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The first number of the CUMULATIVE BOOK INDEX, published two years ago, was an unprofessional looking pamphlet of sixteen pages and had in it no promise that in two years it would grow into the volume which now appears as the Index to Books of 1898-1899.
The INDEX was not devised to make money nor win tame, but was an invention mothered by necessity. The search through dozens of publishers' bulletins and pamphlets, no two of which, even by a kindly chance, were alike in shape, size, or arrangement, if indeed there were any arrangement at all,-such a search was paying too dear for our information. It was a necessity that this information should be collected in one place and arranged for use. No one seemed disposed to undertake the work; even the six-months' list which supplemented the Annual Amer. ican Catalogue, the only one which approached the cumulative plan, had been discontinued, and there was no choice but to provide for ourselves.
The name "INDEX" was adopted as best defining the scope of the new publication. It was an author list, with brief title, price, and publisher, and references from titles and subjects to author entries. The name, though still retained, has been outgrown and does not adequately characterize the present volume. The word "Cumulative" expressed the publisher's intention to reprint the bibliography from time to time, incorporating in it a record of the new books as they appeared, so that the list might be complete to date of issue. How often the bibliography should be reprinted was left to the future to determine. By many of our patrons, the cumulative plan was not understood. They had been waiting so long for such a finding list, that when it was in their hands they did not recognize it. While one appreciative friend, Mr. W. W. Waters, of Pittsburg, the first to send us a good word, said that the INDEX was "too good to be true," others insisted that it was not true, and for over a year we received constant demands for back numbers, in spite of the assurance that back numbers were useless, their contents having been reprinted in the latest number.
Notwithstanding many discouragements and big deficits, the INDEX met so kind a reception from a few subscribers that we were encouraged not only to keep on but to do better. It was due to appreciative words from Mr. C. N. Caspar of Milwaukee, Mr. MacLean of New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, the Burrows Brothers, Mr. Herder, Mr. Edward P. Judd, and others, that we were led to improve the typography of the INDEX and to add complete title and subject entries instead of references. The whole bibliography was accordingly reset in July, 1898.
After the publication of the December number, which was a complete catalogue of the books of 1898, our circle of friends increased and we were encouraged to make further improvements. A careful system was instituted under which few errors are likely to occur, or if made, can be promptly corrected. Before the publication of the INDEX of May 1898, which was a cumulation of sixteen months, the whole bibliography was thoroughly revised and in large part rewritten, in order that the entry of each book might contain the full name of the author, the exact title as found on the title page, and other useful data before omitted. Since the publication of the May number our bibliography, owing to careful methods, has grown rapidly and now numbers in the present volume about 17,000 books, or about 40,000 entries. Each entry has been compared with every available source of information, changes in prices and publishers have been recorded, and tables of contents have been added to the entries of those books not adequately described by title. This comparison has enabled us to discover mistakes in publishers' catalogues, and other book lists, and has won us the thanks of the Librarian of Congress for calling attention to a confusion of two authors of similar names and other errors in the copyright list.
A few words of acknowledgment are due to those who have contributed by service and counsel to the success of the INDEX. Among those who have been employed in its compilation are members of the staff of the Minneapolis Public Library, and the Library of the University of Minnesota. The INDEX is indebted to several members of the University faculty for brief book reviews, and particularly to Dr. C. Wells and Mr. FM.Anderson, of the History Department, for excellent bibliographies. Thanks are due to the librarians of the University Library and of the Minneapolis Public Library for valuable advice.
As to the future of the INDEX, it may be said that we have by no means realized our ideal. Our patrons however appear to be satisfied. Mr. William Tyrrell, of Toronto, writes that his "appreciation of the INDEX excludes any thought of criticism;" Mr. Burr Brown, of Macon, Ga., finds it "impossible to do business without it," Mr. Wanamaker finds it "the most useful of his reference catalogues;" Mr. F. J. Paxton, of Atlanta, “takes possibly every book list published in America, but finds the INDEX by far the most valuable." But in spite of this appreciation, and in spite of the great cost of the undertaking, we shall not allow our professional zeal to cool, but rather redouble our efforts towards improvement.
The INDEX for 1900 will be cumulated monthly; the co-operation which we now receive from a growing number of publishers will insure greater promptness in recording new books, and a more complete record. Books received will be promptly noticed in the news columns and their contents will be given under the author entry. In short, no effort nor expense will be spared to make the INDEX a model bibliography.