Data Format
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Publication Details Field

The publication details field in the Item Record (and sometimes the Book Record) exists in two distinct formats:

Although the new format was agreed some decades ago it was only implemented in the v2 index programs so it is translated to the old format in many of the programs. Note that the new format is only used for magazine issues while the old format is used for both books and magazines.

Note that, while the following sections differentiate between "books" and "magazines" there are cases a given item is regarded as both (e.g. the issues of New Worlds after #201, apart for #212-216, were published as paperback anthologies, but continued the issue numbering of the magazine and are usually regarded as part of the same sequence). As such, it is perfectly legal for "book" abbreviations to be used in magazine files and for "magazine" abbreviations to be used in book files. What is critical is that each individual item should have a unique set of publication details associated with it - whether this should use a book or magazine abbreviation can be considered on a case by case basis.

Old Format of Publication Details

The "old" format of the publication details field was primarily concerned with how the data was displayed by the v1 index programs than with what the data actually "means" and fundamentally consists of a "formatted" part which has a defined form followed by free form "notes" which are simply displayed following simply display rules (discussed below). Despite that, a certain degree of formalism can be applied to the whole field based on current usage (and on the way in which the new format is translated by the conversion program).

Simple Cases

This complexity only really applies when considering original publication in a magazine, so it is worth first documenting the simple, non-magazine, cases:

In addition, a special Internal ID may be specified for use with cross-reference records - this must start with a '$' followed by up to 11 alphanumeric characters, at least one of which must be non-numeric (e.g. $AHPBkDz or $15ShSurSt). These are never interpreted by the programs - simple used for links - and must simply be unique within the database as a whole. Note that the v2 indexing program uses Internal Ids comprising a '$' followed by a string of digits for books without formal book abbreviations.

Formatted Section for Magazine

For magazines the formatted part of the field is either 12 or 15 characters in length depending on whether the magazine has a 3-character or 5-character abbreviation - the latter being prefixed by a "+" character when used. In all cases the first 4 characters (YYYY) are the year which may be omitted completely (if not known) or padding with question marks on the right (as above) if only the decade or century is known. For simplicity this section will refer to the abbreviation as XXX but it should be borne in mind that this might be 3 or 6 digits in width. There are then four basic formats depending on whether the magazine is specified by date, by volume/issue, by whole number or as an annual and two special cases used for approximate dates and for differentiating multiple issues where only the year is known:

The fields above which are fewer than 12 characters in length (or 15 with a 5-character abbreviation) can be truncated if there is nothing specified in the unformatted section but must be padded with space characters to 12 characters if there is such that the unformatted section (also known as notes) always starts at the 13th (or 16th) character.

Unformatted Section (Notes) for Magazine

By default the fields in the formatted part of the field are converted into a date (e.g. May 29 1937) and anything in the unformatted section is inserted between the month/day and the year, making it easy to handle the simpler forms of complex date such as May/Jun 1937. However, this can be changed by inserting a "%" character into the notes which will result in everything before the "%" being inserted between the month/day and the year and everything after the "%" being added after the year. If the "%" character is the first character in the notes section then the remaining text is added after the year and, in this case only, a "(" may be used instead of the "%" (for backwards compatibility).

The one exception to this is when specifying that an item originally appeared as a multi-part sequence (designated by appending "+n" to the field). If this is the only data in this section (i.e. the "+" immediately follows the formatted part of the field) then it may be specified simply as "+n" and will be displayed as "␢(+n)" after the year field. However, if anything else is included in this section, the full "␢(+n)" must be specified explicitly. Note that, in US files only, if the number of parts is 9 or fewer, and the final two characters in the formatted section are both spaces, then the "+n" might be moved two spaces to the left into the formatted section of the file; this anomaly is corrected in UK versions of the files.

While there are no official "rules" for the way the data is formatted in this section, the most common examples are shown below.

New Format of Publication Details

The new format for publication details is only currently used in UK files, and is based around a date/issue construct of the form:



Note that any of the fields may be specified in normal brackets () if the associated field is for informational purposes and is not to be displayed. Note also that the issue number may contain a period for decimals (e.g. #1.5) or a trigraph for a fraction (e.g. #12^12).

The year must be the first field (and may be omitted if not known) but the other fields may be specified in any order (being identified by the first character) and may be truncated to the right if not specified. Thus, for instance, Interzone #97, July 1995 can be indicated as either:

1995|Jul|#97 or 1995|#97|Jul

If we indicate this basic construct as <date|issue> then the first rule (created from a sort of BNF approach) is that a <date|issue> construct may also be created from <date|issue>/<date|issue>. This covers the case where a single issues carries multiple issue numbers, months, years or whatever. Thus, as an extreme case (such as SF Commentary used to be), we could imagine an issue of a magazine that was defined as #112/113/114, Dec 1995/Jan 1996 which would be coded as:


where the presence of '/' uniquely identifies this usage.

Given this basic entity, a story source would be one of the following:

with the special characters '+', '-' and '&' identifying each case. Note the enclosing '|' characters to delimit (and identify) the field extent.

In addition, any of the above forms may have |qualifier| appended to them to indicate that the associated qualifier should be appended to the details when printed (typically in brackets). The most common values for this field are:

Note that the new format is only intended for use to support formats that the old format did not support and/or to provide a more structured format to replace the unformatted/notes section of the old format. As such, some of the "simple cases" described under the old format have no equivalent in the new format as there is no advantage in coding them any other way.


Note that in all the examples below, to avoid repetition:

and the entry in the "Description" column simply represents the date and version information of the issue we are trying to encode.

Description New Format Old Format
ABC [March 1945] |ABC|1945|Mar| or 1945ABCMar 1945ABCMar
ABC [v22 #4, March 1945] |ABC|1945|Mar|(v22:4)| 1945ABCMar
PQR [v22 #4, March 1945] |PQR|1945|(Mar)|v22:4| 1945PQRv22␢4
PQR [v222 #44, March 1945] |PQR|1945|(Mar)|v222:44| 1945PQR22244
PQR [v22 #456, March 1945] |PQR|1945|(Mar)|v22:456| 1945ABCv22␢␢␢#456
PQR [v222 #456, March 1945] |PQR|1945|(Mar)|v222:456| 1945ABC␢␢␢␢␢␢v222␢#456
PQR [v222, March 1945] |PQR|1945|(Mar)|v222| 1945ABC␢␢␢␢␢␢v222
VwxYz [#45, January 1999] |VwxYz|1999|Jan|#45| 1999+VwxYz#45
VwxYz [#456, January 1999] |VwxYz|1999|Jan|#456| 1999+VwxYz#456
VwxYz [#4567, January 1999] |VwxYz|1999|Jan|#4567| 1999+VwxYz␢␢␢␢␢␢#4567
VwxYz [#4.5, January 1999] |VwxYz|1999|Jan|#4.5| 1999+VwxYz#␢4␢␢.5
VwxYz [#12^12, January 1999] |VwxYz|1999|Jan|#12^12| 1999+VwxYz#12␢␢^12
AbcDe [March/April 1953] |AbcDe|1953|Mar/|Apr| 1953+AbcDeMar␢␢/Apr
VWX [#45/46, January/February 1945] |VWX|1945|Jan|#45/|Feb|#46| 1945+VWX#45␢␢/46
ABC [March 13/20, 1917] |ABC|1917|Mar13/|Mar20| 1917ABCMar13/20
ABC [March 30/April 6 1966] |ABC|1966|Mar30/|Apr 6| 1966ABCMar30/Apr␢6
ABC [Winter 1945/1946] |ABC|1945|Win/1946| 1945ABCWin␢␢%/'46
ABC [December 1945/January 1946] |ABC|1945|Dec/1946|Jan| 1945ABCDec␢␢%/Jan '46
ABC [Poison Quill Edition, 1997] |WWilM|1997|%Poison Quill Edition| 1997ABC␢␢␢␢␢␢Poison Quill Edition
ABC [v18 #4, September 10, 1914]
where multiple issues with this date exist
|ABC|1914|Sep10|%(v18 #4)| 1914ABCSep10%␢(v18 #4)
ABC [Supplement, Oct/Nov 1936] |ABC|1936|Oct|%(supplement)/|Nov| 1936ABCOct␢␢/Nov%␢(supplement)
Serial in ABC [March 1943] and next 3 issues |ABC|1943|Mar+3| 1943ABCMar+3 (US files) or 1943ABCMar␢␢+3 (UK files)
Serial in ABC [March 19, 1943] and next 20 issues |ABC|1943|Mar19+20| 1943ABCMar19+20
Serial in AbcDe [March/April 1953] and next 4 issues |AbcDe|1953|Mar/|Apr+4| 1953+AbcDeMar␢␢/Apr%␢(+4)
Serial in ABC [March 1943], [April 1943] & [May 1943] |ABC|1943|Mar&1943|Apr&1943|May| 1943ABCMar␢␢+2
VwxYz [#11, 1953 (variant 1)] |VwxYz|1953|#11||(var.1)| 1953+VwxYz#11␢␢%␢(var.1)
ABC [v8 #1, December 1937/January 1938 (unpublished)] |ABC|1937|(v8:1)|Jan/1938|Feb||(unpublished)| 1937ABCDec␢␢%/Jan␢'38␢(unpublished)
Serial in ABC from May 30 1896 to Jun 11 1896 |ABC|1896|May30-|Jun11| 1896ABCMay30-Jun␢11
Serial in ABC from Dec 12 1907 to Mar 3, 1908 |ABC|1907|Dec12-1908|Mar 3| 1907ABCDec12%-Mar␢3␢1908
PqrSt [v123 #9/10, Whole No. 1213/1214, Mar/Apr 2008]