RBMS Controlled Vocabularies
BINDING EVIDENCE: A Thesaurus for Use in Rare Book and Special Collections Cataloguing
Note: This text was electronically created from the introduction to the print version, to accompany and provide historical context to the database of thesaurus terms. Although not conforming to the format of the print text, it should reflect all content of the original. It has only been edited to correct errors in the OCR process, and to update MARC field numbers where changes have been made to the MARC format. Please bring other errors to the attention of the thesaurus editor, using the information found on the main thesaurus page. [12/2005, Beth M. Russell]
The Independent Research Libraries Association (IRLA)’s Proposals for Establishing Standards for the Cataloguing of Rare Books and Specialized Research Materials in Machine-readable Form
(Worcester, Mass., 1979) called for a new field to be added to machine-readable cataloguing (MARC) formats for terms indicating the physical characteristics of materials catalogued (Proposal Five), including descriptions of the bindings. In the same proposal IRLA requested that the Standards Committee of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of ACRL work toward developing standard terminology for use in such a field. The RBMS Standards Committee undertook the development of a thesaurus of terms, and a field for such terms (755 "Physical Characteristics Access"), [now 655 “Index Term-Genre/Form] was authorized for all MARC formats in January 1984.
In order to expedite publication of the thesaurus, the RBMS Standards Committee decided to divide it into several separate thesauri, each treating evidence of a different aspect of book production and history. Printing & Publishing Evidence: Thesauri for Use in Rare Book and Special Collections Cataloguing has been published already by the committee. Further thesauri covering other aspects of book production and history, such as paper and papermaking, provenance, and type evidence are in draft form or are planned.
The present list presents terms for the description of bookbindings and includes descriptors relating to techniques for binding construction, and to the style, materials, and decoration of bindings. All but the broadest categories of tools have been excluded. The terms in the thesaurus come from drafts of the IRLA proposals, some existing lists in rare book libraries, various reference works, and comments on drafts of the list by individuals at several institutions. Major drafts of the thesaurus were prepared by Anna Lou Ashby and John B. Thomas, III, based on early work by Alexandra Mason and Patrick Russell.
II. Purpose and Scope
Many rare book libraries, concerned with the study of the book, maintain local files recording examples of various physical characteristics of items found in their collections. These files are used to retrieve books by physical features rather than by intellectual content. Although such files are useful for selection of materials for exhibition, for class demonstration, and for cataloguing comparison, their primary use is to assist researchers interested in studying the physical characteristics of books as evidence for their production, distribution, or further history. Reflecting for the most part local rather than standard cataloguing practices, such files have often remained available only within individual libraries. Developed specifically for use in MARC field 655, the following thesaurus provides standard terms for the retrieval of binding evidence. Such standardization is a necessity for those institutions working in the context of shared, machine-readable cataloguing but may also prove beneficial to those maintaining in-house files.
This thesaurus consists of an alphabetical list of terms followed by a hierarchical arrangement of terms. Following ANSI standards (American National Standards Institute, American National Standard for Thesaurus Structure, Construction, and Use, New York, 1980), the terms are in plural natural language noun form whenever possible, and in direct order. Although all terms are specific, an attempt has been made to include both genus of evidence (e.g., Waste) and species and species (e.g., Manuscript waste, Printed waste) in a number of cases.
The alphabetical list contains authorized terms and cross-references. Scope notes follow terms thought to be obscure or ambiguous or which are to be used in a technical sense. Each term is followed by the references, if any, made to and from other terms in the thesaurus. Symbols used in these references are those which ANSI prescribes:
USE leads from unused synonyms and inverted forms of the terms to the term used;
UF (used for) is the reciprocal of the USE reference and accompanies the term to which the USE reference refers:
BT (broader term) refers from a term for a member of a class to the term for the class;
NT (narrower term) refers from a term for a class to the term for one of its members;
RT (related term) is used between related terms when it seems helpful to bring associated types of evidence to the user's attention.
In the present thesaurus, members of a class related to each other as narrower terms (NTs) under a common class (BT) are not related to each other as related terms (RTs.) Whenever a term for which there are narrower terms in the thesaurus appears under another term as either a narrower term (NT) or a related term (RT), it is followed by the symbol “>” to indicate that it is not the narrowest concept of its class. Users should consult the entry for terms so marked to identify narrower terms.
In keeping with ANSI standards, this thesaurus also includes a hierarchical section which displays graphically the relationships between broader and narrower terms. In order to bring together terms relating to the same aspect of the subject, the hierarchy contains several gathering terms (displayed within square brackets), which serve to arrange the hierarchical relationship; these terms are not authorized for use in field 655 and do not appear in the alphabetical list.
