- 
logical and social changes. There are a num- 
ber of references to countries, currency val- 
ues, institutions, and persons, which are now 
anachronistic; and there are still a few defini- 
tions which enshrine social altitudes that are 
now alien. The usage and subject labels should 
be made fully consistent and modernized. 

Many current words are illustrated by a 
latest quotation from the first half of the 
nineteenth century, or even earlier, and it is 
difficult to distinguish them from words or 
senses that are now, in fact, disused. Recent 
examples ought to be supplied for every sense 
that is still current. The citation style of many 
quotations from the original OED could well 
be brought up to the standard of consistency of 
the Supplement (although improving it would 
require the rechecking of many thousands of 
quotations). Earlier examples exist (in various 
places) forthousands of wordsand senses, and 
these should be added. The coverage of En- 
glish before 1 7O0, and at least as far back as 
1500, could be markedly improved. Last, but 
certainly not least, the coverage of English 
outside the UnitedKingdom needs to be greatly 
expanded, especially the English of North 
America, which is the greatest source of lin- 
guistic change, but not neglecting the English 
of many other parts of the world where it is a 
first or important language. 69 

It is an ambitious agenda, reminiscent of the 
challenge Trench put before the Philological 
Society in 1857. 

A timetable for publication (in whatever 
form) of the New OED has not been an- 
nounced although the target is about 1 5 years 
hence. 10 A CD-ROM version of the second 
edition is planned for release in the early 
1990s. Whatever the editorial team's hopes 
for the eventual New OED, those hopes will 
probably not be realized as punctually as they 
would like any more than Murray's or 
Burchfield's hopes were. But there are plans 
and dreams for a new and better OED and 
related products. And there is a vigorous model 
for these plans. The OED began spawning 
other dictionaries even before it was com- 
plete. Among these are the Concise Oxford 
Dictionary of Current English in 1911, the 
Pocket Oxford English Dictionary of Cur rent 

English in 1924, the Little Oxford Dictionary 
of Current English in 1930, the two-volume 
Shorter Oxford English Dictionary in 1933, 
the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology 
in 1 966, the compact edition of the Oxford 
English Dictionary in 1971, the Oxford 
Children's Dictionary in 1976, the Oxford 
American Dictionary in 1980, the Oxford 
Minidictionary in 1981, and the Oxford Uni- 
versal Dictionary in 1981. The family now 
consists of more than 25 dictionaries. Future 
enhancements of the OED or spin-offs from it 
include a "talking dictionary," which would 
provide the pronunciation or various dialectic 
or national pronunciations for words; dictio- 
naries of national or regional English; special- 
ized dictionaries tapping all ofOED's terms 
from a particular field such as religion or 
medicine; a database consisting just of the 
quotations file, much of it not yet published, 
for use by lexicographers and others; athesau- 
rus including synonyms and antonyms; a dic- 
tionary in which illustrations, some of them in 
video, supplement verbal definitions of things 
and processes; and a polyglot dictionary. 71 
Already in 1989 Webster's Ninth New Colle- 
giate Dictionary (Springfield, MA: Merriam- 
Webster, 1983) was released on CD-ROMfor 
use with the Apple Macintosh microcom- 
puter. It features digitally recorded pronun- 
ciations of entry words. 

Thanks to the work of Murray and his 
assistants; thanks to the workMurray's fellow 
editors and Robert Burchfield and his assis- 
tants continued; thanks to the work of the team 
of programmers, editors, and typists in the late 
1 980s, the OED promises to remain the glitter- 
ing jewel in the OUP crown. Although the 
labor involved in bringing the New OED into 
being will be nearly as monumental as the 
labor that has made it a possibility, it will be 
well worth the effort. The New OED ought to 
sparkle even more brilliantly and merit more 
praise than any of the books or databases that 
have preceded it, 




A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 
Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by 
the Philological Society, edited by James A.H. 
Murray, Henry Bradley, W.A. Craigie, andC.T. 
Onions. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888-1928. 
10 vols. 

A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 
Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by 
the Philological Society, edited by James A.H. 
Murray, Henry Bradley, W.A. Craigie, and C.T. 
Onions. Introduction, Supplement, and Bibli- 
ography, by W.A. Craigie and C.T. Onions. 
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933. 542, 330, 91p. 

The Oxford English Dictionary, Being a Corrected 

Re-issue with an Introduction, Supplement and 

Bibliography of a New English Dictionary on 

Historical Principles, edited by James A.H. 

Murray, Henry Bradley, W, A. Craigie, andC.T. 

Onions. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933. 13 

vols. Reprinted 1961, 1970. 
A Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary, 

edited by RobertBurchfield. Oxford: Clarendon 

Press, 1972-86, 4 vols, 
The Oxford English Dictionary, prepared by J. A. 

Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner. 2nd ed. Oxford: 

Clarendon Press, 1989. 20 vols. 


To the extent that the history of the OED 
and the life of James A.H. Murray are one and 
the same, Elisabeth K.M. Murray's thoroughly 
researched biography of her grandfather of- 
fers a fine history, Aarsleff s article is a care- 
ful exposition of the intellectual antecedents 
of the dictionary. Ronald Fritze's brief history 
leans heavily on several sources and empha- 
sizes the financial aspects of the enterprise. 
Shenker's history offers a good picture of the 
evolution of the OED2. Fletcher, Gray, and 
Murphy describe the dictionary's transition 
from the relatively static state as a printed 
book to its fluid state as a machine-readable 
database. Algeo's review of the second edi- 
tion is the most thorough, critical, and insight- 
ful available . In additi on to numerous substan- 
tive articles this brief bibliography cannot 
accommodate, hundreds of brief notes on 
antedatings and the like as well as reviews of 
the OED in its various media and degrees of 
completion have appeared over the past cen- 

Aarsleff, Hans. "The Early History of the Oxford 
English Dictionary, " Bulletin of the New York 
Public Library 66 (September, 1962): 417-39. 

Algeo, John. "The Emperor's New Clothes: The 
Second Edition of the Society's Dictionary," 
Transactions of the Philological Society 88 
(1990): 131-50. 

Benzie, William. Dr. F. J. Furnivall, Victorian 
Scholar Adventurer. Norman, OK: Pilgrim 
Books, Inc., 1983. 

Burchfield, Robert. "Four-letter Words and the OED." 
Times Literary Supplement no. 3684 (October 
13,1972): 1233. 

— — . "O.E.D.; A New Supplement." Essays and 
Studies 14 (1961): 35-51. 

"Some Thoughts on the Revision of the 

O.E.D." In An English Miscellany, Presented to 
W. S. Mackie, edited by Brian S. Lee, 208-18. 
London: Oxford University Press, 1977. 

Burchfield, Robert, and Hans Aarsleff. The Oxford 
English Dictionary and the State of the Lan- 
guage. Washington: Library of Congress, 1988. 

Craigie, W.A. "The Making of a Dictionary." Satur- 
day Review of Literature 4 (April 21, 1928): 

Fletcher, Ewen. "Computerising the Oxford English 
Dictionary," Bookseller (January 18, 1986): 

Fritze, RonaldH. "The Oxford English Dictionary: A 
Brief History." Reference Services Review 17 
(1989): 61-70. 

Gray, J. C. "Creating the Electronic New Oxford 
English Dictionary." Computers and the Hu- 
manities 20 (1986): 45-49. 

Hanham, Alison. "The Cely Papers and the Oxford 
English Dictionary." English Studies, 42 (June, 
1961): 129-52. 

Harpley, Mary, "The Oxford English Dictionary on 
Compact Disc." British Book News (February, 
1988): 90-91. 

Harris, Roy. "The History Men." Times Literary 
Supplements. 4 144 (September 3, 1982): 935- 

Laski, Marghanita. "Reading for OED." Times Ziter- 
aiy Supplement no. 3437 (January 11, 1968): 

Murphy, Cullen. "Caught in the Web of Bytes: The 
Electronic Oxford English Dictionary." Atlan- 
tic 263 (February, 1989): 68-70. 



Murray, James A.H. The Evolution of English Lexi- 
cography. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1900. 

Murray,K.M. Elisabeth. Caught in the Web of Words: 
James Murray and the Oxford English Dictio- 
nary. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977, 

"The OED and How it Grows." Bay State Librarian 
67 (February, 1978): 17-18. 

Schafer, Jiirgen. Documentation in the O.E.D.: 
Shakespeare and Nashe as Test Cases. Oxford: 
Clarendon Press, 1980. 

Shenker, Israel. "Annals of Lexicography: The Dic- 
tionary Factory ."New Yorker 65 (April 3, 1989): 

Sider, John W. "Reading for the OED : A Case 
History." English Language Notes 1 8 (Decem- 
ber, 1980): 131-38. 

Trench, Richard Chenevix. On Some Deficiencies in 
Our English Dictionaries, London: Jolin W. 
Parker and Son, 1857. 

Wardale, E. E. "The 'New English Dictionary.'" 
Nineteenth Century and After 103 (January, 
1928): 97-110. 

Weiner, Edmund. "Computerizing the Oxford En- 
glish Dictionary." Scholarly Publishing 16 
(1985): 239-253. 

. "New Uses for the New OED." Bookseller 

(January 25, 1986): 332-36. 


1 Rosemary Herbert, " Oxford University Press ' s ' j ewel in 

the crown," 1 Christian Science Monitor, 4 May 
1987, p. B4. 

2 Various printers served the Oxford University as far 

back as 1478, a date often cited as the beginning of 
the Oxford University Press. However, on October 
2, 1 690, a legally binding agreement transferring 
rights and property from an entrepreneur to Oxford 
University marked "the beginning of the true Uni- 
versity Press." Harry Carter, A History of the 
Oxford University Press, vol. 1, To the Year 17B0 
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 109. 

5 Sidney I, Landau, Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of 

Lexicography (New York: Scribner's, 1984), 44~- 

4 Samuel Johnson, "Preface," in A Dictionary of the 

English Language (London: W. Strahan, 1755). 
s Ibid. Italics in original. 

6 Landau, 66. 

7 "Notices of Meetings," Transactions of the Philologi- 

cal Society (1857): 141. 

I Richard Chenevix Trench, On Some Deficiencies in our 

English Dictionaries (London: John W. Parker, 
1857), 3. 

s James A..H, Murray, The Evolution of English Lexicog- 
raphy (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1900), 6-7. 

10 "A Letter to the Very Rev. The Dean of Westminster 
from Herbert Coleridge" in Trench, (1860), 72. 
Professor Hans Aarsleff of Princeton University 
was the first to point out the significance of this 

II Hans Aarsleff, "The Original Plan for the O^D.and Its 

Background," in The Oxford English Dictionary 
and the State of the Language, by Robert W. 
Burchfield and Hans Aarsleff (Washington: Li- 
brary of Congress, 1988), 42-43. 

12 "Notices of the Meetings of the Philological Society in 

1858," Transactions of the Philological Society 
(1858): 198. 

u Ibid., 199. 

u Proposal for the Publication of A New English Dictio- 
nary (London: Triibner, 1859), 2-4. 

13 "A Letter to the Very Rev. The Dean of Westminster 

from Herbert Coleridge " 72. 

u James A.H. Murray, "The President's Annual Address 
for 1 880," Transactions of the Philological Society 
(1880-81): 122 

1 ' "Dictionary-Contract with the Clarendon Press," Trans- 
actions of the Philological Society (1 877-79): li. 

11 James A.H. Murray, "The Work of the Philological 
Society, from May, 1878, to May, 1879," Transac- 
tions of the Philological Society (1877-79): 568. 

19 Ibid. 

20 K.M. Elisabeth Murray, Caught in the Web of Words 

(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), 176- 

21 An Appeal to the English-speaking and English-read- 

ing Public to Read Books and Make Extracts for the 
Philological Society's "New English Dictionary" 
(n.p., 1879), 4. Italics in original. 

22 "Directions to Readers for the Dictionary," in Murray, 

Caught in the Web of Words, 347. Italics in original. 

23 "Historical Introduction," Oxford English Dictionary 

(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933), xiv. 

24 James A.H. Murray, "Thirteenth Address of the Presi- 

dent of the Philological Society, Delivered at the 
Anniversary Meeting, Friday, 16th May, 1884," 
Transactions of the Philological Society (1882- 
84): 508. 

" Ibid. 

"Ibid., 531. 

21 Henry Bradley, review of A New English Dictionary on 
Historical Principles, Part 1, A-Ant, The Academy, 
no. 617,new ser. (1 March 1884): 141 . The first part 
of Bradley's review appeared in The Academy, no, 
615, new ser. (16Feberuary 1884): 105-06. 

28 Quoted from James A.H. Murray's personal papers in 
Murray, Caught in the Web of Words, 201. 

39 "Historical Introduction," xviii. 

30 Ibid, 

31 Ibid., xx. 

32 "The 'N.E.D.'" Nation 124 (15 June 1927): 660. 

33 "Our Dictionary," Times Literary Supplement no. 1 368 

(19 April 1928): 277. 

34 "The Greatest of Dictionaries," Saturday Review 4 (2 1 

April 1928): 487. 
31 Ernest Weekley, "The Oxford Dictionary," Quarterly 
Review 250 (April 1928): 242. 


16 Floyd Knight, "The Greatest of TiicX\oass\<is" Bookman 
67 (April 1928): 141. 

" W.A. Cragie, "New Dictionary Schemes Presented to 
the Philological Society, 4th April, 1919," Trans- 
actions of the Philological Society, (1925-30): 6- 

JS Joan Holland, Drafting Editor, Dictionary of Old 
English, letter to the author, 24 October 1990. 

i? "Directions to Readers for the Dictionary," reprinted in 
Murray, Caught in the Web of Words, 348. 

40 James A.H. Murray, "Thirteenth Address of the Presi- 

dent of the Philological Society," 516. 

41 Jurgen SchSfer, Documentation in the O.E.D.: 

Shakespeare and Nashe as Test Cases, (Oxford: 
Clarendon Press, 1980), 3, 

42 Marghanita Laski, "Reading for OED," Times Literary 

Supplement no. 3437 (11 January 1968): 38. 

43 W.A, Craigie, "The Making of a Dictionary," Saturday 

Review of Literature 4 (21 April 1928): 792. 

44 James A.H. Murray, "Thirteenth Address of the Presi- 

dent of the Philological Society," 516. Italics in 

43 "Preface to the Supplement," in James A.H. Murray, 
Henry Bradley, W.A. Craigie, and C.T. Onions, 
eds., A New English Dictionary on Historical Prin- 
ciples, Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected 
by the Philological Society, W.A. Criagie and C.T. 
Onions., eds., Introduction, Supplement, and Bibli- 
ography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933), [v], 

4( Ibid. 

47 Alan Brien, "Down with All Bowdlers!" New States- 

man, 72 (5 August 1966): 199. 

48 R. W. Burchfield, "Four-letter Words and the OED," 

Times Literary Supplement no. 3684 (13 October 
1972): 1233. 

49 "Our Dictionary," 278. 

50 Ibid. 

5i Rosemary Herbert, "The Building of a Dictionary," 
232 Publishers Weekly (2 October 1987): 38. 

52 Robert W. Burchfield, "The Oxford English Dictionary 
and the State of the Language," in The Oxford 
English Dictionary and the State of the Language, 
Robert W.BurchfieldandHansAarsleff (Washing- 
ton: Library of Congress, 1988), 20. 

i3 Proposal for the Publication of A New English Dictio- 
nary by the Philological Society (London: Tr bner, 
1859), 2-3. Italics in original. 

54 "'AH other dictionaries are temporary works,"' U.S. 
Newsand WorldReports 101 (1 1 August 1986): 59. 

" Roy Harris, "The History Men," Times Literary Supple- 
ment no, 4144 (3 September 1982): 935. 

56 Laski, "Reading for OED," 38. 

57 Marghanita Laski, "Revising OED," rimes Literary 

Supplement no. 3684 (13 October 1972): 1226. 
38 J.C. Gray, "Creating the Electronic New Oxford En- 
glish Dictionary," Computers and the Humanities 
20 (January/March 1986): 45. 

59 "Introduction," in J. A. Simpson and E.S.C. Werner, 

The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. (Oxford: 
Clarendon Press, 1989), [xi]. 

60 Ibid. 

41 Laski, "Revising OED," 1226. 


63 Y.L. Warburton, OED Editorial Co-ordinator, letter to 

the author, 27 July 1989. 
* Ibid. 

65 Ibid. 

66 Ibid. 

* 7 Marjorie Keyishian, "Oxford English Dictionary Sets 
Up Shop in Morristown," New York Times, 11 
February 1990, New Jersey ed., sec. 12, p. 1, 4-5. 

68 Y.L. Warburton, letter to the author, 27 July 1989. 

69 "The New Oxford English Dictionary Project," in The 

Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., lv-Ivi. 

70 Y.L. Warburton, letter to the author, 27 July 1989. 

71 Edmund Weiner, "New Uses for the New OED," 

Bookseller (25 January 1986): 332-36. 

"Mom in the Library": The Readers' 
Guide to Periodical Literature 

Mary Biggs 


In 1967, reference expert Bill Katz declared: 

Turning to the Readers' Guide to Periodical 
Literature is like nuzzling in the massive 
monobosomofAmericanmotherhood. Some- 
how, it is the closest thing to mora in the 
library — soft, all embracing, ready to educate 
us for anything. , . . Like pumpkin pie, LSD, 
and television, the index is merely an amor- 
phous collection of American mores and atti- 
tudes Jtcanbe analyzed, pummeled, orpraised, 
No matter how approached, it finally adds up 
to mother draped in the red, white, and blue, a 
full shopping bag dangling fromher arm, wire 
curlers adorning her head. 1 

Katz went on to criticize some of "mom's" 
policies, darkly detecting her "cool, calcu- 
lated hand" in the index. He over-extended his 
metaphor, but his essential point was well 
taken: the Readers' Guide had long before 
become a familiar, dependable, reassuring 
fixture in libraries of all types and sizes. Not 
surprisingly, academic librarians complain of 
the difficulty of "weaning" students from "the 
green books" (as Readers' Guide is often 
called) and onto the subject-specialized in- 
dexes more suitable for most college research. 
Even when mom can no longer solve all prob- 
lems, she remains comforting — a beacon to 
the insecure. And so with the Readers ' Guide. 
Indeed, if the H,W. Wilson Company did 
not also issue a wide range of indexes to 
scholarly and professional literature, many 
students might resist even more strenuously. 

That it does, that the old friendly format can be 
found behind covers of other colors, bearing 
other names, is an invaluable aid to librarians' 
instruction efforts, enabling them to counsel 
the timid that "If you can use the Readers ' 
Guide, you can use this. The only difference is 
that it will lead you to the authoritative articles 
your professor wants you to use." The air 
vibrates with relief. 

How did the index achieve maternal sta- 
tus? First, of course, it meets an important 
information need and until recently had no 
real competition. Second, it is reasonably easy 
to use and its format has remained the same 
over its 90-year lifetime. And third, it is ex- 
traordinarily good at what it does. 

Halsey William Wilson 

To appreciate the remarkable accomplish- 
ment of Readers ' Guide requires some knowl- 
edge of the publisher that initiated and still 
produces it: the H.W. Wilson Company. The 
story has many times been told of Halsey 
William Wilson and the unique business that 
he founded and nursed patiently to success 
against great odds. 2 

Bom on May 12, 1868, in Wilmington, 
Vermont, Wilson was orphaned when still a 
toddler and spent his childhood in Massachu- 
setts with his grandparents, his adolescence 
with an aunt and uncle in Iowa and Minnesota. 
While working his way through the University 
of Minnesota, he joined with his roommate to 


establish what became essentially the univer- 
sity bookstore. Wilson acquired his half of the 
$400 start-up capital by taking loans from 
other students. They flourished, of course, as 
the American Dream requires, and Wilson 
eventually bought out his partner and gained 
the means to marry a coed with whom he 
thereafter lived for 59 years, until his death in 
1954. Work overtook studies and Wilson never 
received his baccalaureate, but didn't suffer 
for lack of it. 3 

Beginnings of Wilson's Publishing 

His first publishing venture — the Cumu- 
lative Book Index (CBI), which has been con- 
tinuously published ever since — grew out of 
his need as a bookseller for a cumulative new- 
book catalog. Publishers' Weekly, the 
industry's trade journal, had provided semi- 
annual cumulations, but stopped in 1895, giv- 
ing Wilson an idea and practical impetus. 
Three years later, he began issuing CBI from 
his apartment with a staff consisting of himself 
as production and business manager and his 
wife as editor. 4 Its first issue consisted of a 1 6- 
page pamphlet. 5 CBI is important here be- 
cause it was Wilson's first title and set the 
pattern for his second, the Readers ' Guide to 
Periodical Literature (RG). 

