Is there a way to read efficiently old papers? For example, to read all the Science and Nature cover papers since 1950?

How do you read old/fundamental literature?

  • 1
    Are you just asking about "access" to the papers or something more? Still unclear what you need.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 13:59
  • @Buffy, if there is a way to access the covers efficiently or to their summaries
    – 0x90
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 14:00
  • Do you mean those old papers without abstracts? Or something else?
    – Nobody
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 14:02
  • @scaaahu I am looking for advice how to efficiently see all these papers.
    – 0x90
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 14:04
  • 1
    jstor.org ??? Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 14:07

2 Answers 2


Im not sure what you mean by efficiently but you clarified you wish to see/get all papers.

If you have an university ID you can probably enter the database of the Uni's library online. Or depending on your national library options you might even be able to register there and get access online.

Taking out the option of physical libraries (because internet exists and you might be in another country with no access to big university libraries or such) , you can try to look in sci-hub , or you may be able to find some repositories online (if you find 1 paper try modifying the URL to get to an upper level of the portal), or find torrents in the web lingering around (be safe and use a VPN, then remember to seed). You may have more luck searching in other languages and then translate (spanish and russian are good options as they are excellent in alternative forms to get stuff, problem with russian is the Cyrillic).

Other than that, to get specific papers you can try to ask directly the researchers for them (research gate) or if you cant find them then try their associates. However this might not work or it might take too much time.

Another resource would be to try the cheapest subscription that grands you access and then see/download everything.

It depends what you really need. Do you need all the papers or just the list of what articles each number has? the list is easy to find online, but to get the papers you can try options like the mentioned above.


OP clarified the he/she wants to merely get the covers from the magazines as automatically as possible. This would depend on what material there is to work with in the first place. But it all comes down to knowing where are the images or which type of documents you have to work with.

1- If you have a page that shows all covers as images and you want to download them, you can use jdownloader or similar to download all the images of a site automatically. (and you cna paste the url of other sites/pages)

2- If you have all the papers in pdf and just want to get the first or second page you can batch edit them, I remember A-PDF Page Cut served for such but there are other softwares to do it too.

3-You can write a script with a function to get images from the web. Getimage() is the general one but the specifics depends on the programming language you use.

Ultimate, the specifics of all this might be better asked in other stack sites regarding software and programming.

For a list of all articles published by nature, here it is for 1950 but you cans et the filter to 'all' and get everything, however that gives many results, so you can write a script to download the names based on the links: https://www.nature.com/nature/articles?type=article&year=1950
You can also check by volumes, this other list goes up to 1869 : https://www.nature.com/nature/volumes

  • I mean how to pull all the cover papers in nature between two time points without doing it manually one by one.
    – 0x90
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 18:58
  • @0x90 Thats is a different question altogether. Check this please, it will help you difine the question better stackoverflow.com/help/how-to-ask . Also how to do that depends on what you have to work it. Let me edit the answer to add a couple options on how to extract images.
    – deags
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 15:51
  • sorry for the miscommunications. I merely wants the papers from 1950-2019 that were featured on the cover.
    – 0x90
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 17:36
  • @0x90 Im still not sure what you are asking. Do you need to download the articles, get a list of their titles, etc? Nature in its cover generally has a main article and then mentions others. Do you need all or just the main one? Doesn't any of the advice given serves you in any way?
    – deags
    Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 16:09
  • a list of all the main article titles will help then I can scrap the web to get the actual papers.
    – 0x90
    Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 19:18

If you are researching a specific area (doing a lit search) then your university library and an academic librarian is a good place to start. Libraries normally have access to such things and can get copies of papers. The librarians know how to go about it and can even help you manage a broader search.

All you really need is some specific idea of what you are after. A citation in a recent paper is an excellent start. Even if your own university doesn't have direct access, they likely have associations that they can work through to obtain what you want.

There was a time, pre internet, when this was the primary way of doing academic research.

I hope I've interpreted your need correctly.

  • Kind of. I didn't think about go to the library. I was basically looking to pull out all the Nature cover papers in the past 50 years.
    – 0x90
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 14:29
  • Fully agree that a research librarian is the right person to ask. (Of course, they may just point you to the bound journals in the stacks, but that is an efficient way of doing what is asked).
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 14:39
  • Going to the library is tricky. OP may not have access to a big library that pays for a subscription to those sites. If he has an university ID he may be able to access his university library online out of campus. But assuming the library is not an option, which is the norm nowadays in the era of information, he can browse for the papers he wants and then try to contact the researchers directly to ask for the papers (research gate), go to sci-hub to see if they are there, of try and contact associate researchers.
    – deags
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 18:01
  • 1
    Actually, I live in a small town. My local library will do this sort of thing for me since the librarian there has contacts with university libraries and can find obscure things for me. Libraries in general are more valuable than you may think.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 18:05

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .