Bibliographia Horologiae Mundi

The Cooperative, Global “Open Source Code” Project for Horological Bibliographic Data

By Fortunat F. Mueller-Maerki and Bob Holmstrom, Founders and Editors

Synopsis: The Bibliographia Horologiae Mundi (BHM) project plans to create an internet based, all comprehensive bibliography of published horological knowledge. We started by designing and testing a novel and improved system to catalog horological literature and its contents, including a subject cataloging system that is independent of any specific language. Making the system powerful, yet easy to use (and free of charge) it is hoped that several horological libraries and horological periodicals around the world will adopt the system. If and when “critical mass” is reached we will have the foundation for:

  1. a “union catalog” combining the holdings of many horological libraries.
  2. a multi-publication, integrated subject index of horological periodicals, and eventually
  3. the beginning of a comprehensive global bibliography of horological publications. Furthermore BHM is designed to be of use to both institutions and individuals as
  4. a tool to catalog and manage a specific horological library, no matter how small or large.

The Need:

  1. The Co-Leaders of the project are both avid collectors of horological publications who have struggled for years to find a powerful, rational way to have subject/content based access to their collections of horological documents. Each had visited a substantial number of the world’s horological libraries and found that at most locations finding subject matter beyond author, or exact title searches was haphazard at best. FMM has cataloged his personal library of some 7000 volumes and BH has created a broad database with over 900 articles on horological science.
  2. A review of most of the horological libraries around the world shows that most struggle with subject categorization. The usual cataloging tools, like e.g. the Dewey decimal system, are of limited use for libraries where most of their holdings fall in one highly specialized sector of human knowledge. Usually horological libraries have developed some proprietary, home-grown category system (which often also does double duty for shelf organization purposes). The creation of the extant systems predates electronic databases, and therefore is usually unidimensional.
  3. A significant portion of horologial publications are published and distributed outside of conventional channels, and mainstream libraries (including the national copyright libraries) lack many key titles. Specialized Horological libraries are more often than not small, under-staffed and under-funded. Many are part of a broader (often “non-library”) institution, such as a horological museum, where the library is a –hopefully important- adjunct to the core mission, but not the primary focus of activity. The staff doing the subject cataloging may have little or no training in library science and/or horology.
  4. Many horological libraries/publications rely on volunteers and staff turnover is high, leading to significant variations in cataloging practice over time. The proposed BHM cataloging system must provide fairly detailed and rigid structure and procedures for subject cataloging/subject codeing to assure a minimal adherence to standards.
  5. Because horology has primarily been a secretive craft dominated by individual practicioners much of the terminology to describe items, activities or concepts sometimes is vague, ill defined or full of near synonyms. Nonstandard regional and national terminology is common.
  6. Horological periodicals are mostly shoestring operations, produced by volunteer staffs. Their contents are not indexed in the standard indexes to periodicals, the quality of indexing (if existing) varies greatly and structural, technical and terminology differences currently make even semi-automated searching of periodical contents across publications virtually impossible.

This BHM project is based on eight underlying powerful ideas:

  1. A shared, public domain resource of the global horological community
  2. Universal accessability through the internet
  3. Horology specific, multidimensional subject coding
  4. Controlled terminology of key terms
  5. A “public use” AND “private use” tool: Individual Collection Management/Shared Bibliographic Data
  6. Multilingual Interface/Translingual data stoorage
  7. Integrated database for Title Data AND Content Data
  8. Shared efforts/shared rewards

Some details on the BIG ideas:

  1. Multidimensional Codeing:
  2. Even publications dealing with a single, highly focussed subject are hard to classify, because the cataloger has no idea from what direction a future searcher will approach the subject. For argument sakes let us assume we need to classify a monograph dealing e.g. with the lubrication practices of towerclocks in Spain in the 19th century, published under the title: “Lard or olive “. Who might be hoping to retieve such a document? The key interest of one searcher might be the “Lubrication”, while another might be focused on Spain, while a third is interested primarily in Towerclocks. Any “ONE-DIMENSIONAL” classification, or a multi-level classification where one dimension takes dominance is bound to frustrate the majority of users. (that is why using shelf-location as a classification tool is useless, do you look under the publications on Spain, or on Towerclocks or on Lubrication). BHM uses a five dimensional classification system (4 based on the content of the publication, one on its form) ? TYPE of timekeeper. (including also the two non-object categories: TIME, TIMEKEEPING) ? GEOGRAPHY (country, area etc) ? TOPIC is our label for which academic discipline is dealt with, is this e.g. about the HISTORY of X or is it about the MAKING of Y, or about COLLECTING of Z. ? ORGANISATION will refer to the entity which the document deals with, which could be a MUSEUM or an EXHIBITION or a particular BRAND or a specific PERSON, or a COLLECTORS-ASSOCIATION etc. ? KIND of document, will tell you if e.g this document is BOOK, a VIDEO, an IMAGE etc, or a CONTENT item, i.e part of (an chapter, an article in a periodical) another publication. Each publication listed in BHM will have one choice checked in each of these FIVE dimensions (although “Not applicable” can also be a choice).
  3. Controlled Subject Vocabulary:
  4. Horology has many instances where an item or activity is known by several different terms: E.g. Floorstanding clocks -just in the English language- are also known as tallcase clocks, longcase clocks, grandfather clocks, hall clocks etc. A completely “open keyword” system of cataloging subjects will lead to confusion and unsucsesfull searches of the database. Standard, agreed upon terminology will be defined to describe the most common horological objects, activities, concepts and entities. Defined keywords also will allow translanguage searches. Once fully functinal BHM searches for “escapement” will find items categorized as “Hemmung” in German or “echappement” in French. At the same time the horological terminology is huge and it is impractical to have oin defined keywords. Therefore a “Open Key Word” field will be provided to add additional keywords, including names, places, dates, etc although those will NOT be translated.


Project-Co-Leader: Bob Holmstrom, Portland Oregon USA; holmstro@europa.com

Project-Co-Leader: Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Sussex NJ, USA; horology@horology.com

England: tba

France: tba

Switzerland: c/o Bibliotheque du Musee Internationale d’Horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds

Netherlands: c/o Library at the Gould, Zilver & Klokkenmuseum, Schoonhoven

Italy: tba

Technical Standards:

Internet Data:

Website at: www.bhm.org

Access: Searching the public part of BHM will be open to anybody with access to the Internet, without user fees. Users will have to provide a valid e-mail address. Contributors of data (additions or corrections) and users of the collection management features will need to register and will be issued usernames and passwords. Various levels of users are to be established depending on the reliability of the users.

Programing: in the public domain SQL language

Decentral use option: The whole Database will be available for OBDC downloads for decentral use (on individual computers or local networks) using an application interface created using the commonly available, and widely supported MS Access 2000 database software.

Data Protection: BHM will not share data about an individual contributors holdings that may be stored on the BHM site (Owner Information and Research Notes) with anybody. BHM will not release data usedata to anybody.

Copyright: By submitting bibliographical data, incl. content synopsis, the contributors relinquish any copyright claims to such material to the public domain.

USA: National Watch and Clock Library NAWCC Columbia PA
USA: American Clock and Watch Museum Bristol CT
USA: American Watch & Clockmakers Institute Harrison OH
UK: British Horological Institute Upton
UK: Clockmakers Library Guildhall London
UK: AHS Library Guildhall London
UK: Old Royal Observatory Library Greenwich
D: Deutsche Gesellsch. Fuer Chronometrie Nuernberg
D: Deutsches Uhrenmuseum Furtwangen
D: Abeler Library Essen
CH: Musee International d’Horlogerie La Chaux-de-Fonds
CH: Chateau des Monts Le Locle
CH: Centredoc Neuchatel
NL: Nederlandse Gould Zilver & Klokkenmuseum Schoonhoven
F: ?