Antique articles out in the open

Hindawi is pleased to announce the completion of the digitization and online publication of all content dating back to 1874 for Psyche: A Journal of Entomology. Through collaboration with Jonathan Rees from the Cambridge Entomological Club, all content ever published by Psyche is now freely available and accessible to both entomologists and the public on the journal’s website. The availability of the back content of the journal ensures that Psyche can be fully acknowledged for both the historical and scientific role it has played, and also ensures that Psyche is fully aligned with Hindawi’s mission of opening access to research.

Psyche is the official publication of the Cambridge Entomological Club and was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1874. At the fourth monthly meeting in April 1874, the club decided to create a monthly publication consisting of “such parts of the proceedings of the Club as seem to be of general interest, biological contributions upon Arthropoda from any competent person, lists of captures, with time and locality, miscellaneous entomological information, and especially a BIBLIOGRAPHICAL RECORD”.

Although founded by an entomological society, the journal was to cover all arthropods, and not just insects. The following May, Psyche was launched and published continuously until 1995, with one additional issue in 2000. In 2007, publication transferred to Hindawi, and Psyche was relaunched as an open access journal in 2008.

Following the transfer of publication, Hindawi was able to scan an incomplete set of printed volumes of Psyche from a collection previously held at Harvard and provide them online as individual articles with metadata. Since then, the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) has scanned most of Psyche’s print-only content, providing it freely online as high-resolution color scans. BHL’s mission is to improve “research methodology by collaboratively making biodiversity literature openly available to the world”. The importance of BHL preserving this content in high resolution cannot be overstated; Hindawi was able to fill all gaps in its set—some of which were quite major—from BHL’s scans, ensuring that all volumes of Psyche could be made available in one location.

Psyche’s original publication consisted of four pages per issue, for the subscription price of one dollar per year. Subscribers abroad were encouraged to send their subscription in “available postage stamps, to the amount of five shillings, six francs, or one and two-thirds thalers for each subscription.” Of these four currencies, only the dollar remains in use in the 21st century, highlighting the historical position that the journal holds.

The name Psyche derives from the Ancient Greek word for butterfly or soul. Despite the journal’s scholarly name, Psyche has been interested in making the study of insects and other arthropods popular and accessible since its inaugural issue. The journal’s first issue contained an article on the use of English names for butterflies in North America. The paper highlights the lack of common names for native butterflies in North America, suggesting that scientific Greek and Latin names are not as accessible and could discourage the study of butterflies. This aim of accessibility will continue to be supported by provision of all archived content online, open access and free-of-charge.

Throughout its publication history, Psyche has promoted the latest entomological findings and viewpoints. In the 1884 issue 117-118, the journal ran an article on the use of museum pests in the study of museum specimens. Trogoderma tarsale (a type of skin beetle) are traditionally viewed as pests by entomologists due to their ability to completely destroy anatomical specimens. This article, however, viewed them as beneficial, helping to strip the soft tissue from specimens in order to view external anatomy in more detail than dissection allowed. Although insects remain a significant problem in the storage of specimens, it is now commonplace to use insects to assist in museum specimen preparation, for example by using flesh-eating beetles (Dermestes maculatus) to prepare skeletons.

More recently, the journal has focused on descriptive articles on insect morphology and behavior, with wide-ranging topics such as social learning in bumblebees and ritual jousting in male weevils over female mates. The journal has an extensive history of serving as a leading forum for publication of fundamental entomological research.

We hope the availability of all Psyche’s back content online and free-of-charge will enable the journal to thrive, albeit in a very different research environment to when it began publication. Psyche has shown resilience and will continue promoting exciting research from the entomology community for years to come.


Naomi Froude is Publishing Editor for the Biological Sciences journals. 

The text in this blog post is by Naomi Froude. It is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). The illustration is by Hindawi and is also CC-BY.