EnglishGeneralLibrary Science

About Bibliography

What is Bibliography?

Bibliography is one of the primary tools used for reference by the Librarians With the help of the primary tools, the librarian is able to identify the books and the reading material by title. author or subject and help the readers when they approach him for information. There are various forms and numerous definitions of bibliographies, but no single definition is suitable for all situations. Generally, the librarian, when speaks of bibliography, he refers to systematic or enumerative bibliography.

The term bibliography which was first used by Louis Jacob de saint Charles in his bibliographic parsiana (1645 – 50) became popular in the eighteenth century. It is derived from the two Greek words, viz., Biblion and graphein. Which means “Biblion” means “Books” and “graphein” is “to write” respectively. Thus etymologically bibliography means ‘writing of books’. Perhaps it originally meant the copying of manuscripts in the pre-printing era. The term, it has gradually acquired a wide connotation, more particularly, in the European context, shaped also by a succession of social and intellectual advances beginning from the middle ages. It is thus a legacy of the western scholarship, borrowed by the East. Despite the great and ancient traditions of culture and scholarship, there are no great evidences of any kind of bibliographic practices in India. One cannot simply assume that it was there and try to establish by citing the prologues and colophons applied to literacy works that contained references to one’s own early works or works of others. Since methods and means could vary from culture to culture and from place to place, bibliography in western sense perhaps was not practised in ancient India. Also it could not have been adopted until recent times. Still, scholarship was by some means enlarged, extended and conveyed, generation after generation.Bibliographies

In the eighteenth century, in France the meaning of Bibliography changed from the “writing of books” to “writing about books”. In this sense F. Ebert a great German bibliographer defined bibliography as “in the broad sense, the Science that deals with literacy productions”. This led to being regarded as, “The Science of books:. According to Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary defined bibliography as “a list of works an author, or of the literature bearing on a particular subject”. Bibliography as defined by Louis Shores, is a “list of written, printed or otherwise produced record of Civilization, which may include books, serials, pictures, films, maps, records, manuscripts and any other media of communication”. In the words of Dr. Ranganatha, ‘bibliography’ “is a list of documents listed together for some purpose. The purpose is to bring to the attention of the reader an exhaustive or selective list of documents relevant to his pursuit of study or enquiry”. “Bibliography is a complex structure of lists which extends from the local library to the region, nation and the world. A bibliography records not only what is available, but also what had been available in the past and what will be available in the immediate future”.

There must have been. however, some kind of practice in realising the scholarly objectives underlying bibliography. It calls for extensive investigations so as to bring to light all the interesting hidden facts of the indigenous practices of creation and preservation of information or diffusion of knowledge.

Bibliography, as the product of the west, originally meant the writing or copying of already existing manuscripts so as to produce multiple copies for use’. Without exception, this was the practice everywhere; India too was not an exception. When printing was invented and became popular, the bibliographic practice seems to have extended its meaning to include composition as well. The increasing abundance and the distribution of such printed materials all over Europe, naturally created the problems of collecting them together and also creating necessary means to facilitate awareness of the existence of such materials. The early bibliographers addressed themselves to the task of recording and describing all extent items scattered throughout Europe. Perhaps prompted by curiosity merely to know. Thus. descriptive recording and listing of books and other extent materials also came to be regarded as bibliography. Conard Gesner (1516 – 1565). the Swiss Scholar, who compiled his Bibliotheca Universalis (1545) was the first to shape it and give it scholarly credentials. A further change in the usage of the term occurred in eighteenth century as a consequence of the growth of large private collections brought about in the wake of a popular enthusiasm for lavish book collection, especially antiquarian items treating the same as art forms. To help to establish the historical importance and antiquarian values of such materials, a series of bibliographies, e.g., Micheal Mittaire’s Annals typographic, Joseph Ame’s. Typographical Antiquities and others were compiled laying foundations for historical bibliography. This new tradition set in motion similar pursuits by bibliographers like DeBure, Peignot and others as historical investigations assuming Scholary endeavour of verifying source materials in linguistic, literacy, historical and other studies. By extending the principles and techniques of these bibliographers. Henry Bradshaw established yet another bibliographic method known as analytical bibliography which investigates the physical nature and the circumstances of the production for construction of the book’. Robert Proctor’s Index to early printed books in the British Museum, with notes of those in the Bodleian, further extended this analytical technique to be capable of establishing the hidden facts and details of claims, authenticity, origin etc., of bibliographic items. The publication of the first volume of the British Museum’s Catalogue of Printed Books in XV Century (1908) on Proctor’s model brought into vogue what came to be designated as descriptive bibliography, as a result of analytical method. This induced a more significant development in the publication of Pollard’s Shakespeare’s folios and quartos (1909) contributing to texturala bibliography, helpful in establishing the authenticity and accuracy of texts. Irrespective of the purpose and the methods, all these varieties have enumeration or listing as the basis. During the present century, important areas of bibliographic studies have come to be identified as:

  1. Descriptive bibliography,
  2. Textual Bibliography,
  3. Analytical bibliography or critical bibliography,
  4. Historical Bibliography and
  5. Systematic or enumerative bibliography.

The objectives and functions of these different branches have become more and more specialised involving, many sophisticated techniques, particularly, the enumerative bibliography has expanded and enlarged its scope. The ever increasing output of graphic material has brought in automation methods and techniques of bibliography compilations. However, the implications of universal bibliographic control (aimed at optimisation of the use of the increasing production of literature) and the great body of literature on bibliography has virtually overshadowed the other branches.



  • Reddy, P. V. G. (1999). Bio bibliography of the faculty in social sciences departments of Sri Krishnadevaraya university Anantapur A P India.
  • Sharma, J.S. Fundamentals of Bibliography, New Delhi : S. Chand & Co.. Ltd.. 1977.  p.5.
  • Quoted in George Schneider, Theory of History of Bibliography. Ralph Robert Shaw, trans., New York : Scare Crow Press, 1934, p.13.
  • Funk Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of the English language – International ed – Vol. I – New York : Funku Wagnalls Co., C 1965, p. 135.
  • Shores, Louis. Basic reference sources. Chicago : American Library Association, 1954. p. 11-12.
  • Ranganathan, S.R., Documentation and its facts. Bombay : Asia Publishing House. 1963. p.49.
  • Katz, William A. Introduction to reference work. 4th ed. New York : McGraw Hill, 1982. V. 1, p.42.
  • Robinson, A.M.L. Systematic Bibliography. Bombay : Asia Publishing House, 1966. p.12.
  • Chakraborthi, M.L. Bibliography : In Theory and practice, Calcutta : The World press (P) Ltd.. 1975. p.343.

Md. Ashikuzzaman

Work at North South University Library, Bangladesh.


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    It kind of feels too complex and very vast for me.
    I am having a look ahead in your next publish, I’ll try to get the grasp of it!

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