AQ -- Book Trade and Publishing


Jahrbuch der Auktionspreise für Bücher, Handschriften und Autographen: (JAP) [Yearbook of Auction Prices for Books, Manuscripts, and Holographs]. Stuttgart: Hauswedell

Nr. 1 (1997)=41/47. 1990/96 (1992/97). ISBN 3-7762-0425-7 (print ed.); ISBN 3-7762-0431-1 (CD-ROM): DM 540.00 (print ed. + CD-ROM)

The Jahrbuch, now available on CD-ROM, records some 260,000 titles offered at auction in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland from 1990-1996. Though easy to install, unfortunately it does not fully exploit the available database technology. Records from 1995-96 may be searched by a variety of fields, (name, title, place, date, auction, binding, illustrator, price) or by keyword in full text, but Boolean and proximity operators and truncation are not available. N.B.: there is no authority control for personal names. Records from 1990-94 do not share the database structure and must be searched separately and with more limited search options. Moving between indexes and the search screen or between record formats is complicated, documentation is brief, and online help nonexistent. Although a worthy endeavor, this product needs further development. [sah/ab]


Manuale enciclopedico della bibliofilia [Encyclopedic Manual of Bibliophily]. Ed. Vittorio Di Giuro. Milano: Bonnard, 1997. 626 p. ill. 30 cm. ISBN 88-86842-01-5: Lit. 380,000. (Edizioni Sylvestre Bonnard, Largo Treves 5, I-20121 Milano)

This richly illustrated handbook of bibliophily is designed more for book lovers than for research libraries. Although each page delights the eye, the quality and depth of the articles is uneven, bibliographies are not as current as one would wish, and the translations of technical terms are not always precise. The criteria for inclusion are not stated, making the uneven coverage and complete omission of some seminal works and topics inexplicable. Biographical entries are omitted entirely, but collectors will find the price information useful for getting a sense of current trends. Although interesting and beautifully produced, the handbook cannot be recommended for serious scholarship. [jp/ab]


Le Cercle de la Librairie 1847-1997: 150 ans d'actions pour le livre et ses métiers [Le Cercle de la Librairie, 1847-1997: 150 Years of Activity for the Book and Its Professions]. Paris: Cercle de la Librairie, 1997. 63 p. ill. 24 cm. ISBN 2-7654-0678-2: FF 90.00

The work of the Cercle de la Librairie in producing the French national bibliography, Bibliographie de la France, and books in print, Livres disponibles, justifies mention of this exhibition catalog celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Cercle (September 20--October 19, 1997). Significantly, it passes over in silence the ceding of the French national bibliography in 1990 to the French National Library. The bibliographic work of the Cercle is briefly described, among other areas of activity, and a very brief bibliography lists Festschriften, other anniversary publications, catalogs, and other studies. [sah/ab]

 An RREO Original Review 

Bulletin Critique du Livre Français (BCLF) [Bulletin of Criticism of the French Book]. Paris: Les Amis du Bulletin critique du livre français. ISSN 0007-4209: 1700 FF (subscription) (Les Amis: 2, rue Vivienne, Cedex 02, Paris 75084). Internet: http://www.celf.fr/sombclf.htm

Published since 1945, with a 3-year hiatus between 1992 and 1995, the Bulletin critique du livre français offers both a "panorama" and a selection of francophone publishing in its monthly collection of short book reviews. Its goals are three-fold: to present an overview of French-language publishing, to provide an evaluative tool for selection, and to promote French books outside of France.

Each year, 11 issues (or parutions) are published, with a double issue in September. However, the 1997 issues appeared in 8, so it seems the actual number of issues is flexible. When 2 or 3 are published together (e.g., April-May 1997 or August-October 1997), the issue is substantially larger. On average, 400 to 500 French books are reviewed each month, now including electronic texts as well as books and special issues of serials.

Intended primarily for book professionals (professionels du livre), a category that includes librarians and booksellers, the Bulletin critique also aims to attract and inform students, teachers and researchers, as well as the educated public (large public d'érudits et de curieux). This broad base for its potential audience entails covering titles appropriate to many kinds of readers as well as titles useful for retail booksellers. While this may weaken somewhat its effectiveness as a tool for research librarians, the choice of titles reviewed indicates a commitment to a scholarly readership.

