However, the publishing activities of the Organization can claim a tradition that reaches back much farther than 50 years.
The League of Nations handed over all of its assets to the United Nations in 1946, including its publishing functions. A large number of serial publications and periodicals which were started in 19 20 are still active publications titles that are being issued today. Examples are: the Monthly Bulletin of Statistics; Estimated World Requirements of Narcotic Drugs; Statistical Yearbook; World Economic Survey; International Trade Statistics; Monthly lists of Selected Articles, or Books catalogued of the Library and Timber Statistics.  Another example is the Treaty Series, for which the League published 200 volumes containing 4700 treaties. The latter were, in fact, the result of an agreement proposal that was made at the Berne Diplomatic Conference in 1892.  Hence, the a ssertion that United Nations publishing tradition can be seriously considered as predating the Organization itself.
The underlying thought here is that there is a strong need for intergovernmental publishing, irrespective of how much diplomatic activity - or lack of it - is going on. This is particularly notab le with regard to international law.
Incidentally, the sales numbering system for the United Nations publications can also be traced back to the League of Nations: for example, see IIA and IIB for economic subjects, category IV for so cial questions, V for legal questions and VIII for transport.
As seen in this historical perspective, United Nations publishing activities thus appear to be a solidly established tradition. The notion of zealously followed mandates would seem to prevail. In reality, the beginnings were difficult and perhaps there was not much sense of direction behind the publishing output. Veterans remember these so-called heroic times with mixed emotions. Improvizat ion was the general principle. It was good then to be able to look back to the League of Nations for ideas, concepts, guidelines and potentially similar book titles. Some of these difficulties per sist today, as it is still difficult to transform "raw" documentation into published products, as most of the information is derived from the reports about the Organizations many programmes and was n ot originally intended for presentation as books. The United Nations is involved in every aspect of international life, generating enormous quantities of documentation. Some of these productions re late to fast changing current issues. Such "raw" material does not lend itself easily to final book products. Perhaps this information will eventually find its way onto the Internet (or whatever th e vehicle of the next generation will be called) and will be retrievable via more refined indexing systems. For example, it is unfortunate that "Peacekeeping", a 3.5 billion dollar programme,in whi ch, at the end of 1993, 75,000 civilians and military personnel were serving, is not being as thoroughly analysed and chronicled as it deserves to be, and that the only literature available on this c rucial topic are press releases, reports by the Secretary-General to the Security Council in document form, the occasional posters and leaflets.
Perhaps the major characteristic of United Nations as a publisher is the sheer diversity of approaches and the wide scope of its subjects matter. From Abortion to Zoology, United Nations has covere d every imaginable subject in its publishing output that amounts to about 30,000 titles in 50 years (i.e. average 600 per year).
The United Nations publishes in loose leaf, paperback, booklets, hardbound volume, microfiche, diskette, CD ROM disk and optical disk output forms.
What is it that is being printed?
United Nations documents are a world in themselves, involving notions like plenary series, agenda item, sessional committee reports, meeting records (provisional and verbatim), regular sessions, spe cial sessions, resolutions (in both provisional and official form). The issuance of these materials is very carefully regulated  which enables reference professionals to maintain collections in an efficient manner, or to research the data based on precise criteria. Most conference documents are available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Information of a practical nature regarding use of United Nations documents is contained in a brochure available from the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, New York  , and will not be further discussed here.
Official Records comprise the records of the committee and commission meetings of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council. They are usually published in bound form (with the exception of Security Council meeting records which are in fascicules). The series entitled "Supplements" include the principal reports of subsidiary bodies to the General Assembly an d ECOSOC, for example: Report of the Disarmament Committee to the General Assembly or Report of the Commission of Human Rights to ECOSOC.
Organs Media Outputs General Assembly Documents, Official Records Security Council Documents, Official Records Trusteeship Council Documents, Official Records Economic and Social Council Documents, Official Records and books International Court of Justice Official Records in fascicle or book form Secretariat Documents, Official Records and books Affiliated Bodies Documents, Official Records and books
The GA also establishes conferences. Published material consists in all cases of documents and official records. Interesting books derive from conference materials (for example, Agenda 21, Confere nce on environment and sustainable development).
