Preprints - potential problems

jkirkbri at ASRR.ARSUSDA.GOV jkirkbri at ASRR.ARSUSDA.GOV
Mon Jan 30 09:21:59 CST 1995

The term preprint involves two aspects with which I am familiar.
First, in the 18th and 19th century, type for printing was very
expensive.  Consequently fascicles or even just pages from a book were
printed one at a time.  The fascicle or page was set in type, proof
sheets were prepared, the type was corrected, and the fascicle or page
was printed.  After printing each fascicle or page the type was
dismantled and used to set the next fascicle or page.  Consequently
printing a book or an issue of a journal could be a long process of
weeks, months, or even, in a few cases, of years.  But during the long
drawn out process, proof pages were available, and horror of horrors
were sometimes circulated among friends and colleagues.  These
constituted preprints.  These are not considered to have been
published; their author did not intend them to be published but
to inform his firends and colleagues about his current work.

Another case were journals.  Journals were also printed in fascicles,
and frequently the printing of the number of a journal could be a long
drawn out process.  Many times authors purchased reprints, separates,
or off prints directly from the printer.  As the fascicles of the
journal number was printed, the author would arrange independently to
have extra pages printed before the type was dismantled for reuse.
Sometimes they would be repaginated from one (1) rather than follow
the pagination of the journal, or sometimes they would be double
paginated with both the journal-page number and a new series starting
from one (1).  So, an author could distribute his reprints prior to
publication of the journal!  These are preprints, and the date of
publication is the date of distribution of the reprints not the
article in the journal.

You may wonder why I am so knowledgeable on this topic.  Well I work
on the Neotropical Rubiaceae, and the Rubiaceae has one of the most
famous cases of preprints involving both of the above types.  If you
have access to Taxonomic Literature, second edition, volume IV: P-Sak,
turn to page 761, entry 9144:
  Richard, A.  1830.  Me'moire sur la famille des Rubiace'es.  Paris: J.
    Tastu.  Pp. 1- 224.  (Me'm. Soc. Hidt. nat. Paris ser. 3, 5: 81-304.
A.P. de Candolle was working on the volume of his Prodromus with the
Rubiaceae at the same time that Richard was having his memoire
printed.  Richard orally presented his memoire to the French Academy
in 1829, and an abstract was printed in a Paris newspaper in July
1829.  In 1831, a preprint was officially presented to the Academy,
but the preface to the preprint was dated 1 Dec 1830.  So the date of
publication of Richard's memoire is accepted as 1 Dec 1830.  There is
correspondence in Geneva dating the sending of proof sheets of
Richard's momoire to de Candolle.  Four sheets were sent 17 Jan 1930,
and 8 Jun 1830 the 20-23rd sheets were sent.  The fourth volume of de
Candolle's Prodromus with the Rubiaceae was published in Sep 1830,
three months before Richard's preprint.  Comparision of the two
suggests that de Candolle got most of the memoire as proof pages.

Citation of the names involved is an incredible mess.  Many people
have cited only Richard on the grounds that he was the "monographer"
and "published" his monongraph in 1829, and that de Candolle did a
floristic treatment.  The Richard names have been cited with different
pages, preprint pagination or journal pagination, and the year of
publication has been either 1829, 1830, or 1834.  Others have cited
just de Candolle as author of the names.

De Candolle was not consistent.  Sometimes he cited Richard,  and
other times not.  He used the same epithets with and without Richard.
Sometimes he copied Richard's descriptions, and other times not.
Sometimes he did not include the Richard name at all!  The new names
involved can not simply be cited "A. Richard ex DC."  Each must be
considered separately comparing Richard's preprint and volume 4 of de
Candolle's Prodromus.  Going by prior usage is incorrect 30-50% of the

Preprints can be a real mess.  I hope that you never get involved with

Joseph H. Kirkbride, Jr.
USDA, Agricultural Research Service
Systematic Botany and Mycology Laboratory
Room 304, Building 011A, BARC-West
Beltsville, Maryland 20705-2350 USA
Voice telephone: 301-504-9447
FAX: 301-504-5810
Internet: jkirkbri at

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