The Harvard Business Reports, first published in 1925, were described in Dean Donham’s 1922 report.

“Case books, like textbooks,” wrote Donham, should be built on precedents, including the solutions. Business itself, as well as the case system for its proper development, needs something like the court reporter who systematically records numerous cases for current publication.”

Law cases, Donham noted, were reported in the sequence in which they occurred; it was only in retrospect, through use of elaborate indices and digests of those cases, that legal theory was deduced and applied. Something similar was needed in the field of business. “We have, therefore, in preparation a volume intended to be the first of a series to be published under the name of Harvard Business Reports. This series will be designed to develop the theory of business.”

This proved to be not the “easy and inevitable” job that Donham expected it to be. He himself complicated the task by insisting—as he noted in the first issue of the quarterly Harvard Business Review, published in October 1922—that cases included in the Reports were to retain their individual flavor, conveying the individuality and vitality of the situations they described.

It was a full three years before the first volume of the Reports actually appeared, by which time the dean’s expectations for the series had diminished. Perhaps, Donham noted modestly in 1925, the Reports might be “useful in the formulation of principles in the developing profession of business.”