James Douglas Stewart.

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Islingt07i Public Libraries,
Author of " The Sheaf Catalogue" etc.
Editor of " The English Catalogue.



Islington Public Libraries.






A Desctiptfon of the Principal Aids
and Guides, with an Index to Subjects,
and Statistical and Financial Factors

THE selection of books is the most important and constant and the
least systematized work which a librarian is called upon to
perform. While realizing that it is impossible and undesirable
to reduce its practice to hard and fast rules, we submit the following
notes in the hope that much haphazard effort may be avoided. It is
hardly worth while duplicating work that has already been done by
someone else, and many select lists of books have been compiled
which serve excellently as suggestive basal lists for the stock of a
library. By their aid, much of the spade work may be saved; and
finishing touches in the way of bringing such lists up to date and
providing for special requirements can be done quite easily.

The enormous and rapidly increasing output of books makes the
problem of selection increasingly difficult, especially to those adminis-
tering Hbraries with limited incomes. This points to the need for a
select guide to book-buying for British librarians similar to the
American A.L.A. Booklist. Our own official guide to current
literature, Best Books, only comes out annually and after most libraries
have already bought the books or spent their available money on
others. An interesting commentary both on Best Books and on a
particular librarian was afforded by the remark of the latter after he had
seen a copy of Best Books at a recent conference: "Call that a list of
best books ! Why, we've got all those books already ! "

The present series of notes, however, while dealing also with the
selection of current books, is intended principally to assist in the
selection of the initial stock of a library.

Amount of Money available for Book Purchasing. About 1 5 per
cent, of the total annual income of a library is available for the purchase
of books. This, of course, is only an average figure, but is useful as a
guide when estimating expenditure. This amount may be distributed
as follows : — New books 10 per cent. ; old books (secondhand, etc.)
3 per cent. ; and replacements 2 per cent. The last amount only
applies to libraries which have been established some years. The



following table shows the amounts, according to the above percentages,
which may be spent on books by libraries with varying incomes : —


New Books.

Old Books.





















































10,000 1,000 300 200 ij.Soo

A new library will spend the money allotted to replacements in
the above table on new books. Some libraries, again, will be able to
spend more than 15 per cent, of their income on books, while others
owing to heavy loan or similar charges will not be able to spend so
much. By using the above table it will be a comparatively simple
matter to adjust the figures to meet individual local requirements.

Proportional Representation of Classes of Literature. This is a
very vague and unsatisfactory side of book selection. Various tables
of class percentages have been prepared, but none have met with
general acceptance. And it is not possible to produce a table which
will meet every case. A purely residential library district will not
have the same sort of stock required by a purely manufacturing one,
so here again it is only possible to give some suggestive figures and
leave them to be quaHfied by special needs. The following table
shows the class percentages arrived at by different authorities.

Average of
British Libraries.
General and Miscellaneous 10


Sciences and Arts






Philosophy and Religion
Literature and Language







History, Geography, Travel



Guides to Book Selection. The following list does not pretend to
be a complete list of aids and guides to book selection, but it does
include all the easily accessible guides which will be found most useful
both in forming the stock of a library and keeping it up to date. The

entries are arranged for the sake of convenience, and to avoid repeti-
tion, under very broad heads, and there is a detailed subject index at
the end.

Shortly after this series of notes was completed, there came to
hand a new A.L.A. Library Handbook entitled Aids to Book
Selection, by Alice B. Kroeger and Sarah W. Cattell. This is a
handy little pamphlet, but its practical usefulness is largely detracted
from by its arrangement and by the omission of many of the most
useful aids. It is also, naturally, very American in tone, but is to be
recommended as a suggestive series of notes.

One of the most necessary aids to selection is a detailed classifica-
tion scheme. The Subject Classification, owing to its enormous
detail and clear arrangement, is the best, but the Decimal Classifica-
tion or any other detailed scheme will serve. By the aid of one of
these schemes, which marshals all subjects in more or less logical array,
the selector can see the scope and relation of all topics, and can
produce a well-balanced list of books. Incidentally, this will prevent
important subjects being entirely overlooked — a state of affairs not
altogether unknown.

