By Michael Stillman
Knowledge is power. That observation is as true today as it was when Sir Francis Bacon wrote it over four centuries ago. However, what there is to know has increased at least a thousand fold since Bacon was signing his books at Borders. What there is to know today is so vast that not only is it impossible to remember it all, it’s almost impossible to keep it well enough organized to locate it when you need it.
Hence the database. When the information you need becomes so great that locating it in books is no longer feasible, the database becomes the only practical way to store this material. The database can search countless reams of material in mere fractions of a second. As a book collector or dealer, you can no longer find the knowledge you must have to make rational collecting, buying and selling decisions without the assistance of a searchable database. You are powerless.
Last month, we began publishing what we call “The Collaborative Project,” (or TCP for short.) It consists of explanations by members of our staff of how they use the Americana Exchange Database(ÆD) in their collecting of printed Americana. The ÆD is one of tens of thousands of extant databases, but the only one filled with bibliographical, auction, and catalogue records pertaining to printed Americana. You are simply at an enormous disadvantage to other collectors and dealers if you don’t have access to this information.
We recognize that using new technology such as online databases can be intimidating to those who grew up with older technologies. Our purpose in presenting these articles is to show just how easy the ÆD is to use, and just how much you can accomplish once you are familiar with it. Don’t be afraid. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that you thought sending an email was difficult too.
This month we offer four new articles in this series. Julie Carlton describes how she is using the ÆD to build a collection of women’s western travel narratives. Æ President Bruce McKinney, a collector of local imprints, shows how he has used the ÆD to find obscure and very reasonably priced imprints. This writer discusses using the ÆD to locate titles pertaining to the Oregon Trail. Finally, our Managing Editor, Abby Tallmer, writes about her search for 19th century anti-slavery materials either written by or for women.
Within these articles, you will see mention of something called the “Wants List” Software. This is some amazing new software currently in development here at the Æ. It is not yet ready for general release, but we thought you’d be interested in hearing about it as we test the trial version. It should be released in about a month, first to current ÆD subscribers, and then to everyone.