Last Updated: 2004, July 24

Scholarly Societies 

Bibliographic Projects and Bibliographic Standards


Scholarly Societies and Bibliographic Projects

In this section we consider a bibliographic project covering the publications of many scholarly societies, and also bibliographic projects initiated by scholarly societies themselves.

From 1801 to 1821, Jeremias David Reuss(1750-1837) compiled and had published a monumental bibliography of the articles in journals published by scholarly societies up to that time. Because the vast bulk of journal literature at that time was in fact published by scholarly societies, this Reuss Repertorium is a very good index of the journal literature before 1800.

Scholarly societies have published bibliographies of one sort or another since at least the early 19th century. In the beginning, these bibliographies were generally limited to listings of their own publications, or of publications on some relatively narrow topic of interest to their member.

But in the mid-19th century, a bibliographic project of unprecedented scope was undertaken by the Royal Society of London. The goal of that project was nothing less than the creation of a complete catalogue of all scientific articles in society journals and independent journals published in the 19th century. The author volumes of the Catalogue of Scientific Papers, comprising 19 volumes, were completed in 1925. The project to prepare subject volumes was halted after the preparation of volumes for Pure Mathematics, Mechanics and Physics.

An even more ambitious project was undertaken to index scientific articles written in the 20th century. For this project, which was beyond the means of the Royal Society of London alone, several societies cooperated with the Royal Society to produce the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature. Within each issue of the International Catalogue, a journal article was listed under the author's name and also in the appropriate sections of the subject classification. Volumes of the Catalogue were published for the years 1901 to 1914, when the project (like many other cooperative ventures) was brought to a halt by the disastrous events of World War One.

It should be noted, however, that even before the failure of the International Catalogue, some of the major societies had begun to publish indexes to the journal literature covering the subjects of interest to their members. And after the failure of the International Catalogue, there was even more reason to do so.

Consider, for example, the origins of the following monumental indexes to the journal literature of specific disciplines:


Scholarly Societies and Bibliographic Standards

Scholarly societies have contributed to the development of bibliographic standards in two principal ways: the development of standards for abbreviating journal titles, and the development of bibliographic style manuals for their constituencies.

Standards for the Abbreviation of Journal Titles

There is a long tradition in the research literature (at least in the sciences) of abbreviating journal titles in bibliographic references. Indeed, this practice can be observed in the very earliest volumes (circa late 17th century) of the first major research journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (still being published today). A casual survey of research articles from the 17th and 18th century volumes of this and other journals reveals that many of the abbreviations used were so short as to be cryptic to a modern reader. For example, Mémoires de l'Académie Impériale et Royale des Sciences et Belles-Lettres de Bruxelles was routinely abbreviated to Mém. de Bruxelles. Even more perplexing is the abbreviation Commentar. Bononienses or Comm. Bon. which referred to the Commentarii of the Scientiarum et artium institutum bononiense atque academia. If you know the Latin words for common geographical names (eg. Bononiense = related to Bologna), you can decipher most of these abbreviations by using the geographical index in Scudder's Catalogue of Scientific Serials, 1633-1876.

A further complication arose in the 19th century with the proliferation of "independent" (i.e. non-societal) journals. Many writers adopted the practice of abbreviating the title of an independent journal to [editor's surname] Journal. For example, American Journal of Science was abbreviated as Silliman's J. for the years when Silliman was editor. Similarly, Journal für die reine und angewandte Mathematik was commonly referred to as Crelle's J. for the years when Crelle was the editor. A good way to decipher this kind of abbreviation is to use the generous cross-references in Bolton's Catalogue of Scientific and Technical Periodicals, 1665-1895

As mentioned above, many of the monumental indexes to the journal literature of specific disciplines were begun by scholarly societies. Over many years, these major indexes established their own standards for abbreviating journal titles. Naturally there were inconsistencies among these standards. In recent decades, many of the scholarly societies publishing these indexes worked together under the aegis of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to establish ISO 4 Rules for the Abbreviation of Title Words and Titles of Publications (first ratified in 1972). This International Standard serves as the basis for the establishment of title word abbreviations entered into the List of Serial Title Word Abbreviations, also published by ISO.

Standards for Bibliographic Style

With the virtually exponential growth of the research literature throughout the 20th century, it has become clear that the larger the literature, the more difficult are the problems caused by poorly crafted bibliographic references. Scholarly societies, like other publishers of research journals, have either produced or endorsed bibliographic style manuals. One purpose of these style manuals is to ensure consistency in bibliographic references in the literature of their disciplines. But an equally important purpose is to assure relative completeness in these references, so as to minimize problems in the interpretation of the bibliographic references.

Examples of style manuals produced by scholarly societies are:


References to Literature Cited

International Catalogue of Scientific Literature

International Catalogue of Scientific Literature. London, Royal Society of London, 1902-1917.] [Annotation not yet written]

Bolton's Catalogue

Bolton, Henry Carrington.
Catalogue of Scientific and Technical Periodicals, 1665-1895; together with chronological tables and a library check-list. 2nd ed. Washington, Smithsonian Institution, 1897.

This work is similar to Scudder's in some ways, but is confined exclusively to "independent" journals (i.e. non-societal journals). Although it does not list journals published by societies, its "Chronological Tables" tell us how few independent journals there were during the 18th century. From this we can see how predominant the role of scientific societies was in publishing the primary research literature until about the end of the 18th century.

A special feature of this catalogue is the plenitude of cross-references, especially from the names of editors of independent journals to the titles of these journals.


Deciphering Latin Geographical Names

The following reference books, although not central to our discussion of scholarly societies, certainly make for interesting browsing. In them you can learn, for example, the Latin words relating to Berlin (Berolinensis), St. Petersburg (Petropolitana), and others even stranger.



Jim Parrott
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NEWS/EDITORIAL 2009, December 27
Fifteen Years of the Scholarly Societies Project

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