Chapter 4. Bibliographies of Bibliographies

Table of Contents

Bibliographies of bibliographies are essential sources for identifying subject, title, genre, and author bibliographies; they are among the first resources a researcher consults when setting out to discover what has been written about a topic.

Those sources restricted to a single national literature appear under the heading “Bibliographies of Bibliographies” in appropriate sections of this Guide. For an evaluative survey of early works, see Archer Taylor, A History of Bibliographies of Bibliographies (New Brunswick: Scarecrow, 1955; 147 pp.).

General Bibliographies of Bibliographies

Serial Bibliographies


Bibliographic Index Plus. Wilson-EBSCO. Currently unavailable (19 Mar. 2013); EBSCO plans to merge this into Essay and General Literature Index (G380).

Bibliographic Index: A Cumulative Bibliography of Bibliographies. Ipswich: Wilson-EBSCO, 1937– . 3/yr., inc. annual cumulation. Z1002.B595 016.016.

A subject index to bibliographies that are published separately, as parts of books (though many of these are lists of works cited rather than bibliographies), or in about 2,800 periodicals (currently). Concentrates on works in Germanic and Romance languages and is now limited to bibliographies with at least 50 entries (“except for bibliographies of works by or about a person, or for specialized or topical material”). Many entries are for a list of works cited rather than a bibliography. Like other Wilson indexes, Bibliographic Index offers generous subdivisions and cross-references for easy location of entries. Entries since 1982 can be searched through Bibliographic Index Plus (which also includes the full text of some 100,000 bibliographies). The advanced search screen allows users to search by keyword, author, title, journal, document language, publisher, and a variety of other document fields. Especially valuable for its inclusion of parts of books, Bibliographic Index is the most current and thorough subject index to bibliographies.

An essential complement for 1956–87 is Bibliographische Berichte / Bibliographical Bulletin, 30 vols. (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1959–88), a bibliography of bibliographies (including books, essays in collections, and journal articles) published for the most part in German, English, Romance, and East European languages. Bibliographies are listed by author or title (for edited and anonymous works) in 18 divisions, most of them extensively classified: general; education; geography; history; information science, librarianship, and museums; the arts (including theater and film); agriculture; mathematics; medicine; natural sciences; language and literature; philosophy; psychology; law; religion; social sciences (including folklore); sport and games; and technology. The language and literature division is classified by language or geographic area. Entries, which provide basic bibliographic information, are based on acquisitions of a small number of German libraries or copied from national bibliographies. Indexed by subject in each volume through vol. 13 (1971); cumulative indexes: vols. 1–5 (1965; 140 pp.); vols. 6–10 (1970; 176 pp.); vols. 11–29, as vol. 30 (1988; 664 pp.). Although Bibliographische Berichte is not comprehensive and is sometimes inaccurate, its demise deprived researchers of a resource especially valuable for its extensive coverage of European publications.

See also

ABELL (G340): In the volumes for 1973–84, the Bibliography section has a subdivision for subject, genre, and period bibliographies, checklists, and indexes, and in the volumes for 1973–76, a subdivision for author bibliographies.

Bibliographie der Buch- und Bibliotheksgeschichte (U5280).

Other Bibliographies


BibSite. Bibliographical Society of America. Bibliog. Soc. of Amer., n.d. Web. 1 Jan. 2015. <>. Updated irregularly.

A Web site devoted to hosting or linking to original bibliographies and supplements, updates, and corrections to existing bibliographies. The site has become an important gateway to bibliographies that are not commercially viable and to revisions to published ones.

The Bibliographical Society (United Kingdom) maintains a similar site (


Besterman, Theodore. A World Bibliography of Bibliographies, and of Bibliographical Catalogues, Calendars, Abstracts, Digests, Indexes, and the Like. 4th ed. 5 vols. Lausanne: Societas Bibliographica, 1965–66. Z1002.B5685 016.01.

A World Bibliography of Bibliographies, 1964–1974. 2 vols. Comp. Alice F. Toomey. Totowa: Rowman, 1977. Z1002.T67 016.011.

A subject guide to 117,187 bibliographies (published through 1963) on all subjects. Ostensibly, only separately published bibliographies are admitted; however, issues of periodicals and offprints of journal articles haphazardly find their way into the listings. Booksellers’ and auction catalogs, art lists, general library catalogs, and works printed in Asian languages are excluded. Arranged chronologically under subject headings, entries record the number of items in a bibliography as well as the first and last, but usually not intervening, editions. Indexed in vol. 5 by persons, titles of anonymous bibliographies, and libraries. Although noteworthy for its broad coverage, Besterman must be supplemented with Bibliographic Index (D145). For a detailed critique, see Roderick Cave, “Besterman and Bibliography: An Assessment,” Journal of Librarianship 10.3 (1978): 149–61.

The supplement uncritically reproduces, sometimes illegibly, about 18,000 Library of Congress catalog cards in a subject list without an index. Of the various sections that have been extracted from Besterman and published by Rowman in the Besterman World Bibliographies series, the two of most interest to the literature scholar are Literature: English and American: A Bibliography of Bibliographies (1971; 457 pp.) and Music and Drama: A Bibliography of Bibliographies (1971; 365 pp.). Because they include articles and parts of books, the following are occasionally useful supplements to Besterman:

  • Courtney, William P. A Register of National Bibliography. 3 vols. London: Constable, 1905–12.

  • Northup, Clark Sutherland. A Register of Bibliographies of the English Language and Literature. Cornell Studies in English. New Haven: Yale UP; London: Oxford UP, 1925. 507 pp.

  • Van Patten, Nathan. An Index to Bibliographies and Bibliographical Contributions Relating to the Work of American and British Authors, 1923–1932. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1934. 324 pp.


Arnim, Max. Internationale Personalbibliographie, 1800–1943. 2nd ed., expanded and rev. 2 vols. Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1944–52. Gerhard Bock and Franz Hodes. Vol. 3: 1944–1959. 1961–63. 659 pp. Hodes. 1944–1975. 2nd ed. of vol. 3. 3 vols. 1978–87. Z8001.A1 I57 016.012.

A bibliography of bibliographies of works by and about writers and scholars from 1800 through c. 1986. Although international in scope and covering all disciplines, the work emphasizes German authors. Under each writer is a list of bibliographies, including books, articles, and entries in a wide range of biographical dictionaries, handbooks, registers, and sections of other bibliographies of bibliographies published through the early 1980s. Internationale Personalbibliographie, 1850–1935, in der preussischen Staatsbibliothek (Leipzig: Hiersemann, 1936; 572 pp.) indexes a few works omitted in the second edition. Although it is not comprehensive, the scope and coverage of foreign publications and collective works make Internationale Personalbibliographie an important complement to the other bibliographies of bibliographies in this section. Because of the nature of many of the collective works indexed, it is also a useful source for locating biographies and obituaries.


Bewsey, Julia J. ““Festschriften Bibliographies and Indexes”.” Bulletin of Bibliography 42.4 (1985): 193–202. Z1007.B94.

An annotated guide to 63 bibliographies and indexes (including journal articles but excluding serial bibliographies) of Festschriften published worldwide. Bewsey is noteworthy because standard serial bibliographies frequently overlook such collections.

See also

Ballou, Women: A Bibliography of Bibliographies (U6585).

Gray, Guide to Book Review Citations (G410).

Reynolds, Guide to Theses and Dissertations (H455).

Wortman, Guide to Serial Bibliographies (G325).



Weiner, Alan R., and Spencer Means. Literary Criticism Index. 2nd ed. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1994. 559 pp. Z6511.W44 [PN523] 016.809.

An index to 146 period and genre bibliographies (published between 1958 and 1991) principally of literatures in English. After an initial section for anonymous works, entries are arranged by author, then by literary works, with page references cited for individual bibliographies. A time-saving source for determining which specialized bibliographies include sections on a work or an author.