International Standard Bibliographic Description

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The International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD) is a set of rules produced by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) to create a bibliographic description in a standard, human-readable form, especially for use in a bibliography or a library catalog. A consolidated edition of the ISBD was published in 2007 and revised in 2011, superseding earlier separate ISBDs for monographs, older monographic publications, cartographic materials, serials and other continuing resources, electronic resources, non-book materials, and printed music. IFLA's ISBD Review Group is responsible for maintaining the ISBD.

One of the original purposes of the ISBD was to provide a standard form of bibliographic description that could be used to exchange records internationally. This would support IFLA's program of universal bibliographic control.

Structure of an ISBD record[edit]

The ISBD prescribes eight areas of description.[1][2] Each area, except area 7, is composed of multiple elements with structured classifications. Elements and areas that do not apply to a particular resource are omitted from the description. Standardized punctuation (colons, semicolons, slashes, dashes, commas, and periods) is used to identify and separate the elements and areas. The order of elements and standardized punctuation make it easier to interpret bibliographic records when one does not understand the language of the description.

  • 1: title and statement of responsibility area, with the contents of[3]
    • 1.1 Title proper
    • 1.2 General material designation. GMDs are generic terms describing the medium of the item.[4]
    • 1.3 Parallel title
    • 1.4 Other title information
    • 1.5 Statements of responsibility (authorship, editorship, etc.)
  • 2: edition area
  • 3: material or type of resource specific area (for example, the scale of a map or the numbering of a periodical)
  • 4: publication, production, distribution, etc., area
  • 5: physical description area (for example: number of pages in a book or number of CDs issued as a unit)
  • 6: series area
  • 7: notes area
  • 8: resource identifier (e.g. ISBN, ISSN) and terms of availability area

ISBD(A) is governing the antiquarian bibliographic publications, which could apply to the ones in archeology, museum, antique auction or canonical texts etc.[5]

Meaning of common English-language physical description abbreviations[edit]

Abbreviation Meaning Explanation
v. volume(s) Some works comprise several bound books, e.g., volume 1, volume 2, etc.
lowercase roman numerals (preceding "p.") number of pages of front matter Front matter is usually not paginated within the Arabic-numeral pagination of the main body of the book.
p. page(s) Number of Arabic-numeral-numbered pages that make up the main body of the book
lowercase roman numerals (following "p.") number of pages of back matter Optional; back matter such as appendices and index are often paginated within the Arabic-numeral pagination of the main body of the book.
leaf/leaves Each sheet of paper is one leaf, which contains two pages, recto and verso. Sometimes miscellaneous nonpaginated leaves are counted using "ℓ". The script small L (ℓ) is now deprecated in favor of spelling out "leaf"/"leaves". Script small L has usually been encoded as Unicode U+2113.
ill. or illus. illustration(s)  
ports. portrait(s) The number of illustrations that are portraits is sometimes given.
cm height of book in centimeters Height is measured in centimeters from bottom of book cover to top, i.e., how tall the book is when shelved on the library shelf.
s.l. sine loco (Latin for "without a place") Used in bibliographies to indicate that the place of publication of a document is unknown.
s.n. sine nomine (Latin for "without a name") Used in bibliographies to indicate that the publisher of a document is unknown.


A typical ISBD record looks like this:

A manual for writers of research papers, theses, and dissertations : Chicago style for students and researchers / Kate L. Turabian ; revised by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, and University of Chicago Press editorial staff. — 7th ed. — Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2007. — xviii, 466 p. : ill. ; 23 cm. — (Chicago guides to writing, editing, and publishing). — Includes bibliographical references (p. 409-435) and index. — ISBN 978-0-226-82336-2 (cloth : alk. paper) : USD35.00. — ISBN 978-0-226-82337-9 (pbk. : alk. paper) : USD17.00

See also[edit]



  • Chan, Lois Mai. Cataloging and Classification: an introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill Humanities, 1994.
  • International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD). Preliminary consolidated ed. München: K.G. Saur, 2007. (IFLA series on bibliographic control, vol. 31)
  • Svenonius, Elaine. The Intellectual Foundation of Information Organization. Boston: The MIT Press, 2000.
  • Willer, Mirna; Dunsire, Gordon; Bosancic, Boris (2010). "ISBD and the Semantic Web". (University of Florence) 1 (2). doi:10.4403/ Retrieved 29 June 2013. 

External links[edit]