"> Gmelin Handbook of Inorganic Chemistry: A User's Guide - Resources by Subject - University at Buffalo Libraries Skip to Content
ublogo print
University Libraries

Gmelin Handbook of Inorganic Chemistry: A User's Guide

A User's Guide

The Gmelin Handbook of Inorganic Chemistry (Handbuch der Anorganischen Chemie) or simply Gmelin is a multi-volume collection of data and information on inorganic and organometallic compounds. Most of the print volumes are available in the Lockwood Science & Engineering Reference Collection (call number REF QD 151.G63) on the first floor of the Lockwood Library. We stopped purchasing Gmelin in 1993, and print Gmelin ceased publication in 1997. A limited number of 1994-1997 volumes have been acquired by the library on the used book market. A complete list of all published Gmelin volumes is available.


Since 1971, organometallics are heavily covered, except for compounds with Li, Na, K, Rb, Cs, Mg, Ca, Sr, and Ba central atoms. Those excepted compounds are covered in the  Beilstein Handbook. Included in Gmelin are compounds with metal-carbon bonds except carbides, cyanides, cyanates, and thiocyanate.

The print edition ceased publication at the end of 1997, however our University at Buffalo's subscription ended in 1993. As affordable used volumes become available, they are being purchased by our library. UB does not subscribe to the electronic version available exclusively on the Elsevier platform, Reaxys. The print and electronic versions are not equivalent with each version containing significant content not found in the other format.

Volumes published after about 1982 are published in English. Although volumes prior to 1982 are in German, English table of contents and section headings in the page margins are provided for all but the very oldest volumes. Patrons willing to take on the challenges of using a mostly German language source are rewarded by the superb and comprehensive content of this resource.

Gmelin contains such information as:

  • Physical properties
  • Analytical & Colloid chemistry
  • Ore dressing
  • Geochemistry
  • Toxicity
  • Crystallography
  • Metallography / Metallurgy / Mineralogy
  • Electrochemistry
  • Corrosion and passivity
  • Atomic physics

An advantage to using Gmelin is that it covers professional literature prior to 1907 not covered by SciFinder (Chemical Abstracts). In addition, Gmelin often provides the actual physical data and tables rather than just a reference to the original scientific literature and patents. However, researchers should always consult both Gmelin and SciFinder Scholar as unique material will be found in both resources.

How is Gmelin Organized?

Gmelin is divided into 71 sets of volumes, each covering an element or, for minor elements, a group of elements, e.g. rare earths. Each set has one or more main volumes and usually a number of supplemental volumes covering new information. Each element (or group of elements) is assigned a unique System Number which has no relationship to its atomic number. The numbering sequence starts with rare gases and progresses to the heavier metals. The system numbers are assigned so that the elements which commonly form cations have a higher system number than those which commonly form anions. Thus, the system arranges compounds under the most electropositive element. To find the system number for an element, consult the periodic table on the inside cover of any of the Formula Indexes. (Lockwood Science & Engineering Reference QD 151 G632).

Obviously, all compounds contain 2 or more elements. Each compound is published in the set for the element with the highest system number. For example, UOCl2 is published in the Uranium volume, since the system number for U is 55, for O is 3, and for Cl is 6.

How is Gmelin shelved on the reference shelves?

The Gmelin volumes are organized on the Lockwood Science & Engineering Reference shelves in alphabetical order according to element symbol even though each volume is labeled on the spine by the system number. Thus, system numbers on the shelf are not in order. It is important to first find out from the Formula Index what the element symbol and system number is before approaching the volumes. To find the system number for an element, consult the periodic table on the inside front cover of any formula index. The Gmelin system number for each element is shown in green. Note: the yellow inserts on the shelf tell you where the element group begins. The supplemental works have the abbreviation of the element on the spine of each volume.

Instructions on how to use the Formula Index

The General Formula Indexes cover both the main and supplemental volumes and are arranged strictly alphabetical by element symbol (Hill Convention).

It is best to start with the latest Formula Index Supplement, since each supplement published updates the previous edition. There are three columns in the Formula Index. The first column shows the empirical formulas arranged by alphabetical order of the element symbols and by increasing atom count (Hill Convention). The second column show the linear structural molecular formula in classic format as it appears in Gmelin text. The third column provides volume and page numbers to a particular entry.

Example: Look up the compound Cl 2 OU
The formula index reads:

Column 1
Hill Convention
mol. formula

Column 2

Linear (classic)
molecular formula

Column 3
U: SVol.A5-224


Uranium Supple. Vol. A5, page 224

In each volume of the Main Work and Supplement Series, there is a table of contents, in which information may also be located.

I can’t read the entry! It’s in German.

Earlier volumes are in German with some English captions. More recent volumes, 1982+, are in English. Use a German-English science dictionary to translate unfamiliar words. All of the foreign language dictionaries are located in the first row of the reference collection.

Patterson's German-English dictionary for chemists [Highly Recommended]
 Lockwood Science & Engineering Reference QD 5.P3 1992

Cassell's German - English, English - German dictionary
 Lockwood Science & Engineering Reference PF 3640.B45 1978

Dictionary of chemistry and chemical engineering
Lockwood Science & Engineering Reference QD 5.D47 1987

Other Reference Sources

Comprehensive Organometallic Chemistry I, II, & III

  • I: 1st ed, 1982.
    Lockwood Science & Engineering Reference QD411 C65 1982
  • II: A Review of the Literature 1982-1994.
    Lockwood Science & Engineering Reference QD 411 C652 1995
  • III: A Review of the Literature 1993-2006.
    Lockwood Science & Engineering Reference QD 411 C652 1995 Also available electronically via Knovel.

Dictionary of Organometallic Compounds, 5 vols., 2nd ed., 1995
Lockwood Science & Engineering Reference QD 411 D53 1995

Dictionary of Inorganic Compounds, 5 vols, 1st ed, 1992
Lockwood Science & Engineering Reference QD 148 D53 1992

Encyclopedia of Inorganic Chemistry, 10 vols, 2nd ed, 2005
Lockwood Science & Engineering Reference QD 148 E53 2005