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Libraries & Culture 36.4 (2001) 537-538

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Book Review

Elements of Bibliography:
A Guide to Information Sources and Practical Applications

Elements of Bibliography: A Guide to Information Sources and Practical Applications. By Robert B. Harmon. 3rd ed. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1988. xiv, 295 pp. $29.50. ISBN 0-8108-3540-1.

This is the long-awaited third edition of Elements of Bibliography by Robert B. Harmon. The previous editions of this title were greeted with much appreciation from the targeted readers. There was a dire need for an updated work because of the changes occurring in the library and information world due to the ongoing technological revolution. The latest edition is thoroughly revised and introduces the reader to those changes, particularly in the field of bibliography.

Harmon has written thirteen chapters to cover the world of bibliography, chro-nologically from antiquity to the late twentieth century. Each chapter has a list of "Notes" and "Selected Supplemented Resources" at the end. The three appendices, entitled "Abbreviations Used in Bibliography," "Glossary of Bibliographic Terms," and "Major Bibliographic Organizations," serve as a quick reference guide.

The author gives a comprehensive account of the origin and historical de-velopment of bibliography and the book as products in chapters 1, 2, and 3. Bibliography has its roots in antiquity. "There had been such lists of clay tablets even in the library of Sennacherib at Nineveh in the seventh century b.c. Another well-known effort was made in the third century b.c. in the library of Alexandria in Egypt. The librarians of the Alexandrian library were primarily bibliographers" (23). They prepared the catalogs of the collection by subject. Henceforth such listings of recorded knowledge have served the vital need of humanity--the transference of knowledge to successive generations.

Though the bibliography has its roots in antiquity, its development as an academic and intellectual discipline is comparatively recent. After the French Revolution the word changed from its old Greek meaning of "writing or copying of books" to "writing about books." This change resulted in the development of different dimensions, forms, and kinds of bibliography in the following centuries. This phenomenon raised much confusion among academicians, practitioners, writers, scholars, and students of bibliography.

Harmon is aware of this problem and discusses it in a relatively simple way. He writes, "in attempting to define the meaning of bibliography one has to contend with the problem of controversy, a multiplicity of meanings, indiscriminate usage and some confusions betweens the technique of compilation and its end product. Out of this mess, however, we can detect some elements of commonality. Most prominent of these is the book and its development from ancient times to the present in all of its physical aspects" (3). In summing up the history of bibliography and the book, Harmon clarifies for readers the sometimes confusing terms like analytical bibliography, descriptive bibliography, historical bibliography, and so on.

Chapters 4 and 5 on enumerative or systematic and analytical or critical bibliography help the reader to learn more about these basic forms and their functions.

The author takes bibliography as an activity in chapters 6 and 7 and discusses the fundamentals of compiling a bibliography in an elaborate manner. He gives examples for preparing bibliographic entries and citations. This approach will be helpful for LIS students and researchers to learn the basics of this subject matter. It will also illustrate for them the integral parts of a complete bibliographic citation. Writers and researchers, particularly in less developed societies, tend to be less conscious about the uniformity and consistency of bibliographic citations in their works. The book will be helpful for them in particular, as Harmon refers to different citation manuals for different subject areas. [End Page 537]

Harmon addresses the issue of the evaluation of electronic and printed bibliographical sources in the eighth chapter and traces an outline history of major electronic developments starting from ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator) in 1946 through CD-ROM to the Internet in chapter 9. He discusses databases and basic Boolean operators ("AND," "OR," "NOT") for online searching...


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