The idea of a bibliography of scientific books was born out of a meeting: my meeting with Poul Christiansen, former librarian curator of the Danish National Library of Science and Medicine. At the outset, it was a matter of drawing up an inventory of the one thousand printed books considered to be the most significant in the history of the exact, natural, medical, and technological sciences, with a discreet incursion into the history of epistemological ideas. However, it very soon became clear that sticking to a list of exactly one thousand books would not be enough to cover so vast a field and to draw up an inventory of the most interesting discoveries and hypotheses. We decided to begin our search at the start of the Aristotelian era, and to stop in 1953, the year in which the DNA molecule was discovered.
When Poul died, the project remained in abeyance. I carefully kept the manuscript notes of our first choice. On taking up the work again, I remained faithful to the initial idea. After identifying authors in books on the history of science, work began on bibliographical research and checking information gathered by consulting the catalogue of great libraries, as well as making comparisons with original copies for each of the editions selected, whenever, it was possible to do so.
This bibliography was designed to be a work tool. It is aimed in the first place at research institutes, universities, and libraries. In order to present it, I soon realised that setting up a database was the ideal solution. The possibility of making information available to all, and the freedom offered to users to play their part, represented significant assets. Suggesting a work for inclusion, adding to or correcting a notice, would be accessible to any reader. Any collaboration will be welcome. Each validated request shall be taken into account, and the name of each contributor shall be mentioned.
I hope that this reservoir of bibliographical information will be of use to the world of scholarship, enlightened enthusiasts, librarians, and collectors. I have not forgotten people with a basic interest in the subject, who will find an easy way of satisfying their curiosity there.
Administrator of the Friends of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France