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About Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature, 1920–

Content and Editorial Policy

The Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL) lists monographs, periodical articles, critical editions of literary works, book reviews and collections of essays published anywhere in the world; unpublished doctoral dissertations are covered for the period 1920–1999. The bibliography consists of 80 volumes, beginning in 1920 and issued annually; a number of items published between 1892 and 1919 has been indexed retrospectively.

ABELL is compiled under the auspices of the Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) by an international team of editors, contributors and academic advisors. It has been published in book form since 1920, and ProQuest publish the electronic version in both CD-ROM and web format. While the print volume is published annually, new bibliographic records are added to the web version in advance of their appearance in the annual versions. The CD-ROM edition of the bibliography was also published annually but has now ceased with the publication of the 2007 instalment.

This release of ABELL covers the complete volumes from 1920–2007.

Bibliographic experts have long agreed that ABELL is an essential tool for the literary scholar, and have stressed its coverage of unique material that is not included in other bibliographic sources. In comparing ABELL with the MLA International Bibliography, Evan Ira Farber, Librarian Emeritus of Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, concluded that 'every comparative study of the two bibliographies shows that the overlap between them is surprisingly far from complete', and that 'every academic library supporting serious work – and certainly graduate work – in English or American literature should make both ABELL and MLAIB available to users'. This is supported by standard reference works such as Michael Marcuse's Reference Guide for English Studies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990) and James L. Harner's Literary Research Guide, 2nd edn. (New York: MLA, 1993). Visit the MHRA website for more information on ABELL.

Subject areas covered by ABELL include:

  • English language – including syntax, phonology, lexicology, semantics, stylistics and dialectology
  • English literature – including poetry, prose, fiction, films, biography, travel writing, literary theory and studies of individual authors
  • bibliography – including manuscript studies, textual studies and the history of publishing
  • traditional culture of the English-speaking world including custom, belief, narrative, song, dance and material culture

It should be noted that the electronic version of ABELL differs from the printed version in the following ways:

  • Records from forthcoming print volumes are fed into the online service in monthly releases. This newer data includes provisional ABELL reference numbers.
  • Separate entries have been created for reviews, to allow discrete searching.
  • Cross- and back-references have been hyperlinked.
  • The primary sort order for the electronic version of ABELL is by date of publication, scholar name, then title.
  • Duplicate records from within a single volume have been merged, with all relevant subject classifications copied into a single record.
  • Subject classifications have been standardised throughout the database to conform to current practice.
  • Periodical abbreviations have been expanded.
  • The format of references to periodicals has been standardised to conform to current practice.
  • Text in non-Roman alphabets in earlier volumes has been transliterated.

Testimonials

Laura Fuderer, Subject Librarian for English and French Language and Literature, University of Notre Dame, Indiana:

Until a few years ago I used to rely heavily on the MLAIB. I got to know ABELL better when I began contributing to it and realized its coverage of topics relating to literatures in English may be more extensive than MLAIB on at least three counts:

  • by covering periodicals from other disciplines it is more interdisciplinary (e.g. a lot of history journals and newsletters);
  • the periodicals include more single-author and society newsletters;
  • the editors stress book reviews, so there are more book citations than in MLAIB.

As a consequence I urge every student and scholar of English to use ABELL as well as MLAIB (which picks up dissertations), especially if they want to go all the way back to the 1920s online.

Evan Ira Farber, Librarian Emeritus of Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana:

It is very welcome news that Chadwyck-Healey is putting into electronic form the Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature. It is a reference tool I have long depended upon, and also one that I have seen too many reference librarians ignore or discount. This is unfortunate because that view is based on a misconception: they think that the MLA International Bibliography covers everything they could want in English or American literature. I trust that this misperception will soon be corrected now that ABELL is available in electronic form.

First, before 1956, the MLAIB, while covering both English and American literature and language, focused on scholarship published in America. ABELL's coverage was international from the start, so for those crucial decades of literary critical theory from 1920 through 1955, it is an unparalleled source for British and Continental criticism. Second, the journals covered by ABELL differ from those covered by MLAIB, particularly in the early years. Finally, ABELL also includes book reviews which are often sources of excellent critical commentary.

Aside from, and in addition to, those differences, is the fact that every comparative study of the two bibliographies shows that the overlap between them is surprisingly far from complete. One study, for example, showed that in one year the MLAIB had thirteen entries for Stephen Crane and ABELL had fifteen, but only three were identical!

There is no question in my mind that every academic library supporting serious work – and certainly graduate work – in English or American literature should make both ABELL and MLAIB available to users. As Michael Marcuse notes in his Reference Guide for English Studies (University of California Press, 1990): 'All current comparisons between the two bibliographies conclude by recommending that the scholar always consult both.' That advice is even sounder now that ABELL is available in electronic form.