Reprints of articles from scientific journals seem to have been an important part of scientific practice before the copying machine and the internet. Authors of articles were given a number of those reprints to share with their peers in times when going to a library and put it on a copying machine or simply downloading a pdf file were not an option.

I am interested in how reprints ("Sonderdrucke" as we call them in German) shaped scientific practice. Were they a social factor? (Probably) Who paid for them and why? What kind of impact had the relative scarcity of reprints in comparison to today?

I would be especially grateful for specific info on that topic around 1900 and for case studies from the history of biology (doesn't have to be from 1900).

P.S.: I asked this question on the history SE as well.

  • $\begingroup$ At least in the modern times and at least in math sciences, one would typically get 50 reprints, which is/was more than enough, so scarcity of reprints would not be an issue. Another common practice used to be to send (unsolicited) reprints to other people in your field once the paper is out. $\endgroup$ – Moishe Kohan Aug 9 '17 at 22:09

My experience (somewhat later than 1900, however)...

Publishers would provide a certain number of reprints to the author for free (and the author could order more by paying, which I never did). Then the author could send (by post) these reprints to likely interested parties. And others who hear of the paper (for example, seeing it in a library copy of the journal) could send the author a postcard and request a reprint.

I still have reprints for most of my papers in a drawer here, but it is many years since I have been asked for one.

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