The presence of "cumulative" in CBPs 
title suggests that this was a noteworthy fea- 
ture for the time, and indeed Wilson is some- 
times credited incorrectly with having invented 
the practice of cumulation. 6 In fact, others had 
gone before him, including Frederick Leypoldt 
of Publishers ' Weekly and, more notably, 
William Howard Brett of the Cleveland Public 
Library, whose Cumulative Index to Periodi- 
cals (Cleveland: Cleveland Public Library, 
1869-1897; Cleveland: Helman-Taylor Co., 
1898-1903) was an important precursor of 
Readers' Guide? But earlier attempts had 
soon foundered on economic problems. In 
those pre-computer days, cumulation seemed 
to demand a complete resetting of type, an 

effort much too expensive to be recouped 
through the prices that could successfully be 
charged. Drawing on printing experience he 
had gained while self-financing his education, 
Wilson decided that the lines of type could be 
retained after their first use and speedily 
interfiled with other lines to produce cumula- 
tions. This entailed difficulties but proved 
feasible; a practiced Wilson "combiner" could 
mergeup to 1 00 galleys of type, orabout 6,000 
index entries, in an eight-hour shift 8 

Through his work with CBI, Wilson also 
discovered the optimal index arrangement. 
The first five issues were divided into two 
parts: an author-title index followed by a clas- 
sified index, It was soon clear that subscribers 
were confused, and the combined author-title- 
subject "dictionary" format, which would be 
applied to subsequent Wilson indexes as well, 
was adopted. 9 

Finally, the development of CBI set en- 
during financial and editorial precedents. By 
the time she finished assembling its second 
number, Justina Wilson had decided that full- 
time housekeeping combined with full-time 
editing added up to too much work. Marion E. 
Potter, a 29 -year-old graduate student, be- 
came Wilson's first employee and stayed with 
him for 55 years, until her death one year 
before his, ' ° Accounts of the company invari- 
ably highlight her contribution, and her long 
experience and legendary industriousness 
must, along with Wilson's own direct daily 
involvement, have formed a backbone that 
supported the enterprise through its years of 

Strong supports were needed, for nothing 
came easy. Bibliographic publishing was and 
long remained time-consuming, unglamorous, 
and commercially unpromising, Forty years 
after the company's founding, Creighton Peet 
observed in a New Yorker "profile:" "[Wil- 
son] has had his field pretty much to himself, 
and been more or less welcome to it. " ] ! By that 
time, of course, the H.W. Wilson Company's 
profitability was well-established though 
modest. But each index, beginning with CBI, 


lost money for awhile. In 1898, figuring that 
this first endeavor would cost him $500 for 
typesetting and printing, he had set his annual 
subscription fee at $1 and set out optimisti- 
cally to enlist a minimum 500 subscribers. 
But, in a pattern that would repeat, that first 
year yielded only 300 subscribers and Wilson, 
undeterred, made up the difference from his 
bookselling proceeds, ' 2 He would continue to 
do this as each new reference serial sought its 
audience, subsidizing them first through hts 
store and later, after he had given up retail 
sales and moved to New York, through the 
profits from more lucrative publications. This 
practice has continued down to the present in 
the H.W. Wilson Company, which, 37 years 
after the founder's death, still functions ac- 
cording to his principles. In 1990, Readers' 
Guide Abstracts on microfiche was six years 
old, its paper edition two years old, and it was 
still regarded as an expensive undertaking 
though it had recovered its costs through sale 
as a computerized database. George Lewicky, 
who at the time had headed Wilson's index 
division for 25 years, explained philosophi- 
cally that building a sufficient subscriber list 
would take time, as it had for other indexes, 
and the company, confident of its produces 
value, could wait, 13 

It was, then, on this base of knowledge 
and practice that the three-year-old business 
built the index that would become its most 

Existing Periodical Indexes 

Although Wilson did not establish CBI 
with libraries' needs in mind, he soon acquired 
librarians as subscribers and began attending 
to their concerns. At meetings, he heard them 
say that identifying useful periodical articles 
was so difficult that keeping back runs some- 
times seemed pointless. Though indexes ex- 
isted, they were sadly inadequate. The first to 
be created had been the famous Poole 's Index 
to Periodical Literature, which is still used 
today. First issued in 1848 as An Alphabetical 

Index to Subjects Treated in the Reviews and 
Other Periodicals to Which No Indexes Have 
Been Published (New York: George P. 
Putnam), it was revised by its author, William 
Frederick Poole, in 1853 and then lay dor- 
mant, becoming increasingly out of date, until 
the first meeting of the American Library 
Association (ALA) in 1 876, There Poole pro- 
posed, and the Association endorsed, a coop- 
erative project, with indexing to be performed 
by librarian-volunteers around the country 
and submitted to Poole as editor-in-chief. The 
result appeared in 1882, with quinquennial 
updates through 1907 (Boston: Houghton, 
1882-1 908). u Ambitious, progressive, and 
important as it undoubtedly was, Poole 's none- 
theless suffered from poor subject indexing; 
no author indexing; omission of periodical 
dates; inclusion of some less-useful, and ex- 
clusion of some more-useful, periodicals; and, 
of course, infrequency. Two other efforts — 
Brett's aforementioned Cumulative Index to 
Periodicals and W.L Fletcher's Cooperative 
Index to Periodicals, offered as a Library 
Journal supplement from 1883 to 1892 — 
began as monthlies but soon slid back to 
quarterly, then annual, schedules. ' s An oppor- 
tunity, and dangers, were apparent to Wilson. 

First Issue of Readers ' Guide 

The February 1901 CBI carried, for the 
first time, a supplement curiously entitled "A 
Monthly Cumulative Index to Ten Important 
Periodicals" — curious because it actually in- 
dexed only seven: Atlantic Monthly, Harper 's 
Monthly, North American Review, Century, 
Forum, Review ofReviews^ and Scribner's. l6 
Of these, only the first three survive, and only 
the first two are still indexed by Readers' 

Three months later, CBI printed the first 
advertisement for a separately published 
monthly Wilson periodical index, now named 
the Readers ' Guide to Periodical Literature 
and including, in addition to the seven maga- 
zines listed above: Bookman, Cosmopolitan, 


Critic, International Monthly, McClure's 
Magazine, Outlook, Popular Science Monthly, 
and World's Work, 17 (Again, the company's 
math seemed defective, as the ad promised 
indexing for "fourteen leading periodicals," 
but clearly listed 15.) Then as now an author- 
subject index, RG was said to be "useful in the 
library, in the club and in the home." It could 
be had for $ 1 per year, or, "for a limited time," 
free with a subscription to any of the indexed 
magazines save Cosmopolitan andMcClure 's. 
A sample copy would be sent for the price of 
a two-cent stamp. 

At the end of 1901 , a paper-covered vol- 
ume was published that cumulated the entries 
in the CBI supplement with those from the new 
Readers ' Guide. Each subsequent year saw 
similar cumulations. When the second was 
issued, in December 1902, the list of indexed 
periodicals had lengthened to 21. I8 In 1903, 
Readers ' Guide absorbed Brett's tottering in- 
dex, and the first quinquennial cumulation 
was subtitled: "A Consolidation of the Cumu- 
lative Index to a Selected List of Periodicals 
and the Readers ' Guide to Periodical Litera- 

The early multi-year cumulations are no- 
table for sudden steep increases in the number 
of periodicals indexed, followed by a general 
leveling off at just over 1 00 titles. The number 
would rise slowly after that, reflecting the 
increase in popular magazines. Those early 
issues were also unusual — given the index's 
name and what we have come to expect from 
it — in handling some books and report litera- 
ture as well as periodicals. For the first 23 
years of i?G's existence, it provided statistics 
in its subtitles. Thus the 1905-9 cumulation 
proclaimed itself "An Index to Ninety-Nine 
Periodicals, and Also in the Same Alphabet an 
Index to 430 Books, Reports, etc., Constitut- 
ing a Supplement to the Second Edition of the 
A. L. A. Index to General Literature" 20 The 
1910-14 edition provided "An Author and 
Subject Index to 1 1 1 Periodicals and Reports 
and 1 67 Composite Books "but also explained 
that because the forthcoming Standard Cata- 

log would include analytics for books, they 
would no longer be indexed mReaders ' Guide, 
excepting "government and association re- 
ports" (e.g., conference proceedings). 21 
Twenty years later, book indexing was en- 
hanced by the new Essay and General Litera- 
ture Index, which thoroughly analyzed collec- 
tions of essays in book format. In 1915-18, 
RG users were told to expect an "Author and 
Subject Index to 104 Periodicals and Re- 
ports"; in 1919-21 and in 1922-24, "An Au- 
thor and Subject Index to 108 Periodicals and 
Reports"; and finally, in 1925-28, the more 
noncommittal subtitle of "An Author and 
Subject Index" was adopted. 22 

Change and Continuity 

Today, the scope of Readers' Guide re- 
mains determinedly unchanged. It is, as it was 
in 1901, "an author subject index to selected 
general interest periodicals of reference value 
in libraries." 23 The number of publications 
indexed has grown to 188. As has ever been 
true, they are all English-language, almost all 
published in the United States, and cover all 
subjects of any conceivable popular interest. 

One of the few changes mReaders ' Guide 
over the years has been frequency of cumula- 
tion. The question of the optimal schedule 
appears to have perplexed the company. Al- 
though annual cumulations were always com- 
piled, the span of final cumulations varied. As 
indicated in the publication history below, 
three five-year cumulations covering 1900— 
14 were followed by one four-year (1915- 
1918). Then, in her preface to the fifth multi- 
year cumulation, which included only 1919- 
21, editor Elizabeth J. Sherwood announced 
that "the three-year cumulative plan [is] now 
permanently adopted." 24 She could not have 
anticipated the coming proliferation of maga- 
zines or the resistance librarians would even- 
tually develop to the cost of replacing cumu- 
lations with broader cumulations. The "per- 
manent" decision held only through the next 
cumulation (1922-24). Following that were 


three more four-year volumes and then, be- 
ginning in July 1935, 30 years of biennial 
compilations, For March 1965-February 1966, 
only a hardbound annual cumulation was of- 
fered, a practice persisting down to the present. 
It necessitates more laborious searching by 
the user interested in several years' worth of 
information (a problem circumvented by the 
newer online and CD-ROM versions of the 
index), but has resulted in volumes much more 
manageable physically. 

Small changes notwithstanding, what is 
perhaps most remarkable about the source is 
the durability of its original design. Despite its 
status as very nearly a pioneering effort; de- 
spite the great changes that have occurred in 
the publishing industry, education, and Ameri- 
can demographics; and despite the recent emer- 
gence of several competitors, Readers ' Guide 
has never significantly changed its look, its 
arrangement, or its purpose. A 1905 library 
user would be entirely comfortable with a 
1990 issue, though subject headings and ar- 
ticle titles would be startling. And here, for 
publisher, user, and, by the way, intellectual 
historian, is the most challenging and interest- 
ing aspect of indexing: selecting and system- 
atizing subject headings. 

Indexing Practices 

Poole had created what was essentially a 
keyword subject index, using authors' title 
terms as descriptors rather than developing a 
controlled subject-indexing vocabulary. Ironi- 
cally, the ease of keyword indexing automati- 
cally by computer has revived the popularity 
of this method, but its deficiencies are serious, 
and Wilson recognized them. His astuteness 
and that of his early editors is easy to overlook 
in a period that bristles with indexes of all 
types, with well developed subject heading 
lists for all topics, that has seen many analyses 
of their relative strengths and has at its com- 
mand a vast array of high technology to facili- 
tate all indexing and printing tasks. But that 
Wilson, with almost no useful precedents to 

learn from and every reason to minimize costs 
and labor, still recognized the great advan- 
tages of controlled-vocabulary indexing and 
pursued them, seems positively prescient. 

The principal advantage, of course, is that 
all citations to articles on a given subject are 
brought together under a uniform descriptor, 
regardless of the terminology selected by (he 
articles' authors. Furthermore, when a title 
offers few or no clues to content, as is often the 
case in all periodicals and especially in popu- 
lar magazines, the indexer's exercise of judg- 
ment assures that it will nonetheless be placed 
under the appropriate heading(s). But all of 
this requires the strenuous, enormously time- 
consuming intellectual laborof carefully read- 
ing every article to be indexed; deciding upon 
the most appropriate terms to represent thou- 
sands of concepts and the cross-references 
needed to guide the user to them; and continu- 
ally scrutinizing and revising headings and, of 
course, their associated cross-references, to 
reflect changes in usage. 

Following the practice of CBI and bor- 
rowing its headings wher^uitable, Readers ' 
Guide commenced with tlpj^sram of subject 
indexing and elaborate cross-referencing that 
continue? to distinguisjfal Wilson indexes. In 
1990, George Lewic^y isolated JJG's cross- 
reference structure, along with the accuracy 
and currency of its subject headings, as the 
characteristic that set it apart from and raised 
it above all competing guides to general -inter- 
est magazines. 25 

The Library of Congress Subject Head- 
ings (LCSH) derived in 1898 were used when 
possible, though being designed for books, 
LCSH terminology often lacked the specific- 
ity needed to describe narrowly focused maga- 
zine articles. Encyclopedias were also con- 
sulted, as were any other indexes the editor 
could find. 26 Indexing is never straightfor- 
ward, however, and different editors embraced 
different ideal theories of subject delineation, 
which led to some conflict. Years later, Marion 
Potter, the first RG editor, would remember 
her successor, Anna Lorraine Guthrie, de- 


manding: "Use the encyclopedia subject head- 
ings. Every reader can find things in an ency- 
clopedia and does not need to have the proper 
page pointed out to him." 27 This is debatable, 
but does agree with the preference implied by 
Guthrie herself in her preface to the 1905-09 
volume. 28 

Accordingto John Lawler, the two women 
argued at length about headings, with Guthrie 
initially favoring the simply-formatted head- 
ings of the Peabody catalog (e.g., "Child la- 
bor"), Potter preferring the Athenaeum 
catalog's system of subdivision ("Children- 
Employment"): "The discussion continued 
until in time the two editors had converted 
each other. Then it was resumed with Miss 
Guthrie defending Miss Potter's former posi- 
tion and Miss Potter advocating Miss Guthrie's 
discarded theories." Potter also sought advice 
from the University of Minnesota faculty. 
"What about 'contagious diseases'?" Lawler 
has her asking the "startled head of the medi- 
cal school" . . . "should it be 'infectious 
diseases,' or perhaps 'communicable dis- 
eases'?" 29 Experience helped, but the task 
never became easy. Potter recalled hearing 
Al ice Dougan, who served longer than anyone 
else as RG's editor, declare after many years: 
"Subject heading work is a hard job," 30 

In 1954, R.G editor Sarita Robinson ex- 
plained the index's current policy on subject 
heading "selection and use.*' It had not changed 
much, with other Wilson indexes and LCSH 
still the main guides. She pointed out, how- 
ever, that because it dealt with more timely 
literature, RG often had to treat an idea before 
LCSH did, resulting, eventually, in differ- 
ences between them . Other problems i ncluded 
the difficulty of determining how narrow the 
indexing should be, how many cross-refer- 
ences were really needed, and which ideas or 
events were of purely ephemeral interest, 
which of sufficiently enduring importance to 
merit their own subject headings. 31 

Tracing the evolution of new terms down 
through the years of the index is fascinating in 
itself and illuminates some of Robinson's 

points, not to mention Dougan' s frustration. 
For example, the 1900-04 index offered only 
two subject sections dealing with aviation: 
"Aerial navigation" and"Air-ships."By 1 905- 
09, there were many relevant headings and 
many dozens of entries. What would come to 
be "Pilots" were "Aeronauts," and cross-ref- 
erencing for the still used "Aerial navigation" 
instructed the user to "see also": "Aeronau- 
tics," "Aeroplanes," "Balloons and Air-ships," 
and "Flying machines." Throughout subse- 
quent volumes, the numbers of entries contin- 
ued to multiply, and in 1915-18, the primary 
terms at last became "Aeronautics" (with a 
reference from "Aerial navigation") and "Air- 

Similarly, one can imagine Wilson index- 
ers scrambling to keep up with automotive 
developments. In 1900-04, the form of fuel 
that would emerge as standard was not yet 
certain; although "Automobiles, Gasoline" 
took the largest share of citations, with 29; 
"Automobiles, Electric" had only one less; 
"Automobiles, Steam" had 10; and "Automo- 
biles, Alcohol" had 5. In 1905-09, there were 
suddenly dozens of headings relating to auto- 
mobiles. By 1915-18, "Automobiles" were 
apparently assumed to be gasoline-fed ve- 
hicles, forno qualifier was deemednecessary. 
Two new headings, however, turned out to 
reflect only a short-lived fantasy and immedi- 
ately fell into disuse: "Autoplanes," with a 
citation to Scientific American's article on "A 
Limousine for Land and Air Travel," and 
"Automobiles, Aerial," leading the user to a 
single article entitled "Aero- Auto-Craft — The 
Car of the Future." 

"Wireless telegraphy" was used through 
1919-21, though there was by then some 
confusion about it, and "Radio" also appeared, 
with one citation. In 1922-24, the latter head- 
ing subsumed the former. "Atomic power" 
appeared for the first time in 1939-41, with 
entries for 18 articles, all of them speculative. 
Headings and citations proliferated after that, 
but with a dramatic leap in number, and the 
first use of "Atomic bomb," in the 1943-45 


cumulation. "Calculating machines" did not 
give way to "Computers" until 1965-66, 
though long before that, many cross-refer- 
ences had to be provided. (Before 1932, "Cal- 
culators" were "Mathematical prodigies"!) 

Recent economic and political events also 
raise questions for the indexer, who cannot 
know at the time they are first reported how 
future users will search for them. Thus the 
stock market's "Black Friday" lies buried 
under "Stock exchange," subheading "Crisis, 
October, 1929," in the 1929-32 cumulation, 
confounding some current users seeking con- 
temporary accounts of that day. And "World 
War I" remained "European War, 1914-1918" 
until 1977-78. In 1951-53, a cross-reference 
was provided from "World War, 1914-191 8," 
but several subsequent cumulations omitted it, 
presumably by accident When asked how she 
decided when to revise outdated headings, 
Marion Potter is said to have replied: "When 
I shudder at them and can't stand them any 
longer, I finally change them." 32 

Computerization facilitates subject work, 
but it remains RG's most problematic task. 
The company has long been criticized for not 
following the lead of other services (e.g., 
Psychological Abstracts and ERIC) by pub- 
lishing its indexes' subject heading lists, To- 
day, online subject files for each index are 
available to both the Wilson staff and the 
public — though paper lists continue to be re- 
quested. On average, three headings per ar- 
ticle are assigned. When asked in 1 990 about 
changes occurring atRG, its editor, JeanMarra, 
mentioned only two: an attempt to establish 
more uniformity of headings among the vari- 
ous indexes, and increasing care to avoid 
terminology with a potential to offend certain 
groups. As an example, she cited "sexist head- 
ings." But she added, with typical Wilson 
caution, "We reflect the literature. We don't 
feel we're out to change the world." Still, said 
Marra, "We're trying to become more sensi- 

Establishing the most authentic form of a 
name is perhaps easier than setting subject 

headings, but still a challenge. The Wilson 
Company has always been notable for its 
carefully developed and maintained personal 
and corporate names files. 34 Once created 
separately for each index, these have been 
collapsed into a single online name authority 
control file which governs the entire com- 
pany, guaranteeing consistency among in- 
dexes. 35 

Selecting the Sources Indexed 

But regardless of its indexing and produc- 
tion quality, a periodical guide is only as 
useful as its sources are well selected. Read- 
ers ' Guide has been attacked on this score by 
both interested and disinterested parties, which 
is perhaps unavoidable for an index that is 
ubiquitous yet necessarily limited in number 
of magazines treated. 36 Its defense has always 
been its unusually responsive means of selec- 
tion. Early in the history of Readers ' Guide, all 
subscribers were polled periodically to deter- 
mine which titles should be added. As the 
subscriber list grew unmanageably long, only 
a representative sample was questioned. In 
1951, through a Wilson Library Bulletin ar- 
ticle, editor Sarita Robinson took her concerns 
about i?G coverage directly to librarians. "Are 
we indexing the right magazines?" she asked, 
and went on to note irregularities in topical 
coverage (e.g., no gardening magazine, but 
nine on education) ; overlap with the company's 
subject-specialized indexes; and possible 
changes in magazine quality over a long run, 
She concluded by suggesting that a broad- 
based survey be carried out by ALA as "unbi- 
ased and qualified representatives of the pro- 
fession." 37 One year later, the Committee on 
Wilson Indexes was established under the 
auspices of the American Library Associa- 
tion. 38 

In 1984, former member Charles R. 
Andrews described the committee's function- 
ing in detail. 39 Composed of librarians prima- 
rily from the eastern seaboard, to assure their 
attendance at Bronx meetings (though this is 


changing and today some come from as far 
away as California 40 ), the committee evalu- 
ates Wilson indexes, surveys subscribers, re- 
views suggestions for change, and communi- 
cates its final decisions to the company, which, 
within its staff and financial limits, complies, 
In one celebrated instance, Wilson was even 
persuaded to restore nine previously deleted 
titles that librarians thought important to li- 
brary users, though their reference value was 
questionedby the Wilson Company. 41 Whereas 
committee members once read all letters and 
requests from the public, since the 1970s these 
have poured in so copiously that George 
Lewicky and Jean Marra screen them and 
present recommendations for the committee's 
consideration. 42 Thus the link between the 
committee and the library profession has be- 
come less direct, mediated by the company 
itself. Though there have been no significant 
published criticisms of this change, it has the 
potential to undermine objectivity of assess- 
ment. Nonetheless, all letters are available to 
any committee members who wish to read 
them, and the company's relationship with its 
customers remains close and personal, per- 
haps uniquely so. 

In the 90 years since Readers ' Guide was 
founded, it has spun off important auxiliary 
projects. The first was the Periodicals Clear- 
ing House, established in 1910 because old 
articles, whose existence was now signaled by 
indexing, often could not be found. At its most 
expansive, the Clearing House had for sale 
approximately three million single issues, 
100,000 bound volumes, and 1,000 complete 
runs, and searches for still other numbers 
could be commissioned. Kraus Periodicals 
purchased the Clearing House in 1955. 43 

Related Wilson Indexes 

A more enduring development began 
unpretentiously as theReaders ' Guide Supple- 
ment — much as RG itself had started life as an 
appendage to Cumulative Book Index. Index- 
ing periodicals that were too specialized and 
academic to be needed by public libraries, the 

Supplement appeared five times each year, 
then cumulated in a bound volume. The first 
multi-year cumulation covered 1907-15, the 
second 1916-19/ 4 The third (1920-23) at last 
gave it an independent identity and announced 
its new name: International Index to Periodi- 
cals t with the rather broad explanatory sub- 
title, "Devoted Chiefly to the Humanities and 
Science." 45 In 1965, it was re-titled Social 
Sciences and Humanities Index and in 1974 
split into two separate indexes. 

By this time, the company had long since 
left Minneapolis, its first home (and "birth- 
place" of Readers ' Guide). By the early teens, 
Wilson had felt the need for proximity to the 
center of American publishing. He moved the 
company first to White Plains, New York, in 
1913, and four years later to more adequate 
and conveni ent quarters in the Bronx, where it 
still resides. Located just to the east of the 
bustling Major Deegan Expressway, it is eas- 
ily identified by the famous sculpture of a 
huge lighthouse atop an open book that soars 
upward from its rooftop — which refers, of 
course, to the famous Wilson lighthouse logo 
that is imprinted upon each publication. 

Other Readers' Guide Products 

In 1935, Abridged Readers' Guide was 
started for smaller institutions. Identical in 
format to its unabridged namesake, itincluded 
the indexing for only about one-quarter of the 
periodicals. It continues to this day, fulfilling 
the needs of small public and school libraries. 

As the years wore on, researchers had felt 
the lack of Wilson-quality periodical indexing 
for the nineteenth century. The company re- 
solved, therefore, to create such an index 
retrospectively, covering 1890-99. When the 
project was first announced, 20 periodicals 
were to be included, but by the time it was 
published in 1944, the number had increased 
to 51,and The nineteenth Century Readers' 
Guide spanned two thick volumes. 46 

That no additional RG product or format 
was offered until almost 40 years later is, from 
one perspective, a testament to the company's 



caution and stability, and from another, its 
reluctance to change with the times, Well after 
other reference works had gone online, 
Wilson's publications remained stubbornly 
paper-bound. Finally, in 1983, Readers' Guide 
and several other indexes were computerized 
and marketed by Wilson acting as its own 
vendor under the name Wihonline. In 1987, 
the same indexing span was published on CD- 
ROM as Wilsondisc — with, of course, con- 
tinuing updates, In both formats,i? G was well- 
received by reviewers and users. 

But the company's first foray in decades 
into an indexing format essentially outside its 
experience came with the introduction of Read- 
ers' Guide Abstracts — initially on microfiche 
in 1 984, and four years later in a paper version 
designed primarily for public and school li- 
braries, incorporating only 40 percent of the 
abstracts available in the microfiche product. 
In the same year, Popular Magazine Review 
(Topsfield, MA: Data Base Communications 
Corp., 1984-87) began. It was eventually ac- 
quired by Ebsco and underwent a title change 
to Magazine Article Summaries (Palo Alto, 
CA, 1987- ). Offering indexing and compara- 
tively short abstracts for popular magazine 
articles in both paper and CD-ROM, Maga- 
zine Article Summaries has perhaps been 
Readers 1 Guide Abstracts' most comparable 
competitor, though it has won much less atten- 
tion and acceptance. 

Readers ' Guide Abstracts represented an 
extremely bold step — intellectually, because 
popular magazine articles had never seemed 
as suited to abstracting as scholarly papers, 
and practically, because it was uncommonly 
labor-intensive. Located in Cambridge, Mas- 
sachusetts, to take advantage of that area's 
deep pool of well educated workers, the Ab- 
stracts in 1990 employed 32 full-time profes- 
sional abstracters, most of them English or 
journalism majors hoping to launch writing 
careers. Explaining why the Abstracts were 
undertaken, Lewicky noted an accelerating 
trend throughout the information industry to- 
ward database enhancements, "value-added" 
features. 41 

At the age of 90, with 26,1 19 mail sub- 
scriptions to its unabridged paper version and 
21,590 to the abridged, 48 the Readers' Guide 
to Periodical Literature is comfortably indis- 
pensable, "the closest thing to mom in the 
library." The index, and more impressively 
the entire company that produces it, stands as 
a striking example of success in bibliographic 
publishing. What, then, were the elements of 
this success? 

The Reasons for RG's Success 

Posing the same question in her 1951 
article, "Whodunit?," Marion E. Potter settled 
on a single answer: H.W. Wilson himself*' 
And she was probably correct. The most du- 
rable building block of his success was the 
importance and uniqueness of his products- 
most notably CBI and Readers ' Guide, which 
together served as foundation and pilotproject 
for what was to come. But he was not the first 
to recognize the need, nor were his indexes 
truly pioneering. He was, however, the firstto 
succeed and endure as an index publisher, and 
he set high standards of quality that even today 
Readers' Guide's major competitor, Maga- 
zine Index (Menlo Park, CA: Information 
Access Corp, 1 977- ), does not seem to aspire 
to and certainly has not reached. 50 Added to 
this are several impressively far-sighted, hard- 
headed, business decisions. 

First, and least often commented upon, 
was his willingness to hire women. At a time 
when they had few opportunities in the private 
sector, Wilson welcomed them and often placed 
them in key positions, thus availing himself of 
the best talents of a largely underrated or 
ignored, but educated and willing, prospec- 
tive labor force. 

Second, he asserted the futility of compe- 
tition in costly publishing projects with lim- 
ited markets, and, equally important, won the 
agreement of the competitor in question. In 
191 1, Wilson and R.R. Bowker, producer of 
Publishers ' Weekly, agreed to divide up the 
bibliographic universe. As a result, Bowker 


would terminate his new monthly periodical 
index and the cumulated book lists which had 
begun reappearing in Publishers' Weekly, 
while Wilson would turn over to Bowker some 
directories and a digest of library literature 
that he had been publishing. 51 However one 
may feel about voluntary restraints on compe- 
tition, the deal apparently benefitted both com- 
panies financially. 

Third, Wilson knew and stayed close to 
his customers, a tradition continued by his 
company after his death. Even before the ALA 
Committee on Wilson Indexes was formed, he 
consulted librarians regularly, attended their 
meetings, and seriously considered their writ- 
ten suggestions. He never grew away from his 
users, never lost sight of their needs, and so he 
understood what they would purchase. Coupled 
with this was his willingness to take losses on 
new products that held his confidence, allow- 
ing them ample time to build adequate sub- 
scriber lists. That he already owned and main- 
tained a profitable second business during his 
early years as publisher helped immeasur- 

Fourth was his development of cumula- 
tions, which had been considered economi- 
cally infeasible. 

Fifth, and most famous, was his initiation 
of "service basis" pricing, an imaginative con- 
cept that overcame the other greatest financial 
obstacle to unsubsidized index publishing. An 
intellectually demanding and labor-intensive 
task, index creation is very expensive, yet the 
potential market is comparatively small and 
consists mostly of libraries in the not-for- 
profit sector. Especially in the early days of 
Readers ' Guide, neither high-volume sales at 
low prices nor modest sales at high prices 
couldbe counted upon to cover costs, let alone 
generate a profit. Wilson hit upon the novel 
idea of pricing the index as a service rather 
than ^product. He first experimented with and 
rejected the possibility of issuing indexing on 
cards, with libraries buying those that covered 

the periodicals they owned. Reasoning that 
even if the entire index were received, librar- 
ies would find primarily useful only those 
parts pertinent to their holdings, he then de- 
cided to charge differentially, based on the 
number of titles owned by the subscribing 
library. In effect, the smallest libraries with 
the fewest resources were charged least and 
the largest libraries were charged most, even 
though they all received the same product. 
S ervice basis pricing withstood indignant chal- 
lenges from large libraries which, regardless 
of their indignation, found Readers ' Guide 
essential and bought it. Over time, the unor- 
thodox pricing method became accepted and 
was applied to new Wilson indexes as they 
developed. It is still used for the specialized 
sources, though by 1 961 , the audience for both 
Readers ' Guide andAbridged Readers' 'Guide 
had grown so large that flat pricing became 
possible. 52 Today, they cost every subscriber 
$150 and $75 per year, respectively. 

So, through its founder's persistence, self- 
confidence, imagination, good judgment, and 
conservative financial expectations, the H.W. 
Wilson Company prospered, and its flagship 
index became as familiar and indispensable as 
mom. What Readers' Guide has meant to 
generations of researchers is possible to ap- 
preciate only if one can imagine being without 
it and without all of the indexes whose ways it 
paved. Obviously, itprovides access to moun- 
tains of information that would otherwise re- 
main virtually inaccessible. But, beyond this, 
it must have encouraged the founding of peri- 
odicals, serious writing for periodicals, li- 
brary subscriptions to periodicals, and orga- 
nized collecting of their entire runs by librar- 
ies. Taken for granted like any mom, Readers ' 
Guide is rarely appreciated as an instigator of 
revolution in information access and periodi- 
cal and reference publishing. It differed from 
most revolutions in that it exceeded its own 
early expectations, its effects were overwhelm- 
ingly positive, and they endured. 



"A Monthly Cumulative Index to Ten Important 
Periodicals." Supplement to Cumulative Book 
Index, 1901. Minneapolis: H.W, Wilson Co. 

Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. 1901- . 
Publisher: H,W. Wilson Co. Place of Publica- 
tion: Minneapolis, 1901-1913; White Plains, 
N.Y„ 191 3-17; Bronx, NY, 1917- Current fre- 
quency: Semi-monthly, March, April, Septem- 
ber, October, December; Monthly, January, 
February, May through August, November. 
Quarterly cumulative issues; annual cumula- 
tive bound volumes. Cumulations: 1900-1904; 
1905-1909; 1910-1914; 1915-1918; 1919- 
1921; 1922-1924; 1925-1928; 1929-June 1932; 
July 1932-June 1935; July 1935-June 1937; 
July 1937- June 1939; July 1939-June 1941; 
July 1941-Jutie 1943; July 1943-April 1945; 
May 1945-April 1947; May 1947-April 1949; 
May 1949-March 1951; April 1951 -March 
1953;AprUl953-February 1955; March 1955- 
February 1957; March 1 957-Febmary 1959; 
March 1959-February 1961; Match 1961-Feb- 

ruary 1963; March 1963-February 1965; an- 
nual thereafter. Editors: Marion E. Potter, 1901— 
1902; Anna Lorraine Guthrie, 1903-1914; 
Marion A. Knight, 1914-1918; Elizabeth J. 
Sherwood, 1918-1924; Alice M.Dougan, 1924- 
1945; Sarita M. Robinson, 1945-1963; Zada 
Limerick, 1963-1979; JeanM. Marra, 1979- . 

Abridged Readers' Guide. 1935- Bronx, NY: H.W. 
Wilson Co. Frequency: Nine per year. Cumula- 
tions: Three per year and annual. 

Nineteenth Century Readers' Guide 1890-1S99, ed- 
ited by Helen Grant Cushing. Bronx, NY: H.W. 
Wilson Co, 1944. 

Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature on 
Wilsonline. Online: January 1983- . 

Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature on 
misondtsc. CD-ROM: January 1983- . 

Readers' Guide Abstracts. Microfiche: 1984- . 

Readers' Guide Abstracts, Print Edition. Hard copy: 
September 1988- . Frequency: Ten per year. 
Cumulations: Semi-annual. 


The most useful source of information on 
the development of Readers' Guide to Peri- 
odical Literature, is RG itself, especially the 
editors* prefaces published in early cumula- 
tions and several articles published by long- 
ago Wilson employees, most in the journal 
now entitled Wilson Library Bulletin. Among 
these articles are those by Beatrice B. 
Rakestraw, Sarita Robinson, and Marion E. 
Potter. Two other sources are also crucial: 
John Lawless company history and Arthur 
Plotnik's encyclopedia article. The latter dis- 
cusses both Wilson the company and Wilson 
the man. Plotnik apparently had access to a 
company archive not available to this author. 
It is not clear that access to such an archive 
would be especially revealing since few criti- 
cal decisions seem to have been made over the 
years; until recently, when electronic access 
was provided and Readers ' Guide Abstracts 
was introduced, format, scope, and purpose 
had hardly changed since the index's earliest 

Andrews, Charles R. "Cooperation at its Best: The 
Committee on Wilson Indexes at Work." ^£24 
(Winter, 1984): 155-61. 

Cheney, Frances Neel. "Wilson Publications as Ref- 
erence Tools." Wilson Library Bulletin 22 (June, 
1948): 801-05. 

Cushing, Helen Grant. "Preface." Nineteenth Cen- 
tury Readers' Guide 1890-1899. New York: 
H.W. Wilson Co., 1944. 

Davis, Mary Ellen Kyger, and John F. Riddick, 
"Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature and 
Magazine Index: A Comparison." Reference 
Services Review 1 1 (Winter, 1983): 43-50. 

G[uthrie], A[nna] L[orraine]. "Preface." Readers' 
Guide to Periodical Literature 1905-1909. Min- 
neapolis: H.W. Wilson Company, 1910. 

"Halsey W. Wilson, Publisher, Dead" [obituary]. 
New York Times (March 2, 1954) p. 25. 

Katz,Bill. "Magazines." Library Journal 93 (Febru- 
ary 1,1968): 527. 

. "Motherly Index." Library Journal 92 (Feb- 
ruary 1,1967): 555. 

Kesselman, Martin. "Online Update." Wilson Li- 
brary Bulletin (December, 1983): 286-87. 

Lawler, John. The H. W. Wilson Company: Half a 
Century of Bibliographic Publishing. Minne- 
apolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1950, 
"Nineteenth Century Readers' Guide." Wilson Bul- 
letin for Libraries 13 (October, 1938): 143. 


Pearson, Lois R. "In the News: Publisher Restores 
Nine Periodical Titles to Readers' Guide on 
ies 9 (February, 1978): 69. 

Peet, Creighton. "Profiles: AMousetrapintheBronx." 
New Yorker 13 (October 29, 1938): 25-28. 

Plotnik, Arthur. "H.W. Wilson." Encyclopedia of 
Library and Information Science, edited by 
Allen Kent, Harold Lancour, and Jay E. Daily. 
New York: Marcel Dekker, vol. 10, 1973, pp. 

Poland, Myra, Henry J. Carr, and O. R. Howard 
Thomson. "Report on Periodical Indexing." 
Library Journal^ (December, 1914): 903-04. 

Potter, Marion E. "Whodunit?" Wilson Library Bul- 
letin 25 (April, 1951): 593-96, 605. 

"Preface." Readers ' Guide to Periodical Literature 
1900-1904. Minneapolis: H.W. Wilson Co., 
1905, pp. [vii]-ix. 

Rakestraw, Beatrice B. "Making a Wilson Index.." 
Wilson Library Bulletin 22 (June, 1948): 796- 

"The Readers' Guide: 1901-1951; The First Fifty 
Years." Wilson Library Bulletin 25 (April , 1 95 1 ): 

Rettig, James. Review of Readers' Guide Abstracts, 
Print Edition. Wilson Library Bulletin 63 (Janu- 
ary, 1989): 128. 

Robinson, Sarita. "Are We Indexing the Right Maga- 
zines?" WilsonLibraryBulletin 25 (April, 1 95 1): 

. Subject Headings: Their Selection and Use 

in 'Readers' Guide,"' Special LibrariesAS (May- 
June, 1954): 203-05. 

S[herwood], Elizabeth] J, "Preface. "Readers ' Guide 
to Periodical Literature 1915-1918. New York: 
H.W. Wilson Co., 1919. 

Whiteley, Sandy, ed. "Reference Books Bulletin: 
Featured Reviews: Wilsondisc: Readers' Guide 
to Periodical Literature (CD-ROM)." Booklist 
84 (December 1, 1987): 609-12. 

W ilson, H.W. "Preface ." Readers ' Guide to Periodi- 
cal Literature 1910-1914. White Plains, NY: 
H.W. Wilson Co., 1915. 

Wilson, H[alsey] W[illiam]." Current Biography 
(1948): 679-82. 


1 Bill Katz, "Motherly Index," Library Journal, 92 (1 

February 1967): 555. 

2 John Lawler, The H, W. Wilson Company: Haifa Cen- 

tury of Bibliographic Publishing (Minneapolis: 
University of Minnesota Press, 1950); Creighton 
Peet, "Profiles: A Mousetrap in the Bronx," New 
Yorker 13 (29 October 1938): 25-28; ArthurPlotnik, 
"H.W. Wilson," in Encyclopedia of Library and 
Information Science, vol. 10 (New York: Marcel 
Dekker, 1973), 250-78; "Wilson, H(alsey) 
W(illiam)," in Current Biography 1948 (Bronx, 
NY: H.W. Wilson Co., 1949), 679-82. 
2 Lawler, 9-19; "Halsey W. Wilson, Publisher, Dead," 
New York Times (2 March 1954), 25. 

4 Lawler, 25-28; "Wilson, H(alsey) W(illiam)," 680. 

5 The title page of the first CBI, dated February 1, 1898, 

is reproduced in Plotnik, 252. 

6 For example; Peet, 25. 

7 John Lawler, 25; "Preface," in Readers' Guide to 

Periodical Literature 1900-1904 (Minneapolis: 
H.W. Wilson Co., 1905), [vii]; Carl Vitz, "Brett, 
William Howard," in Encyclopedia of Library and 
Information Science, vol. 3 (New York: Marcel 
Dekker, 1970), 264. 

8 Plotnik, 254; Beatrice B. Rakestraw, "Making a Wilson 

Index," Wilson Library Bulletin, 22 (June 1948): 
796. Rakestraw's article includes a photograph of 
a combiner intent upon her rows of linotype slugs. 

'Lawler, 26-27. 

10 Ibid., 28-29; ArthurPlotnik, 255. 

"Peet, 25. 

"John Lawler, 27-28, 31-32, 

13 George I. Lewicky, Vice-President and Director of 

Indexing Services, H.W. Wilson Co., interview 

with the author, 19 April 1990. 
M Lawler, 37; Plotnik, 256, 
15 Lawler, 38; Plotnik, 256; "Preface," 1905, [vii]. 
l6 "The Readers' Guide: 1901-1951: The First Fifty 

Years," Wilson Library Bulletin, 25 (April 1951): 


17 Ibid. 

18 Ibid. 

1 »"Preface,"1905, [vii]; [Title page], Readers ' Guide to 
Periodical Literature 1900-1904 (Minneapolis: 
H.W. Wilson Company, 1905). 

20 [Title page], Readers ' Guide to Periodical Literature 


21 [Title page], Readers ' Guide to Periodical Literature 

1910-1914 (Bronx, NY: H.W. Wilson Co., 1915); 
H.W. Wilson, "Preface," Readers' Guide to Peri- 
odical Literature 1910-1914 (White Plains, NY: 
H.W. Wilson Company, 1915), [v]. 

n [Title page], Readers ' Guide to Periodical Literature 
1914-1918 (Bronx, NY: H.W. Wilson Co., 1919); 
[Title page], Readers ' Guide to Periodical Litera- 
ture 1919-1921 (Bronx, NY: H.W. Wilson 
Co., 1 922); [Title page], Readers ' Guide toPeriodi- 
cal Literature 1922-1924 (Bronx, NY: H.W. Wil- 
son Co., 1925); [Title page], Readers' Guide to 
Periodical Literature ;P25-7P.2S (Bronx, NY: H.W. 
Wilson Co., 1929). 

23 [Cover], Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature^ 90 
(10 March 1990). 

2 " Elizabeth] J. S[herwood], "Preface," Readers ' Guide 
to Periodical Literature 1915-1918 (Bronx, NY: 
H.W. Wilson Co., 1919): unpaged. 


3J Lewicky, interview with the author, 19 April 1990. 

26 A[nna] L[orraine] G [uthrie] , "Preface," Readers ' Guide 
io Periodical Literature 1905-1909 (Minneapolis: 
H.W. Wilson Co., 1910): unpaged. 

2 'Marion E. Potter, "Whodunit?," Wilson Library Bulle- 

2, G[uthrie], "Preface," unpaged. 

a 'Lawler, 101. 

30 Potter, 595-96. 

ai Sarita Robinson, "Subject Headings: Their Selection 
and Use in 'Readers' Guide,'" Special Libraries,45 
(May-June 1954): 203-05. 

32 Lawler, 106. 

33 Jean M. Marra, Editor, Readers ' Guide to Periodical 
Literature, interview with the author, 19 April 

a *Lawler, 90-93; Rakestraw, 799-800; Mary EllenKyger 
Davis and John F. Riddick, "Readers' Guide to 
Periodical Literature and Magazine Index: A Com- 
parison," Reference Services Review, 1 1 (Winter 
1983): 45. 

11 Davis and Riddick, 46; Marra, interview with author, 
19 April 1990. 

J *See, for example: Myra Poland, Henry J. Carr, and O. 
R. Howard Thomson, "Report on Periodical Index- 
ing," Library Journal, 39 (December 1914): 903- 
04; ICatz, "Motherly Index," 555; Lois R. Pearson, 
"In the News; Publisher Restores Nine Periodical 
Titles to Readers' Guide on RASD Committee's 
Advice," American Libraries, 9 (February 1978): 

57 Sarita Robinson, "Are We Indexing the Right Maga- 
zines?," Wilson Library Bulletin, 25 (April 1951): 

38 Charles R. Andrews, "Cooperation at its Best: The 
Committee on Wilson Indexes at Work, 1 ' RQ, 24 
(Winter 1984): 155. 

w Ibid., 155-61; Davis and Riddick, 44. 

40 Lewicky, interview with author, 19 April 1990. 

41 Pearson, 69. 

42 Lewicky and Marra, interviews with the author, 19 

April 1990. 

43 Lawler, 79-79; Plotnik, 262. 

« «p re f ace) » i n International Index to Periodicals 1907- 
/P7.5 (White Plains, NY: H.W. Wilson Co., 1916): 
unpaged (originally published underthe title: R ead- 
ers ' Guide to Periodical Literature Supplement)', 
Elizabeth] J. Sfherwood], "Preface," in Interna- 
tional Index to Periodicals 1916-1919 (Bronx, 
NY: H.W. Wilson Co., 1920): unpaged (originally 
published under the title: Readers ' Guide to Peri- 
odical Literature Supplement). 

45 E[sther] A[nne] Sfmith], "Preface," in International 
Index to Periodicals 1920-1923 (Bronx, NY: H.W. 
Wilson Co., 1924): unpaged. 

^"Nineteenth Century Readers' Guide," in Wilson Bul- 
letin/or Librarians, 13 (October 1938): 143;Helen 
Grant Gushing, "Preface," Nineteenth Century Read- 
ers' Guide 1890-1899 (Bronx, NY: H.W. Wilson 
Co., 1944): [v]-vii. 

'"Lewicky, interview with author, 19 April 1990. 

48 According to postal statements in 1990 issues. 

49 Potter, 593. 

50 Davis and Riddick, 48-50. 

51 Lawier, 59-60. 

52 Ibid., 115-35; Plotnik, 257, 267-68. 



Demystifying Parliamentary 
Procedure: Robert's Rules of Order 

Sarah B. Watstein 


Today, while specific editions and revisions 
may vary from institution to institution, there 
is virtually no library in the United States 
without both a reference copy and multiple 
circulating copies of Robert 's Rules of Order, 
Without question, Robert's Rules of Order 
(hereinafter referred to as Robert's), one of 
the most phenomenally successful reference 
books of all time, is the standard primary 
source of information on parliamentary pro- 
cedure. From its original publication in 1876 
to the 1 990s, Robert 's continues to be not only 
an obvious purchase for academic, public, 
school, and special libraries, but also the obvi- 
ous source for answering certain kinds of 
reference questions on a regular basis. 

Over the years, Robert's has served an 
extraordinarily varied audience. It functions 
as a guide to the parliamentarily perplexed 
who serve on committees as part of their jobs 
or as members of organizations or associa- 
tions and those who attend or chair business 
meetings of such groups. To the social scien- 
tist, Robert's, by its own declaration printed 
on inside jacket cover of the 1970 edition, 
serves as the book to "help get things done in 
accord with the American spirit," and thereby 
functions as a teaching manual of democratic 
theory. Students of public policy and of legis- 
lative behavior also find Robert's useful, as 
does the mathematically oriented political 
scientist for whom Robert 's "offers for study 
a remarkable and fascinating system of queue- 

ing rules," 1 It is interesting to note that Henry 
Robert did not aim his book at beginners. 
Defects in early editions, including coverage 
of many topics twice, imperfect consistency, 
incompleteness, inclusion of obscure motions 
and/or points, awkward syntax, the lack of 
sample material, and the inclusion of -unim- 
portant introductory material no doubt dis- 
couraged many a beginner over the years! 

Reputation and Influence 

Praise and respect for Robert 's have in- 
creased with each new edition or major revi- 
sion since. In her 1970 profile of General 
Henry M. Robert, Barbara A. Bannon noted 
that "'Robert's Rules of Order' has now sold 
well over 2,600,000 copies in seven earlier 
editions, and is doing just fine in its new first 
major revision in fifty-five years, with a first 
printing of 100,000 copies." 2 In his review of 
the 1970 edition, Bernard N. Grofman noted 
that to "virtually all Americans Robert 's Rules 
IS parliamentary procedure and using any 
other manual would be sacrilege. ... it has 
been seriously suggested that only the Bible 
has had a greater influence on the organiza- 
tional behavior of Americans." 3 

The influence of Robert's is evidenced 
not only by its commercial success but also by 
its inclusion in nearly any historical sketch of, 
orcore bibliography on, parliamentary proce- 
dure. Hundreds of manuals of parliamentary 
procedure have been published over the years. 
A historical sketch of parliamentary proce- 


dure begins, properly, with the basic prin- 
ciples of parliamentary procedure as defined 
and practiced as early as the fifth century b.c. 
in Athens. The English tradition evolved 
through precedent from as early as the thir- 
teenth century, and was fairly well developed 
by the eighteenth century. A compilation of 
these rulings was published by John Hatsell, 
clerk of the House of Commons, in two vol- 
umes (one in 1776 and the second in 1781), 
and later reissued in four volumes. These 
volumes were the principal source of Thomas 
Jefferson's Manual of Parliamentary Prac- 
tice, published in 1801, The three principal 
writers on the subject ofparliamentary proce- 
dure in the United States prior to the twentieth 
century were Jefferson, Cushing, and Robert. 

Other Guides to Parliamentary 

Thomas Jefferson's Manual of Parlia- 
mentary Practice continues to be the principal 
parliamentary guide of the United States Sen- 
ate and the House of Representatives, adopted 
by the Senate in 1801 and by the House in 
1837. Luther Steams Cushing's A Manual of 
Parliamentary Practice R ules ofProceedings 
and Debate in Assemblies was published in 
1845. Generally known as "Cushing's 
Manual/' it was considered more appropriate 
to the needs of nonlegislative groups than 
Jefferson's Manual. The most widely used 
book on parliamentary procedure today, how- 
ever, is that of Henry M, Robert. 

Hundreds of rule-and-guidebooks for 
making meetings work are currently in print, 
offering quick answers and shortcuts, up-to- 
date methods, frameworks for deciphering 
meetings and making choices, tricks and tech- 
niques, ploys and stratagems with which indi- 
viduals can maneuver meetings to their ad- 
vantage. These rule-and-guidebooks are, in 
essence, spin-offs of Robert's and other "ob- 
solete" nineteenth-century parliamentary pro- 
cedure guides. These spin-offs exist because 
the layperson views parliamentary procedure 
as a jungle and a jumble; and passage through 
the maze of parliamentary rules and proce- 

dures is often confused at best, requiring the 
use of quick guides which are short and clear, 
in easy-to-understand language, with frequent 
checklists and charts. Not all spin-offs are 
useful to the layperson; many serve to confuse 
rather than simplify procedures. Sticking to 
the standard Robert 's and leaving spin-offs on 
the shelf often proves to be the most efficient 
and effective way of learning the fine points of 
conducting a meeting. 

Consideration of competing works must 
include mention, in addition to spin-offs, of 
restatements of Robert 's. These are as numer- 
ous as spin-offs, and include Auer's Essen- 
tials of Parliamentary Procedure (3rd ed., 
New York; Prentice Hall, 1 959) and Demeter 's 
Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure 
(Boston: Little, Brown, 1969). Other titles 
such as Sturgis' Sturgis Standard Code of 
Parliamentary Procedure (3rd ed., New York: 
McGraw-Hill, 1988)seekto simplify Robert's 
Mules. Still other titles offer down-to-earth, 
common-sense approaches, pleading for no 
more formal use of Robert's than necessary, 
such as FarwelPs The Majority Rules: A 
Manual of Procedure for Most Groups 
(Pueblo, CO: High Publishers, 1980). "Mod- 
ern" guides include Jones's Parliamentary 
Procedure at a Glance (New York: Dutton, 
1971); Keesey's Barnes & Noble Book of 
Modern Parliamentary Procedure (New 'York: 
Harper & Row, 1984); Riddick and Butcher's 
Riddick's Rules of Procedures (New York: 
Scribner, 1988); and Suthers' TheNew Primer 
in Parliamentary Procedure (Chicago: 
Dartnell, 1 965). Despite the existence of alter- 
natives, in his survey entitled "A Historical 
Sketch of Parliamentary Procedure," Ray E. 
Keesey notes that "None of the guides to 
parliamentary procedure since Robert 'sRules 
of Order has had as wide an acceptance as 
his." 4 

The Value of Procedure 

Parliamentary law is a complex subject, 
the comprehensive knowledge of which re- 
quires considerable study as well as practical 
experience and an understanding of its prin- 


ence landmark is inseparable from an appre- 
ciation of parliamentary law and procedure, 
for it is through such an appreciation that 
respect for Robert 's is both kindled and fuel- 

In medieval England, the sovereign sum- 
moned his parliament, a general or great coun- 
cil of state. The parliament consisted of an 
assemblage of persons (members of the nobil- 
ity, clergy, and commons) who sat for a period 
of time until it was dissolved. Today the word 
"parliament" has come to mean an assembly 
representing a group or the members of an 
organization and usually convened for the 
expression of opinion, enactment of policy, 
and the transaction of other business. "Delib- 
erative assembly," on the other hand, refers to 
a nonlegislative organization that conducts 
meetings according to parliamentary law. 

The introduction to Robert 's Rules of Or- 
der Newly Revised distinguished parliamen- 
tary law from parliamentary procedure. The 
former is defined as "the name given to the 
rules and customs for carrying on business in 
the English Parliament which were developed 
through a continuing process of decisions and 
precedents somewhat like the growth of com- 
mon law." 5 Today parliamentary law is under- 
stood as the body of rules and precedents used 
to govern the proceedings of deliberative as- 
semblies and other organizations. 

Although frequently used synonymously 
with parliamentary law, the term "parliamen- 
tary procedure" "refers ... to parliamentary 
law as it is followed in any given assembly or 
organization, together with whatever rules of 
order the body may have adopted." 6 Mere 
mention of parliamentary procedure brings to 
mind the mysterious jargon of the professional 
parliamentarian: "I rise to a point of order;*' "I 
move to amend the motion;" "I doubt the 
quorum;" "The Chair requests order." Presid- 
ing and leadership practices blur: calling the 
meeting to order, accepting the minutes, trans- 
acting business, adjournment. Duties of mem- 
bers seem equally confusing to the uninitiated: 
role in debate, role in voting, personal privi- 
lege, not to mention honorary, in good stand- 

ing, ex officio, or absent members! Despite 
being arcane, it is generally believed that 
parliamentary procedure as codified by 
Robert 's has been important in shaping and 
refining basic American notions of due pro- 
cess and majority and minority rights as ap- 
plied to group activities. In his preface to the 
1970 edition, Grofman noted that "Robert's 
may be regarded as an implicit theory of 
democracy. For many Americans, its proce- 
dures are synonymous with practical democ- 



Henry Martyn Robert 

Outside the ranks of professional parlia- 
mentarians, few who can recite which divided 
motions can't be amended often do not know 
who Robert was, let alone if there wasaRobert 
at all! Henry Martyn Robert (1837-1923), a 
scholarly looking nineteenth-century military 
man, is best known today for taking on the task 
of codifying and simplifying the rules and 
procedures of the United States House of 
Representatives. Born on May 2, 1 837, Henry 
M, Robert came originally from Robertville, 
South Carolina. When Robert was 13, his 
father, who had come to the conclusion that 
slavery was morally wrong, freed his slaves 
and moved the family to Ohio. At 16, Henry 
received an appointment to West Point. After 
graduating from the military academy in 1857, 
Robert went on to pursue a military career, 
being commissioned in the Corps of Engi- 
neers and serving with distinction in the Union 
anny and becoming Chief of Engineers in the 
U.S. Army. During the Civil War (1861—65) 
he constructed defenses for Washington, D.C., 
Philadelphia, and the port of New Bedford, 
Massachusetts. In '863, at the age of 26, while 
stationed at New Bedford to help in the de- 
fense of the local whaling fleet against Con- 
federate raiders, he was asked to preside over 
his first meeting, a turbulent meeting of his 
Baptist church. This experience changed his 
life and affected the lives of his descendents. 
Henry plunged in, confident that the assembly 
would behave itself. However it did not, and 
he resolved to learn something about parlia- 


mentary law and procedure. Over the years he 
became aware of how many different inter- 
pretations of parliamentary procedure there 
were. As a Major serving in the turbulent 
frontier atmosphere of San Francisco in 1 867, 
he observed that California immigrants from 
every state in the union had a different idea of 
what was correct. He began to read all the 
manuals on parliamentary procedure he could 
find. Gradually, he became convinced of the 
need for a new book, based on the rules and 
practices of Congress, but adapted for the use 
by societies of ordinary American laypeople. 

The First Edition 

It was not until 1874 that Robert had the 
time to write his manual. By this time he had 
been transferred to Milwaukee. Barbara A. 
Bannon has provided a detailed history of the 
publishing of Robert's Rules of Order, based 
in part on her interview with the third Henry 
M. Robert. She notes that the General initially 
took the work to a job printer, Burdick and 
Armitage, at his own expense and had it printed 
andproofread 1 6 pages at a time, with the type 
from those pages then being redistributed and 
used again for the next sixteen. The manu- 
script was submitted to D. Appleton & Com- 
pany of New York and rejected. A second 
publisher, S.C. Griggs of Chicago, also re- 
turned the manuscript with, as Bannon de- 
scribes, "a letter of polite, vague interest but 
with the pages uncut." 8 Persistent, the General 
offered S.C. Griggs the 4,000 copies he had 
"ready-printed," to be bound by Griggs at his 
own expense, with the proviso that 1 ,000 of 
them could be given away free to educators, 
legislators, church leaders, and other promi- 
nent persons in the United States. Thepublish- 
ing house decided to take the chance. 

Originally entitledPockei Manual of Rules 
of 'Order for Deliberative Assemblies^ the book 
carried the simpler Robert 's Rules of Order as 
the publisher's second, descriptive title on the 
jacket. The established Cushing manual, pub- 
lished in 1845, was its primary competition. 
The Pocket Manual was immediately suc- 

cessful. Within four months of publication in 
1876, Griggs had sold out the entire lot; the 
General had estimated that it would take two 
years to dispose of 4,000 copies. The book was 
out of print for one month. It came back into 
print by the end of July 1876, with some 16 
additional pages. In 1893 a third edition, num- 
bering 218 pages, was published. In 1896 
Scott, Foresman and Company of Chicago 
acquired the rights to the book and has been its 
publisher ever since. 

In 1 9 1 5 , Robert's Rules of Order Revised 
was published. This first complete revision 
was the product of three years of work by the 
General, then retired from military service. 
Bannon notes that by that time the book had 
already sold half a million copies. 9 The book 
went through numerous editions during the 
General's lifetime. 

Editions under Other Editors 

Subsequent editions were handled by the 
Genera] ' s second wife and the wife of his son, 
the second Henry, after the deaths of the two 
men. Bannon notes that "Conscientiously, each 
generation of the Robert family since the 
General has tried to keep up with a volumi- 
nous correspondence developing out of the 
book." 10 

The General died in Hornell, New York, 
on May 11, 1923. His spirit lives on through 
the numerous subsequent editions, revisions, 
and spin-offs of his work. His Parliamentary 
Practice, originally published in 1921 and 
Parliamentary Law, originally published in 
1922, were still in print in the 1 980s as, respec- 
tively, Parliamentary Practice; An Introduc- 
tion to Parliamentary Law and Parliamentary 
Law (both New York: Irvington, 1975). 

Among the many editions and printings of 
Robert 's Rules of Order, several stand out — 
the original edition of 1876; the editions is- 
sued in Robert's lifetime (2nd in 1 876, 3rd in 
1893); revisions (1915 which superseded the 
last of the three earliest editions, and 1 970, the 
first complete revision since 1915); and the 
current, "Modern Edition,"published in 1989. 


An understanding of the style, spirit and intent 
of the original edition is important, because 
successive editions and revisions have been 
written to be in complete harmony with the 
preceding editions so that they can replace 
those editions "with no disturbance of estab- 
lished practice in organizations that have used 
the preceding edition." 11 The preface to the 
1970 edition of Robert 's Rules of Order Newly 
Revised explained: 

"Since this book superseded all previous edi- 
tions, such replacement is automatic in cases 
where the organization's bylaws prescribe as 
its parliamentary authority 'Robert's Rules of 
Order Revised,' or 'the current edition of 
Robert's Rules of Order,' or the like, without 
specifying a particular edition. If the bylaws 
specify a particular edition, however, such as 
the '1951 Edition,' or the 'Seventy-Fifth An- 
niversary Edition,' amendment of the bylaws 
is necessary." 12 

Darwin Patnode's preface to "Modern 
Edition" of 1 989 indicates that it too continues 
the very process that led to the succession of 
previous editions, insofar as reorganization, 
expansion, and clarification are concerned. 

The original edition contained not only an 
explanation of the methods of organizing and 
conducting meetings, the duties of officers, 
and the documents of an organization, but also 
the rules governing motions, including their 
forms, objects, characteristics, and other de- 
tails. A "Table of Rules Relating to Motions" 
supplemented the text, enabling the presiding 
officer of a meeting to decide many parlia- 
mentary questions by a quick reference with- 
out turning a page or using an index. Numer- 
ous footnotes concerning legislative proce- 
dures were included. A lengthy introduction 
dealing with legislative procedure began the 
book. The goal of the text proper — to provide 
firm and uniform rules of order for delibera- 
tive assemblies throughout the land, was met, 
and, as its popularity attests, met very success- 

Robert said the object of his book was 

to assist an assembly to accomplish the work 
for which it was designed, in the best possible 
manner. To do this it is necessary to restrain 

the individual somewhat, as the right of an 
individual in any community, to do what he 
pleases, is incompatible with the interests of 
the whole. Where there is no law, but every 
man does what is right in his own eyes, there 
is the least of real liberty. Experience has 
shown the importance of the definiteness in 
the iaw; and in this country, where customs are 
so slightly established and the published manu- 
als of parliamentary practice so conflicting, 
no society should attempt to conduct business 
without having adopted some work upon the 
subject, as the authority in all cases not cov- 
ered by their own special rules." 

Robert continued to make countless modi- 
fications from one printing to the next, insert- 
ing new rules, sometimes even reversing ear- 
lier rules, from a time shortly after the first 
printing to the end of his life. In 1 9 1 5, General 
Robert wrote, "The constant inquiries from all 
sections of the country for information . . . that 
is not contained in Rules of Order seems to 
demand a revision and an enlargement of the 
manual. To meet this want, the work has been 
thoroughly revised and enlarged, and to avoid 
confusion with the old Rules, is published 
under the title of 'Robert's Rules of Order 
Revised. ,mA Twenty years after the author's 
death, Robert's Rules of Order Revised was 
reissued, incorporating the changes he made 
after the 1915 edition was published. 

The seventy-fifth anniversary edition of 
Robert 's Rules of Order Revised, published in 
195 1 , was prepared, as noted on the verso of 
its title page, "as an important part of the 
program of constant attention and frequent 
revision given this standard work since its 
original publication." The edition contained 
two parts: "Rules of Order, A Compendium of 
Parliamentary Law, Based Upon the Rules of 
Practice of Congress," and "Organization and 
Conduct of Business: A Simple Explanation 
of the Methods of Organizing and Conducting 
the Business of Societies, Conventions, and 
Other Deliberative Assemblies." "The Order 
of Precedence of Motions" is given inside the 
front cover, and practical points about matters 
such as by-laws, the nominating committee, 
the parliamentarian, and special meetings were 
provided inside the back cover. In their pref- 


ace, Isabel H. Robert and Sarah Corbin Robert 
noted that Robert's Rules of Order is among 
the few books privileged to enjoy their great- 
est influence after 75 years because it is based 
upon the "same enduring principles on which 
our nation itself is founded — the right of the 
majority to decide, the right of the minority to 
be heard, the right of absentees to be pro- 
tected," 15 and because it "has responded to 
changing needs and conditions." 16 

Significant additions to the 1951 edition 
included an enlarged index and a new section 
on Practical Points (annual meeting, by-laws, 
the nominating committee, the parliamentar- 
ian, rotation in office, and special meeting) on 
the inside back cover. In addition, references 
to the Congress of the United States were 
updated to conform to then-current practice, 
making the book still more useful to organiza- 
tions that have adopted the rules as their par- 
liamentary authority. Excerpts from the writ- 
ing of General Robert are contained in the 
preface; these suggest his basic philosophy 
and indicate the enduring quality of his work. 

The 1970 Edition 

Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 
published in 1970, represented the seventh 
edition of this standard guide to parliamentary 
rules, with charts, tables, and lists. This edition 
was the work of General Robert's daughter- 
in-law, Sarah Corbin Robert. She was assisted 
by her son, Henry M. Robert III; William J. 
Evans, a Baltimore lawyer; and James W. 
Geary, president of the California State Uni- 
versity, Northridge. The 594-page 1970 edi- 
tion represented the first complete revision 
since 1915, and only the second complete 
revision of the manual since it was first pub- 
lished. The 1 970 edition was also the first new 
edition in nearly 20 years. A replacement for 
the seventy-fifth anniversary edition, the 1970 
edition was published in February on the ninety- 
fourth anniversary of the first publication of 
the book. Ten years in preparation, the book 
was 75 percent rewritten for clarification and 
easier use, and almost twice the length of the 
seventy-fifth anniversary edition. 

Although the 1 970 edition revision super- 
seded the preceding edition of Robert 's Rules 
of Order Revised, it was "written to be in 
complete harmony with" that edition. The 
verso of the title page also included the follow- 
ing notice: "This book automatically replaces 
Robert 's Rules of Order Revised as the parlia- 
mentary authority in organizations whose 
bylaws prescribe 'Robert's Rules of Order 
Revised,' or 'the current edition of Robert's 
Rules of Order,' or the like; without specify- 
ing a particular edition." 

As did earlier editions, the 1970 edition 
maintained the virtues of its predecessors, 
continuing to be relevant to those who under- 
stood the admonition with which the book 
opened: "Where there is no law, but every man 
does what is right in his own eyes, there is the 
least of liberty." 17 As were its predecessor 
the 1970 edition was characterized as neces- 
sary to the conduct of American bodies deal- 
ing with legislation or regulations of any sort. 

Overall, the 1 970 edition was more mod- 
ern, complete, comprehensive, better orga- 
nized, more clearly presented, more efficient, 
and far easier to use than previous editions. 
Notable additions or elaborations in the 1970 
edition included a compendium of charts, 
tables and lists placed conveniently and con- 
spicuously in the center of the book; the inclu- 
sion of a section on "Disciplinary Procedures" 
as a final chapter; an enlarged and improved 
index; and an introduction offering brief-but- 
sound accounts of the origins of parliamentary 
law in Great Britain, of the transfer of British 
procedures to America, and of the genesis of 
Robert's work. Additional enhancements in- 
cluded a larger size and a change in type face, 
both of which contributed to greater clarity 
and a contemporary feeling as well as en- 
hanced legibility. Most significant, however, 
are the facts that the 1970 edition was almost 
completely rewritten in simpler, clearer terms 
and that the material was reorganized so as to 
be in accord with the natural flow of business 
and meetings. Careful review indicates that 
the entire text of earlier editions was re-exam- 
ined, reworded, and supplemented where nec- 
essary to, as the 1970 "Preface" says, "make 


the work more useful in its basic function as a 
reference manual suitable for adoption by 
organizations as parliamentary authority." 18 
The 1970 edition was designed so that one 
could read it through and acquire a good 
picture of parliamentary procedure with mini- 
mum reference to concepts not previously 

Critical Reception of the 1970 

Reviewers praised the edition for taking 
the mystery out of parliamentary procedure 
for a significantly larger sector of the popula- 
tion. Many reviewers noted that people could 
even teach themselves certain parts of it, and 
that the revision enabled users to feel at home 
with the subject and not to be afraid of or 
intimidated by it. Three examples of revision 
illustrating improvements which led to im- 
proved user satisfaction include: (l) charts 
and tables which are simple to use, and pro- 
vide quick reference to form, precedence, and 
applicability of motions (as contrasted to charts 
which were nearly impossible to use, with 
stars, asterisks, footnotes and fine print, in- 
cluded in previous editions); (2) the logical 
arrangement of material in the order one would 
usually encounter (as contrasted to the para- 
graph format in earlier editions); and (3) the 
clear explanation of the basic classification 
scheme, providing for each motion a section in 
outline form clearly and succinctly setting 
forth the motion's basic operational charac- 
teristics and its uses (as contrasted to the 
ambiguous classification and presentation of 
motions in earlier editions). 

Negative criticism of the 1970 edition 
was scant; nonetheless, certain points deserve 
mention. The stated intentions of the editors 
were to combine in the 1970 edition a defini- 
tive reference work and teaching edition. Many 
reviewers felt that although the 1 970 edition 
succeeded as a definitive reference work, it 
did not succeed as a teaching manual. The 
continuing presence of some archaic termi- 
nology, some unnecessarily complex and con- 
fusing rules, and some rules which could best 

be disposed of served to minimize this edition's 
potential as a teaching manual. Reading from 
coverto coverto learn the basics ofparliamen- 
tary procedure was not recommended. Fur- 
thermore, some reviewers felt that the 1970 
edition was not a genuine revision and mod- 
ernization of American parliamentary prac- 
tice. These reviewers noted that fealty to the 
dead General and a desire to maintain termi- 
nological accord with the U.S. House of Rep- 
resentatives limited the editors in the scope of 
their revision and in the extent of their mod- 

The 1989 Edition 

Robert 's Rules of Order Modem Edition, 
published in 1989 and edited by Darwin 
Patnode 4 aprofessionalparliamentarian, "tries 
to retain the best of the original style and 
content of Robert's ideas and supplement them 
with modern language and rules, seeking a 
golden mean." 19 The Preface continues to 
advise that "In most sections, the opening 
material is that of Robert, and gradually addi- 
tional material merges with it." 20 Specific 
points of departure from earlier editions in- 
clude: (1) the elimination of obsolete foot- 
notes; (2) the incorporation of relevant foot- 
notes into the text; (3) the elimination of 
"innumerable and maddening" cross-refer- 
ences; (4) the provision of additional defini- 
tions to facilitate a clear understanding of 
terms Robert assumed the reader knew; (5) the 
insertion of sample bylaws; (6) the addition of 
longer sample minutes; and (7) the omission 
of superfluous introductory material. In addi- 
tion, Patnode claims to have reworked Robert 's 
awkward syntax; to have modernized spell- 
ing, punctuation, and typography; and to have 
improved the table of motions. Furthermore, 
material in the text was "altered slightly to 
have a more logical sequence." 21 Patnode ac- 
knowledges changing the rules in some cases, 
always, however, being guided by the spirit of 
the original rules. 

Any review of the publishing history of 
Robert J s needs to consider the question, which 
edition is the definitive printing for reference? 


