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W. COX (Director of Publications, H.M. Stationery Office)

Aslib Proceedings

ISSN: 0001-253X

Article publication date: 1 March 1949



I have been asked to open this session by saying something about official publications from the Stationery Office point of view, in the hope that those of you who handle them, and are often exasperated by illogicalities and catalogue inadequacies, may realize that the reasons for these difficulties are not obscurantism on the part of the Stationery Office, but are inherent in the intractability of the material. Originally all official publications were parliamentary publications; they were solely the Bills, Acts, Reports and Papers which Parliament required for its day‐to‐day business or had prescribed by Statute that departments should present to Parliament as a record of their activities. With the growth of the functions of Government, official publications have increased enormously in number and variety, particularly those known as non‐parliamentary which arise from the executive functions of departments. Transfers and over‐lapping of functions of Government departments increase the complexity of the pattern. A very technical report, say, on the incidence of duodenal ulcers in busmen can turn up as a Ministry of Labour Report, instead of under the Ministry of Health, because it arises from a trade dispute, and over all this criss‐crossing, bedevilling any rigid classification, still stands the division between parliamentary and non‐parliamentaty, which because of some temporary political circumstance such as a threatened strike, will lift the same report from its natural group and make it a Command Paper in the parliamentary series. No wonder then, that to the librarian, Government publications are like weeds—they spring up all over the place, disregard the formal beds in which they ought to appear, and even grow on the paths of his tidy garden.


COX, W. (1949), "OFFICIAL PUBLICATIONS 1. H.M.S.O. PUBLICATIONS", Aslib Proceedings, Vol. 1 No. 3, pp. 251-256.




Copyright © 1949, MCB UP Limited

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