A binding is fundamentally a structure, whose materials and techniques of construction influence its appearance, while not excluding the further decorative elaboration of the result; indeed, the “style” of bindings has traditionally been the aspect of most interest to collectors. To reflect this situation, the hierarchical arrangement of binding terms is divided into groups which progress from description of the text block, type of binding structure and its parts, to materials and their treatment, categories and styles of bindings, and miscellaneous evidence about bindings. A number of the terms in the list can be regarded as describing either the material of the binding and its treatment, or, alternatively, the decorative style of the result, or the category or occasion of the binding. For example, “Mottled calf bindings” can be viewed as an example of material and treatment, or of style; “Printed boards” or “Pictorial cloth bindings”, while describing the material and its treatment, apply to categories of bindings produced by publishers. In all the instances where such ambiguity occurs, the hierarchy classifies the term under its material or functional aspect, which is not intended to preclude its use by those interested in the style of the binding or the occasion of its production. One term occurring in the alphabetical list is not found in the hierarchical display: the term “'Bookbinding” is provided for use with subdivisions to allow for identifications and classifications not provided by the terms in the present list.
In a MARC record, these terms are to be entered in subfield $a (“access term”) of field 655. Terms which do not appear in this or other thesauri approved for field 655 may not be used in this field. When used in a MARC record, a parenthetical qualifier must be added in $a following the term. The qualifier will aid users who may not see or know how to interpret the coding for
$2 (see below), and it also helps clarify terms which are ambiguous when taken out of context (e.g., “Washing” or “Silk ties). Terms from the present list receive the qualifier “(Binding)”even when the approved term itself ends with the word “bindings”. When the thesaurus term has a specific parenthetical qualifier, the general qualifier follows the specific qualifier within a separate set of parentheses.
Any term in this thesaurus may be subdivided by place ($z), period ($y), or other subdivision ($x), or by any combination of these subdivisions. Each library must determine its own scheme for chronological subdivision. Indirect subdivision, as outlined in LC's Cataloging Service Bulletin 120 (1977), p 9-11, is to be used subdividing by place. Libraries using other subdivisions ($x) should construct these subdivisions to conform as far as possible to LC-practice as defined in publications such as Library of Congress Subject Headings: A Guide to Subdivision Practice (Washington, 1981) or Cataloging Service Bulletin.
Each 655 field must close with a subfield $2 (“source of access term”). The Library of Congress has assigned the code “rbbin” to the present thesaurus. Therefore, 655 fields using
terms from the list of binding terms must close with “rbbin”.
Examples of the application of subdivided terms:
655 b7 Armorial bindings (Binding) $z France $y 18th century. $2 rbbin
655 b7 Centerpieces (Designs) (Binding) $z England $y 17th century. $2 rbbin
N.B.: Subfields $a (with qualifier) and $2 are mandatory, other subfields are optional.
Field 655 is repeatable; assign as many terms as appropriate and desirable to retrieve types of evidence in an item. For example, a binding described as 'Olive morocco over wooden boards, gold-tooled, inlays of light brown, dark brown, and reddish-brown morocco; black paint; remains of four pairs of braided clasps; edges gilt' (Paul Needham, Twelve Centuries of Bookbindings: 400-1600 (New York, 1979), no. 58) could have any or all of these 'Greek style bindings', 'Morocco bindings', 'Wooden boards', 'Gold tooled bindings', 'Inlays', 'Painted bindings' (or 'Painted leather bindings'), 'Clasps', and 'Gilt edges'.
Use of field 655 is voluntary. Some libraries may want to use the field only for several of the terms; other libraries may prefer to use none. In the case of those terms linked by a genus-species relationship, some libraries may wish to use only the broader term; other libraries may prefer to assign only the narrower terms when appropriate, saving the broader term for items not covered by any narrower terms in the thesaurus. The thesaurus of binding terms is designed to create special files in a library of any size, whether it has only a few unusual bindings that might be identified for teaching or exhibition purposes, or a large collection in which particular characteristics are kept track of systematically. A small file is more likely to consist of general terms, while a large one will probably contain many more specific terms, but these decisions should be based on the institution's needs.
Descriptions of bindings are for the most part copy-specific; even in the case of publishers' and edition bindings, variants often occur which frequently constitute the principal points of interest for those studying the bindings. Libraries doing original cataloguing should describe as desired the physical characteristics of their own copies; other libraries making later use of such cataloguing will need to evaluate the 655 entries for appropriateness to their own copies.
