Publishers' Trade List Annual
An Index of Contributors and Advertisers 1873-1947
To: PTLA Indexes 1873-1947

This is the home page for an analysis of the U.S. publishers who contributed catalogs to, or advertised in, one or more volumes of the Publishers' Trade List Annual between 1873 and 1947.  Indexes are available for each individual year; for each decade; and for the entire span of years.  The remainder of this page provides historical background on PTLA which is particularly useful in developing a strategy for using this large and complex resource.

  The Publishers' Trade List Annual (PTLA)

Publishers' Weekly began publication in New York City in 1872. As it still does today, PW carried news of interest to the trade, advertising, and descriptions of new publications.

It's editor, Frederick Leypoldt, intended, in part, to continue the work of Orville A. Roorbach whose Bibliotheca Americana cataloged American imprints from 1820 to 1861; James Kelly's The American Catalogue of Books (Original and Reprints) Published in the United States from Jan. 1861, to Jan. [1871], The American Catalogue of Books for 1871 [covering 1870]; and The American Catalogue [for 1871]. Leypoldt also continued the American Catalogue for 1876-1910 in eleven volumes published between 1876 and 1910. [For more information on Leypoldt's contributions, see the Hruschka entry on the "Tools" page.]

Leypoldt started PTLA in 1873 as the basis on which a full catalog of United States imprints might eventually be founded. The title page of the second (1874) volume reads in full: The Publishers' Trade List Annual, Embracing the Full Trade Lists of American Publishers, together with an Alphabetical Reference List of Books recorded in the Publisher's Weekly from January 16, 1873, to June 27, 1874, and the American Educational Catalogue for 1874. With Alphabetical Indexes of Firms and Trade Specialities. New York: Office of the Publishers' Weekly, 37 Park Row. October, 1874.

Leypoldt's idea was straight-forward: ask every American publisher to submit by a specified date a specified number of copies of a catalog of their publications. Collate the resulting catalogs, provide indices and other preliminary matter, and bind the result into a volume that could be distributed back to booksellers, libraries, and other potential book buyers and distributors. The call for submissions must have included general specifications on size: the volumes are relatively uniform, page size about 8 by 11 inches, but grow thicker with each passing year as both individual catalogs and the number of publishers submitting them grows larger. By 1900, the volumes are nearly a foot thick and unwieldy in the extreme. Publication in print form ceased in 2001, and much of the information was then made available online through various R. R. Bowker Company databases.

Individual publishers controlled the content of their catalogs, and the content consequently varies. Some catalogs were little more than lists with price and order information. Others offered substantial descriptions of individual books and series. Relatively few are illustrated in the 1870s; by the late 1880s, however, more and more are illustrated with line cuts and half-tones, often of bindings, later dustjackets, but also of authors, factory buildings, and book manufacturing facilities. Paper quality varies but is, in general, not very good, and many runs are missing pages and portions of pages.

A second part of Leypoldt's idea was to index each year's PTLA to provide access to individual authors and titles regardless of publisher. Although the H. W. Wilson Company began the Cummulative Book Index in 1898 and produced volumes of The United States Catalog in 1899, 1902, 1912, and 1928, Leypoldt's ambition was not realized until 1948, when PTLA became the source document for Books in Print.

Since few publishers' catalogs survive, and those which do are widely scattered, PTLA is an invaluable resource for research into many aspects of late 19th century imprints. During the 1970s, the Meckler Corporation published a microfiche edition of PTLA, 1903-1981. In 1994, the Guide to Microforms in Print priced this at $15,000. I have not been able to discover why the 1873-1902 volumes, highly valuable for all sorts of studies, were not selected for filming, nor do I know whose run was sacrificed. The microfiche set lacks at least some pages. Meckler has since moved on to electronic products, and I do not know the current location of the master microfilm (although it is likely held by a firm like ProQuest). As of date, Google has, to my knowledge, digitized no volumes.

An informal survey in 1995-1997 conducted via the Exlibris listserv suggested that relatively complete runs for the pre-1920 volumes of PTLA are far from common. Full or nearly full runs of PTLA have so far been identified at the American Antiquarian Society; The British Library; Brown University; University of California, Los Angeles; Cornell University; Emory University; University of Illinois; University of Indiana; University of Michigan; University of Minnesota; the Newberry Library; The New York State Library, and Rutgers. The University of California, Berkeley and Stanford divide a fairly long run, and Princeton has a complete set from 1903. In the 1960s, the University of Iowa sent its run to the Center for Research Libraries, as did, one guesses, a number of other research libraries.