For handy indexes to the book market, and descriptions of the
class of works published by various publishers, Clegg's International
Directory of Booksellers, Book Prices Current, Book Auction Records,
The Literary Year-Book, and The Writers' and Artists' Year-Book
should be consulted. The most complete directory of British
publishers is contained in the latest volume of the English Catalogue.




[The books in this section really form a series of
guides to book-selection guides, and should be used
to supplement the information given in the other
sections. The bibliographies of bibliography, for
example, will refer a book-selector to lists on subjects
not mentioned in section IV.]

British Museum. List of bibliographical works in the reading room.
Second edition. 1889. iX)

Very much out of date, but useful for older books.

Brown (Tames Duff). A Manual of practical bibliography. [1906.]

Includes a chapter on " Guides and aids to books and their description,"
which describes most of the important bibliographical guides.


Chicago : John Crerar Library. A List of bibliographies of special

subjects. Chicago. 1902. (3)

Arranged according to the Dewey classification, with a subject index.

Includes fugitive bibliography, lists of books and authorities contained in

general literature and sets out contents where necessary.

Courtney (W. P.). A Register of national bibUography : with a

selection of the chief bibliographical books and articles printed in

other countries. 1905. 2 vols. (4)

Alphabetically arranged by subjects, with an index of authors and subjects.

Entries are much cut down and abbreviated, but very complete. It is practically

a universal rather than a " national " bibliography.

Guild (Reuben A.). Librarian's Manual : a treatise on bibliography.
New York. 1858. (5)

The first part consists of a descriptive guide to bibliographies.

Hipwell (Daniel). Bibliographical works of reference. In Clegg's
International directory of booksellers. 1899. (6)

An author list of all sorts of books useful in book selection and bibliography.
Exceedingly complete and accurate.

Keogh (Andrew). Some general bibliographical works of value to the
student of English. Yale University. 1901. (7)

Much more general than its title indicates, being a select list of all classes
of bibliographical guides. Classified.

Langlois (C. V.). Manuel de bibliographic historique. 190 1-4. (S)
In two parts, the tirst of which is a scholarly treatise on general biblio-
graphical works of authority, whilst the second contains an account of the
bibliographical works necessary to the student of history. The author deduces
strong arguments in favour of regarding bibliography as the key to knowledge
contained in books and urges that it is an indispensable auxiliary to all other
studies. An important work which has done much to advance the systematic
study of bibliographical science.

New York State Library. Selected national bibliographies. New
York. 1900. New edition 1908. (9)

Arranged under countries. Also gives preliminary lists of bibliographies of
bibliography and general bibliographies. Has an author index.

Petzholdt (Julius). Bibliotheca bibliographica. 1866. (10)

A careful and accurate bibliography of bibliographies published up to 1866.
Classified, with an author index and full annotations. An important part of the
work is the survey of various systems of classification.

Sabin (J.). Handy book about books which relate to books. 1877.

A guide to bibliographies. Out of date, but occasionally useful.

Spoiford (A. R.). A book for all readers. 1900. (12)

Contains many practical hints on forming library stocks, and supplies lists
of useful bibliographical aids, etc.

Stein (Henri). Manuel de bibliographic generate. 1897. (13)

A classified bibliography of bibliography with critical and descriptive
annotations and a subject index. Contains also lists of towns possessing printing-
presses before the nineteenth century ; periodicals containing bibliographical
information ; and the principal libraries issuing printed catalogues.

One of the most important of modern bibliographies, but the lack of author
and title indexes is a serious hindrance to its use.

Yall6e (L.). Bibliographic des bibliographies. 1883- 1887. 2 vols.

An alphabetical author-list, with a subject-index. Brief descriptive notes
are the exception rather than the rule, and the work would be more useful if
supplied with complete title and subject-indexes. Though inaccuracies are
frequent and several important works are omitted, the work will be found useful
if used as an author-index to Stein's Manuel de bibliographie.



