From Classic Encyclopedia 1911
BLUE-BOOK, the general name given to the reports and other documents printed by order of the parliament of the United Kingdom, so called from their being usually covered with blue paper, though some are bound in drab and others have white covers. The printing of its proceedings was first adopted by the House of Commons in 1681, and in 1836 was commenced the practice of selling parliamentary papers to the public. All notices of questions, resolutions, votes and proceedings in both Houses of Parliament are issued each day during the session; other publications include the various papers issued by the different government departments, the reports of committees and commissions of inquiry, public bills, as well as returns, correspondence, &c., specially ordered to be printed by either house. The papers of each session are so arranged as to admit of being bound up in regular order, and are well indexed. The terms upon which blue-books, single papers, &c., are issued to the general public are one halfpenny per sheet of four pages, but for an annual subscription of Sao all the parliamentary publications of the year may be obtained; but subscriptions can be arranged so that almost any particular class of publication can be obtained - for example, the daily votes and proceedings can be obtained for an annual subscription of 3, the House of Lords papers for Rio, or the House of Commons papers for -C15. Any publication can also be purchased separately.
Most foreign countries have a distinctive colour for the binding of their official publications. That of the United States varies, but foreign diplomatic correspondence is bound in red. The United States government publications are not only on sale (as a rule) but are widely supplied gratis, with the result that important publications soon get out of print, and it is difficult to obtain access to many valuable reports or other information, except at a public library. German official publications are bound in white; French, in yellow; Austrian, in red; Portuguese, in white; Italian, in green; Spanish, in red; Mexican, in green; Japanese, in grey; Chinese, in yellow.