Bibliography like other practices in information science discipline has gone through significant changes over the course of history. Nineveh library was at the forefront of compiling information in the7th century BC, with thousands of clay tablets. The library holdings were indexed with an exquisite information organization system (Ashurbanipal Library Project, the British Museum), and also library of Alexandria, that was operational more than 2000 years ago.
The first European bibliography was published in 1494, four decades after the invention of printing press by Gutenberg. Although, scholars believe that bibliography as a structured practice didn't evolve until the 18th century.
Moreover, Islamic bibliography which began in the 10th century is dived into four chronological orders:
Early stage, collected works
Advanced and developed bibliography
The computer era
The internet era
Early stages - It was only after the second Higri century, (10th century), that social/cultural stability and the overwhelming amount of resources brought scholars' attention to the necessity of Islamic cataloging and bibliography, which later reached its peak during Mamoon Abbasi and Ibn Nadim. During this time bibliography was called indexing, and categorized under history, therefore, such works comprised of a biography, and an organized list of scholarly work. The only work that is most similar to the current bibliographies from the old time is a list of Mohammad Zakaria Razi's books and articles , by Abu Rayhan Biruni, both Persian scientists. Biruni categorized Razi's works under topics such as: medicine, biology, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy....etc, and listed works under each topic. It's interesting to know that information organization 'was practiced only by scribes (varraaq), who were in the book business. Further, their job description consisted of; cataloging, copying manuscripts, selling and buying them, illustration, editing, as well as providing user guides, in other words, somewhat today's publishing house/bookstores. Later the profession developed into public servants, journalists, accountants, typists, and lawyers.
Developed Bibliography- Modern bibliography began after the invention of printing press, which led to mass printing, therefore, publishers began to index their publications in order to present them to potential buyer, this process gradually developed into the early form of bibliography. Moreover, the invention of writing led to producing clay tablets and various kinds of parchment, as the invention of paper initiated copying and also a broader distribution of books. However, the printing invention and the ability of mass printing opened new horizons. Thus, perhaps, today's bibliography, and information science was established on the foundations of printing industry. Following Gutenberg's printing invention around 1439, church and the crown took over the content of the majority of published material which was of more religious nature than anything else. The consequences of printing wrong material were extreme. The church made sure that printing is solely responsible for the mass distribution of the bible. However, the content gradually was transformed from religious to scientific. The first European publishers turned to eastern languages, because Hebrew was the language of the Bible and the Torah, although Christian books in Arabic were not completely dismissed. The first Islamic publishing house was established in Halab, Syria, and the second in Istanbul in the 18th century. Around the same period the first Iranian publishing house started in Isfahan and in 1914 another in Tabriz, which ultimately led to printing Fateh Nameh by Ghaem Magham Farahani as the very first published book in Iran. H.F. Shnurer is the first European bibliographer who composed a bibliography of Arabic books in the 19th century; he published the second edition of Bibliotheca Arabica in 1811. This bibliography is consisted of 431 Arabic works over the 1505-1810 time period, including topics such as; literature, religion, Koran and history. The second valuable bibliography in the same category is Bibliotheca Orientalis by J.Zenke in Leipzig, Germany in 1840. It holds information on Persian, Turkish and Arabic books from the emergence of printing press to 1840. Another bibliographer who contributed to the world of Islam is Karl Friedrich; he compiled annual Islamic source bibliographies for 1876-1883. As for Islamic bibliographies in Iran, the most significant work has been done by Agha Bozorg Tehrani, the prominent Shiite scholar; Bibliography of Shiite's Literary Works, in 1914. His work is old fashion bibliography, more similar to the early stages of Islamic bibliography. Other bibliographies that include Islamic sources are; Bibliography of Iranian studies and Fihrist-i maghalat-i Farsi by Iraj Afshar, Persian National Bibliography (Fihrist-i kitabha-yi chapi-i Farsi) by KhanBaba Moshar. Moreover, here are additional Islamic bibliographies compiled by western authors:
- Persian Literature (A Bio-Bibliographical Survey), C.A. Storey (1888-1967), he spent almost 40 years compiling works organized by subject: the Koran, history, mathematics, astronomy and geography, along with brief authors' biographies. Later, it was translated to Russian from English in three volumes by U.A. Bergel and his colleagues, the Koran and history segment of the first volume is translated to Persian by Yahya Aryanpou, Cyrus Izadi, and Karim Keshavarz, published by Cultural Studies Institute in 1983 Tehran.
