IsisCB Cumulative: Data from 1913 to 1975 is now open access

Today we have released an open access HTML version of seven volumes of two editions of the Isis Cumulative Bibliography. This is the first time these bibliographies have been made freely accessible in an online digital format. You can get access to IsisCB Cumulative here.

The citations in these volumes will eventually be added to IsisCB Explore, but in the meantime researchers can use this site as a way to supplement their bibliographical research if they want to find material pre-dating the data in the current version of IsisCB Explore.

The current release of these volumes as individual HTML files is meant to be a temporary research tool because its limitations make it less than ideal. The seven text files are large (about 20Mb each) and require quite a few seconds to load, so users must be patient. The pages are designed to be viewed on a full screen and accessing them on mobile devices will not be very satisfactory.

Search must be done through the browser’s native find function (usually, control + f or ⌘ + f). It is possible to establish a hyperlink to any entry in the seven files. The paragraph mark (¶) that begins each entry is a hyperlink to that anchor point in the file, but accessing that anchor requires that the whole file be loaded into the browser first.

Creating IsisCB Cumulative from the printed cumulative bibliographies required a lot of time and work. In 2013, all of the nearly 5000 pages of the first two editions of the Isis Cumulative Bibliography were photographed and stored as archival quality TIFF images by the University of Oklahoma Libraries’ Digilab (a discussion of this project is here).

We tried to use various OCR scripts to digitize the text, but the accuracy proved to be insufficient for our needs, so we turned to hand transcription. For that, we contracted with Apex Covantage to produce the transcription using a double-key entry process that has an accuracy of 99.95%.

Finally, we hired digital humanities consultant Conal Tuohy to create a workflow that would turn the scanned images into machine-readable text with TEI markup. Tuohy worked with the resulting file transcriptions to provide the HTML pages that we have presented here. He also produced more complex bibliographical markup that we will use to ingest the data to the IsisCB Explore dataset, a project that is scheduled for 2017.

About the Isis Cumulative Bibliographies

George Sarton began publishing bibliographies in his new journal Isis starting with the first issue. From that time on, Sarton and his successors published nearly one bibliography every year. As the decades passed, scholars needed a more manageable way of accessing the bibliographical data, so in the mid-1960s, the History of Science Society hired Magda Whitrow (Imperial College, London) to create a single multi-volume cumulative bibliography running to 1965. Ten years later, John Neu (University of Wisconsin—Madison) began to compile the next ten-year cumulation covering the intervening years. These volumes, seven in all, were published between 1971 and 1984.