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Chapter IV. Composing Folder Descriptions

- A. General Notes
- B. Basic Wording
- C. Punctuation and Style
      - 1. General Notes
      - 2. Diacritics
      - 3. Abbreviations
      - 4. Titles
            - a) General Notes
            - b) Capitalization of Foreign Titles
      - 5. Formatting/Punctuating Lists of Names/Titles in Folder Notes
      - 6. Processor Supplied Annotations
      - 7. Dates
            - a) Format
            - b) Dating of Undated Material
            - c) Some Basic Dating Examples
            - d) Julian and Gregorian Conversion
      - 8. Transliteration
      - 9. Cross-References
            - a) General Notes
            - b) Types of Cross-Reference/Inclusion Notes
- D. Names in Headings and Folder Descriptions
      - 1. General Guidelines
      - 2. Names as Headings
      - 3. List Specifics
            - a) Personal Names
            - b)Initials in Personal Names
            - c) Correspondence of Married Couples
            - d) Mc and Mac, St. and Saint
            - e) Nicknames
            - f) Family Relationships and Identical Names
            - g) Professional Titles
            - h) Titles of Nobility
            - i) Letters Signed by Secretaries or Others
            - j) Names of Married Women
            - k) Corporate Entries
                  - (1) Personal Names vs. Corporate Names
                  - (2) Filing Initials in Corporate Names
                  - (3) Editor and Publisher Names
            - l) Annotations and Postscripts by Others


For guidelines for determining the form of names to be used in Headings (tabs 16, 18, 20, and pseudoheadings at 22) see the section on names as headings.


Try to avoid repeating information present in the headings (@ tabs 16, 18, 20, and sometimes 22) in the folder contents description. For example, do not use:

                PERSONAL PAPERS

                        John Smith

1       1                       John Smith's birth certificate  1919 Sep 23

        2                       John Smith's marriage license   1942 May 4
Labeling on folders is not intended to substitute for the register. The text of label 3 (specific folder contents) should be concise and to the point. Keywords, names, or titles should appear first, to catch the eye and ensure that the text prints on the folder labels. On very rare occasions (e.g., Spinelli Archive), we will edit the label copy file before printing labels, to highlight keywords.

Do not write additional information on the folders themselves. If the information is important enough to record, include it in the register, incorporate it into the folder title, the Description of the Papers, or as a brief note appended to the folder title.

If  you list in a note everything that is in the folder, then use the word "contains" in the note.  If you are mentioning part of what is in the folder, then use the note "includes."

Use the following wording for notes describing enclosures or other related items not included in the folder title:

  • "With" for items that are clearly linked intellectually but are separate physical items, e.g. a letter that says "I am sending you two tickets to my lecture" and two tickets to a lecture by the sender.
  • "Accompanied by" for separate physical items found in an envelope together but which have no clear intellectual link, e.g. a letter about an appointment for Tuesday and a drawing of a cat.

No fixed wording is used for distinct bibliographic items that are physically incorporated into one, e.g. a three page letter from Mr. Smith to Mrs. Brown on page two of which is a transcription by Mr. Smith of a report by Mr. Jones. Compose a note that conveys the physical and intellectual relationship.

Your best guide to how specific types of material are listed is to review sample registers. General practice for most common materials is as follows:

  • Named Correspondent File: Last name, First name (using authorized AACR2 form or equivalent), followed by date/dates of the correspondence in the file(s), e.g., Lawrence, D. H. (However, if the authorized AACR2 form is deemed insufficient, use a fuller form, e.g., Maria Jolas, instead of the authorized form, "M. Jolas.") Use the information from the |a portion of the AACR2 form, not from the |q or |c portions.
  • Individually Foldered Texts of Writings: Title, form(s), followed by date/dates
  • NOTE: In some cases, you may need to specify the distinction between a text in a specific language, and the specific language or country's edition of a work (e.g., English language version versus the British or American or Australian edition of a work).
  • Other: Supplied, transcribed, or abbreviated title, followed by form information (if needed for clarity), followed by date/dates

Consult the Microcomputer Manual for Registers for additional guidance in formulating and formatting folder descriptions.

IV.C.1. General Notes

The first word in each folder title is capitalized.

Except as described below, a folder title does not get end punctuation. See example in sample finding aid.

Use closing punctuation only when it is part of the actual description of the folder contents. See example in sample finding aid. The same rule applies for notes @ 22, 24 and 26: no closing punctuation except if included in a text being transcribed.

IV.C.2. Diacritics

Include proper use of diacritics to the extent allowed by the current keyboard capabilities.

IV.C.3. Abbreviations

Use generally accepted descriptive conventions. (See Appendix A for abbreviations used; consult AACR2 (revised) appendices of abbreviations for those not listed in the Processing Manual appendix.)

IV.C.4. Titles

IV.C.4.a)General Notes

We follow The Chicago Manual of Style's (7.129 - 7.154) rules for punctuating titles except for the use of italics, which at present are not part of our printing capacity. If the CMS rule is to put a title in italics, underline it instead. In general, underline titles of:

  • Books
  • Operas
  • Long poems published separately
  • Pamphlets
  • Movies
  • Periodicals
  • Newspapers
  • Plays
  • Sections of newspapers published separately (The New York Times Book Review)
For plays, transcribe only bibliographically significant subtitles. For example,


The Orange Tree: Life Under the Sun
The Orange Tree: A Play in 3 Acts
Use quotation marks around titles of:
  • Articles and features in periodicals and newspapers
  • Chapter titles
  • Essays Short poems Short stories
  • Television and radio programs
  • Manuscripts of completed, unpublished writings of all kinds (i.e., books, articles, etc.)