In his preface to the 1989 edition, Patnode 
addresses this quandary: "when an 
organization's bylaws designate as parliamen- 
tary authority Robert 's Rules of Order without 
specifying an edition, there can easily be dis- 
agreement astowhataparticularrulesays,not 
only because several different printings con- 
tain somewhat different rules, but also be- 
cause Robert was not always perfectly clear or 
consistent within a given printing. 22 Patnode 
goes on to advise "An organization wishing to 
follow the spirit of the original rules of Henry 
M. Robert would do well to adopt as its parlia- 
mentary authority the Modern Edition of 

Robert 's Rules of Order." 2 * Patnode 's counsel 
can be viewed as self-serving, especially since 
Scott, Foresman issued aninth edition in 1990, 
Its title page credits this edition to the same 
team responsible for the 1970 edition, al- 
though the dustjacketnotesthaf'SarahCorbin 
Robert was the daughter-in-law of the original 
author." Just released at this writing, the 1990 
edition has yet to be reviewed, let alone tested 
through application. Meanwhile, others will 
imitate it, but no other manual is likely to 
demystify parliamentary procedures as thor- 
oughly or as clearly. 


The list below excludes reissues and re- 
prints and confines itself to new editions. 
Readers may also wish to refer to the chart of 
editions and reprints in Margaret A. Banks' 
article '"Robert's Rules of Order;' Editions, 
Reprints* and Competitors," cited below in the 

Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative 
Assemblies Robert 's Rules of Order, by Henry 
Martyn Robert. Chicago: S.C. Griggs & Com- 
pany, 1876. 176p. 

Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative 
Assemblies, by Henry M. Robert. 2nd ed. Chi- 
cago: S.C. Griggs, 1876. 192p. 

Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative 
Assemblies, by Henry M. Robert, 3rd ed. Chi- 
cago: S.C. Griggs, 1893. 21 8p. 

Robert's Rules of Order Revised, by Henry M. Rob- 
ert. Chicago: Scotl, Foresman, 1915. 323 p. 


Robert 's Rules of Order Revised for Deliberative 
Assemblies, by Henry M.Robert. Chicago: Scott, 
Foresman, 1943. 326p. 

Robert 's Rules of Order Revised. Seventy-Fifth An- 
niversary Edition, by Henry M. Robert. Chi- 
cago: Scott, Foresman, 1951. 326p. 

Robert 's Rules of Order Newly Revised. A New and 
Enlarged Edition by Sarah Corbin Robert with 
the Assistance of Henry M. Robert III, James 
W. Cleary and William Evans. Glenview, IL: 
Scott, Foresman, 1970. 594p. 

The Scott, Foresman Robert 's Rules of Order Newly 
Revised. 8th ed., by Sarah Corbin Robert. 
Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman, 1981. 594p. 

Robert's Rules of Order Modern Edition, edited by 
Darwin Patnode. Nashville, TN: ThomasNelson, 
1989. 155p. 

The Scott Foresman Robert 's Rules of Order Newly 
Revised. 9th ed., by Sarah Corbin Robert and 
others. Scott, Foresman, 1990. 706 p. 

The secondary literature onRobert 's Rules 
of Order is not as vast as one might expect for 
a book of its age and influence. This is due, in 
part, to its longtime bestseller status; its popu- 
larity has discouraged ongoing critical exami- 
nation, despite the appearance of new edi- 
tions. Furthermore, a limited number of per- 
sons have an abiding interest in parliamentary 
procedure and the literature of that field is 
itself limited. The best of the secondary litera- 
ture on Robert's is found in two sorts of 
sources — material which assists readers in 

distinguishing editions and reprints of Robert 's 
from one another, and materials which de- 
scribe the principal competitors of Robert's. 
Description and analysis in these items is 
generally thorough and strong, in contrast to 
reviews of Robert's in law, library, or public 
administration literature. Such reviews tend to 
be superficial and, at best, only marginally 
critical. The most significant items available 
are the works by Banks, O'Connell, and 
Sikkink. Biographical information on Robert 
can be found in the introductions to the various 


editions noted above and in introductions to 
reprints listed in Banks' '"Robert's Rules of 
Order:' Editions, Reprints, and Competitors." 

Aly, Bower. Review of Robert 's Rules of Order 
Newly Revised '(1970 ed.). Quarterly Journal of 
Speech 56 (December 1970): 454-55, 

Bannon, Barbara A. "Authors &. Editors: General 
Henry M. Robert." Publishers Weekly 197 
(March 16, 1970): 15-16. 

Banks, Margaret A. '"Robert's Rules of Order: 1 
Editions, Reprints, and Competitors." Law Li- 
brary Journal 80 (Spring, 1988): 177-92. 

. "Robert's Rules of Order: A Multiplicity of 

Editions and Reprints." Canadian Library Jour- 
nal 39 (1982): 367-71. 

. "Robert's Rules of Order: A Survey of 

Paperback Reprints." National Parliamentar- 
ian 40 (1979): 22-23. 

Cinquemani, Frank L. "Robert's Revised: Parlia- 
mentary Practice in Perspective." RQ 16 (Fall, 
1976): 55-58. 

Geary , James W. "A Commentary on Robert's Rules 
of Order Newly Revised." Parliamentary Jour- 
nal 9 (April, 1968): 3-9. 

Glixon, D,M. Review of Robert 's Rules of Order 
(New Revised) (1970 ed.). Saturday Review 53 
(May 16, 1970): 44. 

Grofman, Bernard N. Review of Robert's Rules of 
Order (New Revised) (1970 ed.). American 
Political Science Review 64 (December, 1970): 

Holle, Susan, and Bohdan S. Wynar, eds. Best Refer- 
ence Books 1970-1980: Titles of Lasting Value 
Selected From American Reference Books An- 
nual Littleton, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1981. 

Keesey, Ray E. "A Historical Stretch of Parliamen- 
tary Procedure." In his Modern Parliamentary 
Procedure, Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1974, 
pp. 21-25. 

Knowles, Malcolm S. "Move Over Mr. Robert." 
Adult leadership 1 (June, 1952): 2-4. 

O'Brien, Joseph F. "Henry M. Robert as Presiding 
Officer," Quarterly Journal of Speech A2 (April, 
1956): 157-62. 

O'Connell, Brian, "Robert's Rules of Order 
Demystified." In The Board Member's Book: 
Making a Difference in Voluntary Organiza- 
tions, 105-15. New York: Foundation Center, 

Revelle, Keith, "A Collection for La Raza." Library 
Journal 96 (November 15, 1971): 3719-26. 

Review of Robert 's Rules of Order. Publishers Weekly 
192 (July 21, 1967): 58. 

Review of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised 
(1970 ed,). American Reference Books Annual 
(1971): 145. 

Review of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised 
(1970 ed.). Booklist 6 (May 15, 1970): 1141. 

Sikkink, Don. "Fundamental Change in Parliamen- 
tary Procedure." Paper presented at the Annual 
Meeting of the Speech Communication Asso- 
ciation, 58th, Chicago, December 27-30, 1972. 
ED 072474. 

Wasylenko, Lydia W. Review of Robert's Rules of 
Order (Bantam Books edition, c 1982, 1986). In 
American Reference Books Annual 19 (1988), 

Wyllie, Stanley Clark, Jr. Review of Robert 's Rules 
of Order Newly Revised (1970 ed.). Library 
Journal 95 (June 1, 1970): 2123. 


1 Bernard N. Grofman, review of Robert 's Rules of Order, 

New Revised, 1 970 ed., American Political Scince 

Review 64 (December 1970): 1289. 
Barbara A. Bannon," Authors & Editors: General Henry 

M. Robert," Publishers Weekly 197 (L6 March 

1970): 15. 
'Grofman, 1288-89. 

* Ray E. Keesey, "A Historical Sketch of Parliamentary 

Procedure," in Modern Parliamentary Procedure 
by Ra'y E. Keesey (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 
1974), 25. 

5 Henry M. Robert, Robert 's Rules of Order Newly Re- 
vised (Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman, 1 970), xxvii, 

6 Ibid,,xxviii. 

7 Grofman, 1289. 

* Bannon, 16. 
10 Ibid. 

' ' Robert, Robert 's Rules of Order Newly Revised, xxiii. 

12 Ibid. 

13 Henry M. Robert, Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for 

Deliberative Assemblies: Robert 's Rules of Order 

(1 876), cited by Isabel H. Robert and Sarah Corbin 

Robert, Robert 's Rules of Order Revised (Chicago: 

Scott Foresman, 1951), 14. 
N Ibid. 
15 Isabel H. Robert and Sarah Corbin Robert, "Preface," 

[aRobert 's Rules of Order Revised (Chicago: Scott, 

Foresman, 1951): 13. 
t6 Ibid. 
17 Ibid., 14, 

" Robert, Robert 's Rules of Order Newly Revised, xxii. 
"Darwin Patnode, ed., Robert 's Rules of Order Modern 

Edition (Nashvil le, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1 989), 15. 
23 Ibid. 
21 Ibid,, 16. 
32 Ibid., 16-17. 
"Ibid, 17. 

"Wings of Flight": Roget's Thesaurus 
of English Words and Phrases 

Marta Lange 

The man is not wholly evil— he has a 
Thesaurus in his cabin. 

— Sir James Barrie, describing 

Captain Hook 


Peter Mark Roget published his Thesaurus of 
English Words and Phrases in 1852, calling it 
a "desideratum hitherto unsupplied in any 
language; namely, a collection of the words it 
contains and of the idiomatic combinations 
peculiar to it, arranged, not in alphabetical 
order as they are in a Dictionary, but according 
to the ideas which they express." 1 It was a tool 
Roget hoped would not merely assist in com- 
munication but would actually give thought 
"wings for flight." 2 

A medical doctor and Renaissance man 
whose intellectual interests spanned the sci- 
ences, Roget labored almost fours years to 
produce this work and saw 25 editions or 
printings published before his death at the age 
of 91. Tens of millions of copies have been 
sold since that time, making this work one of 
the most ubiquitous in the English-speaking 
world. The word thesaurus, derived from the 
Greek 0Tqcaupog (thesauros) meaning a "trea- 
sure," "store," or "collection,' 1 is now a com- 
mon noun in the English language. Few refer- 
ence titles are as closely identified with a 
single individual as the Thesaurus is with 
Roget. This landmark work closely reflects 
both the nature of Roget and the time in which 
he lived. It is through understanding both that 
an appreciation of the Thesaurus can be gained. 

Peter Mark Roget 

Roget was born in London in 1779, the 
only son of Catherine Romilly and the Rever- 
end Jean Roget, a native of Geneva, Switzer- 
land, and pastor of a French Protestant church. 
Jean died when his son was only four, and 
Peter was brought up by his mother "who was 
admirably qualified for the task, not only by 
her mental accomplishments, but by a system- 
atic habit of mind, which was inherited by her 
son in a marked degree." 3 

By the time Peter was 14, Catherine was 
concerned about the direction of his educa- 
tion. His interests and talents lay consistently 
in the areas of science and mathematics, yet 
there was no such occupation as scientist in 
1793. Catherine therefore chose medicine as 
the profession Peter would pursue. It was a 
subject that she found fascinating and a field 
which proved "profitable to the practitioner, 
even if not to the patient." 4 She moved the 
family to Edinburgh whose university had the 
best medical and scientific programs in the 
English-speaking world. Peter enrolled at age 
fourteen and received his M.D. degree at 19. 

For the next three years Peter experienced 
what was perhaps the most adventurous part 
of his life. He traveled to the Pneumatic Insti- 
tution in Clifton, where Dr. Thomas Beddoes 
andHumphrey Davy were experimenting with 
early forms of anesthesia by treating various 
ailments through respiration of nitrous oxide, 
or "laughing gas." Roget's own experience 
with the gas left him bewildered and fright- 
ened. He felt his equilibrium had been de- 


stroyed and that, under the influence of the 
gas, his senses were in a state of confusion. For 
one so properly trained to be a model profes- 
sional man, such an experience was plainly 
destructive. In his years at Edinburgh, "Peter 
had been convinced that his future lay in 
regularity and order, not in disequilibrium and 
confusion." 5 

In the fall of 1800 Peter experimented 
with creating a "Frigidarium," an idea con- 
ceived by Jeremy Bentham for cold storage of 
foods. He lived in Bentham' s house, but desir- 
ing more privacy, disenchanted with living in 
such an unconventional household, and con- 
vinced that Bentham was a man who would 
never finish what he started to do, Roget 
moved out to his own apartment. 6 

After his return from an 1803 trip to 
France that almost ended in his imprisonment 
when war broke out between France and En- 
gland, Roget moved to Manchester to set up a 
medical practice where the ratio of physicians 
to populace was not as high as that in London. 
He was appointed one of the physicians to the 
Infirmary and assisted in creating a medical 
school there. In 1806 he delivered a series of 
1 8 lectures on physiology to medical students. 
The syllabus of his course showed that his 
"chief interest in the new science of physiol- 
ogy lay in the organization and order of the 
several aspects of that subject and in the 
relationship of the subject to such kindred 
fields as anatomy." 7 This interest in relation- 
ships and classification characterized his work 
and led eventually to the classification of ideas 
and words in the Thesaurus. 

Roget resigned his post at the Infirmary in 
1808 and moved to London. He immersed 
himself in work, and for the next 60 years he 
practiced as a physician, participated actively 
in the burgeoning scientific societies, wrote 
scientific papers, and lectured on physiology 
and related topics . Roget established a consid- 
erable medical practice in London, where he 
also helped open aneighborhood charity medi- 
cal clinic, and served as physician to the 
Spanish embassy. Appointed by King George 

IV in 1 827 to a commission studying London' s 
water quality, Roget recommended that water 
be filtered through sand, a method still in use 
today. 8 The crowning point of his medical 
career came in 1831 with his election to the 
Royal College of Physicians. 9 

Roget took a more than usually active part 
in a number of organizations, including the 
Royal Institution, Medical and Chirurgical 
Society, and many others. 10 As a founding 
member of the Medical and Chirurgical Soci- 
ety, he tended to bookkeeping and oversaw 
the publishing of several volumes of the 
Society' s transactions. As elected secretary of 
the Royal Society, he edited the Proceedings 
of the Society and prepared for publication the 
abstracts of papers communicated to the Soci- 
ety. 11 

Throughout his career Roget contributed 
papers to the advancement of scientific knowl- 
edge. His total bibliography numbers over 100 
items, including many treatises written in 
simple English explaining science at the 
layperson's level. Fourteen of Roget's ar- 
ticles, ranging in subject matter from "Ant," 
"Cranioscopy," "Deaf and Dumb" to "Kalei- 
doscope," were published in the supplement 
to the fourth, fifth and sixth editions of the 
Encyclopaedia Britannica. These articles were 
"important in increasing his stature as an au- 
thority in physiology and as an all-around 
savant." 12 He demonstrated his bent for find- 
ing relationships and shaping facts into or- 
ganic laws in a major article on physiology 
published in the seventh edition of the 
Britannica. He produced several treatises on 
electricity, galvanism, magnetism, and electro- 
magnetism, evidence of his continuing fasci- 
nation with science and mathematics. 13 

Roget's Animal and Vegetable Physiol- 
ogy Considered with Reference to Natural 
Theology, a two-volume work appearing in 
1834, marked the peak of his professional 
career. This work was the fifth in the series of 
the Bridgewater Treatises, commissioned by 
the Earl of Bridgewater to propound "the 
power, wisdom, and goodness of God, as 


manifested in the creation." 14 The treatise 
offered no original discoveries but brought a 
sense of unity to physiology and comparative 
anatomy, In an age of growing scientific dis- 
covery and change, however, its view that 
evolution could not work separately from an 
all-knowing God was already in question by 
the time it was published. 

Roget served as secretary of the Royal 
Society for 20 years, a tenure not without its 
stormy clashes. As early as 1830, Charles 
Babbage and others charged the Society with 
dilettantism, private interest, nepotism, and 
snobbery. 15 For over ten years a series of 
complicated disputesand arguments advanced 
until they emerged as a large-scale revolt of 
young scientists against the old guard. The 
pressure for reform mounted, and Roget re- 
signed as secretary on November 30, 1 847. 1(S 

A Fascination for Order 

Finding himself possessed of more lei- 
sure after his retirement, Roget turned his 
attention to a project which he had begun in 
1805, that of classifying and organizing the 
English language. The Thesaurus began as a 
noteb ook Roget carried around with him since 
his earliest days of lecturing. He arranged 
words within it to help him express himself as 
effectively as possible. Now in his seventies, 
he would draw upon a lifetime of experience 
in lecturing, writing, and editing to make this 
list into a coherent system others could use. 17 
Ironically it is this list, not any of his scientific 
achievements, that made Roget a household 

At first glance it is not apparentthat Roget 
had any particular talent equipping him to 
tackle such an ambitious project. He demon- 
strated no literary interest, no linguistic train- 
ing, no fascination with language for 
language's sake. What he did demonstrate 
over his entire lifetime, however, was a con- 
cern with order; it was "the organization of 
knowledge (rather than the making of pro- 
found discoveries, for which he lacked the 

imagination), that was Roget's forte, and which 
he was able to put to good use in compiling the 

Roget's fascination for order was charac- 
teristic of the age in which he lived. The 
successful emergence of modern science de- 
pended upon the development of a workable 
classification of its elements, andsystematists 
worked out schemes for classifying the plant 
and animal kingdoms and chemical elements. 
In the same vein, Roget would labor for four 
years (1848-1852) to organize and classify 
human ideas into an outline of commonly 
understood terms. 

Although he believed that his work filled 
a unique niche in the history of word tools, 
Roget was certainly aware of other related 
publications. By the time the Thesaurus was 
published, three types of language literature 
existed: philosophical treatises on the rela- 
tionship between thought and language, and 
on the possibilities of creating a universal 
language; prescriptive grammars, including 
style manuals and synonym books; and writ- 
ings in the emerging field of linguistics. Roget 
probably drew from all three areas when con- 
structing his Thesaurus. 19 

While he stressed the utility of the The- 
saurus for writers, Roget also saw his book as 
a tool for philosophers: 

Metaphysicians engaged in the more pro- 
found investigation of the Philosophy of Lan- 
guage will be materially assisted by having 
the ground thus prepared for them, in a previ- 
ous analysis and classification of our ideas; 
for such classification of ideas is the true basis 
on which words, which are their symbols, 
should be classified. It is by such analysis 
alone that we can arrive at a clear perception 
of the relation which these symbols bear to 
their corresponding ideas, or can obtain a 
correct knowledge of the elements which en- 
ter in to the formation of compound ideas, and 
of the exclusions by which we arrive at the 
abstractions so perpetually resorted to in the 
process of reasoning, and in the communica- 
tions of our thoughts. 20 

He also expressed his philosophy that 
"the use of language is not confined to its 


being the medium through which we commu- 
nicate our ideas to one another; it fulfills a no 
less important function as an instrument of 
thought; not being merely its vehicle, but 
giving it wings for flight." 21 Roget also felt it 
of utmost importance that strict accuracy should 
regulate use of language. He further worried 

false logic, disguised under specious phrase- 
ology, too often gains the assent of the un- 
thinking multitude, disseminating far and wide 
the seeds of prejudice and error. ... A misap- 
plied or misapprehended term is sufficient to 
give rise to fierce and interminable disputes; a 
misnomer has turned the tide of popular opin- 
ion; a verbal sophism has decided a party 
question; an artful watchword, thrown among 
combustible materials, has kindled the flame 
of deadly warfare, and changed the destiny of 
an empire. 22 

Roget shared the dream of a number of 
earlier writers for a set of symbols upon which 
to base a universal language. To Roget, none 
of these earlier schemes seemed practical, yet 
he considered their ultimate goal highly desir- 
able. Science was developing and expanding 
during his lifetime, and scientists were seek- 
ing a new international language for commu- 
nication. Rather than basing this language on 
a set of symbols or characters, Roget believed 
that such a language should be developed 
through the organization of ideas based on a 
consensus of current speaking and writing 
practice. He felt that his own analysis of the 
language could assist in determining the prin- 
ciples on which aphilosophical language might 
be constructed, and once constructed, adopted 
by every civilized nation. Nothing, thought 
Roget, could do more "to bring about a golden 
age of union and harmony among the several 
nations and races of mankind. 


A Multi-Purpose Tool 

What Roget conceived as aphilosophical 
arrangement of ideas expressed by language 
was also meant as a practical tool for the 
precise use of language. At the time of its 

publication, practical language works in En- 
glish fell into three categories: prescriptive 
grammars, dictionaries, and collections of 
synonyms. Their collective purpose was to 
establish an acceptable level of good taste in 
conversation and in writing. The popularity of 
these works corresponded with the rise in 
England of a middle class concerned with 
bettering its own fortunes, and with binding 
town and country populations togetherthrough 
education and study of the English language. 24 

The Thesaurus is not aprescripti ve gram- 
mar, but there is some relationship between 
Roget's goals and those of the various gram- 
mars published. Those works sought to de- 
velop grammatical standards as well as to 
purify the English language which some felt 
had been adulterated by French words and 
phrases . Roget also sought to create a standard 
for regulating language, but his concern was 
more toward regulating the appearance of 
new words, not grammatical structure. 25 

The Thesaurus is not a dictionary, for an 
ordinary dictionary simply explains the mean- 
ing of words or the i deas words are intended to 
convey. The Thesaurus is exactly the oppo- 
site: the idea being given, it identifies the word 
or words by which that idea may be best 
expressed. Believing that "we cannot but be 
often conscious that the phraseology we have 
at our command is inadequate to do them 
justice," 26 Roget said his work would offer the 
writer a helping hand, for 

it is in words that he clothes his thoughts; it is 
by means of words that he depicts his feelings. 
It is therefore essential to his success that he be 
provided with a copious vocabulary, and that 
he possess an entire command of all the re- 
sources and appliances of his language. To the 
acquisition of this power no procedure ap- 
pears more directly conducive than the study 
of a methodized system such as that now 
offered to his use. 27 

Roget expressly stated that the Thesaurus 
was not a collection of synonyms, and indeed 
it made no attempt to differentiate among 
apparently synonymous words, 28 Roget' s con- 
cern was solely with classifying and arranging 



words according the their current sense and 
usage, knowledge of which he presumed the 
reader to possess. In assuming this knowledge 
Roget may have been operating with breath- 
taking optimism, for he was misunderstood 
even by early reviewers who equated his work 
with previous synonymies. 

The Thesaurus' s Antecedents 

English synonymies before 1852 tended 
to be one of two types: word-finding lists and 
those that tried to explain the distinctions 
among words. 29 Twenty different titles on 
English synonymy were published prior to the 
appearance of the Thesaurus, the first in 1766. 

In 1805, William Perry's Synonymous, 
Etymological, and Pronouncing English Dic- 
tionary greatly extended the traditional defi- 
nition of synonym (as one of two or more 
words of identical meaning, or of apparently 
identical meaning) and broadened it to include 
a group of words which have resemblances in 
meaning. 30 

English Synonymes Discriminated, by 
William Taylor (1813), used etymologies to 
explain the original meanings of words and 
thereby establish synonymous relationships. 
English Synonymes Explained, in Alphabeti- 
cal Order; with Copious Illustrations and 
Explanations Drawn from the Best Writers, by 
George Crabb (1816), was the most ambitious 
precursor to the Thesaurus. Crabb's chief 
contributions were the addition of an etymol- 
ogy, the addition of a statement as to how far 
words are equivalent in meaning, and the 
arrangement of words from the most compre- 
hensive to the least comprehensive. 3 ' Although 
Crabb's work was far from perfect — his syn- 
onymies were often confused and inconsistent 
and his etymologies often faulty — his work 
enjoyed greatpublic favor for many decades. 32 

A Selection of English Synonyms, by Miss 
Elizabeth Jane Whately (1851) proposed that 
words must often be regarded as signs not of 
real things but of notions of things, and must 
have a fixed and generally accepted content. 

While Whately was not the first to discrimi- 
nate meanings of synonyms, she was the first 
in England to make that the avowed aim of a 
book of synonyms and to distinguish clearly 
between the meaning of a word and the thing 
or idea for which it stood. 33 

One year after Whately' s work was pub- 
lished, the first edition of the Thesaurus of 
English Words and Phrases, Classified and 
Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of 
Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition ap- 
peared. Despite the plethora of word books 
already in existence, it enjoyed immediate 
acceptance and provoked new interest in op- 
posite and contrasted terms. Roget adapted 
from previous synonymies the technique of 
grouping large collections of synonymous 
words together, but he offered no definitions, 
no etymologies, no discriminating explana- 
tions between words, no citations to reputable 

Roget's Classification Scheme 

Roget devised his detailed classification 
of words from Georges Cuvier's zoological 
classification then used in natural history. He 
divided his work into six main categories 
(classes), each of which is divided further into 
sections (orders), subsections (genera), and 
heads of signification (species). 34 The sec- 
tional divisions he formed corresponded to the 
natural families in botany and zoology, with 
the filiation of words being analogous to the 
filiation of plants and animals within these 
families. 35 All of these divisions, 1,000 in all, 
were laid out in outline and tabular form and 
numbered. Each number designated aparticu- 
lar paragraph of the book, a particular idea 
under which the reader could find all words 
expressing that idea. The major portion of the 
book was arranged in numerical order, pre- 
senting an initially confusing format. For the 
convenience of the reader, Roget provided a 
tabular synopsis of categories at the beginning 
of the work. He also appended a short alpha- 
betical index to the text, though it was not his 


intent that the index ever become the predomi- 
nant portion of the work. 

Roget's chief goal in constructing his 
classification of ideas was to obtain the great- 
est amount of practical utility. The diagram 
below offers a useful picture for understand- 
ing his overall scheme. 

Just as Cuvier ' s classification scheme was 
fixed in form, so was Roget's. The intent 
behind this fixed design for language may be 
analogous to the fixed design of nature in the 
minds of natural theologists. Once the rela- 
tionships among the various parts of the natu- 
ral world had been set down in stable classifi- 
cation schemes, human understanding of that 
world, and God's purpose in it, was consider- 
ably increased. A permanent design outlining 
the organization of the totality of ideas , the 
components of the internal world, would in- 
crease human understanding both of human- 
ity and of God's purpose for humanity. 36 

Roget felt that the terminology compos- 
ing the framework of his classification was a 
series of natural signs easily comprehensible 
from language usage of the time. Although he 
never explained why he chose the six particu- 
lar primary classes utilized in the Thesaurus, 
it is possible to trace someportion of his intent 
to previous writings. Three of the primary 
classes — matter, intellect, and volition — may 
be derived from his perception of the laws of 
physiology described in the introductory chap- 
ter of his Bridgewater Treatise. "The second 
class of laws comprise those which are founded 
on the relation of means to an end; and which 
are usually denominated final causes. They 
involve the operations of mind, in conjunction 
with those of matter. They presuppose inten- 
tion or design; a supposition which implies 
intelligence, thought, motives, volition . . " 3? 
All six classes, including abstract relations, 
space, and affection, are also implied in Tho- 











T I 




Space in 


Dimensions Form 











Figure 1 
A Sample from Roget's Classification Scheme. 


mas Reid's An Inquiry into the Human Mind 
on thePrinciples of Common Sense (1 764), an 
essay discussing the principle ofnaturaf signs 
of language. 38 

In selecting words for his text, Roget felt 
his purpose was to offer as many terms as 
might be wanted, leaving the proper selection 
entirely to the discretion and taste of the reader. 
He therefore included not only single words, 
but also phrases; vulgar terms, if used in 
general conversation; words and phrases bor- 
rowed from other languages; and neologies 
coined in the arts andsciencesif made familiar 
through common use. He omitted purely sci- 
entific and technical terms along with com- 
mon proverbs. 

Roget addressed and resolved the many 
problems confronting an organizer of words. 
Recognizing that many words could fall in 
more than one categoiy, he used numerous 
cross-references and also listed some words 
under more than one head. In order to prevent 
needless length, he generally omitted conju- 
gate words, or different parts of speech from 
the same root 

Roget was the first to focus on antonymic 
as well as synonymic relationships among 
words. Hedidnot, however, call similar words 
"synonyms," since he insisted that there are n o 
real synonyms in the sense of two words 
having identical meanings. Instead he called 
them "analogous" words. He referred to con- 
trasting words as "correlative." The term "ant- 
onym" would not be used until 1867. 39 

Roget arranged the Thesaurus in two par- 
allel columns so that correlative ideas could be 
easily contrasted. (This layout was maintained 
in the copyright edition until 1962.) The cor- 
relative expressions were either intermediate 
terms whose meaning falls between two oppo- 
site ideas (beginning — middle — end), the 
negative to each of two opposite positions 
(convexity — flatness- — concavity), orthe stan- 
dard with which each extreme is compared 
(insufficiency — sufficiency— redundance), 
While these forms of correlative expressions 
would suggest use of triple rather than double 

columns within the text, Roget found this 
format impractical and remained with two, 40 It 
is in addressing the correlative nature of words 
that Roget advanced the linguistic theory that 
"the study of correlative terms existing in a 
particular language may often throw valuable 
light on the manners and customs of the na- 
tions using it." 41 

The First Edition 

The first edition of the Thesaurus was 
published by Longman, Brown, Green, and 
Longmans in May 1 852, when Roget was 73. 
"It was a handsome volume, a generous oc- 
tavo, printed on good quality paper, with the 
text well spaced-out." 42 Roget' s work in a 
multitude of scientific and literary societies 
had made him a fairly well known figure, and 
his Thesaurus sold out of the 1,000 copies 

Several British journals reviewed the The- 
saurus within its first year. Most were favor- 
able if not particularly analytical. Many were 
not quite sure what to make of this new work. 
"Whatever may be thought, however, of the 
general aim of Dr. Roget's work, there can be 
no doubt as to the ability of its execution," said 
The Athenaeum. , 43 This unsigned review also 
suggested that some terms included were al- 
ready obsolete, and that more care and dis- 
crimination could have been taken in the over- 
all selection process. Regarding the book's 
classification system, the reviewer seemed to 
feel that if such a scheme proved useful for the 
writing of a former secretary of the Royal 
Society, it would certainly be quite useful to 

The Critic observed that "this is at least a 
curious book, novel in its design, most labori- 
ously wrought, but, we fear, not likely to be so 
practically useful as the care, and toil, and 
thought bestowed upon it might have de- 
served." 44 The Eclectic Review regarded the 
book very highly, saying that "the utility of 
such a work is much greater than appears on 
the surface." 45 It continued, 


We can assure our readers that it would be 
unjust to the author to represent his book as a 
merely dry catalogue of words. It is full of 
suggestions. It exhibits the extraordinary rich- 
ness, fulness, and flexibility of the English 
language .... We recommend it specifically 
to writers who ... are so indolent, conceited, 
so ignorant, or so negligent, as to damage the 
purity of their mother-tongue by a habit of 
arbitrarily fabricating new words and a new 

fangled phraseology We should rejoice if 

our warm commendation promoted the circu- 
lation of so thoroughly useful a book. 46 

The Westminster Review, founded by Jer- 
emy Bentham, published its review in April 
1853 after the Thesaurus had been in print for 
nearly a year. Stating that no literary man 
should be without such a help, it added that 
"the labour must have been immense, but the 
author's reward is sure. Roget will rank with 
Samuel Johnson as a literary instrument-maker 
of the first-class." 47 

Within a few years of its appearance the 
Thesaurus was being defended as a staple 
without which no serious scholar could live. 
One of the few reviews critical of its purpose 
appeared in the North American Review in 
1854. The writer, identified as E.P. Whipple 
by Samuel Austin Allibone, 48 ridiculed the 
Thesaurus as a tool engendering mediocrity in 

Seriously, we consider this book as one of the 
best of a numerous class, whose aim is to 
secure the results without imposing the tasks 
of labor, to arrive at ends by a dexterous 
dodging of means, to accelerate the tongue 
without accelerating the faculties. It is an 
outside remedy for an inward defect. In our 
opinion, the work mistakes the whole process 
by which living thought makes its way into 
living words, and it might be thoroughly mas- 
tered without conveying any real power or 
facility of expression. 49 

While Whipple asserted that the Thesaurus in 
the hands of a novice writer may result in 
anguished prose, it has also been shown to 
hone the writing of professionals. As one 
example, Dylan Thomas, a proven master of 
expression, used the Thesaurus as a source of 
words during his composition of "Poem on his 
Birthday;' in 1951. 50 

Later Editions Edited by Roget and 
His Descendants 

Longman published a second edition of 
1,500 copies in March 1853. The third, de- 
scribed as a cheaper edition, enlarged and 
improved, appeared in February 1855. For 
this edition Roget revised parts of the text, 
added thousands of new expressions, and in- 
troduced 20 subsidiary heads marked as "(a)" 
to fill gaps he had found in his scheme. This 
edition was then stereotyped and used for 
subsequent printings until the plates were worn 
outRogetpersonally saw 25 new editions and 
printings through the press, and he collected 
additions and changes up to his death in Sep- 
tember 1869. 

His son John Lewis Roget, a lawyer who 
was active as an art critic and watercolorist, 
then took over as editor. He compiled his 
father's multitudinous handwrittennotes from 
the margins and spaces of the Thesaurus for 
his new edition published in 1879. Without 
changing Roget' s system of classification in 
any way, he nevertheless made his own dis- 
tinctive contribution to the evolution of the 
Thesaurus, To keep the book within reason- 
able limits while adding large numbers of 
words, he confined use of words to a single 
primary heading and extended the use of cross- 
references, a practice continued by subse- 
quent editors. John Roget' s other major addi- 
tion to the Thesaurus was the significant ex- 
pansion of the alphabetical index. Roget him- 
self felt that readers would consult the system 
of classification first and give little impor- 
tance to the index. John Roget believed, how- 
ever, that almost everyone who used the book 
found it more convenient to consult the index 
first. His new index contained not only all the 
words in the text but also all the phrases which 
had previously been excluded. 31 The index 
took up almost half of the new edition. 

John Roget supervised frequent reprints 
of the Thesaurus, New words reflecting topics 
of the day, such as "veldt," "Afrikander," and 
"Gatling gun," were added to the text and 
listed in a supplementary index. Upon John 



Roget's death in 1 908, his son Samuel Romilly 
Roget took over as editor. Samuel Roget, an 
engineer, made no changes in layout but greatly 
expanded the vocabulary of the book and 
extended the system of cross-references. He 
promoted the Thesaurus energetically, ce- 
menting its place as a landmark work. The 
crossword puzzle craze of the 1920s gave its 
sales an enormous boost. Between 1911 and 
1929, a least one printing was made per year, 
with five in 1925 when Samuel Roget brought 
out his own new enlarged edition. According 
to a reviewer in Dial, "Mr. Samuel Romilly 
Roget, his father and grandfather, seem in this 
volume, to have perfected perfection." 52 For 
the 1936 edition the index was checked line by 
line. New plates were made and used for 
frequent reprints even in the war years. 53 

Editions by Others 

Samuel Romilly Roget carried on the 
family's work until 1952 when he sold the 
family rights to Longmans, Green and Co. 
With his death in 1953, the family connection 
with the Thesaurus came to an end. Exactly 
100 years from the date of the first edition, 
Longmans commissioned Robert A. Dutch, 
OBE, to bring the Thesaurus up to date. Dutch 
entirely rewrote the text and recompiled the 
index while remaining true to the organic 
structure of the original. In his introduction, 
Dutch stated: 

it is Roget's great merit that he devised a 
system of categories, logically ordered, that is 
both workable and comprehensive. As edition 
followed edition, more and more words were 
drawn in without destroying the framework. 
In the course of a century of testing, modifica- 
tions have been made only in matters of detail. 
The present editor's experience confirms that 
of his predecessors. 54 

While Roget's framework still proved useful 
for organization, Dutch felt that the system of 
classification itself was of little interest to 
most modem readers who wanted a purely 
practical, not philosophical, communication 
tool. Dutch, therefore, made many changes to 

the format so that the classification system 
became more transparent for the reader. 

In previous editions contrasting heads 
had been arranged in opposite, parallel col- 
umns. Heads that had no opposite were printed 
the whole width of the page. Dutch kept the 
parallel columns but printed the heads con- 
secutively. He completely recast the ordering 
of words in each head so that close synonyms 
could be grouped more consistently together 
to lead the mind "by easy transitions from one 
nuance to another without distraction." 55 He 
introduced some new heads and renamed or 
eliminated others, resulting in a reduced total 
of 990 rather than the original 1,000. Dutch 
added some 50,000 new words and a large 
number of cross-references, swelling the total 
size of the volume to almost double that of the 
1936 edition of Samuel Roget. 

Dutch's most significant contribution to 
the evolution of the Thesaurus was the use of 
keywords printed in italics at the beginning of 
each paragraph. The keyword showed readers 
where to begin their search within a head. The 
keyword was used in all cross-references and 
in the index references, enabling readers to 
pick out the most suitable of several locations 
for the meaning they sought. 56 This new edi- 
tion was judged to present a fuller and more 
up-to-date vocabulary in a more convenient 
and readily accessible form. 57 

The Thesaurus was revised again in 1982 
by Susan M. Lloyd, a modern language teacher 
and former library worker. She viewed her 
new edition as an overhaul of an efficient and 
valuable machine rather than an attempt to 
completely rebuild it. She refined parts, re- 
placed parts, and took advantage of computer 
technology to ensure the reliability of the 
cross-references and index, Her main task 
was to incorporate the huge number of new 
expressions that had been generated over a 
rapidly changing 20 years. She added over 
20,000 new terms of the sciences and technol- 
ogy (data processing, space travel, sources of 
energy), commerce and industry (ergonom- 
ics, market research, cost-benefit analysis, 
hardsell), and medicine (transplant, test-tube 


baby). She also listed terms describing society 
and societal changes. She paid special atten- 
tion to subject areas reflecting her own inter- 
ests: ecology and conservation (recycling, 
greenhouse effect), sociology and politics (su- 
perpowers, sexism, cover-up, streaking, drug- 
taking), and civil rights (feminism, blackpower, 
gay lib). 5 * 

Lloyd's work proved briefly controver- 
sial as journalists charged the Thesaurus of 
being "feminized." 59 In her preface Lloyd 
states that "in listing nouns denoting people, 
we have borne in mind the fact that according 
to recent research the particle 'man,' in such 
words as 'mankind,' is not always taken, as 
formerly, to include men and women. Care 
has therefore been taken to include female 
terms as well, or general terms such as 'chair- 
person,' where they exist." 60 Other reviews of 
Lloyd's work questioned her omission of vul- 
gar words andracial epithets, a decision made, 
according to Lloyd, since those terms are 
already familiar and since "inclusion gives 
them an aura of respectability."* 1 

While many reviews challenged Lloyd's 
inclusion or exclusion of words, Thelndexer 
challenged what it considered a major flaw in 
the format: the nonalphabetical arrangement 
of subheadings. This arrangement could cause 
the reader to peruse as many as 241 possible 
points of entry to locate a word/meaningbeing 
sought, and was in direct violation of British 
indexing standards. 62 

Some thirty million copies of the Thesau- 
rus had been sold by the time Betty Kirkpatrick 
began work on the most recent revision of the 
Thesaurus in January 1 985." Within her new 
edition published in 1987, Kirkpatrick added 
1 1,000 entries, placing greater emphasis than 
in the past on technology, international cui- 
sine, and health. A former editor of the Cham- 
bers 20th Century Dictionary and a native of 
Scotland, she included Scottish words that are 
universally used and recognized. She was also 
the first reviser to include four-letter words. 
Few other changes from Lloyd's edition were 
made. The Indexer again lamented the non- 
alphabetization of subheadings and found this 

edition's typeface and page make-up more 
difficult than in Lloyd's work. 64 

American Editions 

The publishing rights to the Thesaurus 
have always remained with Longman, yet 
even from the beginning other editions sprang 
forth from publishers in the United States as 
well as in England. The Reverend Barnas 
Sears edited the first American Thesaurus in 
1 854, omitting all "vulgar" words and phrases, 
even phrases as innocent as "to feather one's 
nest," "to run a muck," or "cool as a cucum- 
ber." Putnam 's severely criticized Sears for 
meddling with Roget's work on the basis that 
what he had left out was not vulgar but merely 
idiomatic and thus useful to writers. When 
Sears reinsertedthe "vulgar" words and phrases 
in his second edition of 1 8 55, he placed them 
in a separate category as an appendix. Putnam 's 
subsequently judged this practice to be "more 
likely to catch the eye of students andyounger 
readers' as they are now placed, than they are 
as they stand in Roget's original arrange- 
ment*' 65 Gould and Lincoln, Boston, contin- 
ued to issue printings of Sears' work until 

In 1886 Thomas Y. Crowell & Company, 
the major American publisher of the Thesau- 
rus, issued, with authorization from Longman, 
its first American edition, based on John 
Roget's 1879 work. 66 Crowell released sev- 
eral other printings revised and amended to fit 
American needs until 1911, when American 
lexicographer CO. Sylvester Mawson, revis- 
ing editor of Webster's New International 
Dictionary , issued a practically new book that 
deviated considerably from the original 
Longman edition. Mawson's work, completely 
revised and reset in 1922, was then called the 
"International edition" because of the number 
of non-English words included. The Interna- 
tional edition was further enlarged in 1930, 
1932, 1936, 1938, and 1939. Crowell then 
produced Roget's International Thesaurus: 
New Edition in 1946, and, after more than ten 
years of continuous revision, it published 


Roget's International Thesaurus, Third Edi- 
tion, in 1962.* 7 The latest of Crowell's stan- 
dard American editions is Roget's Interna- 
tional Thesaurus, fourth edition, revised by 
Robert L. Chapman and published in 1977. 

Some publishers have issued more recent 
editions under license from Longman. In 1 965 
St. Martin's Press printed an Americanized 
edition of the 1962 Longman work. In 1984 
Penguin published an abridged paperback ver- 
sion of the 1982 Lloyd edition and in 1988 
Penguin released an abridgement of the 1987 
Kirkpatrick edition.* 8 

While all these editions retained Roget's 
basic classification system, many others 
dropped that system yet still used Roget's 
name. Among these were the Roget 's Pocket 
Thesaurus (New York; Pocket Books, 1946); 
Roget's Treasury of Words (New York: 
Crowell, 1924); New American Roget 's Col- 
lege Thesaurus in Dictionary Form (New 
York: New American Library, 1958); and 
Roget's II: The New Thesaurus (Boston: 
Houghton Mifflin, 1980). Roget's II is the 
electronic version of the Thesaurus currently 
available on CD-ROM as part of Microsoft 
Bookshelf. Longman highly disapproves of 
the use of "Roget" as a generic term and has 
recently registered the name as a trademark in 
several countries including the United King- 
dom.* 9 

Given the number of publishers and edi- 
tors who have connections with the Thesau- 
rus, along with national and international copy- 
right agreements and arguments, it is not sur- 
prising that there is no known bibliography 
capturing all the editions and printings of the 

Thesaurus. According to D. L. Emblen, Roget's 
biographer, it is doubtful that a clear and 
complete publication history will ever 
emerge. 70 

Future of the Thesaurus 

The future of the Thesaurusrmy be clearer, 
however; Longman will regularly revise the 
Thesaurus to ensure that the Longman edition 
remains up-to-date and authoritative. Longman 
lexicographers work closely with each editor 
to determine what should be included and/or 
removed. In between full revisions, Longman 
incorporates minor corrections into each new 
reprint. The next full Longman revision is 
planned for the mid-1990s. 71 

Computer capabilities make possible an 
expanded, continually updated database of 
words. Longman is looking forward to ex- 
ploiting the capabilities of technology by pro- 
ducing electronic versions of the Thesaurus. 12 
Through use of the computer, Robert Chapman 
has envisioned an entirely new tool, a 
"thessictionary," which would incorporate 
both thesaurus listings and dictionary defini- 
tions. 73 Susan Lloyd has seen opportunities to 
build a multilingual database in which any 
language in the world could be analyzed ac- 
cording to Roget' s classification. Such a data- 
base could be an imperfect forerunner to fi- 
nally achieving Roget's dream of a universal 
language, a language which would help bring 
about the golden age of union and harmony 
among the several nations and races of the 
world. 74 


Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, Classified 
and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression 
of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition, by 
Peter Mark Roget. London: Longman, Brown, 
Green, and Longmans, 1852. 41 8p. 

Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, Classified 
and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression 
of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition, by 
Peter Mark Roget. 2nd ed., revised and en- 

larged. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and 
Longmans, 1853. 434p. 
Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, Classified 
and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression 
of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition, by 
Peter Mark Roget. 3rd ed., enlarged and im- 
proved. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and 
Longmans, 1855. 507p. 


Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, Classified 
and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression 
of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition, by 
Peter Mark Roget. New Edition, Enlarged and 
Improved, partly from the Author's Notes, and 
with a full Index, by John Lewis Roget. London: 
Longmans, Green & Co., 1879. 667p. 

Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, Classified 
and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression 
of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition, by 
Peter Mark Roget. Enlarged by John Lewis 
Roget, newly revised and enlarged by Samuel 
Romilly Roget. London: Longmans Green & 
Co., 1925. 691p. 

Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, Classified 
and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression 
of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition, by 

Peter Mark Roget. Enlarged by John Lewis 
Roget. New ed., revised andenlargedby Samuel 
Romilly Roget London: Longmans, Green & 

Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, by Peter 
Mark Roget. New Edition completely Revised 
and Modernized by Robert A. Dutch. London: 
Longmans, 1962. l,309p. 

Roget 's Thesaurus of English Words andPhrases, by 
Peter Mark Roget. New edition prepared by 
Susan M. Lloyd. London: Longman, 1982. 

Roget 's Thesaurus of English Words andPhrases, by 
Peter Mark Roget. New edition prepared by 
Betty Kirkpatrick. London: Longman, 1987. 


Significant secondary literature concern- 
ing Peter Mark Roget's Thesaurus remains 
relatively small despite the work's length of 
tenure and mass distribution. The bulk of the 
writing consists of short, descriptive reviews 
of the original and subsequent editions issued 
by Longman and other publishers. Only re- 
views of the original edition are included in 
this bibliography. Noteworthy reviews of sub- 
sequent Longman editions have been noted 
within the text. Two works of some depth 
stand out: Margaret Anderson's dissertation 
which delves into the intellectual history and 
organization of the Thesaurus, and D.L. 
Emblen's biography which places its writing 
and history within the context of Roget's life 
and the times in which he lived. Robert Dutch' s 
preface to his 1962 edition gives the best 
explanation of significant format changes made 
to the original and retained in subsequent 
editions. Susan Lloyd's piece, "Dr. Peter Mark 
Roget and his Thesaurus," within the 1982 
edition outlines a concise publishing history 
of Longman editions, a history brought up to 
date inMcArthur' s "The RedoubtableRoget." 

Anderson, Margaret Edna. "Roget's Thesaurus: An 
Explanation of Its Purpose and a Study of Some 
Applications of Its Principles." Ph.D. disserta- 
tion, Case Western Reserve University, 1978. 

Chapman, Robert L, "Roget's Thesaurus and Se- 
mantic Structure: A Proposal for Work." Lan- 
guage Sciences 3 1 (August, 1974): 27-3 1. 

Douglas, George H. "What's Happened to the The- 
saurus?" RQ 16 (Winter, 1976): 149-55. 

Dutch, Robert A. "Preface to the Revised Edition 
1962." In Roget's Thesaurus of English Words 
and Phrases, edited by Robert A. Dutch. Lon- 
don: Longmans, 1962. 

Egan, Rose F. "Survey of the History of English 
Synonymy." In Webster's Dictionary of Syn- 
onyms Springfield, MA: G, & C, Merriam Co., 

Emblen, D. L. "Dr. Roget: His Book." The Book- 
seller no. 3399 (February 13, 1971): 412-16. 

. "Peter Mark Roget: A Centenary Bibliogra- 
phy." Bibliographical Society of America Pa- 
pers 62 (July, 1968): 43 6-47. 

. Peter Mark Roget: The Word and the Man. 

New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1970. 

Lloyd, Susan M. "Dr. Peter Mark Roget and his 
Thesaurus." In Roget's Thesaurus of English 
Words andPhrases, edited by Susan M. Lloyd. 
London: Longman, 1982. 

McArthur, Tom. "The Redoubtable Roget." English 
Today, no. 12 (October, 1987): 36-39. 

— — -. Worlds of Reference. Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 1986. 

Ober, William B. "Peter Mark Roget: Utilitarian and 
Lexicographer." New York State Journal of 
Medicine 65 (July, 1965): 1804-07. 

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. 78 (June 
17, 1969-June 16, 1870): xxviii-xl. 

Review of Thesaurus of English Words andPhrases, 
by Peter Mark Roget. The Athenaeum no. 1297 
(September 4, 1852): 939. 

Review of Thesaurus of English Words andPhrases, 
by Peter Mark Roget. The Critic 1 1 (June 15, 
1852): 320. 

Review of Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, 
by Peter Mark Roget. TTie Eclectic Review n.s. 
4 (July-December, 1852): 623. 


Review of Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, 
by Peter Mark Roget. The Westminster Review 
59 (April, 1853): 311 

[Whipple, EdwinP.]"TheUseandMisuseofWords." 
North American Review 79 (July 1854): 137— 


1 Peter Mark Roget, "Introduction," in Thesaurus of 

English Words and Phrases, New Edition, En- 
larged and Improved, partly from the Author's 
Notes, and with a full Index, ed. John Lewis Roget 
(Boston: De Wolfe, Fiske, &Co., 1879), xiii. Italics 
in original. Roget's introduction to the first edition 
is reprinted in many subsequent editions and print- 

2 Ibid, xv. 

3 Proceedings of the Royal Society oj London 18 (June 17, 

1869-June 16, 1870): xxix. 

4 D. L. Emb\zn,Peter MarkRoget: The Word and the Man 

(New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. 1970), 17. 

5 Ibid., 43. 

6 Ibid., 53-54. 

7 Emblen, Peter Mark Roget: The Word and the Man, 96. 
Italics in original. 

8 Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, xxxviii- 


9 Susan M. Lloyd, "Dr. Peter Mark Roget and his Thesau- 

rus," in Roget 's Thesaurus of English Words and 
P/irasey,New edition prepared by Susan M. Lloyd 
(London & Harlow: Longman, 1982), xiv. 

10 Emblen, Peter Mark Roget: The Word and the Man, 

" Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, xxxviii. 

12 Emblen, Peter Mark Roget: The Word and Man, 1 19. 

13 Emblen, "Peter Mark Roget: A Centenary Bibliogra- 

phy," Bibliographical Society of America Papers 
62 (July 1968): 441-43. 

H Peter Mark Roget, Animal and Vegetable Physiology 
Considered with Reference to Natural Theology 
(Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1836), 1: 
xiii. Further mention of this title in the text will be 
to its popular name, Bridgewater Treatise. 

Is Emblen, Peter Mark Roget: The Word and the Man, 

16 Ibid., 244-52. 

17 Lloyd, "Dr. Peter Mark Roget and his Thesaurus," xv. 

18 Ibid. 

19 Margaret Edna Anderson, "Roget's Thesaurus: An 

Explanation of Its Purpose and a Study of Some 
Applications of Its Principles" Ph.D. dissertation, 
Case Western Reserve University, 1978, 70-7 1. 

20 Roget, "Introduction," xxxvii-xxix. 

21 Ibid., xv. Italics in original. 

22 Ibid., xvi. 

23 Ibid., xxix. 

24 Anderson, "Roget's Thesaurus," 89-90. 
"Ibid., 91. 

26 Roget, "Introduction," xiii— xiv. 

27 Ibid., xv. 

28 Ibid., xxii. 

29 Emblen, Peter Mark Roget: The Word and the Man, 


30 Rose F. Egan, "Survey of the History of English 

Synonymy," in Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms 
(Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1942), ix. 

31 Ibid,, xiii. 

32 Emblen, Peter Mark Roget: The Word and the Man, 


33 Egan, "Survey of the History of English Synonymy," 

in Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms (Springfield, 
MA: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1942), xiv. 

34 Anderson, 114, 117. 

35 Roget, "Introduction," xxviii. 

36 Anderson, 127. 

37 Roget, Animal and Vegetable Physiology, 1:31. 

38 Anderson, 130-31. 
M Egan, xvii. 

40 Roget, "Introduction," xx. 

41 Ibid., xix. 

42 Lloyd, "Dr. Peter Mark Roget and his Thesaurus," xvi. 

43 Review of Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, 

by Peter Mark Roget, The Athenaeum, no. 1297 (4 
September 1852): 939. 

44 Review of Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, 

by Peter Mark Roget, The Critic 11(15 June 1 852); 

45 Review of Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, 

by Peter Mark Roget, The Eclectic Review n.s., 4 
(July-December 1852): 623. 
4IS Ibid. Italics in the original. 

47 Review of Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, 

by Peter Mark Roget, 77ie Westminster Review 59 
(April 1853): 311. 

48 Samuel Austin Allibone, A Critical Dictionary of 

English Literature and British and American Au- 
thors (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 
1900), 2: 1857. 

49 [ E. P. Whipple], "The Use and Misuse of Words," 

North American Review 79 (July 1854): 138 

50 Mary Dee Harris Fosberg, "Dylan Thomas's Use of 

Roget's Thesaurus during Composition of Poem on 
his Birthday" Bibliographical Society of America 
Papers 72 (October 1978): 505. 

5 1 Roget, John Lewis, "Editor' s Preface," in Thesaurus of 

English Words and Phrases, New Edition, En- 
larged and Improved, partly from the Author's 
Notes, and with a full Index, ed. John Lewis Roget 
(Boston: De Wolfe, Fiske, & Co., 1879), vii-xi, 

52 Review of Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, 

by Peter Mark Roget, enlarged by John Lewis 
Roget, newly revised and enlarged by Samuel 
Romilly Roget, Dial 80 (May 1926): 431. 

53 Lloyd, "Dr. Peter Mark Roget and his Thesaurus," xvii. 

54 Robert A. Dutch, "Preface to the Revised Edition 

1962," in The Original Roget's Thesaurus of En- 
glish Words and Phrases, New Edition completely 
Revised and Modernized by Robert A. Dutch (New 
York: St. Martin's Press, 1965): ix. 


iS Ibid., xiii. 

" Lloyd, "Dr. Peter Mark Roget and his Thesaurus," 

" Bunt, G.H.V., review of Roget 's Thesaurus of English 
Words and Phrases, New Edition completely Re- 
vised and Modernized by Robert A. Dutch, English 
Studies 44 (1963): 155. 

" Susan M. Lloyd, "Preface to the 1982 Edition," in 
Roget 's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases 
New edition prepared by Susan M. Lloyd (London 
& Harlow: Longman, 1982), x-xi. 

59 Anthony Quinton, "Articles of Association," Times 

Literary Supplement no. 4131 (4 June 1982): 605; 
John Weightman, "Canute-like Gestures," Times 
Educational Supplement no. 3438 (21 May 1982): 
41; "Zonked by a Ms.: A Woman Updates Roget," 
Time 119 (10 May 1982): 101; 

60 Lloyd, "Preface," xi. 

* Weightman, 41; "Zonked by a Ms," 101. 

** Review of Roget 's Thesaurus of English Words and 
Phrases, New edition prepared by Susan M. Lloyd 
The Indexer 13 (October 1982): 132. 

" 3 Tom McArthur, "The Redoubtable Roget," English 
Today, no. 12 (October 1987): 39. 

M J.A. Gordon, review of Roget 's Thesaurus of English 
Words and Phrases, New editionprepared by Betty 
Kirkpatrick The Indexer 16 (April 1988): 63. 

65 Review of Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, 

by Peter Mark Roget, Putnam 's Monthly Magazine 
of American Literature, Science & Art 6 (September 
1855): 318. 

66 Andrew Delahunty, Longman Dictionaries Publisher, 

letter to the author, I June 1990. 

67 "Publisher's Preface," Roget 's International Thesau- 

rus, 3rd ed. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Com- 
pany, 1962): x-xi. 
S8 Andrew Delahunty, letter to the author, 1 June 1990. 

69 Ibid. 

70 Emblen, Peter Mark Roget: The Word and the Man, 


71 Andrew Delahunty, letter to the author, 1 June 1990. 

72 Ibid. 

73 Robert L. Chapman, "Roget's Thesaurus and Semantic 

Structure: A Proposal for Work," Language Sci- 
ences 31 (August 1974): 28. 

74 Lloyd, "Dr. Peter Mark Roget and his Thesaurus," 


Eugene Garfield's Contribution to 
Bibliography: Science Citation Index 

David A. Tyckoson 


Of the hundreds of new reference works pub- 
lished each year, very few provide unique 
access points to information already covered 
by other sources. Even fewer reference tools 
are able to influence the evaluation of the 
information that they contain. And it is ex- 
tremely rare that a reference work is respon- 
sible for creating an entirely new discipline of 
scientific research. The Science Citation In- 
dex is one of the rare reference works that has 
hadjustsuchan impact. By allowing research- 
ers to identify materials that are not retrievable 
through other indexes, by enabling the evalu- 
ation of scientific research through the mea- 
surement of the citation rates of individual 
papers and journals, and by providing the 
primary instrument for the study of citation 
analysis, the Science Citation Index is respon- 
sible for each of the above effects. The impact 
of the Science Citation Index has been so 
widespread that it truly deserves a place as one 
of the landmarks of references work. 

The Science Citation Index (along with its 
more recent cousins the Social Sciences Cita- 
tion Index and the Arts and Humanities Cita- 
tion Index) owes its existence to the genius, 
entrepreneurial nature, and vision of its cre- 
ator, Eugene Garfield. In the early 1950s, 
Garfield was a graduate student in chemistry 
and participated in a medical indexing project 
at Johns Hopkins University. By working on 
this project, he realized that the references at 

the end of each published scientific article 
could be interpreted as indexing statements 
about the contents of that article. However, he 
did not yet know how to translate these refer- 
ences into a useful information tool. It was 
only through a chance encounter with a pub- 
lisher in the field of law that he gained the 
insight that resulted in the concept of the SCL 

An Example from Law 

After organizing a conference on the topic 
of machine methods in scientific documenta- 
tion in 1953, he was contacted by one of the 
publishers of Shepard's Citations (Colorado 
Springs: Shepherd's McGraw-Hill, 1873- ), 
who suggested that a scientific index could be 
established along the same principles as this 
80-year-old legal reference tool. Upon exam- 
ining Shepard's Citations, the existence of 
which Garfield had been entirely unaware, he 
immediately realized that a similar publica- 
tion was needed for the sciences. According to 
Garfield, "It was a eureka experience that was 
a supreme moment in my career." 1 In very 
short order, he obtained his library degree 
from Columbia University, published a paper 
on "Citation Indexes for Science" in the jour- 
nal Science, 2 organized the Institute for Scien- 
tific Information, and began a revolution m 
scientific information retrieval by publishing 
the first volume of the Science Citation Index 
in 1961. Over the past 30 years, the Institute 
has grown into a multimillion dollar enter- 


prise, Garfield has become a millionaire in his 
own right, and the Science Citation Index has 
become one of the most valuable and re- 
spected reference tools in all of the sciences, 
The Science Citation Index succeeded 
because it took an entirely different approach 
to organizing, indexing, and retrieving infor- 
mation than that used in any previous index of 
scientific information. Several features set it 
apart from any other scientific indexing or 
abstracting services. First of all, it is an inter- 
disciplinary index of scientific literature. 
Whereas most other indexes in the sciences 
attempt to cover a single scientific discipline, 
such as chemistry, biology, or computer sci- 
ence, the SCI includes information from all 
fields of the sciences. Other than the General 
Science Index (New York; H.W. Wilson, 
1978- ), which is aimed at an undergraduate 
rather than a research audience, all other sci- 
entific journal indexes are limited to a single 
scientific discipline. The interdisciplinary as- 
pect of the SCI enables researchers to identify 
material that they could not find by searching 
only the indexes related to any one specific 
subject field and also facilitates the exchange 
of information from one field to another. One 
of the objectives for creating the SCI was to 
increase scientific communication across ex- 
isting disciplines, and the nature of its design 
has enabled it to perform admirably in this 

Selective Coverage 

Secondly, the Science Citation Index is a 
highly selective index. Rather than attempt to 
index all of the literature in any given disci- 
pline, the SCI covers only a few source jour- 
nals from each field. With more than 50,000 
scientific journals currently being published 
worldwide, it is impossible for any indexing 
service to cover all of the sciences compre- 
hensively without being overwhelmed by 
source material. In order to avoid this prob- 
lem, the SCI only indexes a relatively few key 
scientific journals. However, thejournals that 
are selected for indexing in the SCI are care- 

fully chosen to represent only themost signifi- 
cant and most important titles from each area 
of the sciences. In order to accurately judge a 
journal's significance to the field, the editors 
of the SCI choose source journals based upon 
their impact factor, a statistically derived value 
related in part to the number of articles that 
they publish, the number of articles that are 
cited by other researchers, and the number of 
times that the journal cites itself. 

From the 50,000-plus scientific journals 
available worldwide, the SCI selects only 
slightly more than 3,000 as source titles. Al- 
though representing only between 5 and 10 
percent of the world's scientific output, these 
3,000 journals contain representatives from 
all scientific disciplines and originate from 
more than 40 nations. The only common fea- 
ture of the journals selected is the fact that they 
represent the most significant sources for their 
respective subject areas. Although there has 
been some debate about the validity of ranking 
scientific journals, the statistical procedures 
used to calculate the impact factor of each 
journal ensures that only the most significant 
sources are included in this reference tool. 

The statistical selection procedure for jour- 
nal selection has another effect on the Science 
Citation Index. Although most indexing ser- 
vices maintain a stable or slowly growing list 
of source titles, the list of titles covered by the 
SCI changes every year even though the num- 
ber of titles indexed remains constant. Indi- 
vidual journal titles move onto or off of the 
source list as their impact factors change. As 
a journal becomes a more significant source in 
its field and rises in importance, it may be- 
come one of the source j ournals for the SCI. If 
a journal loses its status in the field, it may be 
dropped from coverage. The statistical basis 
for the selection of source journals for the SCI 
not only allows the index to identify the most 
important journals, it also serves as an evalu- 
ation tool for researchers in deciding which 
sources are the most important and most rel- 
evant to a specific discipline. The mere fact 
that a journal is indexed by the SCI is an 
indication that it is one of the most valuable 


titles in its field. The Science Citation Index is 
frequently used not only to identify relevant 
research, but to rank that research on the basis 
of the source in which it was published, 3 

Another difference between SCI and 
other scientific indexing services is that once 
a journal is selected for inclusion in the SCI, it 
is indexed from cover to cover. Once selected 
for indexing, the editors of the SCI do not 
attempt to place any judgments on the value of 
the information published in a source journal. 
Whereas other subject indexes tend to only 
index feature articles, the SCI covers every- 
thing, including research reports, notes, re- 
view articles, letters to the editor, and even 
bookreviews from some of its source journals. 
Only the news notes and advertising are not 
indexed by the SCI. The theory behind cover- 
to-cover indexing is relatively simple. Be- 
cause the SCI indexes only the most signifi- 
cant journals in the Field, any information 
contained in thosej ournalshasbeen preselected 
as belonging to the set of the most important 
and valuable published scientific information. 
If information is published in any of the jour- 
nals selected by the SCI, then that information 
must by definition be of value to the scientific 
community and should not be lost solely due 
to a quirk in the indexing process. Because of 
thispolicy, information may often be retrieved 
through the SCI that cannot be found by using 
other reference works that index the same 
titles on a selective basis. 

Subject Access 

Subject indexing in the SCIis also orga- 
nized differently than in any other journal 
index. The SCIusqs what it calls a "Permuterrn 
Subject Index," which can best be described 
as a pre-coordinate keyword title index. With 
the exception of a few stop words, each of the 
terms used in the titles of the source articles is 
placed into a single index file. Those terms are 
then matched with every other keyword used 
in each source title. The resulting output is a 
subject index that allows the researcher to 
conduct a two-term Boolean search. Within 

the limits of keyword indexing, a researcher is 
able to search the SCI under any one term and 
conceptually combine that term with any oth- 
ers. Although differences in the usage of sub- 
ject terms must be taken into account, no other 
scientific subject index allows this type of 
combination of subject terms. 

Citation Access 

The final and most noteworthy feature of 
the Science Citation Index is that it indexes not 
only the articles contained in each of the 
source journals, but also the bibliographies at 
the end of each of those articles. Any citation 
that is contained within one of the source 
journals is included, regardless of its date of 
publication, its geographic origin, or the for- 
mat of the material. Whether a paper cites a 
recent journal article, a book published during 
the previous decade, a technical report from 
World War II, a manuscript from the Middle 
Ages, or all of the above, each reference is 
entered independently into the SCI database. 
A computer program is used to reverse the 
order of the citation information, creating an 
index in which researchers may identify any 
new source material that has cited a specific 
publication from the past. By indexing the 
references at the end of each article, research- 
ers using the SCI are able to identify all new 
works that have a logical connection with a 
work from the past. This ability to search 
citations forwards in time has revolutionized 
the method in which many scientists find 

A Multi-Faceted Toot 

Through the concept of citation indexing 
for the sciences, the SCInot only created a new 
reference work for retrieving scientific infor- 
mation, but also provided the primary re- 
search tool for the field of citation analysis. 
Without the existence of the SCI, citation 
analysis would most likely have remained a 
theoretical rather than practical science. Al- 
though it would have been possible to track 


citations forwards in time without the SCI, the 
time and labor involved in conducting even a 
single search would have outweighed the use- 
fulness of the results. However, by using the 
SCI, researchers have been able to study cita- 
tion frequencies of individual researchers, 
specific journals, scientific disciplines, and 
even entire nations. 4 None of these studies 
would have been possible without this tool. In 
the field of citation analysis, ths Science Cita- 
tion Index is not only a compendium of re- 
search results, but it is also the laboratory in 
which that research is conducted. 

The SCI has also created an entirely new 
method for evaluating scientific research. 
Based upon the simple principle that impor- 
tant and useful research results are cited and 
that unimportant or irrelevant research results 
are not cited, the quality of research of an 
individual scientist may be measured by ex- 
amining the number of times that his or her 
work is cited. In theory, an individual whose 
papers have been cited ten times has had a 
greater impact in the field than an individual 
whose papers have been cited only once. In 
addition, since the SCI selects only the most 
important journals for its source information, 
this evaluation process is refined even further 
by eliminating citations by those journals that 
are not considered to be the core materials in 
their field. The SCI thus gives an indication 
not only of how frequently an individual's 
work is being used, but also how frequently it 
is being used by the best researchers in the 

The use of the Science Citation Index to 
evaluate scientific information has been one 
of its mo st controversial applications. Although 
this method of evaluation was at first advo- 
cated by Eugene Garfield as a natural exten- 
sion of citation analysis, the problems associ- 
ated with relying strictly upon the number of 
times an article is cited to determine its scien- 
tific value have led him to issue several warn- 
ings about the value of this procedure. 5 None- 
theless, citation counts are frequently used as 
justifications for appointments, promotions, 

or research funding. 6 To many librarians, it 
may seem that one of the most frequent uses of 
the SCI on university campuses is by faculty 
members searching for citations to their own 
research so thatthey can providethat informa- 
tion to promotion and tenure committees. 
Whether such a use of this reference tool is 
appropriate or inappropriate, it is a testament 
to the degree to which the Science Citation 
Index has become an accepted authority within 
the scientific community. 

To fully understand the dramatic impact 
that the SCI has had on scientific information 
retrieval, it is necessary to have an under- 
standing of the culture of scientific publish- 
ing. Scientific tradition dictates that all new 
research results acknowledge the use of any 
previously known information, theory, and/or 
methodology that was used in the derivation of 
the new material. By including a bibliography 
of references to previous works, each scien- 
tific author is able to give credit to the work of 
the past researchers who provided background 
material for the latest results. This tradition is 
strictly followed in the sciences; it has become 
extremely rare to see a report of new findings 
that does not include any references to previ- 
ous research papers. Citations formally ac- 
knowledge that science is a growing body of 
knowledge and that each piece of new re- 
search builds upon past research. 

Backward and Forward in Time 

In addition to serving as an acknowledge- 
ment of earlier work, the scientific citation 
relationship is one that has been used by 
researchers for decades as a tool for the iden- 
tification of other relevant publications on a 
specific topic. Researchers frequently rely 
upon the bibliographies at the end of an article 
to link them with other relevant materials 
dealing with the same subject matter. The 
citation relationship provides a unique associ- 
ation between the cited and citing articles that 
may not be identified by traditional subject or 
author indexes. When one author makes a 




reference to another author's work, there is a 
clear indication that the work of both individ- 
uals revolves around some common theme. 
They may be discussing the same subject 
material, using the same experimental meth- 
ods, applying the same theory, disputing the 
same concepts, or using the same applications 
of the work of a third party. In any case, the 
fact that one paper cites another clearly iden- 
tifies a common thread between the two. When 
a researcher is able to identify a paper on a 
topic of interest, the references at the end of 
that paper will almost always lead to other 
useful and related sources. 

The tracing of bibliographic citations at 
the end of a research paper has become a 
standard research method, but it has one maj or 
disadvantage — it only works backward in time. 
An article published in 1990 may cite other 
sources from a wide range of dates, but it 
cannot cite materials published in 1991 or 
1 992 or any other date later than that of its own 
publication. Researchers who trace citations 
are able to track down useful sources from the 
past, but cannot find more recent information. 
If a search begins with an article that is five 
years old, there is no possibility of retrieving 
any newer materials by tracing its references. 
Although a wide range of sources from the 
past may be identified, the researcher will 
never be able to find anything published dur- 
ing the last five years. 

The most valuable and most revolution- 
ary aspect of the Science Citation Index is its 
ability to reverse this process. Because SCI 
indexes all of the references at the end of each 
source article, it allows researchers to trace 
citations in reverse. By using the "Citation 
Index" portion of the SCI researchers are able 
to look up an old article and find all of the new 
articles that have included the original in their 
bibliographies. Beginning with a single rel- 
evant article, a researcher may search back- 
wards in time by studying the bibliography at 
the end of the source article and may also 
search forwards in time by searching the cita- 
tion index to determine if the original article 

has been cited recently by any of the papers 
included in the source journals. Starting with 
a single relevant research paper, a scientist 
can use the SCI to identify all other important 
materials dealing with the same concept, re- 
gardless of the format in which they are pub- 
lished, their country of origin, or date of pub- 
lication. No other scientific journal index is 
able to provide such broad subject, geographic, 
and temporal coverage. 

If the statistical basis for the selection of 
the source journals is accepted, the Science 
Citation Index becomes more than just a pow- 
erful research tool. Based upon the general 
principle that important scientific research is 
cited and that unimportant scientific research 
is ignored, the SCI for any given time period 
becomes a complete record of all scientific 
research that was considered to be important 
during that period. Any valuable new infor- 
mation will be indexed if it appears in one of 
the source journals used by the SCI. In addi- 
tion, any significant research from the past 
will be included if it was cited by the authors 
of the articles included in the source journals. 
If a paper is not included in either one of the 
source journals or one of its citations, that 
paper cannot be considered a part of the core 
of scientific information for that time period. 
What the SCI achieves that no other journal 
index achieves is the identification, evalua- 
tion, and indexing of all relevant information 
published anywhere in the world from through- 
out all of history. This may be the greatest 
achievement of the Science Citation Index. 

Problematic Issues 

Despite its overwhelming success, the 
Science Citation Index is not without its prob- 
lems. By relying solely upon the bibliogra- 
phies of thousands of different authors to 
identify relevant citation information, the SCI 
is completely lacking in consistency in its 
citation format. Although Eugene Garfield 
initially proposed a uniform system of citation 
for scientific journals, 7 that system has never 


been adopted and the SCI cites each source 
exactly as indicated by each individual author. 
This results in several variant entries for many 
papers due to variations in the forms of the 
names and/or source titles. Inaddition to spell- 
ing differences, the work of many authors is 
lost because the SCI cites only the first author 
listed for any scientific paper. This policy has 
become a tremendous problem over the last 
two decades as the average number of authors 
for a scientific paper has risen dramatically. 
Subject indexing is also a problem because the 
SC/relies upon the keywords in the titles of the 
articles to create its subject index. Differences 
in terminology and variations in the usage of 
that terminology may combine to frustrate 
researchers who are using SCI strictly as a 
subject index. Despite these inconveniences, 
such inconsistencies have been accepted as a 
compromise against the tremendous costs in 
time and labor that would be required to create 
an authority file for all of the author names, 
source titles, and subject terms used by the 

Other problems with the .SC/are related to 
the sheer volume of information contained in 
the index. In the 1988 annual edition, the SCI 
indexed more than 600,000 source articles 
and 10,000,000 citations. Due to the tremen- 
dous size of the database, the printed edition is 
published using extremely small and difficult- 
to-read type. This is particularly true in the 
"Citation Index" portion of the work, where 
many users rely on magnification to retrieve 
the information from the printed page. Once 
again, this publishing decision is made as a 
conscious effort on the part of the publishers 
to reduce the costs associated with printing 
and distributing such an index. Despite these 
efforts to save space, a single annual edition 
now occupies almost four feet of shelf space. 

More recently, electronic versions of the 
database have been introduced through online 

vendors and on CD-ROM. While these ver- 
sions may reduce the problems of readability, 
they magnify the problems associated with the 
lack of authority control by reducing the capa- 
bility of the reader to browse the index files 
and thereby spot variant forms of a person's 
name. Regardless of its format, the SCI re- 
quires a significant investment of time by the 
user to take full advantage of its unique capa- 
bilities. However, this investment is well worth 
the return in the retrieval of additional infor- 
mation sources that do not appear in other 
reference tools. 

As may be expected with a work of this 
magnitude, one of the most notable features of 
the SCI is its pri ce. The Science Citation Index 
has always been one of the most expensive 
reference tools on the market. With an annual 
cost of $8,850 in 1990, a subscription to the 
SCI is one of the largest investments that most 
institutions will make in any single informa- 
tion source, However, the high cost of the 
work is offset by the value of the information 
it contains. In these difficult economic times 
when libraries are considering the cancella- 
tion of expensive scientific journals and in- 
dexes, the SCI rarely comes up for consider- 
ation. This in itself is a testament to the useful- 
ness and value of this unique reference tool. 

As it enters its fourth decade of publica- 
tion, the Science Citation Index has become 
one of the standard reference tools in its field. 
However, its impact on science has clearly 
been much greater than if it had been just 
another index. While most reference works 
help users to think about the subjects that they 
cover, the Science Citation Index gives its 
users new ways to think about its subject 
matter. For this achievement, the Science Ci- 
tation Index has been one of the most signifi- 
cant advancements in the history of bibliogra- 


Science Citation Index. Philadelphia: Institute for 
Scientific Information, 1961- Bimonthly. 

The Science Citation Index (SCI) began publication 
in 1961 as a quarterly index with annual cumu- 

i >££■£. 


latiorts. Beginning with the 1979 edition, fre- 
quency increased to bimonthly. Quinquennial 
cumulations are available for the periods of 
1965-1969, 1970-1974, 1975-1979,and 1980- 
1 984 . Retrospective decennial cumulations cov- 
ering theyears 1955—1964- and 1945-1 954 were 
published in 1984 and 1988 respectively. The 
publisher intends to continue producing annual 
editions while at the same time extending retro- 
spective coverage back to the beginning of the 
twentieth century. Each volume of the SCI 
consists of 4 distinct parts. The "Source Index" 
contains references to journal articles arranged 
bypersonal orcorporate author. The "Permuterm 
Subject Index" provides a keyword subject in- 

dex to all articles in the "Source Index." All of 
the keywords used in the subject index are 
derived directly from the titles of the articles 
included in the "Source Index." The "Citation 
Index" consists of an index to all of the biblio- 
graphic references contained in these same 
source materials. These three sections comprise 
the main body of the Science Citation Index. 
The final portion of the work is the "Journal 
Citation Reports," which provides statistical 
information on the citation rates and impact 
factors of each source journal included by the 
index. The 1988 complete annual edition con- 
sists of 20 bound volumes plus a separate index 


As one of the few reference works that has 
spawned an entirely new field of study, the 
Science Citation Index has been thoroughly 
discussed in the professional literature. From 
works on the theory of the citationrelationship 
to studies of the literature of individual subject 
fields, the Science Citation Index has played a 
role in hundreds of articles over the past 35 
years. Many of these articles have been col- 
lected in an eight-volume set by Eugene 
Garfield, Essays of an Information Scientist. 
This set includes all of Garfield's writings as 
well as important other materials related to 
citation analysis and is the first source to 
consult for material on this work. The editors 
of the Science Citation Index are also highly 
cognizant of the impact of the SCI on the 
literature and maintain a bibliography of rel- 
evant materials in the introductory section of 
each annual cumulation. This bibliography is 
useful for anyone interested in finding other 
published sources about citation anaylsis, the 
SCI, or its related products. 

Aaronson, Steve. "The Footnotes of Science." Mo- 
saic 6 (March/April, 1975): 22-27. 

Adair, W.C. "Citation Indexes for Scientific Litera- 
ture." American Documentation 6 (1955): 3 1- 

Brahmi, Frances A. "Reference Use of Science Cita- 
tion Index." Medical Reference Services Quar- 
terly 4 (Spring, 1985): 31-38. 

Cawkell, Anthony E. "Science Perceived Through 
the Science Citation Index," Endeavour 1 (1 977): 

—. "Search Strategies Using the Science Cita- 
tion Index." In Computer Based Information 
Retrieval Systems , edited by Bernard Houghton. 
London: Clive BingleyLtd., 1968. 

Garfield, Eugene. "Citation Analysis As a Tool for 
Journal Evaluation." Science 1 78 (November 2, 
1972); 471-79. 

. "Citation Indexes for Science." Science 122 

(July 15, 1955): 108-11. 

■. "Citation Indexing for Studying Science." 

Nature 221 (1970): 669-71. 

. Citation Indexing: Its Theory and Applica- 
tion in Science, Technology, and Humanities. 
New York: Wiley, 1979. 

-. Essays of an Information Scientist. 8 Vols. 

Philadelphia: ISI Press, 1977-1986. 

. "How to Use the Science Citation Index." 

Current Contents 9 (February 28, 1983): 5-14. 
Reprinted annually in the Index Guide to the 
Science Citation Index. 

. "Is Citation Analysis a Legitimate Evalua- 

tion Tool?" Scientometrtcs 1 (1979): 167-80. 
"Permuterm Subject Index: An Autobio- 

graphical Review." Journal of the American 
Society for Information Science 27 (Septem- 
ber, 1976): 288-91. 

. "Science Citation Index: A New Dimension 

in Indexing." Science 144 (May 8, 1964): 649- 

Herther, Nancy K. "Bringing Citation Indexes to 
CD-ROM: An Interview withEugene Garfield." 
Laserdisk Professional 2 (July, 1989): 25-32. 

Huang, Theodore S. "Efficacy of Citation Indexing 
in Reference Retrieval." Library Resources and 
Technical Services 12 (1968): 415-34. 

Lazerow, Samuel. "Institute for Scientific Informa- 
tion." In Encyclopedia of Library and Informa- 
tion Science, edited by Allen Kent. New York: 
Marcell Dekker, 1974. Vol. 12: 89-97. 


"Librarian Turned Entrepreneur Makes Millions Off 
Mere Footnotes." Science 202 (November 24, 
1978): 853-57. 

Malin, Morton V. "Science Citation Index: A New 
Concept in Indexing." Library Trends 1 6 (Janu- 
ary, 1968): 374-87. 

Margolis, J. "Citation Indexing and Evaluation of 
Scientific Papers." Science 155 (March 10, 
1967): 1213-19. 

Miller, Elizabeth, and Eugenia Truesdell. "Citation 
Indexing: History and Applications." Drexe! 
Library Quarterly 8 (April, 1972): 159-72. 

Narin, Francis, and Mark P. Carpenter. "National 
Publication and Citation Comparisons." Jour- 

nal of the American Society for Information 
Science 26 (1975): 80-93. 

Poyer, Robert K.. "Journal Article Overlap Among 
Index Medicus, Science Citation Index, Bio- 
logical Abstracts, and Chemical Abstracts" 
Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 72 
(1984): 353-57. 

Wade, Nicholas. "Citation Analysis: A New Tool for 
Science Administrators." Science 188 (May 2, 
1975): 429-32. 

Weinstock, Melvin. "Citation Indexes.'* In Encyclo- 
pedia of Library and Infvohrmatian Science, 
edited by Allen Kent. New York: Marcel Dekker, 
1974. Vol. 5: 16-40. 


1 "Librarian Turned Entrepreneur Makes Millions Off 
Mere Footnotes," Science 202 (24 November 1 978): 

2 Eugene Garfield, "Citation Indexes for Science," Sci- 
ence 122 (15 July 1955): 108-11. 

'Eugene Garfield, "Significant Journals of Science," 
NaturelM (16 December 1976): 609-15. 

4 Henry Small and Eugene Garfield, "The Geography and 
Mapping of Science: Disciplinary and National 

Mappings," Journal of Information Science 1 1 
(1985): 147-59. 

5 Eugene Garfield, "Is Citation Analysis a Legitimate 

Evaluation Tool?" Scientometrics 1 (1979): 167— 

6 Nicholas Wade, "Citation Analysis: A New Tool for 

Science Administrators," Science 188 (2 May 1975): 

7 Garfield, "Citation Indexes for Science," 109. 



"The Baby Figure of the Giant Mass": 

Pollard & Redgrave's and Wing's 

Short-Title Catalogues 

Robert W. Melton 

And in such Indexes (although small pricks 
To their subsequent volumes) there is seen 
The baby figure of the giant mass 
Of things to come at large. 

— Shakespeare, Troilus and 
Cressida I, iii, 343-46 


Although the first bibliography examined in 
this survey was not published until 1926, 1 its 
roots go back at least to 1 884 and thus it might 
be thought of, along with the Dictionary of 
National Biography and the Oxford English 
Dictionary, as one of the three great reference 
works of Victorian Britain, together repre- 
senting our attempts to record the history of 
our individual achievements, our language, 
and our printed legacy. Efforts to record the 
bibliographic output of aparticular culture are 
as old as libraries insofar as individual librar- 
ies have attempted to acquire exhaustively all 
culturally important publications and provide 
public records of their holdings. However, 
because of the scarcity of many publications — 
whether due to short print runs, political or 
religious suppression, natural or manmade 
disasters — as well as the financial restrictions 
on most libraries and the inevitable belief that 
some types of publications are not worth ac- 
quiring, no single repository, even those which 
benefit from copyright deposit laws, can serve 
as the basis for such a record. 

The Justification for Short-Title 

If it is necessary to first ask why an 
enumerative or systematic bibliography of the 
printed products of a culture is worth compil- 
ing in the first place, perhaps the best and 
simplest answer has been given by Roy B. 
Stokes, who reminds us that "before books can 
be studied, they must be known to exist." 2 This 
principle is important not only for proving the 
existence of a work which, as in the majority 
of cases, appeared in only one edition. It is also 
vitally important for textual scholars and com- 
pilers of critical editions, whose goal is the 
determination or reconstruction of the text of 
a frequently published work to a state as close 
to its author's original (or final) intentions as 
possible. (Such work, of course, involves the 
study of all extant manuscripts as well as 
printed editions.) 

A bibliography may be devoted to the 
works of aparticular writer, group of writers, 
or organization; to imprints of a particular 
press or printer or to those from a particular 
geographical entity; to works in a particular 
genre; to works intended or appropriate for a 
particular reader group; or to works on a 
particular subject. Although Stokes believes a 
bibliography must always strive for complete- 
ness within its chosen parameters, in the last 
three cases completeness becomes problem- 
atical as issues of definition are involved. 
Therefore, any of these may be, and often are, 


further limited by chronology or language in 
an effort to increase the chances of complete- 
ness within the chosen parameters, increase 
its effectiveness for the desired users, or sim- 
ply make its compilation realistically manage- 
able. Chronological limits may be arbitrary or 
may be determined by historical events within 
either the publishing trade orthe greaterpoliti- 
cal or cultural environment. The bibliogra- 
phies discussed in this survey are based prima- 
rily on language and date of publication but 
otherwise are intended to be comprehensive in 

Efforts to record the printed output of 
England and its political or linguistic colonies 
regardless of subject, author, printer, or city of 
publication began in earnest with the publica- 
tion in 1884 — the same year as the first fas- 
cicle of the Oxford English Dictionary — of a 
three-volume Catalogue of Books in the Li- 
brary of the British Museum Printed in En- 
gland, Scotland and Ireland and of English 
Books Printed Abroad, to the Year 1640 (Lon- 
don: The Museum), principally compiled by 
George Bullen, the Library'skeeper of printed 
books, and containing some 13,600 entries. 3 A 
more detailed description of the Library's 
incunabula — most of which are not British 
imprints — was planned and begun toward the 
endof the century by R.G.C. Proctor and A.W. 
Pollard and, after the former's untimely death 
in the Alps in 1903, was Pollard's main re- 
sponsibility in the Library's Department of 
Printed Books, which he had joined in 1883, 
for the next ten years. Entitled A Catalogue of 
Books Printed in theXVlh Century Now in the 
British Museum (London: The Museum), the 
first volume was published in 1908.'' Four 
hundred and thirty-one specifically English 
incunabula located in a variety of British and 
American collections were cataloged by E. 
Gordon Duff in Fifteenth Century Books: A 
Bibliography of Books and Documents Printed 
in England and of Books for the English Mar- 
cal Society, 1917), for which Pollard wrote the 
preface. Pollard, Duff, Proctor, W,W, Greg, 
and other members of the Bibliographical 

Society had also published, between 1895 and 
1913, Hand-lists of English Printers, 1501- 

Origins of the STC 

These various efforts led Pollard to write 
a paper in early 1918 for the Bibliographical 
Society, of which he had been honorary secre- 
tary since a year after its founding in 1892, in 
which he suggested that it was now possible to 
attempt to compile a "short-title handlist" of 
all extant English books from the close of the 
fifteenth century through the year 1 640, 6 The 
Society's vice-president, G.R. Redgrave, 
agreed to collaborate with Pollard in such an 
undertaking and to personally assist in its 
financing. At its meeting on April 22, 1918, 
the Society's Council passed a resolution ac- 
cepting Redgrave's offer and agreed to pub- 
lish such a catalog as soon as possible after its 
completion. 7 Pollard presented another paper 
outlining his proposal in more detail at the 
January 1919 annual meeting, and by this time 
he proposed to extend the date of coverage 
back to the year 1475, thereby adding Duffs 
coverage and using the same chronological 
parameters as the 1 884 BM catalog, the Cam- 
bridge catalog of 1475-1 640 books compiled 
by Charles Sayle, and Edward Arber's tran- 
script of the Stationers' Company registers. 
(The terminus ad quern in all of these catalogs 
was chosen not so much for the historical fact 
of the Civil War itself as for the known exist- 
ence of some 26,000 political and religious 
tracts printed during the 1640s and 1650s. 
Collected by the London publisher/bookseller 
George Thomason, the inclusion of these tracts, 
as it turned out, would have doubled the size 
of the project. 8 ) The announcement of this 
enterprise was met with various offers of 
assistance, perhaps most importantly from the 
Bodleian Library at Oxford but also from 
other university libraries and private collec- 
tors in Great Britain, from such private re- 
search libraries as the Huntington, 9 and from 
the eminent antiquarian book firm of Bernard 
Quaritch. From the start, what would ulti- 


mately be published as A Short-Title Cata- 
logue of Booh Printed in England, Scotland, 
& Ireland and of English Books Printed 
Abroad, 1475-164Q 10 was, like the DNB and 
the OED, very much a group effort. 

A. W. Pollard and G. Ft. Redgrave 

The backgrounds and qualifications Pol- 
lard and Redgrave brought to the project dif- 
fered considerably. In addition to his work in 
the Department of Printed Books, Alfred Wil- 
liam Pollard (1859-1944) 11 published an edi- 
tion of Chaucer in 1898 that was the most 
scholarly to date. Furthermore, he had been 
publishing articles on various bibliographical 
subjects for at least ten years before that and 
on fifteenth-century history andliterature since 
1876. But it was his pioneering work on the 
problems of Shakespeare's texts, particularly 
his Shakespeare Folios and Quartos of 1909 
(London: Methuen), which secured his repu- 
tation as a literary and textual scholar. In the 
words of the eminent bibliographer W.W. 
Greg, this book was "by far the most system- 
atic and critical work that had yet appeared on 
the subject and one that marked the opening of 
a new era in Shakespeare studies." 12 His in- 
vestigations were continued in the 1915 
Sandars Lectures in Bibliography at Cam- 
bridge, published two years later as 
Shakespeare's Fight with the Pirates and the 
Problem of the Transmission of his Text (Lon- 
don: A Moring), which fellow Shakespearean 
J. Dover Wilson called "at once sober and 
brilliant." 13 It was also Wilson who referred to 
the Bibliographical Society as Pollard ' s "brain- 
child." 14 Pollard also cared for his brain-child, 
serving as editor of its Transactions (later The 
Library) from 1900 until 1934. 

Gilbert Richard Redgrave (1844-1941), 
on the other hand, although likewise a found- 
ing member of the Bibliographical Society, 
was an amateur in things bibliographical. His 
principal activities and interests were in the 
fields of engineering, architecture, and art 
history; he was a minor watercolorist whose 
works exhibit a pre-Raphaelite influence. 15 

Son of the more famous genre and landscape 
artist and art historian Richard Redgrave, his 
first publication was a compilation of his 
father's writings and addresses, published in 
1876 as Manual of Design (London: Chapman 
& Hall). This was followed 15 years later by 
a monograph on the artists David Cox and 
Peter De Wint (London: Sampson Low; New 
York: Scribner's, 1891) and the following 
year by the still useful A History of Water- 
ColourPaintinginEngland '(London: Sampson 
Low; New York: Scribner's, 1892). The first 
of several editions of Calcareous Cements: 
Their Nature and Uses (London: C. Griffin) 
was published in 1895, and his coeditedbook- 
let Deterioration of Structures of Timber, 
Metal, and Concrete Exposed to the Action of 
Sea- Water (London: H.M. S .O .) was published 
for the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1926, 
the year STC was in press. As a young teen, 
Redgrave assisted in the design and construc- 
tion of Royal Albert Hall and wrote its opening 
celebration's program. In 1878, he was archi- 
tect to the Royal Commissioners of the Paris 
Exhibition and was awarded Officer of the 
Legion of Honour. In 1 88 1 , he began a career 
in educational supervision, first as secretary 
of the Royal Commission on Technical Insti- 
tutes; from 1884 until 1897 as an inspector of 
schools, including the National Art Training 
School, under the Department of Sciences and 
Art; as chie