History of Science, Medicine and Technology.
Bibliography of Primary Sources: Articles

    There is no available database on old scientific papers. There are, however, some very useful printed bibliographies.

The 17th and 18th centuries: Reuss' Repertorium

    The older one is Jeremias Reuss' (1750-1837) Repertorium, published in the early 19th century, that attempted to describe all articles published in journals of scholarly societies:

    The title of the book means: "Index of Articles published by Scholarly Societies, arranged by discipline". This monumental work included all scientific disciplines, medicine and technology. Each of the 16 volumes is dedicated to a specific discipline, and articles are classified according to subject. There is also an author index. The subject headings and the editor's comments are written in Latin.

    Thre is a recent reprint of this work:

    For additional information, see http://www.scholarly-societies.org/history/reuss.html

The 19th century: the Catalogue of Scientific Papers

    During the 19th century and early 20th century, the Royal Society of London sponsored a huge bibliographical project, intended to produce an index of scientific papers published in the main scientific journals of all countries, in all languages. The result was a set of 19 volumes of encyclopaedia size:
  • ROYAL SOCIETY OF LONDON. Catalogue of Scientific Papers, 1800-1900. London, 1867-1902; Cambridge, 1914-1925. 19 vols.
    There is a reprint of this very useful work: ROYAL SOCIETY OF LONDON. Catalogue of scientific papers, 1800-1900. Metuchen: Scarecrow Reprint Corp., 1968.

    Several large libraries in the United Kingdom co-operated with this project, providing information of the content of their collections of periodicals. Every article published in the most important scientific journals was included, but papers on medicine and technology were not indexed. A large number of referees helped to select what should be included in the Catalogue of Scientific Papers.

    Publication was carried out in successive series:

  • ROYAL SOCIETY OF LONDON. Catalogue of scientific papers (1800-1863). London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1867-1872. 6 vols.
Series 1: Vols. 1-6, with information about articles that appeared in 1800-1863. The 6 volumes contain 5,743 pages.
  • ROYAL SOCIETY OF LONDON. Catalogue of scientific papers (1864-1873). Edited by Henry White. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1877-1879. vols. 7-8.
See a larger image of the title page

Series 2: Vols. 7-8, with information about articles that appeared in 1864-1873. The 2 volumes contain 2,357 pages.

Series 3: Vols. 9-11, with information about articles that appeared in 1874-1883; Vol. 12, with supplementary information about articles published from 1800 to 1883. The 4 volumes contain 3,773 pages. Series 4:  Vols. 13-19, with information about articles that appeared in 1884-1900. The 7 volumes contain 7,038 pages.

    It is difficult to evaluate the total number of references contained in the Catalogue of Scientific Papers. Volumes 1 to 12 contain about 33 references per page, and volumes 13 to 19 contain about 55 references per page. The total number of entries is probably between 770,000 and 800,000, describing articles from nearly 3,000 different serials.

    Notice that each "reference" usually contains information about a single article, but sometimes it contains information about several versions/translations/editions of the same article. Some "references" contain correction to previously published information, or remissive information.

    In each series, the papers were classified according to the author name – that is, there is no subject classification. Each entry included the author's name, title of the paper in the original language (except in the case of non-european languages, such as Japanese), abbreviation of the title of the periodical, volume, initial and final pages, year of publication. The first volume of each series contained a list of indexed periodicals, with the corresponding title abbreviations.

    The whole set of 19 volumes have been scanned for the Gallica project, and they can be downloaded, in PDF or TIFF format, from the French Bibliothèque Nationale: http://gallica.bnf.fr.

    The Royal Society project included the production of a subject index for the whole period. Preparation of the indexes began as the last volumes appeared, and it was to include 17 volumes. From 1908 to 1914, three subject indexes were prepared: v.1 for Pure Mathematics (1908); v.2 for Mechanics (1909); v.3, pt.1 for Physics: Generalities, Heat, Light, Sound (1912); and v.3, pt.2 for Physics: Electricity and Magnetism (1914). The beginning of World War I interrupted this work, that was never resumed.

    Thre is a reprint of the Index:     After the completion of the Catalogue of Scientific Papers, the Royal Society began (in 1902) the publication of the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature. This is a subject index to the scientific publications appearing in each year, describing the contents of about 1,800 periodicals. This publication was also interrupted due to World War I, and was not resumed.

From the 17th to the 20th century: Poggendorff's Handwörterbuch
    Towards the middle of the 19th century, Johann Christian Poggendorff began to develop a biographical and bibliographical handbook. Each entry, in alphabetical author order, presents a short biography and then a list of the works (books and articles) published by the author. The bibliographical information is not complete, but nevertheless this is a useful tool.

    Only the exact sciences were included. There is no subject index.

  • POGGENDORFF, Johann Christian (ed.). Biographisch-literarisches Handwörterbuch zur Geschichte der exakten Wissenschaften. 2 vols. Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth, 1863.
Johann Christian Poggendorff
    Poggendorff's Handwörterbuch was continued in successive series:

    The whole collection is now available in CD-ROM: http://www.poggendorff.com/. The electronic dictionary contains biographic and literary data on around 29,000 scientists. Price: 1,400.00 Euros.

From the 19th century onwards: specific indexes

    In the 19th century, as the number of articles increased, scientists felt the necessity of specific indexes (classified by subject) describing the literature published in each year. Some scientific journals, besides publishing new papers, also include short notices about articles published elsewhere. Some of the first specific indexes published in the 19th century are:

    In 1890 there appeared the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature, followed in 1907 by the International Index to Periodicals, using keywords (instead of subject classification) and presenting an index of papers from cultural and philosophical journals, besides some general scientific journals.

    There were about 70 scientific indexes around 1900.

    In the beginning of the 20th century, there appeared other indexes, such as Chemical Abstract, Biological Abstracts, etc. Those scientific indexes, that continue up to the present time, are the best available tertiary source of information on scientific paper published during the last century.

Specific subject bibliographies

    Bibliographies on scientific books on several subjects began to be published in the 17th century. Some of the oldest are William Cooper's Catalogue of Chymicall Books, and Cornelius Beughen's Bibliographia Mathematica, that included also mechanics and astronomy, besides pure mathematics.

    Many other important scientific bibliographies were published during the 17th and 18th century, including only books.
    Up to the 18th century, scientific papers were not as relevant and books, but in the 19th century the scientific bibliographies began to include articles, besides books. One of the best examples is Houzeau and Lancaster's outstanding Bibliographie Générale de l'Astronomie, originally published in the late 19th century:
  • HOUZEAU, Jean Charles & LANCASTER, Albert. Bibliographie Générale de l'Astronomie jusqu'en 1880. London: Holland Press, 1964. 3 vols.
     The content of this excelent bibliography is now contained in the Astronomical Bibliography, produced by the Astronomisches Rechen-Institut at Heidelberg (ARIBIB): http://www.ari.uni-heidelberg.de/aribib/
Jean Charles Houzeau

    As the several specific indexes to scientific papers were created, the necessity of bibliographies decreased, except for very specific ones, such as

    During the 20th century, the role of specific research bibliographies was gradually transferred to review papers, that usually contain a few hundred references.


Roberto de Andrade Martins
Group of History, Theory of Science and Teaching
Document version 1.1, 23 April 2003