The bibliography is the chief class or form of reference and information access tools. It is a systematically produced descriptive list of records. The term bibliography is used very widely as it covers whole field of science of books as physical entities, their history, changing forms, the materials and methods of their construction. It is also considered to be both a science and art as it includes the description.
As already mentioned, a bibliography is a systematic list of documents prepared for a particular purpose on the basis of some criteria. These criteria may be documents on a subject, of a country or of the whole of available knowledge. We will now study about the origin and definitions of bibliography and know how it is different from a catalogue and an index. The word `bibliography' has originated from the Greek terms - 'biblion' meaning a book and `graphien' meaning to write. Bibliography, thus, means `writing of books' which later on changed to `writing about books'.
There are a number of definitions available for the term bibliography. Some of the popular ones are given below:
- Bibliography is the art or science of correctly describing books (their literary contents, physical make up). (Van Hoesan, 1928).
- Bibliography is : (i) the study of the material form of books, with comparison in variations in issues and copies, as a mode of knowing the history and transmissions of texts, (ii) the art of explaining book correctly with respect to authorship, editions, physical forms, etc., (iii) the preparation of lists of books, maps, etc., (iv) a list of books, maps, etc. (Thompson, 1943).
- Bibliography is the art of recording books and the science of making of books and their extant record. (Esdaile, 1963).
Besides the above, many more definitions are available. But over the passage of time, the earlier meaning of bibliography as the study of books as physical entities has shifted to the identification of the thought content in books. Presently to a library and information professional, a bibliography refers to the art of preparing a systematic list of books and the name of the list itself.
A bibliography is different from catalogues and indexes. A catalogue is basically a list of a given collection, for instance a library and does not involve any items not available in the particular collection. An index of a book, for instance, is also different from a bibliography. Although both gives access to information, the bibliography usually provides a single access point to information (for example, the first author) and the index provides multiple access points (for example, each of the several concepts treated in the document). In addition, in depth subject analysis is done in indexes so that a user can find specific concepts, e.g., reference to names of persons, places, events and topics. The catalogues and indexes both serve as sources for the compilation of bibliographies.