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There's a 1951 article by John von Neumann, Various techniques used in connection with random digits, which I would really like to read. It is widely cited, but I can't seem to find an actual copy of the paper, be it free or paying.

Is there a general strategy to find copies of relatively old papers like this one?

EDIT: I've searched quite a lot before posting this question and fond the following reference:

Journal of Research of the National Bureau of Standards, Appl. Math. Series (1951), 3, 36-38

Unfortunately, my library doesn't have it, and it is not in NIST's online archive (neither at http://www.nist.gov/nvl/journal-of-research-past-issues.cfm nor at http://nistdigitalarchives.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/nistjournalofresearchbyvolume/collection/p13011coll6)

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    $\begingroup$ Welcoming to the wonderful world of publishing. $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2012 at 5:17
  • $\begingroup$ Do you know the name of the journal and the current owner of copyright? You should be able to get it from them. $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2012 at 5:30
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    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't be surprised if only a small fraction of those citing it really have read the paper. $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2012 at 5:37
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    $\begingroup$ Salut Clément, your local libraries may not have J. Res. NIST appl. math. ser but perhaps they have von Neumann's collected works? The other alternative is to talk to a librarian in the best library you have access to: they usually have a system for getting photocopies of journal articles even if they don't have the article themselves. $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2012 at 7:38
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    $\begingroup$ A quick search revealed that both libraries ORSAY-PARIS 11-Bib. Maths and PARIS 6-Inst. Henri Poincaré possess Collected works. Volume V, where the paper of your heart is reprinted. $\endgroup$
    – Did
    Aug 25, 2012 at 9:31

3 Answers 3

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I ran into a similar problem recently, and my solution was to email the NIST archives and request the article be scanned and emailed.

I received an email with a pdf version, and now it has been recently added to Richard Arratia's list of hard to find papers. https://dornsifecms.usc.edu/richard-arratia-usc/hard-to-find-papers-i-admire/

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One of the citations gives the bibliographic info,

von Neumann J, Various Techniques Used in Connection with Random Digits, Notes by G E Forsythe, National Bureau of Standards Applied Math Series, 12 (1951) pp 36-38. Reprinted in von Neumann's Collected Works, 5 (1963), Pergamon Press pp 768-770.

That should be enough information for any librarian to find you a copy.

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    $\begingroup$ Who would have thought that bibliographic information exists to help people locate references... I, for once, am completely shocked by this fact and I am glad that I was sitting down when I was reading this answer. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila
    Aug 25, 2012 at 6:56
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks. However, NIST archives (nist.gov/nvl/journal-of-research-past-issues.cfm) do not seem to include volume 51, and the largest library of my city (Paris, France) doesn't have it. Perhaps I should have mentioned this. $\endgroup$
    – Clément
    Aug 25, 2012 at 7:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Clément: You can get it at the BnF: catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb332187664/PUBLIC $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2012 at 7:46
  • $\begingroup$ Brilliant, thanks Michael. If you'll post your comment as an answer I'll accept it; otherwise I'll mark this one as the accepted answer. How did you find it? Did you directly think of the BNF? $\endgroup$
    – Clément
    Aug 25, 2012 at 9:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Clément, just mark this one. $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2012 at 10:43
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I think this is the paper we are looking for: https://mcnp.lanl.gov/pdf_files/nbs_vonneumann.pdf

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