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Guides to Archives and Manuscript Collections in the United States: An Annotated Bibliography. Compiled by Donald L. DeWitt. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1994. xi, 478 p. (Bibliographies and Indexes in Library and Information Science, 8) ISBN 0‑313‑28499‑7. $85.00.

This is a splendid book, bringing bibliographic control to over 2,000 guides, registers, inventories, calendars and other finding aids to unpublished materials in the United States. The first word of the title is likely to be read in the singular, but the subtitle clearly indicates the contents. Donald DeWitt is an archival and manuscript curator at the Western History Collection of the University of Oklahoma with prior publications on resources for the study of the American Indian and on leather bookbinding. He has produced a model bibliography with a clearly identified purpose, and an explanation of the scope, exclusions, and limitations.

his purpose is to list finding aids to unpublished materials. In addition to guides to traditional manuscripts and archival collections, DeWitt also includes guides to collections of photography, oral histories, maps, and motion pictures. He excludes items such as journal articles, exhibit catalogs and—important to note—guides to foreign archives except where they describe records or papers relating specifically to United States History. He also excludes many federally produced items from the 1930s and early 1940s as being both too numerous and too old. Other guides from the early 20th century are included, and his cutoff date appears to be 1992.

The audience is clearly identified as those scholars who must work with the primary material of which archives and manuscript collections are composed. The author notes that both time and money can be saved by consulting guides before visiting collections or attempting to borrow material through interlibrary loan.

The body of the list is made up of 59 topics divided into 13 broader sections arranged alphabetically from “Business Collections” to “U.S. Repositories Holding Foreign Records or Manuscripts.” The former, with 155 titles, ranges from a 1978 list of movies of “General Interest about Petroleum” (from the American Petroleum Institute) to a 45‑page classified list of the collection of Frederick Winslow Taylor, the founder of “scientific management,” published in 1951.

The foreign records or manuscripts in the latter are geographically divided: Africa, Asia and the Mideast, 41 entries; Europe, 72 entries (including one which lists 84 volumes of captured German records); Great Britain and the British Empire, 16 items; Latin America, 19 items; Mexico, 15 items; and Spain, 9 items. These number do not include the “see also” item numbers which appear both at the beginning of some sections and individually in some entries, and which tie together titles which are related. “Great Britain” has 26 of these references, “Africa, Asia and the Mideast” only three.

A typical entry includes the name of the editor, compiler, author (corporate or personal), followed by the title, place, publisher, date and number of pages. DeWitt’s annotations often identify the arrangement, succinctly describe the contents, and list indexes where they are present.

There are some slight problems with the index, which omits the subjects listed in the Table of Contents, and does not include titles. The index does provide a way to find all the guides published by a single institution, e.g., the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University with 29 entries scattered throughout the book. This reviewer could find only two subjects identified in the titles which were not index entries (“pacifism” and “prohibition” do not appear, but “conscientious objection” and “temperance” do.) Finally, the binding on the review copy was already loose, exposing a glued spine and portending a repair in the near future.

For scholars and researchers planning on visiting a library whose collection is cataloged and described in a guide, this well‑annotated bibliography will aid in the very important preparation that should precede such a visit. By using it with Lee Ash’s classic Subject Collections (New Providence, N.J.: Bowker, 1993), scholars from the Third World can locate and identify both the collections and guides thereto which they may need to visit.

floral device About the Reviewer

Terence Crowley has been a Professor of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University since 1978. His master’s and doctorate are from Rutgers University. Before going to San Jose he was on the faculties of University of Toledo and University of Illinois. Dr. Crowley has written Information Services in Public Libraries (1971) and many articles on reference work and information referral.

© 1994 Dominican University


Crowley, Terence. “Book Reviews: Guides to Archives and Manuscript Collections in the United States: An Annotated Bibliography” Third World Libraries, Volume 4, Number 2 (Fall 1994).

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