These terms are to be used in field 655 regardless of the appearance of the same information elsewhere in the record (such as in a subject heading or in a note), their primary purpose being to provide easy retrieval of examples of binding characteristics through a single source.
Most of the history and description of bookbinding has been published in the form of descriptions, usually with illustrations, of specific bindings or of the bindings in specific collections. Consequently, a thorough search of the literature entails the examination of many volumes of narrow scope. The following list of titles includes only a small group of works containing information of a general nature. The descriptions, illustrations, and bibliographies found in them serve as useful starting points from which to approach the questions of style, period, and technique.
Carter, John. ABC for Book Collectors.London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1952. Also available in many revised English and American editions.
Carter, John. Binding Variants in English Publishing, 1820-1900. London: Constable & Co.; New York: Ray Long & Richard R. Smith, 1932.
Diehl, Edith. Bookbinding: Its Background and Technique. New York: Rinehart & Company, 1946. 2 vols. Reprinted, New York: Dover Publications, 1980.
English Bindings 1490-1940 in the Library of J. R. Abbey.Ed. G. D. London: Privately printed at the Chiswick Press, 1940.
The History of Bookbinding, 525-1950 A.D. An exhibition held at the Baltimore Museum of Art November 12, 1957 to January 12, 1958. Ed. Dorothy Miner. Baltimore: The Art Gallery, 1957.
Middleton, Bernard C. A History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique.New York & London: Hafner Publishing Company, 1963. Supplemented 2nd ed., London: Holland Press, 1978.
Needham, Paul. Twelve Centuries of Bookbindings, 400-1600. New York: The Pierpont Morgan Library; London: Oxford University Press, 1979.
Nixon, Howard M. Broxbourne Library: Styles and Designs of Bookbindings from the Twelfth to the Twentieth Century. London: Published for the Broxbourne Library by Maggs Brothers, 1956.
Nixon, Howard M. Five Centuries of English Bookbinding.London: Scolar Press, 1978.
Roberts, Matt T., and Don Etherington. Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1982.
Sadleir, Michael. The Evolution of Publishers' Binding Styles, London: Constable & Co.; New York: Richard R. Smith, 1930.
The RBMS Standards Committee is responsible for the maintenance and revision of this thesaurus. It solicits suggestions for new terms, corrections, and alterations to terms, scope notes, and references. Any new term proposed should be accompanied by a scope note and references if appropriate. Any correspondence regarding this thesaurus should be addressed to
Chair, Standards Committee
Rare Books and Manuscripts Section
50 East Huron Street Chicago, IL 60611
Attention: Binding Terms
RBMS Standards Committee Members, 1985-1987
Anna Lou S. Ashby
Helen S. Butz
Dianne M. Chilmonczyk
Michele V. Cloonan
Alan N. Degutis
Jackie M. Dooley
Peter S. Graham
Rebecca R. Hayne
Paul S. Koda
Sara Shatford Layne
Elizabeth Betz Parker
Judith C. Singleton
Joseph A. Springer
John B. Thomas, III
Binding Evidence: A Thesaurus for Use in Rare Book and Special Collections Cataloguing
Prepared by the Bibliographic Standards Committee of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (ACRL/ALA)
Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 1988
The Library of Congress has assigned the following code to this thesaurus: rbbin
This code must be entered in $2 of USMARC bibliographic record 655 when terms from this thesaurus are used in that field.
Published by the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences--Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI z39.48-1984.
Illustration from Printing Types: An Introduction by Alexander S. Lawson. Copyright c1971 by Alexander S. Lawson. Reprinted by permission of Beacon Press.
Copyright c1988 by the American Library Association. All rights reserved except those which may be granted by sections 107 and 108 of the Copyright Revision Act of 1976.
Printed in the United States of America.
The cover illustration, by Jost Amman, is taken from the Pierpont Morgan Library’s copy of Hartmann Schopper’s Panoplia omnium illiberalium mechanicarum aut sedentiarium artium genera. Frankfurt, 1568 (PML 76069). We are grateful to the library for permission to reproduce it.
Some scope notes in this thesaurus are in the form of quotes. They have been taken from Paul Needham's Twelve centuries of bookbindings 400-1600. We are grateful to Mr. and to the publisher, the Pierpont Morgan Library, for permission to use these quotes.
We would also like to thank Paul Johnson and Bob Bassett, both of the University of Texas at Austin, for their help in editing this thesaurus and preparing it for the press.