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This catalogue was begun in the autumn of 1869, and has been continued, without other interruption than the ordinary demands of the library service, for fourteen years. The number of persons employed upon it has been small; and no one has been exclusively devoted to this work. On the Provost of the Institute, who is also its principal librarian, devolved the whole responsibility of preparing the plan, which was submitted to the Library Committee and received its approval; and he has had the general supervision and control of the entire work, attending minutely to the arrangement of its parts, to the selection of paper and type, to the printing, and the final proof-reading. The execution of this plan has been under the immediate charge of Mr. P. R. Uhler, the librarian, whose training as a naturalist has given him great advantages in all work requiring minute accuracy and close attention to details. He has devoted himself to this heavy task with untiring zeal and energy; and I cannot too strongly express my sense of his invaluable services in every part of the work. Mr. Andrew Troeger, assistant librarian and clerk, though often interrupted, has been employed on the catalogue from the beginning, and deserves especial credit for his zeal, accuracy, and faithful service. Mr. John Parker, who began work on the catalogue in 1871, has been more constantly employed upon it than any other person. He soon made himself master of the subject, and has proved as efficient and able in this as in all other departments of library work. To him especial acknowledgment is due. Mr. William H. Keith, who joined this small body of industrious workers in 1872, has been much interrupted by other duties; but he has rendered a great deal of valuable service here. Several other persons, at different times, have been employed upon it; and all the attendants down to the pages have been called upon to assist. So the entire work has been done by the regular force of the library, without any additional assistance.
When this catalogue was begun in 1869, Mr. Jewett's catalogue of the Boston Public Library and Mr. Panizzi's rules for the catalogue of the British Museum were the only valuable guides accessible to us. All problems not solved by these masters had to be worked out for ourselves. Mr. Cutter's excellent rules, so minute and so full, had not appeared; and the first volume of his able catalogue of the Athenæum Library was not published till 1874, five years after this work was begun. Difficulties as they arose had to be met and settled ; and it has been interesting to note in the catalogues since published, how many problems have been solved as we had previously solved them. Similar difficulties had suggested similar solutions; and many of Mr. Cutter's rules had been practised in this library long before it was known that he was preparing such rules.
This catalogue is constructed on the idea that the best possible catalogue is that which best makes known to the average reader the entire contents of a library. It is intended to answer the three important questions: Is a given book in the library?