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The Catalogue of Scientific Papers

Nature volume 50, pages 241242 | Download Citation



WE are glad to welcome this new volume of the Royal Society's great Catalogue. In February 1892 we noticed Vol. IX., which was the first of the three volumes that are to contain the titles of papers published in the decade 1874-83. The present volume, containing the second instalment of the material for those years, forms the tenth in the entire series of that monumental piece of bibliography for which the scientific world is indebted to the Royal Society. The section of the alphabet it includes extends from Gis to Pet, covers 1048 pages quarto, and contains considerably over 30,000 entries, giving references to the papers published in some 570 different serials. In a year or two we may hope to have the concluding portion in our hands, and our only regret is that the complete index could not have been issued within the ten years following the close of the period it covers. Such a bibliography is a work of enduring value, but it is undoubtedly most urgently needed and its services most readily appreciated in the years more immediately following the dates of the papers themselves. However, if ten or twelve years should appear an over-long interval, we must remember the magnitude of the task and the fact that the Royal Society have carried out the work single-handed. The six volumes of the first series of the Catalogue sufficed for something more than six decades (1800-1863), but for the next ten years (1864-73) two volumes were required, and now three are found necessary for 1874-83. Moreover, it is probable that the proportion of important serials which the Catalogue has not taken cognisance of, has gone on increasing. At any rate the Society, as we know, have now found it advisable to devote a supplementary volume (which we believe is in active preparation) to the contents of these hitherto neglected series. This want of comprehensiveness, which is, perhaps, the only blemish on this great work as it stands, is the more noticeable as the selection of serials for indexing shows traces of having been either arbitrary or dependent upon some fortuitous circumstance. Thus it may puzzle a medical writer, whose work has appeared in both, to find papers of his cited from the New York Medical Journal, but none from the British Medical Journal. But no doubt the Royal Society would be the last to claim perfection for their work, for which, as it stands, they are entitled to the highest praise. These volumes are handsomely printed, the contents are easy to consult and astonishingly free from inaccuracies of any kind. This last, their crowning excellence, is one that can be appreciated best by those who make the most use of the work. Our own experience is that for checking a series of references, to turn to the Royal Society's Catalogue is practically the same as hunting up the originals themselves, and of course vastly more expeditious. And the volumes now issuing are even more easy to consult than their predecessors; for instance, the volume numbers are now given in Arabic instead of Roman numerals—a much more legible fashion and much safer, especially in the case of high numbers. Again, the year of publication is printed in heavy type, so that this vitally important particular catches the eye at once. The abbreviations of the titles of the serials remain practically as before, and though no doubt much longer than specialists are in the habit of using in their own notes and publications, they possess the great advantage which is claimed for them—that they are “so clear as to speak for themselves.” For the chemist Ber. may be quite sufficient, but would require interpreting to his fellow-workers in other departments of science, who would recognise at the first glance the meaning of the abbreviation adopted in the Catalogue—Berlin Chem. Ges. Ber. Perhaps, however, so familiar a series as the oft-quoted “Comptes Rendus” might safely admit of a shorter form than Paris Acad. Sci. Compt. Rend.

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