Google Books: A Tool for Book Collectors
Because there are more than a thousand results I then begin to search in 25 year increments to keep the quantity of results manageable and to complete one period at a time. The volume of results requires a strategy and evaluating material by period seems the best way to organize the work. I have to remember where I left off but need only remember the last cut-off date. If your search results are large you'll need to have a plan.
It works. Citation review is fast and this helps to offset the large number of references. In time, I identify two items that belong in the Kingston-Rondout Wiki Bibliography. There are certainly others and in time I'll return to further evaluate the references.
Here are two I would not otherwise have known about.
Christoph Daniel Ebelings' Erdbeschreibung und Geschichte von .. Hamburg 1794. The reference appears on page 1000 of a 7 volume set published between 1793 and 1816; its connection to Rondout previously unknown to me. It also includes references to other communities up and down the Hudson Valley.
I then search AE Books for Sale, Abe, ABAA-ILAB and several others. There are 3 copies of various volumes on Abe priced between $225 and $650. Bill Reese is offering the first 5 volumes for $650. None are complete sets, Reese's the best of those available.
The other item is Sketch of a Railway Judiciously Constructed Between Desirable Points. Exemplified by a map and an Appendix of Facts. New York, 1841. This early book on railroads contains information on the cost of shipping cement via the D & H Canal from Pennsylvania to Rondout and beyond. The references appear on page 78. MacManus of Philadelphia has a copy in AE's Books for Sale and I order it.
Both items are relevant to Rondout, deeply obscure, worth obtaining and undiscoverable without Google Books.
Overview: The Abe data is more easily parsed, the Google Books data more complex and rewarding. The Abe data is immediately accessible, the Google data accessible through links. Given what Google has taken on, a project to in time digitize all available books on paper it is an extraordinary commitment and one I hope survives economic downturns and changes in corporate strategy. Microsoft also committed to do this a few years back and has since shuttered their project. What is particularly stunning about Google Books is that in time it will become magnitudes larger. The ambition of it is beyond audacious, its impact on learning and knowledge impossible to overstate. That it facilitates deeper collecting is simply a lucky quirk.
That said, for the casual collector, I suspect listing sites generally will continue to be the easier and preferred research tool simply because both research and purchase are possible. Google provides links to copies but most are in libraries, not bookstores. In time I expect Google will also offer "The Bookstore from Hell," the combination of all books known and all copies for sale. When they do the world of books will be fundamentally changed, without doubt for the better.
A note about Google Book searches. Running updates on Google searches may become tedious if you seek, as I do, to update your research every two to three months because there does not yet appear to be a way to see only 'new since I last searched' material. In AE's Matchmaker, years ago, we found it essential to exclude previously reported matches on eBay, at auction and on listing sites. Once is enough most of the time. Particularly in Google Books where the references are deeper and more complex, it would take the sting out of parsing so many records if I knew I would only ever have to do it once. In saying this, I feel a bit like a beneficiary of one of Jesus's miracles asking for chocolate sprinkles on the magically appearing vanilla cone. Google has created a scholar's monster and probably has not over-taxed the company resources trying to perfect it as an aid to book collectors. Nevertheless, for those involved in old books, it is amazing.
Google Books is a free service. I'll become better at using it and the Google team will inevitably find ways to improve it.
Would you like to take a look at Google Books? Click Here.