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Bibliography and Historical Research

A guide to finding and using bibliographies for historical research, with an emphasis on using bibliographies to find primary sources.

Personal Bibliography

Personal bibliographies compile works by, about, or belonging to a specific person or group of people. Personal bibliographies are usually created for people deemed to have been historically significant. Personal bibliographies are especially useful for finding primary sources that otherwise lack adequate bibliographic control, such as unpublished works, and documents published in non-book formats (e.g. signed newspaper articles, unsigned newspaper articles, and magazine articles).

Some examples of personal bibliographies:

Catalogs can also be used as bibliographies, although the two are fundamentally different: a catalog is a list of documents known to exist in a certain repository (or to have once existed in that repository). A bibliography is a list of documents known to have existed, regardless of whether or not they still exist, or whether their present location is known.

Many personal bibliographies are in the form of catalogs, since a common type of personal bibliography is a list of books owned by a person or an organization--the fact of their provenance can often be of interest to to researchers, as in the following:

Often, personal bibliographies will make attributions for anonymous or pseudonymous works, or else correct mistaken attributions, as in the following: