Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.12.07
Peter Schreiner (ed.), Byzantinische Zeitschrift. Bibliographie. 2nd ed.: vols. 83 (1990)-94 (2001), Suppl. I-III. CD-Rom Edition. Also available for network (LAN) use. München/Leipzig: K.G. Saur, 2004. ISBN 3-598-40737-8. €259.00. €205.00 (subscribers).
Reviewed by Paul Stephenson, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Dumbarton Oaks (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Word count: 1459 words
The bibliographical section of the journal Byzantinische Zeitschrift (BZ), established in 1892, has long been an essential resource for Byzantinists, classicists, and medievalists. It was unrivalled until 1929, when a second bibliography appeared, appended to the journal Byzantinoslavica (Byzslav), published in Prague. This was conceived as a supplement to BZ's offering, focused on the Slavs and Byzantine foreign relations, but it was expanded after the Iron Curtain descended to duplicate much that was to be found in BZ. According to V. Vavrínek, the long-time editor of Byzslav, this had less to do with ideology than the impossibility of securing copies of the expensive German journal in Eastern and Central Europe and Russia. Since the mid-1990s, the Byzslav bibliography has returned to its Byzantine-Slavic roots, while the BZ bibliography has expanded further, employing some of the former Byzslav contributors (not including the reviewer, who contributed to the Byzslav bibliography from 1991 to 1995).
The BZ bibliography has a formidable taxonomy, from 1.A. (Profanliteratur: Hochsprachliche Literatur) to 14. (Rezensionen), with notable sections dedicated to History (5.A.-G. Geschichte) and Archaeology and Art History (7.A.-G, where each subsection is futher sub-divided, for example, 7.G. Kleinkunst contains 7.G.a. Allgemeine Darstellungen to 7.G.j. Textilien). Unless one is clear exactly where a work should fall (as determined by the compilers and editor of the bibliography), one has generally had to turn to the annual index of BZ, which contains a list of authors cited in the bibliography. Even when fortunate enough to have access to an open-stack library (for example, a German Seminar Bibliothek), locating references to just a few articles could take hours, and consequently the bibliography has tended to be used as a browsing tool, whereby scholars are informed twice a year of all they will never find time to read. Dumbarton Oaks (DO), the premier research library in Byzantine studies, devised a simpler method for searching the bibliography, and for decades had the BZ entries typed onto index cards and alphabetized. Even after its shift to an electronic, now web-based, catalogue, the card index remains in its wooden drawers, in a newly opened state-of-the-art library. The DO card index is no longer updated, so the work under review is a great asset. However, the index is not superseded, as it covers a period prior to 1990.
The publication of this updated cd-rom, which contains a database of bibliographical entries recorded in BZ between 1990 and 2001, allows for more rapid and varied searches than a card index. The first edition of the cd-rom, published in 2001, contained 37,928 entries published in fascicles of, and supplements to, the journal from 1991-2000. It was essentially a public version of files created in the production of the Supplementum Bibliographicum II, Generalregister zu Bibliographie, and, like this version, was distributed at a discount to subscribers of the print journal. This second edition contains two further years of entries, bringing the total to 50,920. There has been no effort to update the database program, and I have noticed only one page of the instructional pamphlet (p. 26) revised to reflect the actual appearance of the English version in both versions (i.e. the search function states "New Query, not "New Search" as printed in the first edition).
Without any changes to the database software, therefore, this updated cd-rom retains all of the problems associated with computing products designed in the later 1990s. These will be acutely familiar to anyone who has labored to produce a database, always two steps behind advancing technology. The reviewer recalls fascinating, frustrating descriptions of such endeavors by Michael Jeffreys, now director of the Prosopography of the Byzantine World), and Charlotte Roueché, whose elegant solution was to republish and expand an older text in a web-based database employing XML. Thus, one can sympathize with the editor Peter Schreiner and his technical assistant Reinhard Hiss for wanting to make searchable files widely available, but still wish that efforts had been made to adopt a web-based solution. As the producers of the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae determined, in switching to a web-based system in 2001, the cd-rom user is hostage to his or her operating system, and data files cannot easily be updated as information is added.
The BZ database software included on the CD, Filemaker Pro 5, will only open the associated data files (but no other files produced by Filemaker). This version of the software is incompatible with Mac OS X. Hence, Macintosh users will have to wait for the "Classic" system to boot up, and the database software to open in OS 9. Since the data files are stored separately from the database program, it is possible to open them, once converted, in a later version of Filemaker Pro. I downloaded a trial version of Filemaker Pro 8 for Mac OS X, which worked modestly well, although some data could not be displayed. I did not try using the disk on a PC running Windows, but it is stated that the program will run on Windows 98/NT4.0/2000, and XP. A log-in dialogue box, in German, pops up requesting a password once the program starts, and unless one has read the instructional pamphlet carefully, one would not know that entering a password is not necessary. However, and this is by far the most important point, the program works well and instantly.
The user interface is rather dated, presenting the user with a card file format. One flips between cards by clicking on a "rolodex" icon in the top right-hand corner, or using the "next result" button. One changes views, for example to a see all reviews. Once a search is completed, users may export and save the results in a variety of forms. Windows users are offered the opportunity to export in "Windows format: Word, Excel, Wordperfect, etc." However, they may choose, like Mac users, simply to export in simple text or HTML tabular form. The exported and saved files can be printed easily. This is a far better solution than seeking to print the results in the initial "card file" format, and perhaps for that reason (or, more likely, for proprietorial software reasons) the print button on the tool bar was not functional.
Over a series of months, while engaged in several research and teaching projects, I conducted numerous searches, all of which turned up useful information. The first thing most scholars will do, of course, is search for their own work. All articles (although only one of the book reviews) I published in the 1990s are included, but one does one find my first book, which appeared in 2000. Similar searches for the output of colleagues that could be checked (against a CV or in conversation) produced similar results. The database appears to include most, if not all, of their published work that appeared between 1989 and 1999, but coverage of 2000 is patchier, and there is nothing for 2001. Of course, this reflects the time lag between publication and the collection and compilation of the information, and also the thoroughness of the collection process. References to 2001 (one can search for "2001") are, therefore, limited to works cited in the first fascicle of BZ published in 2001 (no. 94).
Besides searching by author, one can search by keywords. If one is working in English these are better entered in the "Bibliog. Record" box than that marked "Keyword," since the former also searches the summaries of each work that BZ bibliographical contributors are encouraged to provide. If one searches for "silk" in the "Keyword" box, one is offered a single record which mentions the fifth-century Nubian king "Silko," whereas a search in the "Bibliog. Record" box turns up fifty references. Alternatively, one can enter the German word "Seide" in the "Keyword" box for 75 hits. The database can also be browsed by classification. However, one must then have deduced the exact number of the sub-sub-section of interest. For example, if one is still interested in silk production, but finds that searching on "silk" and "Seide" is inadequate, one may wish to browse the compilation of references to "textiles" (as noted above, 7.G.j., Archaeologie und Kunstgeschichte: Kleinkunst: Textilien). However, entering "7" in the "BZ Classification" box before hitting search will not suffice, as that will turn up the seventh category in the complete taxonomy (1.A.b., Epistolographie). Instead, one must calculate (by first finding an article by a known author and noting the classification number, or by trial and error) that 7.G.j. is category 247, and enter that. It will turn up 188 references.
Examples could be multiplied, and doubtless I have failed to notice a multitude of additional facilities. These would only oblige me to recommend this tool even more highly, both to Byzantinists and narcissists who were active in the 1990s.