János Szép: Aesthetics or the science of good taste from the philosophy of beauty. 1–2. Buda, 1794, Landerer Katalin. [18], 332, [2] p.

János Szép: Aesthetics or the science of good taste from the philosophy of beauty. 1–2.
Buda, 1794, Landerer Katalin. [18], 332, [2] p.

AND JOURNALS 1921–1944

For over half a century, professional librarians and bibliographers have from time to time raised the issue, demonstrating criticism and self-criticism, that there are painful gaps in the systematic research of the printed press. Various concepts have been developed for strategies and methods to address the shortcomings. Raising the issue is usually related to national research and development priorities of a given period, as well as to the ordering of the most urgent tasks facing the national library, which is primarily responsible for the task. Nevertheless, the construction of a full system of bibliography never proceeds beyond the planning stage. This explains what is already regarded as a commonplace in the literature and in presentations, namely that a retrospective national bibliography of the Hungarian press is a “white spot” in our national system of bibliography. That this is a huge shortcoming is hardly debatable, especially if compared to the almost complete records of the bibliography of books (mostly stored in traditional carriers, but also in a continuously growing electronic database). It is obvious that of the typological categories, recording the data of books and then formulating a relatively complete system of bibliography, as well as adding newly emerging units to them, though not easy, is still a much easier job than mapping up the “twists and turns” in series of periodicals, i.e. following their complicated relations and changes.

The significance of ordering the data of periodicals in the national literature is usually seen in their being the research basis for Hungarian press history, as well as the basic information about the existence and appearance of given titles. Let us admit that this professional narrowing down does not consider (as reflected in the planned methods as well) that the details of the national press bibliography, recording dates, may supply indispensable sources for getting to know authors and their work, in the same way as the bodies issuing the editions, with their names and with their occasionally changing objectives and philosophical affiliations given in subtitles. In addition to being a source for the history of the press (and especially in addition to giving information about locations), the missing bibliography would offer primary source material to various branches of historiography and literary history and their professional syntheses.

It is not a proper excuse that the literature of Hungarian bibliography already has a number of published sources in the field, giving information about certain periods, geographical and administrative regions and periodicals in specialised areas, which certainly makes the shortcoming observed less painful. For a uniform recording, all titles of published precedents could be used, however in most cases only as basic or supplementary material, because defining the scope of published data and their detail, and even the points of typological outlining are so very different that their simple transfer would not meet the requirements of a modern press bibliography or authentic stock-taking.

As early as the time when József Fitz was the director of the National Széchényi Library, the duty of current and retrospective national bibliography was regarded as part of the national library’s basic functions. Within this framework, in the early 1940s a carefully planned and outlined series under the title of “The bibliography of Hungary’s periodicals” was launched. However, because of the war the first three volumes were not followed by others. In the 1950s the plan of a more up-to-date version of the initiative was tabled by Béla Dezsényi (“Ephemerides”), which ten years later the Press History Working Committee of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences discussed and approved as the best of the options available. (It is based on those recommendations that Margit Busa has since compiled her two volumes issued so far.) The continuation, however, has been stalled again. The planned use of the national library’s service catalogue as the starting point and the mere copying of the dissimilarly detailed data in each period may only serve as the title material of the national bibliography of the printed press, but will not provide academic results of appropriate quality.

There was another major start in the mid-1970s with a double objective in mind. On the one hand, the revision of the national library’s detailed (socalled ’service’) periodicals catalogue with the requirements of modern data processing in mind; on the other hand, still in the traditional form, but in a simulated integrated process, the compilation of a retrospective national press bibliography based on periods originating from autopsy data and supplemented with other sources. In 1979, the design of the bibliography was again approved by the Press History Working Committee of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, directing it into the Academy’s research project labelled as “Disclosing, recording and publishing pour historical and cultural relics”. Based on the prepared regulations, the work was approaching its ultimate aim parallely from two opposing directions: Re-cataloguing the NSZL’s stocks moving backwards from 1976, looked at the period between 1945 and 1975 as its first period, planning that when completed, the bibliography could be compiled from the catalogue data without handling the copies again. (The justification for 1975 being the closing year is that the current press bibliography starts from 1976.) At the same time, they launched the bibliographical recording for the periodicals in 1921–1944, again with the idea that the outcome of the undertaking could also serve as a catalogue - either with all its details or in a simplified form. The reason for choosing this time frame was that the press of that historical period has no authentic recording at all either in its details or in a manuscript form (The 1962 typewritten chronological Széchényi Library catalogue cannot be regarded as such!), while the bibliographical registration of books from the same period was already close to completion (Hungarian Books 1921–1944). Thus the two compilations may complement each other in offering a full overview of the two main types of publications in inter-war Hungary.

