Archive for the 'Research Resources' Category

Royal Society archives now online

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

The Royal Society has placed the complete archives of its journals online, dating right back to March 1665.

Access to the articles (as scanned PDFs) is free until December. After that, you can buy a reprint of the whole lot for a hefty £5071/$9866 – or view single articles online for a smaller charge.

To whet your appetite, here’s wonderful piece from 1751: “An Account of Mr. Benjamin Franklin’s Treatise, Lately Published, Intituled, Experiments and Observations on Electricity, Made at Philadelphia in America”.


I also enjoyed “Account of a Very Remarkable Young Musician”, a letter from 1769 referring to an 8-year-old Mozart.
(via The Register)

Google’s News Archive Search

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

Google has launched a news archive search that searches across two news databases:

  • The archives of the Google News service, and
  • The historical archives of print publications such as the Washington Post, New York Times, Newspaper Archive, Time Magazine, the Boston Globe and many more.

Most of the older articles are subscription-only or pay-per-view, but there are also some freely-viewable historical pieces from BBC News, Time Magazine and the Guardian. Every article, pay or free, has a two-line snippet which is sometimes useful in its own right.

There is also an advanced archive search where you can search by date or by source, and can exclude articles known to require payment.


What makes the archive search particularly interesting is that you can browse a timeline view. You can see how a subject has developed over the decades, from the 1800’s to the present day.

For example, a search for “Eiffel Tower” shows a host of articles dating from 1889, including these quirky ones:

  • Eiffel Tower as a Winter Resort (1890)
  • “The Eiffel Tower bicycle is the newest sensation among the wheelmen of Berlin…” (1896)
  • Miniature Eiffel Tower displayed in Shoe Heel (1936)
  • German climbs Eiffel Tower, wins a Bath (1954)
  • Tom Cruise proposes to Katie Holmes at Eiffel Tower (2005)

(via Reto Meier)

Book Search resources

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Google’s Book Search is an ambitious project to digitise the world’s printed books. Although it has been dogged by various problems with copyright, the service is maturing nicely and is very useful for a wide range of research tasks.

The results come in a number of forms: book details without snippets, very tiny snippets, full-page previews for a limited number of pages per viewing, or full-view. For example, you can see all of these on the first page of the results for the “research strategy” query.

Helpfully, there is an option to restricted the search results to full-view books only. Furthermore, you can now download PDF scanned versions of many out-of-copyright books.

Not all out-of-copyright books are downloadable. It seems the only way to find them is to search with the “full-view” option, then click on the results and look for a “Download” button in the right-hand column. For example here is a version of Dante’s Inferno for which the PDF is downloadable.


Project Gutenberg has been making out-of-copyright works freely available for many years, but the project originated in the days of mainframes and flexible disks and the works are generally offered as text rather than in scanned form.

At Gary Price’s ResourceShelf there is a useful summary of other full-book resources including the World eBook Library, the International Children’s Digital Library, Shop ebrary, NetLibrary Text and Audio Books, The Online Books Page, The Open Access Text Archive and many more.

Robert Skelton’s SearchEngineZ

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

Former researcher Robert Skelton (robertskelton-ga) runs a quirky but useful website at

Rob lists a whole bunch of useful links to search engines, reference websites, webmaster tools and the like. One of Rob’s specialities is People Search, and his site offers 20 pages related to that.

Perhaps the links on these pages include ones which Rob uses for another of his sites ( where he will attempt to locate anyone for $25. He writes: “Individual people tracing, done by hand, utilizing various databases and search engines – many are not available to the general public. Every query is different, so we use intuition, experience and intelligence to spot clues and provide accurate results

SearchEngineZ is a rather cluttered site (some might even say a jumble), and there are ads and affiliate links sprinkled around, and a few links are out-of-date, but there’s a mine of great information too. (Rob makes a point to mention that there are no popups.)


