Book Science

Book Science


(Russian, knigovedenie), the comprehensive science of books and book publishing, which embraces the creation, dissemination, and use of written and printed works in society. The term “book science” is also used to designate the general scientific theory of books and book publishing. At various times such closely related terms as “bibliology,” and “bibliognosia” have also been employed, but now they have almost completely disappeared. Book science unites several disciplines, including the history of books and the history, theory, methods, and organization of publishing, the book trade, library science, and bibliography. The disciplines of book science take a functional approach to books from the standpoint of an actual or potential reader. This largely determines its specific nature and forms the basis for delimiting each discipline and the entire science from contiguous fields of knowledge. Because of its comprehensive nature and the universality of its object of study, book science is closely related to other sciences.

Russia and the USSR. The first attempts to study books scientifically date from the late 18th century. Until the mid-19th century the term “bibliography” was broadly interpreted to mean the all-encompassing science of books. It was in this sense that V. S. Sopikov discussed bibliography in the Foreword to his Essay on Russian Bibliography (part 1, 1813). Sopikov’s successor, V. G. Anastasevich, was the first to use the term “book science,” by which he meant “the philosophy of bibliography,” or “higher bibliography” (“On the Need for Promoting Russian Book Science,” Blagonamerennyi, 1820, no. 7, part 10).

An important contribution to the development of book science was made by N. M. Lisovskii, who introduced a course in book science at Petrograd and Moscow universities, prepared material for a dictionary of Russian book science, and published theoretical studies. According to Lisovskii, book science is a scientific discipline which, by bringing together various kinds of knowledge about books, studies their development qualitatively and quantitatively. He distinguished three aspects of book science— namely, the production, distribution, and description of books. Lisovskii held book science to be the connecting link between the various subjects that pertain to books and that study them from diverse viewpoints (Book Science as a Subject of Instruction: Its Essence and Tasks, 1915). Lisovskii’s concept greatly influenced subsequent theories of book science.

In 1889, A. D. Toropov founded the Moscow Bibliographical Circle, which in 1900 became the Russian Bibliographical Society of Moscow University and existed until 1930. B. S. Bodnarskii was a prominent member of the society, and his theoretical studies and practical activity had a considerable influence on the development of book science. The circle and subsequently the society published the journals Knigovedenie (1894–96) and Bibliograficheskie izvestiia (1913–27, 1929). In 1899 the Russian Bibliological Society was established in St. Petersburg, functioning until 1930; it published Literaturnyi vestnik (1901–04), Doklady i otchety (1908–1916), and Bibliologicheskii sbornik (vols. 1–2, 1915–18). The founder of the society, A. M. Loviagin, wrote the society’s manifesto in 1901 entitled “On the Essence of Bibliology or Bibliography.” Loviagin defined bibliology as a theoretical science, combining in a single integrated system all knowledge and observations concerning books. In Principles of Book Science (1926) he stated that book science was the study of books as a means of communication. In contrast to Lisovskii, Loviagin considered book science to be a system of knowledge about books organically integrated through the sociological approach rather than a complex of disciplines.

A special place in Russian book science is occupied by the research of N. A. Rubakin, who greatly contributed to the study of the relation between books and readers. He summed up his empirical observations in a number of works, including What Is Bibliological Psychology? (1924) and The Psychology of Readers and Books: A Brief Introduction to Bibliological Psychology (1929). The essence of bibliological psychology as defined by Rubakin is the study of the reading process. In his bibliopsycho-logical analysis of reading, Rubakin proceeded from biological and physiological premises, as well as from R. Semon’s theory of mneme. Rubakin’s eclecticism led him to subjective-idealistic conclusions that were criticized—for example, his negation of a book’s objective content and his overestimation of a book’s psychological typology. Although they may not agree with some of Rubakin’s conclusions, Soviet specialists in bibliology have used and developed all that is positive in his contribution to the study of “readers and books.”

After the October Revolution (1917) book science began to develop intensively. Of principal importance for the development of book science during the 1920’s was the work of N. K. Krupskaia, A. V. Lunacharskii, V. V. Vorovskii, M. Gorky, N. L. Meshcheriakov, and O. Iu. Shmidt, all of whom headed various sectors of the cultural front. By implementing Lenin’s ideas about the role of books in a socialist society, they contributed to the elaboration of the ideological and organizational principles of Soviet book publishing and helped determine the paths of its development. The 1920’s were marked by the activity of leading specialists in bibliology, who became the founders of Soviet book science and book publishing—notably, A. I. Malein, A. M. Loviagin, M. N. Kufaev, A. G. Fomin, A. V. Mez’er, M. F. Ianovskii, B. S. Bodnarskii, N. M. Somov, M. B. Vol’fson, M. I. Shchelkunov, and N. V. Zdobnov. At this time the foundation was laid for developing the theoretical principles of the art of bookmaking (A. A. Sidorov), the economics of book publishing (N. V. Zdobnov, M. B. Vol’fson), and press statistics (N. F. Ianitskii, M. N. Kufaev, N. V. Zdobnov). Studies on the history of books and book publishing began to appear, as well as collections and journals, including Kniga o knigakh, Kniga i revoliutsiia, Pechat’ i revoliutsiia, and Bibliogychni visti. During these years A. V. Mez’er wrote his Dictionary Index to Book Science (1924, 1931–34), the only bibliological study of its kind. The 1920’s also saw the first, although not always successful, attempts to interpret book science from the standpoint of Marxist-Leninist methodology. Analysis of the real historical-book process was frequently replaced by an exposition of general ideas only partially supported by the material under study. M. N. Kufaev, in particular, had a predilection for various artificial constructs and systems. Kufaev’s concept of book science was analyzed from a historical-critical standpoint by A. G. Fomin in his Book Science as a Science (1931) and other works.

In the first decade of Soviet power several scientific institutions and societies for the study of book science were established: the Scientific Research Institute of Book Science in Leningrad (1920–33), the Museum of Books, Documents, and Writing (1922; from 1931, the Institute of Book Science, which functioned until 1936), the Ukrainian Bibliological Society of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR (1928–30), and the Ukrainian Scientific Institute of Book Science. The Ukrainian bibliological scholars S. I. Maslov, P. N. Popov, and Iu. A. Mezhenko made valuable contributions to the development of the theoretical aspects of Soviet book science and book publishing.

In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s the development of a general theory of book science entered a new stage as the result of the increased role of books and of the press in Soviet society. Primary attention was given to studying the social and class role of books and to identifying their ideological function in society. Many theoreticians, however, saw the social and class essence of books in simplified vulgar-sociological terms. At the conference on book science in 1931 the bourgeois-idealist and vulgar-sociological concepts of book science were sharply criticized. By the late 1930’s criticism of the shortcomings of book science was often replaced by the indiscriminate rejection of it, which retarded its development.

At its present stage, Soviet book science, resting on the fundamental principles of partiinost’ (party-mindedness), narodnost’ (conformity to people’s needs), and nauchnost’ (scientific approach), assists in promoting the fulfillment of books’ social function in building a communist society. The social purpose of Soviet book science consists in scientifically directing and regulating the development of book publishing and ensuring its improvement by drawing upon Soviet and foreign experience, and by integrating material derived from other sciences, such as sociology, psychology, the history and philosophy of science, history, the history of literature, pedagogy, information science, and statistics. Soviet book science must also reveal at each historical stage the conditions and means for the most effective performance by books of their social functions as instruments of ideological struggle, of upbringing and education, and of scientific, technical, and cultural progress, and also as a means of communications between peoples.

Soviet specialists in bibliology have intensively studied the objective principles governing the development of books and book publishing in the present period of social transformations, the scientific and technical revolution, and the rapid growth of the entire system of information and communication. A number of studies show a systematic approach to the book as an integrated material and intellectual complex with external and internal connections and relations that were established in the process of its social production and use. The attempt to construct book models (structural simulation) enables the book to be seen as a complex functional structure and reveals those aspects of the book that distinguish it from other means of mass communication. Elaboration of the theoretical problems of book science has facilitated definition of the book’s place among the various means of ideological struggle and communications, establishment of the principles of the development of book publishing under conditions of a socialist society, confirmation of the ideological and organizational principles of all branches of book publishing as spheres of ideological activity, the planning of the development of book publishing in the USSR, and the prescribing of the scientific principles for terminological state standards in publishing, bibliography, library science, and the book trade.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s Soviet book science was enriched by a number of valuable scholarly works on the history of books and publishing, book design, general problems of publishing and editing, bibliography, and library science. Important contributions were also made to the general theory of book science.

Landmarks in the development of book science included the major two-volume work 400 Years of Russian Book Printing (1964) and the collective work 500 Years After Gutenberg (1968). Major publications from various republics included the collections in Ukrainian entitled Books and Book Printing in the Ukraine (1965) and The Ukrainian Book (1965) and the Byelorussian study 450 Years of Byelorussian Book Printing (1968). To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lenin’s birth, Soviet bibliologists produced numerous works on the multifaceted theme of Lenin and books.

In 1959 and 1964 discussions on book science were held in Moscow, and in 1971 the All-Union Scientific Conference on the Problems of Book Science took place.

Problems of book science are being worked out by the Scholarly Council on the History of World Culture of the USSR Academy of Sciences, by the All-Union Book Chamber, by sub-departments of book science at many universities and printing institutes, by cultural institutes, and by the country’s major libraries and publishing houses.

Publications of a general bibliological nature include the collection Kniga: Issledovaniia i materialy (Books: Research and Materials) and the scientific information collection Izdatel’skoe delo: Knigovedenie (Publishing: Book Science), published since 1968. Moreover, specialized periodical and serial publications with material on the various branches of book science are published: Poligrafiia, Bibliotekar’, Sovetskoe bibliotekovedenie, Sovetskaia bibliografiia, Zhurnalist, and Nauchnye i tekhnicheskie biblioteki SSSR, and the anthologies Iskusstvo knigi and Al’manakh bibliofila. For the general reader the journal V mire knig and the weekly newspaper Knizhnoe obozrenie are available. Similar publications appear in the Union republics.

Foreign countries. Abroad, the foundations of the theory of book science were laid by Austrian and French authorities—notably, M. Denis, Née de la Rochelle, and G. Peignot. In 1777–78, Denis published a general theory of book science entitled Introduction to Book Science. Calling the first part of his work bibliography, Denis used the term broadly, to denote a philological discipline, which he subdivided into typography, library science, and “book catalogs.” Née de la Rochelle, the author of Discourses on the Science of Bibliography (1782), also interpreted the term bibliography in the sense of “book science.” In 1802–04, Peignot published his Explanatory Dictionary of Bibliology. Distinguishing bibliography from bibliology (book science), Peignot regarded the latter as a universal “theory of bibliography.”

French scholarship influenced the concept of book science in other European countries. In England, T. H. Horne’s Introduction to the Study of Bibliography (1814) owed much to Peignot. In the early 19th century the French influence was felt even more strongly in Poland, where a number of works were produced on the theory of bibliography and book science (E. S. Bandtke, K. Estreicher, and J. Lelewel). Especially noteworthy is Lele-wel’s Two Books on Bibliography (1823–26), distinguished by its breadth of approach.

A significant contribution to book science was made by the prominent German librarian and bibliographer F. Ebert, who used the terms “bibliography,” “bibliognosia,” and “bibliology” synonymously, thereby not distinguishing book science from bibliography.

During the second half of the 19th century growing specialization in various branches of learning led to a differentiation of the bibliological disciplines, particularly bibliography and library science. Book science was increasingly interpreted as primarily the history of books, treating them from a purely external, material standpoint. Such a view is reflected, for example, in the work of the French theoretician C. V. Langlois, the author of the well-known Guide to Historical Bibliography (1896).

A significant role in the study of books has been played by book museums—particularly the German Museum of Books and Typography in Leipzig, founded in 1884, and the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, founded in 1900—and by the International Institute of Bibliography, established in 1895 by the Belgian jurists P. Otlet and H. Lafontaine.

During the 1870’s, 1880’s, and 1890’s, a number of periodicals arose that were devoted to problems of book science, such as Library Journal (1876), Zentralblatt für Bibliothekswesen (1884), Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde (1897), Revue des bibliothèques (1891), and Library Association Record (1899).

In the early 20th century P. Otlet in Belgium, L. Živń in Czechoslovakia, and S. Wrtel-Werczyński in Poland treated the general theory of book science. Problems of book science were touched upon in theoretical works dealing with library science and bibliography and in general studies on the history of books and book publishing. The great majority of specialists adhered to the idea of book science as a unified complex of scholarly disciplines concerned with books and book publishing.

Theoretical problems of book science have been extensively developed in the European socialist countries. Mastery of Marxist methodology has helped specialists in socialist countries to approach theoretical problems of book science correctly. Valuable contributions to the development of the theory of book science have been made by T. Borov (Bulgaria), H. Kunze (GDR), A. -Łysakowski and K. Glombiowski (Poland), J. Drtina (Czechoslovakia), and M. Kováč (Hungary). Theoretical problems are worked out in scientific research institutes, such as the Institute of Books and Reading in Warsaw, the Wroclaw Learned Society, and the Yugoslav Lexicographical Institute, by national libraries, and by various bibliophile societies. The successful development of book science in the socialist countries has been facilitated by regular conferences and symposia, in which the Soviet Union has participated.

Achievements in the theory and practice of book science abroad are summarized in general and specialized encyclopedias and reference works dealing with book science, notably J. Kirchner’s Encyclopedia of Book Science (Stuttgart, 1952–56), G. A. Glaister’s Book Encyclopedia (Cleveland-New York, 1960), T. Landau’s Encyclopedia of Librarianship (3rd ed., New York, 1966), Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, edited by A. Kent and H. Lancour (vol. 1, New York, 1968; 18 vols, projected), Encyclopedia of Library Science, edited by H. Kunze and G. Ruckl (Leipzig, 1969), and Encyclopedia of Book Science (Wroclaw-Warsaw-Kraków, 1971).


Marx, K., and F. Engels. O pechati. Leningrad, 1963.
Lenin i kniga. Moscow, 1964.
Shamurin, E. I. Slovar’ knigovedcheskikh terminov. Moscow, 1958.
Somov, N. M. Sushchnost’ knigovedeniia. Moscow, 1933.
“Obsuzhdenie nazrevshikh problem sovetskogo knigovedeniia.” In the collection Kniga: Issledovaniia i materialy, collection 11. Moscow, 1965.
Sikorskii, N. M. “Kniga i nauka o knige.” Ibid.
Barsuk, A. I. “O knigovedenii kak kompleksnoi nauke.” Ibid., collection 17. Moscow, 1968.
“Pervaia Vsesoiuznaia nauchnaia konferentsiia po problemam knigovedeniia.” Ibid., collection 24. Moscow, 1972.
“Knigovedenie: Ukazatel’ literatury, vypushchennoi ν 1961–1964.” Ibid., collection 11. Moscow, 1965.
Ibid., 1965–1966. Ibid., collection 16. Moscow, 1968.
Ibid., 1967. Ibid., collection 19. Moscow, 1969.
Ibid., 1968. Ibid., collection 21. Moscow, 1970.
Ibid., 1969. Ibid., collection 23. Moscow, 1972.
Materialy k ukazateliu po knigovedeniiu za 1945–1964, issues 1–3. Moscow, 1965.
Nemirovskii, E. L. Problemy knigovedeniia: Istoriia knizhnogo dela. Obzor literatury 1964–1969 gg. Moscow, 1970.
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