The Book History BiblioGraph is a new kind of bibliographic system that lies at the intersection of critical and data-driven approaches to scholarly research tools. As a discipline, Book History’s greatest strength, its multi-disciplinary and multi-lingual approach to questions of textual circulation, has become, for its practitioners, its greatest liability. As they are faced with bibliographic databases that rely on traditional disciplinary and subject categories to catalogue records, researchers in this emerging field lack tools that can aid them in making the kinds of connections between disparate resources that are vital to their scholarly work.
The BiblioGraph aims to provide an experimental solution to the data sprawl that plagues Book History by creating an online application that is as much a thinking aid as it is a finding aid. The beta version catalogs a variety of Book Historical resources, drawn from the disciplines of Literary Studies, Communication Studies, Art History, History, and the Social Sciences, by creating links between records using a combination of three non-traditional informants: text-mined lexical frequencies, a carefully selected list of critically determined keywords, and anonymously collected user statistics. Using these metrics, the BiblioGraph creates a topology of relationality: users can explore a dynamic, interactive visual map of the field of Book History ,wherein distance will be a measure of resource similarity. Individual searches take users to specific locations on this map, allowing them to see the records that best match their search and the virtual neighborhood in which these results lie, regardless of each resource’s medium or disciplinary affiliation. By panning, zooming and manipulating their virtual environment, scholars gain access to new clusters of books, articles and dissertations that lie just around the corner from the texts they are familiar with, but which may be disciplinary or subject-wise very far removed.
The “recommendation engine” that lies at the heart of the BiblioGraph, allows scholars to forge these connections in an intuitive virtual environment that we hope will revolutionize the search, retrieval, and display of bibliographic information. Development of the database and the interface is currently underway, supported by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada.