Belgian bibliographical research on Africa dates back to 1887 when G. Kayser published in Brussels a compilation of 2276 notices relating to works on the exploration and civilization of the continent which had appeared since the beginning of printing. With the publication in 1895 of the Bibliographie du Congo, 1880-1895 of A-J Wauters and A. Buyl--a catalog of 3800 works, brochures, notices, and maps relating to the history, geography, and European occupation of the Congo Free State--documentary works took a direction which, with only a few exceptions, would not be broadened until after 1960: Congo (Zaire), Rwanda, and Burundi were clearly privileged.
In a series of articles and pamphlets Théodore Heyse described the development of Belgian colonial bibliography during different periods, followed by a synthetic overview of the whole. Each of these contributions outlined in an introduction of a few pages the most significant moments of the period under review and was comprised of a list of references classified by topic as well as an onomastic index.
Historian and chronicler of Belgian colonial documentation, Heyse was also one of the most productive bibliographers of his time. A jurist by training, with additional diplomas in politics and in social sciences, he became an official in the Ministry of Colonies in 1910, retiring in 1947 with the rank of Director General. Assigned to the Direction des Concessions, he became a renowned specialist in colonial law, especially property law. To his numerous historical and juridical publications he combined intensive activity in the field of bibliography.