However, from the late 1980s, this undertaking suffered major blows, as it often happens in the lives of large libraries. New priorities, as so frequently before, pushed the tasks of re-cataloguing and re-processing off the agenda; the apparently more modern approach replaced the significance of detailed press bibliographies with the need for quick information supply limited to locations. There were a number of further well intentioned, nevertheless harmful changes made whose bottomline is that now even after several decades we are to be ashamed of our bad debts concerning a bibliography of the Hungarian press.

In 2004 the Press History Working Committee of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences again turned attention to the importance of taking stock of periodicals and regarding it as a basic research task. The national library too has again came to understand the significance of press documents, and as a consequence, its own sometimes sadly neglected obligations. Thus, the action plan for 2005 contains the concept of a database covering all types of documents and all periods, including the much-missed national retrospective bibliography of periodicals.

The earlier mentioned compilation to be soon completed under the title “The bibliography of Hungarian newspapers and journals 1921–1944”, although it applies a method slightly different in its genre, typology and description from the NSZL’s new concept.

As far as genres are concerned, it had to be decided whether a national bibliography and/or catalogue or a list of locations was to be prepared. In theory, as it is well-known and has been mentioned before, the added value of integrated processing would be that by recording the timed data elements of each title, the product could be both a brief summary leading to the shelf mark or library location and a national bibliographic stocktaking of quality research, reflecting the periodical’s whole life cycle. However, mixing the two would lead to insufficient results in both approaches. By comparison, the National Periodicals Database’s location information for foreign journals with the main data required for identification, has an indispensable role for access to and supply of documents, and it provides the same for the continuously uploaded regional Hungaricum titles, the “hybrid” solution the latter applies is by no means sufficient for the Hungarian national bibliography. Therefore, working on the compilation, the main consideration was the bibliographical function, accepting the limitation that processed titles are divided into all their constituent units, but are described with information on its location on the basis of a single autopsy (usually one kept in the NSZL; or if not available, then one from another collection). Naturally, titles and numbers known exclusively from books or other references are also included, with the right indication of the source.

The collection scope of the bibliography is limited to the definition of regional Hungaricum. Typologically, the scope follows the definition of periodicals from before the 1970s, i.e. the definition used in the target period. This means that it includes daily and weekly papers, regularly or irregularly issued journals and periodically published occasional papers. It however, does not extend to what are today regarded as periodicals, namely “periodically issued non-journal type publications” (yearbooks, calendars, etc.) and series. The justification for this is partly that it would be wrong to falsify retrospectively a past age’s own typological approach, and partly that it would also be wrong to unnecessarily repeat the descriptions in completed bibliographies for books, which have their own rules of documentation. (Hungarian Books 1921–1944, or Hungarian National Bibliography’s pre-1976 cumulation, etc.) It uses different collection criteria for the assessment “threshold” of press products. It would be anachronistic to force mechanically ISSN, adjusted to presentday categories of products, on early 20th century publications (e.g. theatre program booklets, companies’ regularly issued product catalogues and reports or photocopied newsletters of schools, etc.) In their own age these types should be seen as periodicals of primary source, not only because of their content, but simply due to the fact that they exist, with their data of issue.

Both in its elements of data and their presentation, this method of processing intended to hit a compromise between the requirements of valid international standards and those of retrospective bibliographical stocktaking. From this point of view, we think that out of the international bibliographical descriptions and of the Hungarian standards based on them, it is the rules related to periodicals that are least suitable for the bibliographical (not only for cataloguing purposes) processing of this type of document. The same is true for the presently applied MARC format. Therefore, the circle of data groups has been widened; all changing data are related to dates; with the exception of those given in the notes all data are searchable through to an index. However, the order, the presentation and the punctuation are different from the standards.

The word processed format has been prepared from the database available in the TEXTAR-program. For its completion, a few earlier inaccessible titles (closed material and stone-printed reports in cases) need to be processed. Including them, the bibliography contains the descriptions of 75 thousand years of some 7,700 periodicals. In its final assessment, we might say that even if it does not yet reach the optimal goals of the NSZL’s telematic program, in its modest way, it will hopefully serve as a long missed source of the research of Hungarian press history and culture.

Mrs. Lidia Ferenczy


György Maróthi: Arithmetic, or the science of numbers. Debrecen, 1743, Margitai János. 377, [7] p.

György Maróthi: Arithmetic, or the science of numbers. Debrecen, 1743, Margitai János. 377, [7] p.