[In addition to the books listed in this section there
are enormous numbers of literary histories of all kinds
and nationalities which are among the most important
aids to book-selection. It is obviously impossible to
include these ; and unnecessary as they are well known
and easily accessible.]

Acland (A.H.D.). Guide to the choice of books. 1891. {15)

An alphabetical list with publishers and prices, but rather out of date,
though still useful.

Allibone (S. A.). Critical dictionary of English literature and British
and American authors. [1859-1871.] 1902. 3 vols. Supple-
ment, by John Foster Kirk. 2 vols. 1902. (16)
Alphabetically arranged under authors' names. Includes much biographical

information as well as descriptive and critical notes on books — mainly extracts

from or references to reviews published in the periodical press. Extends to the

end of 1888 only.

American Library Association. A.L.A. Catalog: eight thousand
volumes for a popular library, with notes. 1904. (17)

In two parts : (i) a class list, arranged according to the Dewey classification,
with subject index ; (2) a dictionary catalogue. The classified portion is
annotated. The selection of books for this catalogue was made by a special
committee of the A.L.A. , and although much too American for complete use by
British libraries, yet gives much useful information. It includes particulars of
publishers and prices. Supersedes the 1893 edition.

Baldwin (James). The Book-lover: a guide to the best reading.
New edition. 1906. (18)

Pleasant literary disquisitions on the choice of books, giving many practical

Birmingham Public Library. Books for a reference library : being
lectures on the books in the library. 2 vols. 1885. (19)

A list of books accompanies each lecture. Useful for tracing the older
standard works.


Brown (James Duff). The Small Library : a guide to the collection
and care of books. 1907. (20)

Includes a chapter (pp. 109-138) on book selection, containing a " Nucleus
list of authors and subjects for a small municipal librar)'."

Brunet (J. C). Manuel du libraire et de I'amateur de livres. 5 vols.

Paris. 1860-65. Supplement, par G. Brunet et P. Deschamps.

2 vols. 1 8 78- 1 880. (21)

Arranged by authors' names, and supplied with a subject index. Only

includes best editions, and forms one of the most useful guides to general


Fortescue (G. K.), ed. Subject-index of the modern works added to

the Library of the British Museum, 1881-1900. 3 vols. 1902-3.

Same, 1901-1905. 1906. (22)

In alphabetical order of subjects. The entries are grouped under large

heads, but frequent references from smaller subjects are supplied.

Graesse (J. G. T.). Tresor de livres rares et precieux. Dresden.
1859-69. 7 vols. (23)

Arranged by authors' names. Similar to Brunet noted above.

Kroeger (A. B.). Guide to the study and use of reference books.

1904. New edition, 1908. (24)

A classified and annotated list, with Dewey Classification numbers attached

to entries. Fully indexed. Very comprehensive, and although principally

American, refers to a fairly representative selection of British works.

Leypoldt (A. H.) and George lies, eds. List of books for girls and
women and their clubs. American Library Association. 1895.

A classified and fully annotated list of about 2,100 books, a different person
being responsible for the selection of each section. Author and title index.
Gives particulars of publishers and prices. Includes also a list of periodicals.

Lowndes (William T.). Bibliographer's manual of English literature, t.
Revised edition, by H. G. Bohn. 6 vols. 1900. (26)

An author catalogue of printed English literature down to 1857. Gives
fairly full bibliographical particulars and much information as to sale prices, etc.
Useful for deciding questions of editions, etc. Vol. 6 is devoted to the publi-
cations of Societies.

Perkins (F. B.). The best reading : hints on the selection of books.
4 series. Boston. 1872-1895. (27)

Classified lists.

Pittsburgh : Carnegie Library. Classified catalogue. First series,

1895-1902. 3 vols. 1907. Second series, 1902-1906. 2 vols.

