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61st IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 20-25, 1995

50 Years of Publishing in FAO

Jane Wu and Keith Richmond, FAO, Italy



Fifty years later we are paying the price for the world's humanitarian vision, being bombarded with anniversaries that reflect the hectic outcome of the cessation of global hostilities in 1945: the e nd of the Second World War itself, and the founding of the various international agencies that emerged from the ruins. Such commemorations have their uses, though, and afford an appropriate opportuni ty to review what has been done and to peek - even gingerly - into the future. This paper will do just that, concentrating on just one aspect of FAO's existence: publishing.

FAO came into formal existence on 16 October 1945 in Quebec, some eight days before the UN itself, and there will be more on this subject later in the year. In a certain sense, though, the Organizati on is much older, as it is a direct descendant of the International Institute of Agriculture, founded in Rome in 1905 and the brainchild of an American visionary, David Lubin (whose name the FAO Libr ary still bears). As an ideal and an international reference point for agriculture, FAO is thus not far short of 90 years old.

Publishing landmarks in the past

The following statement appeared in an FAO publication celebrating its first ten years of existence:

    "The preparation and distribution of publications constitute one of FAO's major services to its Member Governments. Publications are an indispensable means of giving effect to many aspects of the Org anization's programme and their production is a central part of FAO's constitutional duties.

    "FAO's publications are directed mainly to administrators, technicians and other specialists, but they are also of interest to many other groups, persons and users in the broad field of human activit y which the Organization's programme embraces."

Forty years later there is nothing to change beyond a reference, perhaps, to the electronic age. Mandatory publications such as the Basic Texts themselves (originally published as the Const itution, Rules and Regulations) and The State of Food and Agriculture, the Director-General's annual report to the Governing Bodies and first published in 1947, have been around since the beginning. Similarly, the statistical yearbooks (FAO now publishes seven) have grown from the original five to provide a much-consulted series of basic information from all corners of the world.

As for periodicals, the present Quarterly Bulletin of Statistics began in 1952 as a monthly dealing with agricultural statistics. FAO's forestry journal Unasylva, started out in 1947 an d, when it was suspended for financial reasons in 1988, there was such an outcry that it had to be reinstated 2 years later! Of the other FAO periodicals, the Plant Protection Bulletin has bee n going since 1952. World Animal Review (1972) and Ceres (1968) are comparative newcomers (the latter, incidentally, being the only one to come out every two months and to have an Arabi c edition).

The majority of FAO's published output, of course, is the direct outcome of programme activities, as was the case with the Indicative World Plan (IWP). This was one of the first attempts to analyse o n a global scale the economic and other factors active in the development process. It evolved into an ongoing series of studies - and resultant publications - under the titles Agriculture: toward 200 0 and, more recently, World Agriculture: towards 2010 - an FAO study (copublished with Wiley in the UK, Polytechnica in France and Mundi-Prensa in Spain).

While it is difficult to single out notable publications from the past without omitting someone's favourites, it may be worth citing one or two more.