Concilium Bibliographicum

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The Concilium building at Hofstrasse 49 in Zurich , 1908

The Concilium Bibliographicum was an international literature service based in Zurich for the field of zoology and related sciences. The institution, founded in 1895, played a pioneering role in the transition from traditional bibliography to modern documentation and information science .


The company was founded by the US zoologist Herbert Haviland Field . The idea of ​​an international central office for the processing of scientific literature was first outlined by Field in 1894 in an article in the Biological Zentralblatt . The focus of the bibliographic reform sought by Field was the creation of a comprehensive index of all new publications in the field of zoology.

Field initially considered London or Naples with its large zoological libraries as the location of the «Concilium», but the establishment of the institution finally took place in centrally located Zurich. Here Field began work with a secretary in rooms in the immediate vicinity of the university and the polytechnic in November 1895. The Dewey decimal classification was chosen as the classification system for the card index to be built up . Field coordinated with Paul Otlet on the question of classification and the size of the index cards . The «Concilium» joined the Institut International de la Bibliographie, which was co-founded in Brussels in 1895 by Otlet and Henri La Fontaine, as an affiliated institution.

Prominent advocates of the «Concilium Bibliographicum» were the zoologists Anton Dohrn and Arnold Lang . In the first few years of its existence, it received financial support from the Swiss Confederation, among others . In 1897 the company ran into financial difficulties. The situation only improved when the Swiss Natural Research Society (SNG) took the «Concilium» under its protectorate in 1900. At the end of 1907, they moved into a building specially constructed for the institute at Hofstrasse 49 in Zurich-Hottingen . The "Concilium" was later subsidized by the Rockefeller Foundation .

After the death of its founder in 1921, the SNG took over the management of the "Concilium Bibliographicum" and in 1922 appointed the zoologist Jean Strohl, who taught at the University of Zurich, as the new director. This had already served the «Concilium» between 1907 and 1909 as assistant director. After the number of subscribers to the literature service had steadily declined in the 1930s, the «Concilium» had to stop its work in 1940 due to the war.


  • Michael K. Buckland, Colin B. Burke: Precise zoological information: The Concilium Bibliographicum . In: Bulletin of the Association for Information Science and Technology . tape 42 , no. 6 , 2016, p. 15-19 ( [PDF]).
  • Colin B. Burke: Information and Intrigue: From Index Cards to Dewey Cards to Alger Hiss . MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts 2014, ISBN 978-0-262-02702-1 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Herbert Haviland Field: The bibliographical reform . In: Biological Zentralblatt . tape 14 , 1894, pp. 270-272 ( ).
  2. ^ Philipp Messner: The «Concilium Bibliographicum» in Zurich and the beginnings of the decimal classification in Switzerland. July 17, 2016, accessed July 16, 2018 .
  3. ^ Karl Hescheler: Obituary Herbert Haviland Field . In: Negotiations of the Swiss Natural Research Society . tape 102 , Part 2, 1921, pp. 20–32 ( ).
  4. ^ Dossier: Strohl, Jean (Johannes), 1886–1942, Physiological, experimental and systematic zoology, animal geography. UZH archive . Signature: AB.1.0992.