- The History of Arabic Literature, Geschichte der Arabishhen Literature by K. Brockelmann,(Berlin 1898-1902). He includes a comprehensive list of authors' works following every biography. This seems to one of the best bibliographies in Islamic studies, in a modern compound form. The original text is in German, and it is translated to Arabic by Mahmud Fahmi Hedjazi, also three volume of this work has been published in Iran.
- History of Arabic literature, Faut Sezgin, 1967, in German and translated to Arabic by Mahmud Fahmi Hedjazi, also, published by Ayatolah Najafi's library in 1991, Qum, Iran.
-Index Islamicus, is a catalogue of articles on Islamic subjects in periodicals and other collective publications since 1906, by W. Heffer in 1956, Cambridge. The scope of material is only non vernacular materials and although not entirely complete but it considers to be a collection of Islamic resources of one whole century. It is organized by subject and lacks annotation.
The computer-software era- Computers revolutionized the world of information science. They brought enormous opportunities, created new boundaries, and contributed to the explosion of information in the 20th century. Therefore, storing information is no longer limited to books and printed material. Index Islamicus is the most important Islamic bibliography on compact disk.
The Internet era- Islamic bibliography was still in the process of adapting to computers when the Internet arrived. The most significant aspect of this era is sharing the bibliographical information between the world of Islam and the rest of the world, across wide geographical boundaries. The exchange of knowledge and experience on such a large scale is indeed another revolution.
Further, it is essential to apply non-Moslem western bibliographic techniques, such as establishing online databases that provide valuable information, but also crucial to consider a culture-specific bibliography according to the needs of the world of Islam. In order to accomplish these objectives we need to bare in mind the following concerns:
1. Identifying users' scholarly needs
2. Being aware of the strengths and weaknesses of this field
3.Expanding the collaboration between bibliographers across different countries
4.Knowledge sharing among experts
5.Applying unbiased and professional information science
One of the inconveniences within the Islamic information science domain is the lack of essential partnership between the libraries of Islamic states; therefore online Islamic bibliography seems to be the answer to the problem. Ziauddin Sardar, writer and Islamic scholar from Pakistan, suggested the establishment of International Muslim Information Network, a significant portion of this network includes bibliographical information. Utara University in Malaysia and the Islamic Data Bank have agreed to facilitate this project. Islamic Data bank reflects on the following areas: - Indexing Islamic terms
- Classification of Islamic subjects
- Unified means of communication-OSI (Open Systems Interconnection)
- Storing information in the form of bibliography and abstracts
Following a number of meetings, the Muslim Librarians and Information Scientists Association, have managed to facilitate the advantages of internet effectively in order to enhance and promote Islamic bibliography on a global scale. As a result, there are two types of online Islamic bibliographies; one is public libraries/websites such as Library of Congress (www.loc.gov.com), library of School of African and Asian studies at the University of London (www.soas.ac.uk), and Library of Minerva-University of Albany in the US, also some commercial websites such as Amazon (amazon.co.uk) that offer abstracts and annotations, another is BCR, with the purpose of establishing and maintaining multistate library cooperative since 1935, University of Virginia library also has active online bibliography services that include Islamic bibliography. The second type is Islamic bibliographical databases, which have been established by Islamic publishers or cultural/scientific institutions. Here are some examples: Alem Khan; www.hasanbooks.com Also, Darussalam was established in Saudi Arabia under the supervision of Abd al-Malik Mojahid in 1986 (www.dar-us-salam.com). Currently it has branches in some other countries, including the US, in Houston,Tx, (http://www.dar-us-salam.com/about_us.htm). They offer Koran translations in various languages as well as comments and interpretations of Koran and the history of Islam. Further, all the mentioned online Islamic study publishers have common goals and visions, some of which are providing their users with accurate and easy access of information on the internet as well as publishing printed Islamic materials. Following this concept, PARSA ISLAMIC DATABANK was founded in 2000. PARSA aims at providing comprehensive Islamic resources on extensive geographical vicinity. Since its establishment PARSA has identified and classified 20,000 Islamic sources in various languages. However, one of its key characteristics is not only providing and offering a huge amount of information (monographs, articles, dissertation in different formats) but also offer fast and reliable services to the users by way of having access to the original texts that are all nicely archived.
Here is an overview of how information is processed at PARSA:
first is the citation which leads to annotation, then it's followed by an abstract, when editing is completed, the processed information is translated into English, Arabic along with the Persian version, ready to be published on the website and the print version. The following chart illustrates the process: