Editorial, 2009, December 2:
Ten Years of the Inventory of the Oldest Scholarly Societies
The Origin of the Inventory
1999 the Editor of the
Scholarly Societies Project created a sub-project entitled the
Inventory of the Oldest Scholarly Societies
(Repertorium Veterrimarum Societatum Litterariarum).
The purpose of the Inventory was to gather information pertaining
to scholarly societies that was likely to be of special interest to
Pages were therefore created for each of
founded prior to 1850.
The Central Role of the Scholarly Record
From the beginning, these history pages placed heavy emphasis on the
(a source of endless beguilement to librarians and bibliographers)
as expressed through the
primarily the journals, of the
oldest scholarly societies.
Abbreviations of the Journal Titles
One of the most entertaining aspects of interpreting bibliographic records
or references to the older literature is the
astonishing creativity of
authors and editors in
abbreviating the journal titles of
For an elderly librarian/bibliographer like myself, deciphering some of
these beauties is like solving a particularly cunning cryptic crossword
As it happens, not all scholars share this enthusiasm, so it was decided
to include information on journal-title abbreviations for the various
journals of individual scholarly societies.
Epoch 1: The Early Stages of Development
Creating a Richer Chronological Listing
n the early years of the larger Project of which this is a part, the
a chronological listing of all societies in the Project had been created.
In 1999, when the
sub-project entitled the
Inventory of the Oldest Scholarly Societies
(Repertorium Veterrimarum Societatum Litterariarum) was begun,
the first task was to create a
more comprehensive listing of the
oldest scholarly soicieties as the basis for the Inventory.
Various tools and techniques were used to identify additional old societies
Initially, the inventory was confined
to societies founded up to 1799;
eventually this was expanded to include societies
founded up to 1849.
Before very long, the inventory contained a chronological listing of
over 500 scholarly societies, many of
them still in existence.
Each entry in the inventory included the
founding date of the society,
the cessation date (if applicable),
and name changes of the society
over the years.
Adding Basic History Pages for Entries
Once a good chronological inventory had been established, the task of
creating basic history pages for individual entries began.
At first the goal was to provide
minimal historical information about
the society iteself, and also
bibliographic information about the
major journals of the society.
If journal-title abbreviations for the journals were already available in
the card files that I had compiled years earlier from the esteemed
Reuss Repertorium, or were readily
available from the volumes of the
were added to the appropriate places in the history page.
Epoch 2: The Initial Enhancements
Enhancing the Minimal Historical Information
ventually it became clear that some societies needed particular attention
in order to
explicate the sequence of name changes
that they underwent over the years.
Athough problems of this nature were particularly notable in the French
societies because of the frequent political upheavals from about 1792 to
1870 in France, they were by no means confined to that country.
As a consequence, it was necessary to
consult printed histories of some of
Most of the tools consulted are listed in that section of the
Inventory whimsically entitled
The Elaboratory Laid Open: Materials and Tools
(Elaboratorium Apertum: Materia et Armamenta);
see especially the sections named
Historical Monographs and
Historical Articles or Papers
Adding to the Collection of Journal-Title Abbreviations
As mentioned in
Editorial, 2006, October 5:
Using JSTOR as a Source of Journal-Title Abbreviations,
for the first several years of the existence of the Inventory, the
abbreviations were drawn exclusively from
indexes of the journal literature,
such as the
Royal Society of London Catalogue of
Abbreviations Found in the Journals Themselves
In the Summer of 2005, it occurred to the Editor
that it might be possible to document the journal-title
in the literature itself by using a
large searchable archive like
Further background information may found in
The Problem of Early Journal-Title Abbreviations.
Creating Parallel XML code for History Pages
In the Spring of 2006, the Editor began creating
new history pages exclusively in XML
code (using a format specially created for the history
pages), and then using that XML code to create HTML code that could be
installed in the Inventory.
The new display uses a
different colour scheme and somewhat
different formatting, making it
obvious to the initiated (at least the Editor) whether a page has
XML code or not.
Shortly therafter, work on creating parallel XML code for
existing HTML history pages was begun.
This has been rather slow work.
Even after three years
only about 135 of the 427 history
pages are currently available in parallel XML format.
The hope is that once all the history pages have XML versions, it will be
possible to set up a sophisticated
database on the entire corpus.
Epoch 3: Beginning to Mine the JSTOR Richesse
A Wealth of Journal-Title Abbreviations
t is difficult to convey the
dazzling array of
to be found in a source like
JSTOR without giving
Since the greatest proportion by far of the journal-title abbreviations in
the Inventory have in fact been extracted from JSTOR, it may
suffice to point the reader at one of the files in the composite index,
for example: the
abbreviations beginning with the letter
A, which are found
Abbreviations of Journal Titles
Published by Societies Founded from 1323 to 1849 : A.
If one overlooks the entries whose sources are labelled
RSLC, the remainder is drawn almost
entirely from the JSTOR archive!
Extracting the Abbreviations
The process of extracting these abbreviations and inserting them in their
proper settings is rather complex and laborious.
The interested reader is referred to
Editorial, 2006, October
5: Using JSTOR as a Source of Journal-Title Abbreviations .
An Embarras de Richesse?
In fact the process is so laborious that it has occurred to me more than
once that the JSTOR Richesse might
perhaps more appropriately be termed an
Embarras de Richesse.
The bounty sometimes seems truly overwhelming.
Epoch 4: Toiling in the Caverns
Dealing with the Problematic Cases
ince retiring from active duty as a librarian a couple of years ago, I
have taken to dealing with some of the
problematic history pages in the
I refer here principally to the history pages for societies whose
journals have been
highly cited in the literature, but
with an absolutely
astonishing variety of journal-title
I had set them aside initially, since I knew they would take a
considerable amount of effort.
The German-Language Academies
The major German-language academies are perfect exemplars of this kind of
From April 1 to May 20 of this year I updated the history page for
Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der
Wissenschaften (founded 1700);
the page went from 40K to 131K in the process.
From May 20 to Sept. 1 of this year, I did the same with
Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften
zu Leipzig (founded 1846);
the page went from 45K to 200K in the process.
Beginning Sept. 1 of this year I began the same process with
Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften
in Munich (founded 1759);
the page began at 24K and now
stands at 125K, and the process is far from complete.
The Gnome Question
Yes, this work is tiresome and slow.
And yes, I do occasionally wonder how long it will be before I start
looking like one of those gnomes one
sees in Harry Potter films, all wizened and beady-eyed.
But then I think to myself:
well, some people do crossword puzzles to
keep the mind resilient
in their twilight years;
and other do needlepoint to
keep the fingers nimble and stave off
This work would seem to aid in both those endeavours.
And there are surely worse fates than being a quick-witted,
And in the end, this is also
a gift to the future - when fewer
scholars are likely to be accomplished in interpreting the
arcane bibliographic inscriptions
that form a distinctive feature of the scholarly record from the 17th to
Published 2009, December 2|
Jim Parrott, Editor
Scholarly Societies Project, and
Repertorium Veterrimarum Societatum Litterariarum
Sending Email to the Project