Key Documents 1665-2017

On this page we have collected some of the important documents that tell the story of the Philosophical Transactions through the ages. We will be releasing new information about each document with a small blog post at regular intervals. Most of the documents are stored in the Royal Society’s archives, and provide information about technological, economic, and cultural changes in publishing from 1665-2017.

Full list of documents; Highlighted documents link to a blog post

1665: Preface to Philosophical Transactions 1st ed.

1751: John Hill, Review of the Works of the Royal Society

1752: Council Minutes on takeover.

1752: Preface to Philosophical Transactions volumes (remains in print till 1957).

1830: Charles Babbage’s Reflections on the Decline of Science, critique of RS publishing; also [AB Granville] Science without a Head, ditto.

1832: Duke of Sussex’s presidential address, mentions initiation of refereeing.

1875: Selling separate copies through bookseller [Trubner] [RS CMP/4, 17 Jun. 1875].

1886-1887: Report of Publications Committee – new questions to referees, splitting of Transactions into A/B [Suggestions by Committee: CMP/6 January 21 1886, p69-72; actually adopted: CMP/6 2 February 1887, p123-124; also Stokes’s presidential address announcing a/B split].

1892: Changes to the reading of papers [approved 18 February 1892, RS Council Minutes Printed vol. 6 (first discussed in December 1891)].

1894: Evans’ (Treasurer) letter to Council on high cost of publishing.

1895: Creation of Sectional Committees.

1895: Rayleigh’s memo to Treasury/government grant.

1901: Letter from Treasury to Sectional Committees on high cost of publishing.

1904: Publications Committee on the form of scientific publications.

1907: Fellow’s memorandum on changing the Society’s publishing practices.

1914: Changes to Standing Orders/Proceedings recognised as research journal.

1920: Emergency Finance Committee minutes.

1925: Examples of printed referee reports (used since the 1890s).

1925: Societies requesting Government Grant to provide detailed accounts to the RS.

1926: Instructions to referees in the Standing Orders.

1930: Published price of the Society’s publications increased by 50%

1934: Appointment of Publications Committee to enquire into and report on the paper, printing and engraving of the Society’s publications; Report by the Publications Committee formed to enquire into and report on the paper, printing and engraving of the Society’s publications.

1935: Permanent Publications Committee formed to meet annually to discuss and report on the text, paper and printing of pubs.

1936-8: Document on CUP printing contract.

1949 (between 1949-1952): ‘The Publication of Results of Scientific Research in the United Kingdom’.

1951: Referee Report forms. Examples include Rosalind Franklin.

1952: Report on publishing after the Second World War

1963: Self-help for learned societies pamphlet and discussion, President Howard Florey papers

1963: The Royal Society’s ‘Publishing Code for Learned Societies’, prepared for President Howard Florey.

1987-1988: Publication ad hoc meetings discusses ‘twin goals’ of disseminating science and securing finances of Royal Society journals.

1990: A note on copyright, licensing and rights by the Publications Management Committee.

2000: Stuart Taylor, Future of journals in 2000s