Isaiah Thomas believed that the Society’s collections should be used to create new knowledge. One way to achieve this was to create bibliographies. Thomas began with his own listing of pre-1776 American imprints, which was expanded by numerous later scholars.
In the early twentieth century, AAS became a bibliographical hive, encouraged by the activities of librarian Clarence S. Brigham, an accomplished bibliographer himself. He supported bibliographical work among other scholars, including specialists in children’s literature, hymnals, and cookbooks.
Clifford K. Shipton, who became librarian in 1940, improved access to primary sources through partnerships with technology companies. The Early American Imprints microprint edition provided scholars with images of pages of books and pamphlets printed in America before 1801. Researchers around the world were soon eagerly reading the contents of imprints housed in libraries miles away.
Shipton’s successor Marcus A. McCorison, further expanded the Society’s publication program and during his tenure numerous bibliographies were issued. McCorison also embraced computerization of library cataloguing. Through far reaching bibliographic projects such as the Eighteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) and the North American Imprints Program (NAIP), early American publications were catalogued via computer and shared among libraries worldwide, ushering in the digital era.