The range of subjects covered is impressive: literature, including the usual genres of poetry, theater, essays and novels, as well as science fiction, ancient literature, history of ideas, and children's literature. Science and technology include engineering, medicine, physics, botany, and geography. And the human sciences (sciences humaines) include categories as diverse as history, psychology, beaux-arts, cooking, archaeology, cinema, and law. Each issue opens with a table of contents, making it convenient for bibliographers to zero in on their subject areas. Categories such as tourism, sports, and vie pratique may not be at all germane to the academic librarian; however, it is easy enough to skip over them and turn to essays, anthropology, and epistemology. Also useful are the indexes at the back of each volume­-indexes of titles, authors, publishers of the works reviewed, and of the reviewers' names.

While the individual reviews are not signed, a list of contributors appears at the back of each issue, described by the editors as scholars, experts and specialists all. The reviews follow a simple but effective structure: (1) bibliographic information in the heading, including pagination, size, publisher, price and ISBN; (2) the review itself, usually a long paragraph, offering analysis and evaluation; (3) bibliographic references of related works, not for all reviews, but for many, and at times quite substantial; (4) overall grades, for quality and for complexity. This last feature is what makes the Bulletin critique du livre français an interesting and valuable tool for selection. While the reviews themselves offer valuable critical information, sometimes including background on the text under review and a good summary of the work, the grading system provides a very quick appraisal of how pertinent a title might be to a selector for his or her collection.

The "grading system" is provided in each issue, at the front: Quality grades are either A (excellent), B (good), or C (average). Complexity grades are 1 (easy reading, simple ideas); 2 (medium difficulty); and 3 (difficult work). Mixed grades are sometimes given: "A-B" for instance for quality, or "1-2" for complexity. This useful system is a recent innovation; prior to the reappearance of the BCLF in 1995, these grades were absent from the reviews. Instead, a short description, sometimes quite quaint, of the reading level was given, such "people interested in military history" or "specialists in the area" or "public cultivé ou motivé."

Also of value for the selector are the mini-bibliographies accompanying many reviews. Since they list related works, of equal scholarship, they are most useful for what could be called "mini-analyses" of our collections. Do we own these works? Do we own works of these authors? Do their bibliographies lead us to more works in the same vein that are important?

In the days of approval plans for our collections and time pressures on selectors, how could this tool best be utilized? In a larger research library which depends heavily on foreign approval plans, the BCLF probably will only cover a few books from smaller publishers that slipped through the cracks of the approval plan profile. However, in the area of new fiction and poetry, the BCLF is probably most valuable for the foreign language selector, whose most difficult task often is keeping up with new writers. An approval plan often will not pick up these writers, and even when it does, it is difficult to cull the important new works from the less so. The BCLF's reviews give an assessment of new literary works, and the grades at the end for quality and complexity are more pertinent here than perhaps in any other category of review. (Another tool foreign selectors can use here is Libération online, which gives fairly lengthy reviews of recent fiction, along with the first page or so of many works under review.)

For smaller libraries, either without foreign approval plans or with minimal coverage by such plans, the BCLF could be put to much better use. Since it covers a broad range of subjects, the titles reviewed each month could form the basis of ongoing orders. The grading system, particularly the categories for "complexity" would be most useful in choosing the appropriate level of books for a small collection.

OCLC lists 131 locations for the BCLF, although the actual holdings vary from complete sets to current year only. Many of the subscribers are larger universities, state and private, but a fair number of smaller colleges also have holdings.

While the BCLF has a website, it has not put any issues online. Plans for such a project may or may not be in the cards; the Embassy of France in Ottawa states in its page on the BCLF that "des outils bibliographiques seront dévelopés afin de procurer aux lecteurs une information plus riche et plus rapide" ("bibliographic utilities are being developed to provide readers with a richer and more rapid source of information"). Bureaucratic language at its best, but does it mean that the BCLF will be on line and searchable soon? Even in print format though, the BCLF is an effective reference tool for assessing recent French publications. Its organization, its subject range, and its evaluative ratings make it worthwhile and useful for collection development.

Sue Waterman, Johns Hopkins University

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Last update: July 31, 2000 [RD]
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