Pittsburgh. 1908. (2S)

Arranged according to the Dewey Classification. The most elaborate and

fully annotated public library catalogue. Complete author and subject indexes.

American, but containing a large amount of British literature. Strong on

technical literature.

Reference catalogue of current literature. 2 vols. 1906. (29) \/

A trade list issued every few years. Comprises the catalogues of the most
important English publishers. The various catalogues are arranged alphabeti-
cally by the publisher's names and a guide to their contents is furnished by a
complete author, title and subject index in the first volume.


Richardson (C. F.). The choice of books. Revised edition. 1905.


Chapters on many aspects of book selecting and using, and containing
excellent suggestive lists. Written from the standpoint of the private individual
but quite as useful to the public librarian.

Robertson (John M.). Courses of study. Edition 2, revised. 1908.

Aims " not to provide bibliographies, or even specifications of ' the best
books,' but simply to encourage and assist private students to acquire knowledge
in all the main branches of liberal culture." A series of logically arranged
critical and descriptive bibliographical articles on anthropology, religion,
philosophy, psychology, history of various countries, sociology and the various
sciences and arts. Gives particulars of publishers and dates of publication.
Has separate indexes of subjects and authors. Especially valuable for the
philosophical sections.

Sargant (E. B.) and B. Whishaw. A guide-book to books. 1891. (32)
An alphabetical subject index, with an index to authors. Incomplete and
out of date, but giving easy reference to the older standard works.

Sonnenschein (W. S.). The Best books : a reader's guide to the choice
of the best available books. 2nd edition. 1901. (55)

A huge catalogue, with author, title and subject indexes, of about 100,000
books relating to all subjects. Out of print and foreign works are omitted in
most cases. The work is roughly divided into classes which are broken up into
sections and sub-sections ; brief descriptive notes are occasionally given, whilst
"the very best books" are indicated by an asterisk. Full particulars with
regard to dates of first and last editions, price, size and publisher's name are given
for each book. New ed. in preparation.

Watt (Robert). Bibliotheca Britannica : a general index of British
and foreign literature. 1824. 4 vols. {34)

In two parts ; Vols. 1-2, Authors ; Vols. 3-4, Subjects. The author portion
contains much biographical as well as bibliographical information. The subject
portion is alphabetically arranged, with the titles very much condensed.
Valuable for reference.

Wheatley (H. B.). How to form a library. New edition. 1902. (35)
Written from the standpoint of the private, rather than the public librarian,
but includes chapters describing many of the bibliographies useful in book


[The various literary reviews are useful in deter-
mining the purchase of current books. For British
literature the most important are the Atheticeutn^
Academy^ Literary World, Sahirday Review, and Timts
Literary Supplement. For American the Publisher's
Weekly, The Nation, and Dial. These reviews should
not be used by themselves but as supplementary to the
Publishers' Circular for British, and the Publisher^
Weekly for American books.]

American Library Association. A, L. A. Booklist. Boston. 1905

to date. Monthly (except July and August). {36)

A classified and fully annotated selection of current literature. Useful for

indicating the best new American books.


American Catalogue of books. 1881-1905. New York. Also Annual
American Catalogues. 1886 to date. (37)

Alphabetically arranged under authors, titles and subjects. Gives full
particulars of publishers, prices. Annotated.

Book Review Digest. \^o^todnte. Minneapolis. (5S)

Arranged under authors' names. A cumulative monthly abstract of the
reviews appearing in the principal American and English literary periodicals.
Also supplies descriptive notes.

The Bookseller. Weekly. London. (39)

Gives a list classified under alphabetical headings of books published in the
United Kingdom.

Boston Public Library. Annual list of new and important books

added to the Library : selected from the Monthly Bulletins. 1896

to date. Boston. (40)

A classified list with index to authors and subjects. Full entries are given.

Brockhaus. Allgemeine bibliographic. Monthly. Leipzig. (42)
A classified list of German and Continental literature, with an annual
author index. Includes a small proportion of the publications of countries other
than Germany, but chiefly useful for selecting German current literature.

