Under provisions of Title 44 of the United States Code, section 738, the Public Printer is authorized to bind a sufficient number of copies of the Senate and House Documents and Reports and deliver them to the Superintendent of Documents for distribution to "State libraries and other designated depositories for their permanent files." The Public Printer is also authorized to bind Documents and Reports in reserve volumes for the so-called "posterity libraries." These libraries are the Senate and House Libraries, the Library of Congress, the National Archives Library, and the Superintendent of Documents Library collection which is now housed at the National Archives.
The volumes are arranged and bound in the manner directed by the Joint Committee on Printing. Each volume is assigned a Serial Number for identification purposes. The Serial Numbering System which we use today was devised by Dr. John G. Ames, who was at one time in charge of the Documents Division of the Interior Department. It began with the 1st Session of the 15th Congress in 1817, and the numbers have run consecutively ever since that time. The material issued for the first 14 Congresses by both Houses of Congress was merely a series of folio documents to which no number or other distinctive symbol of identification was affixed. Therefore, it was not possible to adopt them into the Serial Numbering Plan. However, in order to make them compatible with the present numbering system, they have been assigned a separate set of numbers preceded by a zero. As many of you perhaps know, this material is known as "The American State Papers." The Serial Numbering Plan has proved to be an orderly and convenient manner by which to identify and preserve for posterity the vast number of individual Documents and Reports issued by the United States Congress.
For 166 years the bound volumes of Documents and Reports had no official title. They were known only by various "popular titles" such as:
22nd Congress, First Session, [Dec. 5, 1831 - July 16, 1832] Serial No. 224
Finally, in 1981, beginning with the 97th Congress, the volumes were given the official title of "United States Congressional Serial Set." New stamping and new title pages were designed to indicate this "official title."
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