National Bibliographies

National bibliographies attempt to record documents printed within a country or region; as such, they are essential works for identifying editions of a work, investigating printing history, and re-creating the intellectual and cultural milieu of a work.



Domay, Friedrich. Bibliographie der nationalen Bibliographien / Bibliographie mondiale des bibliographies nationales / A World Bibliography of National Bibliographies. Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1987. 557 pp. Hiersemanns Bibliographische Handbücher 6. Z1002.A1 D65.

A bibliography of approximately 3,000 retrospective and current national bibliographies (and related works) published by the end of 1980 (with coverage of some countries extending through mid-1982). Organized by continent, then region, countries variously and inconsistently include divisions for a variety of reference works (e.g., historical overviews, bibliographies of bibliographies, guides to reference books, lists of auction catalogs, biographical dictionaries, lists of dissertations) besides the national bibliographies and trade lists (listed by initial year of coverage). The annotations describe content, organization, and scope; cite cumulations or related works and scholarship; and occasionally offer an evaluative comment. Indexed by persons and titles (but with numerous errors and inconsistencies). Although admitting numerous works that are hardly national bibliographies, inexplicably omitting New Zealand, offering haphazard organization within several countries, citing numerous superseded works, and being less current than one should expect, Bibliographie der nationalen Bibliographien nonetheless offers the fullest guide to national bibliographies worldwide.

For more current and better organized—but generally less thorough—coverage, see

  • Beaudiquez, Marcelle, ed. Inventaire général des bibliographies nationales rétrospectives / Retrospective National Bibliographies: An International Bibliography. München: Saur, 1986. 189 pp. IFLA Pubs. 35. An inventory of retrospective national bibliographies for all countries except European socialist ones, with French or English annotations that describe sources, scope, coverage, and organization. The quality of annotations varies with the contributor, much information is taken secondhand, and there are significant omissions, but this work defines national bibliography more narrowly than Domay does and describes some works omitted by him.

  • Bell, Barbara L. An Annotated Guide to Current National Bibliographies. 2nd ed. Munich: Saur, 1998. 487 pp. UBCIM Pubs. ns 18. A bibliography of national bibliographies that record current publications within a country. A typical annotation identifies scope, coverage, contents, cataloging rules and classification scheme, content of an entry, arrangement, indexing, predecessors, supplementary works, published guides, currency, print and electronic formats, current deposit laws, and selected scholarship. The extensive commentary under most countries offers a wealth of information about current and, in some cases, retrospective national bibliographies. Review: (Beaudiquez and Bell [1986 ed.]) D. W. Krummel, Libraries and Culture 24.2 (1989): 217–30.

Background Reading


Linder, LeRoy Harold. The Rise of Current Complete National Bibliography. New York: Scarecrow, 1959. 290 pp. Z1001.3.L5 015.

A history of current national bibliographies published in England, France, Germany, and the United States from the sixteenth century through 1939. Limited to current complete national bibliographies (and thus excluding retrospective ones such as the Short-Title Catalogues [M1990 and M1995] and Evans, American Bibliography [Q4005]), Linder also covers some periodical indexes and lists of newspapers and dissertations. After an initial definition of national bibliographies and discussion of their importance, chapters proceed chronologically, surveying by country the content, organization, and development of individual works. Concludes with three appendixes (the most useful one being a chronological list of national bibliographies by country, with dates of coverage and symbols indicating scope and organization) and a selected bibliography. Indexed by titles and persons. The chronological organization means that the discussion of some works is split between two or more chapters; the focus is blurred by the admission of numerous works that hardly qualify as national bibliographies; there is little evaluation; and the work still reads like the dissertation it originally was. Nonetheless, it is the most complete history of current national bibliographies through 1939. Review: Archer Taylor, Library Quarterly 30.2 (1960): 150–52.