Croydon Public Libraries. The Reader's Index. Bi-monthly. 1899
to date. (42)

Arranged according to the Dewey Classification and fully indexed at the end
of each year. The most elaborately annotated library magazine published, and
useful though confined to the purchases of one library. Includes also numerous
reading lists on various subjects. Two useful American bulletins are those
issued by the Providence Public Library, and the Carnegie Library of

English Catalogue of books. 1835 to date. {43)

An annual volume, with five-yearly cumulations. Comprises an alpha-
betical list under authors, titles, and subjects of the books issued in the United
Kingdom, and gives full imprint particulars, price, month of publication,
publisher, etc. Contains also lists of the publications of Societies, and a full
directory of publishers.

Hofmeisters Musikalisch-literarischer monatsbericht iiber neue

Musikalien, musikalische Schriften und Abbildungen. Monthly.

Leipzig. (44)

A classified monthly list of music published on the Continent. Publishers

and prices are given. A section is devoted to reviews of recent musical


Library Association. Class list of best books, and annual of biblio-
graphy. 1905-06 to date. Edited by H. V. Hopwood. [45)
Classified according to the Brussels expansion of the Dewey Classification,
and, latterly, annotated. Composed of select lists of the best books on all subjects
published during the year, a different authority being responsible for the selection
of each class. Has a full subject index.

New York State Library. A selection from the best books of [the
year]: with notes, y^^)"] to date. Albany. (46)

An annotated list, classified according to the Dewey system, of about 250
books yearly. Three classes of books are indicated : (a) for libraries which
must confine their additions within narrow limits (20 books) ; (b) for libraries
which can buy 50 books ; (c) for libraries which can buy 100 books per annum.
The remaining 150 are suggested in addition for larger libraries. Chiefly


The Publishers' Circular. Weekly. London. (47)

Contains a list under authors, titles and subjects, of all the books published
in the United Kingdom. The weekly lists are cumulated into a monthly list of
books at the end of each month. These lists are afterwards used as the basis
for the annual volume of the English Catalogue. Full particulars of size, price,
publisher, etc., are given.

The Publishers' Trade List Annual. Latest edition, 1908. New
York. (48)

The American counterpart of Whit taker's Reference Catalogue of current
literature. This latest edition is not indexed, and is consequently practically
useless. It is, however, a convenient collection of the catalogues of the principal
American publishers. Published in August each year.

The Publishers' Weekly. New York. {49)

Contains a fully annotated list each week of the books published in the
United States. These lists afterwards form the basis of the " American
Catalogue." This periodical forms the best guide to the selection of current
American literature.

Soudier (H. le). Bibliographic Fran9aise. Deuxieme s6rie. Tome i,

1900-1904. 1908. (50)

Gives particulars of all books published in France during the period

covered. Arranged in one alphabet under the names of authors, first woids of

titles, and subjects. Gives particulars of publishers and prices.

United States Catalog : books in print, 1902. 1903. Supplement,

1902-05. 1906. Minneapolis. Continued by the Cumulatiye

book index. 1906 to date. Monthly, cumulated annually. (51)

Alphabetically arranged under authors, subjects and titles, and gives

particulars of publishers, prices, etc., and directory of publishers. The

Cumulative hook index from 1898-1905 is included in the United States Catalog.



[There are thousands of lists of books on special
subjects, and nothing more is attempted here than to
indicate the most useful. For other lists and bibliographies,
reference must be made to the works in Section 1. The
catalogues of special libraries and the numerous lists of
books on special subjects contributed to professional
magazines must also be sought for there.]

Adams (Charles K.). Manual of historical literature. 3rd ed. 1903.

A classified series of critical descriptions of all the principal historical works
in English, French and German. Fully indexed. Under each country are given
" Suggestions to students and readers," outlining reading courses and indicating
illustrative material. By far the best select bibliography of history, and invaluable


Online LibraryJames Douglas StewartBook selection → online text (page 1 of 2)