As if that isn’t enough, Rob also runs (“Fast Info for the Google Enthusiast”) which is packed with news, links and tips about Google. He also has a rather quirky but interesting blog and a bunch of ideas to improve the world.

(edited 2006-08-25: I hadn’t previously been aware that Rob was no longer a GA researcher)

British Pathe newsreels

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

Here in the UK, I fondly remember as a young boy going on my weekly trip to our local flea-pit, sorry cinema, to watch the latest film. Before the B movie – yes, in those days there were two films – there were the newsreels from British Pathe. The loud crowing of the Pathe News cockerel announced that start of the news. These newsreels had been bringing the news to cinema-goers since 1902. The commentary was always very precise and well-spoken, often with lively music, and in a style that today would be laughed at. The news covered events not only in the UK, but abroad as well. The newsreels stopped in 1970 because of the rise of television.

The archive is now available online at The archive consists of “3500 hours of filmed history amounting to over 90,000 individual items.”
To download a free view of a newsreel you need to register. A wonderful source of UK history particularly British culture during the 20th century.

Full-text book searches…search online and search for free!

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

If you browse the shelves of any large library, most of what you'll find there is not available online.  Even in this amazing electronic age of ours, this is still a fundamental truth — most content in print is on paper, and cannot yet be found online.

There are efforts afoot to change this, most notably Google's noble, ambitious, tortured, and controversial effort to put entire university libraries online.  But this project, if it ever comes to pass, will be many, many years in the making. 

In the mean time, though, there are substantial chunks of the world of printed books that are finding their way online. The beauty of these sites is not only easy access to the books, but the fact that you can search the entire content of the texts at a whim. 

For a casual browser, this is a nice convenience for searching out a forgotten quote or passage.  For a professional researcher, it is an essential tool.  Without access to full-text book searches, I would guess about 25% of the Google Answers questions that I answer would go unanswered.

The two biggest and best known resources of full-text book searches are's A9 site — far and away, the best and deepest online book resource on the internet — and, Google Books, which is making a valiant effort at catching up. 

There are many others, though.  I've mentioned before three of my favorites, the Making of America, Project Gutenberg, and Questia, all of which are rich sources for historical and other ebooks.

The Making of America and Gutenberg sites are totally free.  Questia, though a subscription service, allows free searching, and shows brief snippets of the results.  Most of the resources listed below are totally free, but a few are subscription sites that nevertheless, allow full-text searching for free, even if showing only a limited result without a subscription. 

Here, then in no particular order, are some other resources worth checking out:

Taylor & Francis' eBookstore has over 10,000 books in its online collection of diverse, mostly scholarly, topics. A search returns only a brief snippet from the book's content, but full pages can be seen for limited viewing

Ebrary has a hard-to-find, hard-to-understand search function for its 20,000-volume (and growing) online library of assorted books.  There's no topical theme here…think of ebrary as an online bookstore catering to a diverse clientele.  To search ebrary, you need to go through the odd steps of registering AND opening an account with a minimum $5.00 balance…however, you don't need to actually spend the five bucks.

I'll mention NetLibrary just because it's a biggie, but (two thumbs down) you can't search it without subscription access, despite netlibrary's supposed goal of making information more readily available to the world at large.

There are many smaller collections, some of general interest, and some with a very narrow speciality.  Finding them can be tricky…Here are a few that I've come across:

A small collection of 19th Century schoolbooks in the United States.

HEARTH stands for the Home Economics Archive: Research, Tradition and History, and that's just what you'll find…about a thousand Home Ec books and related materials.

EServer Online Books Collection–Assorted fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

Books Online from the University of Toronto has almost 1,000 assorted titles, mostly early 1900's vintage. 

I'm sure everyone will want to visit the Distributed Digital Library of Mathematical Monographs…full-text monographs from Cornell, UMich, and the State and University Library in Göttingen.

Cornell also offers Historical Monographs and a site devoted entirely to books (more than 3,000…wow!) about the history of witchcraft.

Bartleby is a terrific resource for classic reference books, literature and verse, things like Bullfinch's Mythology,
Roget's Thesaurus, Robert's Rules, and Bartlett's Quotations, just to drop a few names.

University of Virgina offers over 2,100 ebooks “…including classic British and American fiction, major authors, children's literature, American history, Shakespeare, African-American documents, the Bible, and much more.”

And the University of California has a different sort of offering — eScholarship Editions of almost 2,000 books from its academic presses, although only a small subset are fully available to the public.  

Haven't really used this source yet, but I guess Posner was some rich guy who collected and eventualy digitized rare books, including more than six hundred “…landmark titles of the history of western science, beautifully produced books on decorative arts and fine sets of literature.”

For Classics, head to The Online Medieval and Classical Library, “…a collection of some of the most important literary works of Classical and Medieval civilization…”

Australia's got some e-content books at this University of Adelaide collection.

And so does Ireland , via CELT, the Corpus of Electronic Texts, which “…brings the wealth of Irish literary and historical culture to the Internet, for the use and benefit of everyone worldwide. It has a searchable online database consisting of contemporary and historical texts from many areas, including literature and the other arts.”

For science and science policy, turn to The National Academies Press collection of more than 3,000 titles…a clumsy interface (and deliberately so, if you ask me), but who could ask for better content? 

The Electronic Open Stacks at the University of Chicago appears to have a rich collection, though I haven't really made use of it yet, myself.

But enough with the scholarly stuff.  To get yer blood pumping, check out the pulp fiction at Dime Novels and Penny Dreadfuls.  There are only a few available, but they include some doubtless classics such as:

Nick Carter, Detective: The Solution of a Remarkable Case,
by a celebrated author

Jesse James, the Outlaw,
by W. B. Lawson


Deadwood Dick's Doom; or, Calamity Jane's Last Adventure,
by Edward L. Wheeler


Have fun, everyone.  Here's hoping for a rapid outbreak of peace in the world.

pafalafaga David Sarokin

July Twenty First…

Friday, July 21st, 2006

The Daily Perspective, from my old favorite,, offers a nice way of looking back at This Day In History.

For July 21, here are the stories they're covering:

Moon landing is complete

Apollo 11 astronauts departed from the moon today after making history with man's first visit to the moon. As the world watched in awe, astronaut Neil Armstrong took the very first step on the moon yesterday night, declaring, “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin joined him on the lunar surface, with Michael Collins staying on board the command module.

First Battle of Bull Run begins

The first major land battle in the American Civil War began today at Manassas Junction, Virginia. Despite early victories in the First Battle of Bull Run, the Union Army was forced to retreat back to Washington, D.C. “For the South, Bull Run was confirmation of the long held theory that one Southern fighting man was the equivalent of seven cowardly Northern clerks,”

First true western showdown

In what some consider the first true western showdown, Wild Bill Hickok shot Dave Tutt dead today. The duel took place in the market square of Springfield, Missouri. “What set Wild Bill apart was his ability to shoot fast and straight while being shot at. He killed Dave Tutt at 50 yards in the public square of Springfield, Mo., in 1865, apparently in a duel over his attentions to Tutt's sister,”

Bombs explode in downtown Belfast

At least nine people were killed in blasts in Northern Ireland today as downtown Belfast was hit by more than a dozen bombs. “The death of Leslie Leggatt, a news dealer, and an unidentified civilian whose body was found by soldiers near the Roman Catholic Springfield Road area early today brought to 453 the total fatalities in three years of violence in Northern Ireland,”

World's lowest temperature recorded

Today, a record low temperature was recorded in Antarctica. “The lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth, 128.6 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, occurred in 1983 at Russia's Vostok Station, located about 840 miles from the Pole at a higher altitude.

USS Constitution celebrates 200 years

The USS Constitution, known as Old Ironsides, celebrated 200 years today by sailing for the first time in 116 years. Thousands watched as the oldest commissioned warship left Marblehead, Massachusetts, under its own power.

Not a bad track record for a random date in history.

pafalafaga David Sarokin

Finding Companies and Businesses Online

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

There are plenty of great sites that provide free information on companies, including Yahoo Finance, Accoona, and (for US companies) the SEC EDGAR database (now full-text searchable…Yippee!).

But there are a whole lot of other sites as well, some of them offering some suprisingly in-depth information.

One of my favorites is Bureau van Dijk, which you know has just gotta be Dutch…except it's not!  They have a deep database of companies from around the world.  Up at the top of their site they offer a “Free Directory – Company information in an instant”.  You can search here for individual companies, or leave the company name field blank (be sure to uncheck the “whole words” box) to generate large lists of particular industries, particular regions, particular size-ranges, or all of above, combined.  Not bad, for a freebie.

The Dun & Bradstreet Small Business site is a great way to quickly search for a company name/address anywhere in the world…despite the site name, large companies are included here as well.

ICP is not the deepest or most up-to-date site for international business searches, but I sometimes get hits here when nothing turns up at other sites.

The Small Business Administration in the US provides incredibly detailed information on the zillions of small companies that are registered as contractors with the US government through their Dynamic Small Business Search.  The search function isn't the easiest to use, but the rewards in terms of information returned, make it more than worth the effort. 

And there are quite a number of country-specific options, provided by government agencies or through private sector databases.  Here are a few for a quick look-see:

Companies House for companies in the UK.

Teikoku Databank, Ltd covers Japan.

For companies in France, have a look at Société-bilan

IBISWorld covers Australia and the Integrated Companies Registry Information System handles Hong Kong.

As always, have fun.

pafalafaga David Sarokin

Finding People Online

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

There are lots of places to lookup information that you might not think of right off the top of your head.

For looking up people in the United States, there is…

The People Finder Lookup at MelissaData.  You don't get a complete phone book listing (but you know where that is, right?), but the database is still interesting because it searches multiple sources, and will tell you if a listing exists, and the age, town, and possible relatives and aliases of the person.  And for more detailed information, you can always elect to purchase a detailed report.

Prison contact and inmate lookup information.    If someone you know is, or might be, in jail, this is the place to begin looking.  Unless, of course, they're in a federal prison, in which case check the Bureau of Prisons' Inmate Locator.

And if your prisoner needs a bit of assistance, Martindale's the place to look for lawyers

Tax Refund Finder is worth a look if you think (or merely hope) that the IRS owes you or someone you know some money.

Jigsaw is a site where you can “Buy, Sell and Trade Business Contacts”. It's an odd and pretty interesting information bartering system, and probably pretty annoying for all those private office execs whose phone numbers are being outed.  And, too, it takes a while to get the hang of it.  But if you're looking for business contacts, take advantage of their Free Trial and give 'em a whirl.

Birthday lookups.   Yep, believe it or not, you can find an awful lot of birthdays here (but be sure to hit the SEARCH button…hitting Enter won't work).  My birthdate isn't in the records, but both my parents are…conveniently for me, as I'm always forgetting just which birthday is coming up when. 

Politicians.  Federal, state and local  government officials are all here, in all their moderately effectual glory.

There are plenty of doctor search tools, but I'm fond of the large database at Dr-411.

I'm still getting used to Zabasearch, which bills itself as a powerful people finder.  I'm not really recommending it…just letting y'all know it's there. 

So…let's see you find pafalafaga David Sarokin!

Searching old stuff

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006


There's a rather ambitious project called waybackmachine with the aim to archive the web. It sounds impossible, but the makers really have stored billions of pages trying to make this a “universal access to human knowledge”.

Besides archived webpages you will find a lot of free audio files, movies, even complete live concerts for download.

Be sure to have some time left when visiting the page. It took me several days to get an overview of only a very small part of the contained information.