COMMISSIONS, COMMITTEES AND CONFERENCES (ESTABLISHED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY) PUBLICATIONS (non exhaustive listing) ____________________________________________________________________ Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space Annual Report International Law Commission Yearbook International Commission on Trade Law Yearbook, Legal Guides,Countertrade Transactions United Nations Disarmament Commission Yearbook United Nations Conference on Convention, studies the Law of the Sea
COMMISSION OF THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL PUBLICATIONS (Selection) ___________________________________________________________________________ Commission for Social World Economic and Social Situation development Situation (annual) Commission on Human Rights Yearbook, Compilation of International Instruments, Status of the Individual under Contemporary Law, Study on the Rights of Persons Belonging to Ethnic, Religions and Linguistic Minorities Commission on Narcotic Drugs Multilingual Dictionary on Narcotic Drugs, Statistics on Narcotic Drugs, Statistical Commission Monthly Bulletin of Statistics, Statistical Yearbook, also on CD-ROM Commission on Transnational World Investment Report Corporations
Other commissions address the following issues: crime prevention and criminal justice; illicit drug traffic; science and technology for development; sustainable development; women; popul ation. Each commission can supply informational material and prepares publications.
Regional commissions are located in Geneva (covering Europe and North America), Amman (covering the Western Asia region), Addis Ababa (Africa), Bangkok (for Asia and the Pacific region) and Sa ntiago de Chile (covering Latin America and the Caribbean). They deal with the economic and social situation of their region in much more detail, resulting in more closely-targeted book titles (for example: Asia in Figures; Energy Efficiency in European Industry; Women in Arab Countries).
Each regional commission publishes economic and social surveys, energy and transport statistics for its region.
A sample, inexhaustive listing is given below:
DEPARTMENT PUBLICATIONS _______________________________________________________________________ Political Affairs Disarmament Yearbook, Study Series, Topical Papers Humanitarian Affairs DHA News, Stop Disasters Economic and Social Information World Economic and Social Survey, and Policy Analysis Statistical Yearbook, World Population Prospects, System of Nations Accounts, etc. Policy Coordination and Publications consequential to: Sustainable Development Agenda 21, World Social Summit (1995) and the World Conference on Women (1995) Books: Women 2000, Consolidated List of Products... Bannned... or not Approved by Governments Public Information Yearbook of the United Nations, UN Chronicle, Basic Facts about the United Nations, Books of the Secretary-General (see below) Legal Affairs United Nations Treaty Series (over 1000 volumes issued), Juridical Yearbook
These two inextricably linked texts, present innovative approaches for fulfilling the objectives of the Organization. Its aim is to stimulate thought and action for the period ahead leading into the 21st century.
The Blue Book Series carries this aim further and presents "case studies". Describing the role of the United Nations in helping to resolve conflicts and to respond to emergencies, each book c ontains introductory texts by the Secretary-General, detailed chronologies and texts of key substantial documents. Titles published:
Affiliated body Subject Matter Major publications __________________________________________________________________________ UNICEF Child welfare The State of the World's Children (annual), Children in War, Child neglect in Rich Countries UNCTAD Trade and development Trade and Development Report, World Investment Report, Least Developed Country Report UNDP International Human Development Report development activities (annual), Change: Threat or Opportunity UNEP Environment issues Industry and Environment (Quarterly), Legal File (International Register of Potentially Toxic chemicals), Audit and Reduction Manual for Industrial Emissions and Wastes Centre for Human rights Manual on Human Rights Human Rights Reporting, Human Rights Instruments (A Compilation (A Compilation of) - book or CD-ROM format UNU (United Research, training, Mega-City Growth and the Future, Nations University) nutrition Industrial Metabolism International Drug Illicit traffic in Bulletin on Narcotics, Control Programme narcotic drugs Statistics on Narcotic Drugs, Report of the International Narcotics Control Board UNIDIR (United Disarmament research Repertory of Disarmament Nations Institute Research, Research Reports, for Disarmament Research papers Research) UNICRI Crime and justice World Directory of research Criminological Institutes, Understanding Crime, Environmental Crime ITC (International Trade promotion Market studies Trade Centre) programmes for developing UNIDO  Industrial development Manual for Industrial Feasibility Studies, Global Report (annual), Training Course for Ecologically - Sustainable Industrial Development (multimedia kit) International Application of Statutes and Rules of Criminal Tribunal international law, on Procedure and Basic Documents, for the former the principle of Yearbook Yugoslavia evidence Compensation Compensation for war Reports forthcoming Commission damages Iraq-Kuwait UNITAR Training and research The UN in the 90's: A Second Chance? Global Economy in the Age of Science-Based Knowledge, Debt Management Training Course
A number of other affiliated bodies (UNRISD, UNCHS-Habitat, UNFPA, UNRWA, UNHCR) run their publications programme independently and do not have their productions distributed by the United Nations sal es operations.
It is envisaged to make the contents of the Optical Disk System for United Nations conference documents commercially available on the Internet. This will include all General Assembly, Security Coun cil documents and those of several affiliated bodies.
Examples of documents and databases available:
United Nations Conferences
Official documents issued at conferences, for example, Fourth World Conference on Women Gopher. UNDP. ORG, PORT: 70/11/UN CONFS.
Abstracts, summaries and referral information on the United Nations system, its structure and activities worldwide.
Gopher (host: nywork 1.undp. org. port: 70. select The United Nations, what it is and what it does) UNDP documents (United Nations Development Programme).
Gopher (host: nywork 1.undp.org.port:70. select United Nations Development Programme Documents).
Databases with restricted access and newsgroups relating to the United Nations are discussed in the Internet An Introductory Guide for United Nations Organizations. 
The following is a totally subjective selection of noteworthy titles published over five decades of the Organization's existence. 1945 Charter of the United Nations and Statute of the International Court of Justice 1946 Report on the work of the League (General Assembly Report) 1947 Treaty Series Volume 1 By 1995, over 1,000 volumes in this series had been published. 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1949 United Nations Statistical Yearbook, Volume 1 1950 How the United Nations met the Challenge of Korea Korea chronology and the texts of the armistice agreements 37 p. 1951 How the United Nations Began Classroom texts; 31 p. 1952 Report on the World Social Situation (Preliminary report) First issue of this annual. 1953 Statistics of Road Traffic Accidents in Europe First issue of this annual volume. 1954 Rainmaking An objective account of rainmaking experiments in different areas of the world; 18 p. 1955 Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs, Volume 1 - Articles 1-22 of the Charter 1956 Annual Bulletin of Housing and Building Statistics for Europe, Volume 1 1957 Transport of Dangerous Goods - This is the first edition of the "Recommendations" known among truck drivers as the "Orange Book". Now in its ninth edition, it is one of the United Nations bestseller. 1958 Manual on Economic Development Project - Still used in economics faculties (Latin America). 1959 The New Atomic Age - Revised edition, illus. 42 p. 1960 Study of Discrimination in the Matter of Religious Rights and Practices 79 p. 1961 Proceedings of the United Nations Conference on New Sources of Energy Geothermal energy, solar energy, wind energy. 7 volumes 1962 Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1963 World of Opportunity - First volume of proceedings of United Nations Conference on the Application of Science and Technology for the Benefit of Less Developed Countries 1964 The UN Chronicle, Volume 1 1965 World Energy Supplies, Volume 1 - (Changed to Yearbook of World Energy Statistics in 1978) 1966 World Weights and Measures: Handbook for Statisticians 1967 The Turn-Around Time of Ships in Port 35p. 1968 Everyman's United Nations - Handbook on the activities of the United Nations 1945-1946 United Nations, 1968, 634p. 1969 Handbook of International Trade and Development Statistics, UNCTAD - First issue of this much appraised annual. 1970 Chemical and Bacteriological Weapons and the Effects of their Possible Use 100 p. 1971 United Nations List of National Parks and Equivalent Reserves 601 pp. Brussels (This is in fact the 2nd edition. The original edition was first published in the form of conference documents in 1961. 1972 Guidelines for Industrial Project Evaluation Methodology and practice of national benefit-cost analysis (UNIDO). An authoritative textbook. 1973 Transnational Corporations in World Development 1974 Castor Oil Production and Processing 23 p. 1975 The Situation of Women in the United Nations (UNITAR) 1977 Marketing and Distribution of Tobacco A revealing UNCTAD study and a new way to look at transnational corporations. 1978 Manual for the Preparation of Industrial Feasibility Studies - (UNIDO) An authoritative and widely recommended methodology for project evaluation, this manual sold over 100,000 copies and was translated into more than twenty languages.1979 UNDOC The printed version of the computerized database, UNBIS (United Nations Bibliographic Information System) which records all United Nations publications and documents. 1980 Historical Supplement: Demographic Yearbook Basic population and vital statistics providing data for a thirty year period. 1981 Transnational Banks: Operations, Strategis and their Effects on Developing Countries 1982 Risks of Unintentional Nuclear War Study by UNIDIR. 1983 Exploitation of Child Labour 1984 Convention on the Law of the Sea 1986 Radiation: Doses, Effects, Risks - illustrated, 64 p. Ironically, this concise booklet was published only a few days before the Chernobyl disaster. 1988 Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods 1989 Economic Reforms in the European Centrally Planned Economies 1990 The World's Women, 1970-1990 - Trends and Statistics 1991 Security Council Resolution 687 (Iraq-Kuweit) (For a commentary on Resolution 687, see UNIDIR Research Paper No 12) 1992 Agenda 21 - Earth Summit: The United Nations Programme of Action (also CD-ROM) 1993 Human Rights Bibliography on CD-ROM Published in book form and CD-ROM in 1993, subsequent editions are available on CD-ROM only and contain selected texts. First CD-ROM published by the United Nations Secretariat. 1994 The United Nations and Apartheid 1945-1994 1995 An Agenda for Peace by Boutros Boutros Ghali Second edition with a new supplement and related United Nations documents.