A second part of Leypoldt's idea was to index each year's PTLA to provide access to individual authors and titles. Although the H.W. Wilson Company began the Cummulative Book Index in 1898 and produced volumes of The United States Catalog in 1899, 1902, 1912, and 1928, Leypoldt's ambition was not realized until 1948 when PTLA became the source document for Books in Print (an independent annual series moved online in the late 1990s and renamed Bowker's Global Books in Print in 2001). PTLA was continued until 2001, and some print subject indexes to Books in Print continued past 2001 although PTLA itself was discontinued at that time.

PTLA's List of Contributors & Advertisers

Each volume of PTLA is prefaced by a single alphabetical list of publishers contributing catalogs and of publishers and others who chose to offer display advertisements in lieu of catalogs. It appears that most catalogs arrived in a timely way with respect to a set deadline and were arranged in alphabetical order by name of publisher; a few, inevitably, arrived late and were placed in a supplement bound after the primary sequence. Advertisements might appear on the cover of the binding, on endsheets or preliminary pages, or on pages inserted after the supplement. The principal purpose of the index was to point to these various locations.

While catalogs seem to have been fairly consistently ordered by surname of publisher, the numerous cross-references suggest that a secondary purpose of the index was to help point readers to the filing point of publishers whose firm names were generally known to begin, for example, with initials or a name: H. M. Caldwell Co. to Caldwell, H. M., Co. or Orange Judd Co. to Judd, Orange, Co.

The index entries are thus of two kinds, either main entries or cross-references. The main entries contain only a few data elements: name of firm; often but far from always the city in which it was located; and the general location of its catalog or advertisement in the volume. In the cumulative index we have preserved name and city but not the location designation. This means that some publishers on our list may be represented by a single, small, display advertisement or by a catalog of publications running a hundred pages or more (although the range of information in the catalogs themselves is itself unpredictably variable). The work required to record the amount of information to which a particular entry points would have required extensive examination of each annual volume and this was well beyond our capacity.

  Methodology of the Index

We began by photocopying the two-to-five page index of contributors and advertisers that begins each PTLA volume. When the project first got underway (about 1995), optical character recognition (OCR) software did not cope well with text in columns. The columns were therefore cut apart and marginal text trimmed away. The resulting strips were scanned and OCRed in alphabetical order, and the resulting text file was edited as necessary. Global search-and-replace made it possible to associate the PTLA year with each entry in the list of publishers and advertisers for that year.

Ten or more years were then copied into a single file. This text was selected and point-size made very small in order that no paragraph (i.e., entry) exceeded one line. The entire text was then re-alphabetted and edited to eliminate redundant information. Information on which year or years a particular publisher's catalog appeared was abbreviated; e.g., "1888, 1889, 1901, 1902, 1903" became "1888-1889, 1901-1903." Decade files were later merged in the same way to produce the cumulative list for 1873-1947.

When both initials and a full form of name appeared in a span of years, the fuller form has been preferred. Changing designations such as "Co.", "& Co.", "& Son", or "Inc." have generally been retained for firms that are represented for several years; they have not been noted consistently for firms represented in only two or three years when the form of entry differed only slightly (on the grounds that either "Co." or "& Co." -- or neither -- might in fact have been "correct"). Incidental changes, such as "Jones, Smith W., Co." in one year and "Jones (Smith W.) Co." in another, have not been retained as the index format varied in these stylistic details from year to year (and was not always entirely consistent even within a year). Cross-references have been retained on the grounds that they seem at the time to have been necessary -- even though in many cases they now seem entirely obvious.

Alphabetting of the draft lists is largely that dictated by the Microsoft Word paragraph-ordering rules, modified in some cases to put original and successor firms in chronological order. A final alphabetting reviewed firm names that begin "Mc", "Mac", "O'", "St.", etc.

Spans of years - e.g, "1873-1888" - are inclusive.

The process by which the indexes were compiled should have reduced omission errors -- the OCR almost always picked up something, even if garbled, and entries were then carefully hand corrected. Nonetheless, errors are certainly possible, and we welcome notice of them: <>.

Last revised: 26 March 2013