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Poole's Index to Periodical Literature

'Every question in literature, religion, politics, social science, political economy...finds its latest and freshest interpretation in the current periodicals.'
Introduction to Poole's Index to Periodical Literature, W.F.Poole, 1882.

Poole's Index to Periodical Literature is the first and only systematic article level index to the subject matter of 19th century periodicals. Originally published in six volumes between 1882 and 1908, the Index began in 1848 as the project of Yale student, William Frederick Poole. Poole observed that libraries hold collections of periodicals which receive little use because their content is not known. Through the application of subject indexing, Poole was able to dramatically increase access to periodical literature, greatly facilitating the research process. In 1876, Poole was approached by the American Library Association, and persuaded to produce a new edition of his index, with the assistance William Fletcher, Librarian of Amherst College, and the library community in North America and the UK. When the final volume was released in 1908, the Index had covered 482,000 articles and 378,000 subjects in 12,241 volumes of 479 British and American periodicals for the years 1802-1906.

The first volume of Poole's Index was reviewed on publication in Chambers's Journal (March 1883). It was described as follows:

'a book which will henceforward be indispensable to every reference library, and save a world of trouble to editors and journalists in hunting up what has already been written on specific subjects…Such a work is a splendid testimony to the immense literary activity of the past eighty years, and affords a key to quite an encyclopaedia of knowledge.'

The article goes on to describe an interesting application for Poole's Index, supplementary to its value in thematic classification. Poole's can also be used to explore the need for international copyright laws in the late 19th century. It explains how the listing of articles by subject reveals the transfer of content from British magazines to American periodicals 'without having benefited the British author or publisher one whit'.

C19 Index reproduces the entirety of Poole's Index in digital form. Users can search on Poole's subject terms, as well as periodical title, author and date, or can browse an alphabetical listing of all subjects presented similarly to Poole's Index in print form. Specific Poole's entries can be viewed alongside records from Periodicals Index Online, The Wellesley Index and American Periodicals Series through predefined searches on bibliographic details activated by clicking a link within each record. These links can also be used to source full text for users owning or subscribing to PAO or APS.


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