Source Descriptions

Nineteenth Century Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature, 1890-1899

After Halsey William Wilson (H. W. Wilson Company founder) published the Cumulative Book Index in 1898, he turned his efforts to continuing the concept first developed by William Poole in his Poole's Index to Periodical Literature and in 1901 published the first Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. Some years later he determined to fill in the coverage between Poole's and his Readers' Guide by producing the famous Nineteenth Century Readers' Guide, 1890-1899.

"Part of a projected index to cover the whole of the nineteenth-century, 51 titles are indexed, 14 of them beyond 1899, to the date of their inclusion in other Wilson indexes. Some are covered by Poole, but the Wilson indexing is more thorough; many anonymous articles are identified."

"One of the most valuable indexes to general-interest periodicals, this is found in all English-language libraries throughout the world."

As an additional testimonial, in response to Norma Olin Ireland's questionnaires to representative librarians, the Guide was ranked #1 in the Periodical Indexes category.

One significant achievement is the addition of author's names on previously anonymous articles. The ALA Guide references this value by stating, "In some 19th century periodicals the editorial practice as to publish article anonymously, e.g. Edinburgh Review and the Quarterly Review. For many of these articles the authors' names have been ascertained from the publishers' records and are indicated in this index."

In the Preface, Cushing notes that well-known authors were published in this manner, due to the editorial strictures of the periodical. Such famous authors included:

Conan Doyle
Andrew Lang
Charles Mahan, the naval expert, who wrote such articles as: Hawaii and our future sea-power

Although the initial two volumes were planned as the larger project to cover the entire 19th century in a dictionary format, no further volumes were published. That makes the availability of other indexes of the period, both the Annual Library Index and the Poole's Index, so valuable. No one index covers the breadth of publications of the period. Not indexed in Poole's for example was Scientific American, which reported on many of the patents issued during this period.

Another significant inclusion is the Review of Reviews, with its digest and excerpts from world-wide periodicals. Book reviews, poems, and dramatic criticisms are also included. Dozens of Arthur Conan Doyle's works, for example, are listed including:

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Blind archer (poem)
Some military lessons of the war

The above-mentioned Andrew Lang is represented by:

Comedies of Shakespeare: Comedy of errors; Criticism
Green fairy book (Review)
I passed upon the wings of steam (poem)

In contrast with Poole's Index, the Guide used a standard list of subject headings and included author entries and cross references. Also, major subjects were further delineated by sub-headings or chronologies. Examples of this scheme are:

Labor and laboring classes
Great Britain
United States History

The periodicals selected for inclusion were based on votes and opinions of over 500 librarians, and represented the outstanding titles of the time. The scope of the publication was general or literary, focused on American history and culture.

In R.B. Downs' review of the Nineteenth Century Readers' Guide, he credits Wilson with making, "index publishing financially profitable, a record almost unique in bibliographic circles." Unlike most other indexes, Readers' Guide continues to the present day.

Downs continues to highlight the unique qualities of the index, the addition of author entries and the standardization of subject headings and acknowledges the experience with previous indexes gives way to such improvements.