When describing a work in the hand of an author, prefer the use of the term "holograph," but do not go so far as to abandon the use of standard abbreviations such as ALS, ADS, etc. If an item is not known or reasonably assumed to be in the hand of the author, use the term "manuscript" instead of "holograph."

IV.C.4.b)Capitalization of Foreign Titles

Follow the convention of the language of the work. Rules for capitalization can be found in Appendix A of AACR2.

Simple reminders:

  • In English: capitalize all significant words
  • Five Months in the Argentine, from a Woman's Point of View
  • In French: lower case all but proper names
  • "L'émigration espagnole au Mexique"
  • In German: capitalize all nouns
  • Die Affirmation des Chaos: zur Uberwindung des Nihilismus in der Metaphysik Friedrich Nietzsches
  • In Italian: lower case all but proper names
  • La commedia: raffermata nel testo giusta la ragione e l'arte dell'autore da Giambattista Giuliani
  • In Russian: lower case all but proper names
  • "Kliuch" k Gogoliu: opyt khudozhestvennogo chteniia
  • In Spanish: lower case all but proper names
  • Los caballeros de la Casa Rosada
IV.C.5. Formatting/Punctuating Lists of Names/Titles in Folder Notes

List and punctuate a run of names separated by semi-colons. See example in sample finding aid.

Do not put blank lines between "See" references. Do include the box and folder numbers for each "See" reference. See example in sample finding aid.

Note that the "See" is repeated for every instance.

IV.C.6. Processor Supplied Annotations

Information that is used to identify an item in a folder title (such as names, dates taken from the envelopes, etc.) that isn't present in the material itself and is supplied by the processor or derived from the donor or provenance files, should be enclosed in square brackets, e.g., [1861 Dec 14]

If you also record the information on the original item, print it in the upper righthand corner of the first page of the document; use soft lead pencil (# 2 or higher), being careful not to obliterate or deface any writing or graphic on the original.

If there is lingering uncertainty about the information supplied, include a "?", e.g., [Otis, Harrison Gray?]

Uncertainty about the spelling of a name or the lack of a positive identification of a date should be treated in the same way.

IV.C.7. Dates

IV.C.7.a) Format

Date format depends on the quantity of dates involved. Dates may consist of no more than 16 characters (spaces 63-78). If date information is longer than 16 characters, use a truncated form in the folder title and give full information in a note.

For single items, list whatever you have as to year, month, and day, in that order. See example in sample finding aid.

If you do not have a year and are not supplying one, use n.y. followed by the month and day. See example in sample finding aid.

For 2 or more letters of the same year, indicate the year only. See example in sample finding aid.

NOTE: Among folders for a given year, place those with the most complete date information first.
For items or groups from two consecutive years, list the range of years. See example in sample finding aid.

For items or groups from two non-consecutive years, list each year, separated by a comma. See example in sample finding aid.

For 3 or more items from two or more years (consecutive or otherwise), record the inclusive span of years. See example in sample finding aid.

NOTE: For a span of dates within a century, omit the first two digits in the second year, but include both years in full when crossing centuries. See example in sample finding aid.
Significant gaps in a date span can be explained or otherwise noted in a folder note or in the Description of the Papers, as appropriate. In the folder list, do not use more than one span. See example in sample finding aid.

When undated material is present in a folder with dated material, it is listed as the last element in a date string. See example in sample finding aid.

NOTE: For foldering conventions for dated/undated correspondence, etc., see Chapter V.
Uncertain dates or portions of dates should appear in square brackets. See example in sample finding aid.

Abbreviate the months as follows:
Jan  Feb  Mar  Apr  May  Jun
Jul Aug  Sep  Oct  Nov Dec

NOTE: There is no closing punctuation for abbreviations of months.
For additional examples of date formats, especially for uncertain dates, consult Hensen's Archives, Personal Papers, and Manuscripts (section 1.1B5. Date).

IV.C.7.b)Dating of Undated Material

We do not attempt to date precisely all undated material, although we do try to provide approximate year(s), based on direct internal evidence. Much depends on the nature of the collection, and on how much information is readily at hand. Treat any dates supplied in this manner as uncertain, and list accordingly with a "?" (e.g., Diary [1843?]).

To be safe, err on the side of not supplying or assuming more precise dating. Supply dates only when you're certain, or when supplying a likely date or range of dates is necessary to provide a reasonable degree of access to the item. When supplying dates, include a question mark if some uncertainty remains, and always enclose supplied information (except for n.d.) in [ ].

IV.C.7.c)Some Basic Dating Examples

  • [1922 May 7?] pretty certain of date
  • [pre-1910] definite but cannot be more specific
  • [pre-1910 Jul 5] definite but cannot be more specific
  • [aft. 1910 Jul] definite but cannot be more specific
  • [ca. 1912-14] pretty certain of range
  • [1842] year only certain; no further info
  • [1793 Aug 12] precise date known
  • n.d. no date on item; none supplied

Unless you're really sure of a supplied date, use n.d. to avoid implying more certainty than you could justify if you had to. Precise dating in many aspects of literary and historical studies can be very important, and an incorrect or uncertain date can do more harm than simply providing no date at all. (For further information, see the section on dating undated material in Chapter VII.)

IV.C.7.d)Julian and Gregorian Conversion

To convert Julian and Gregorian calendar dates, see:

IV.C.8. Transliteration

We use the ALA-LC Romanization Tables for items that require transliteration of non-Roman alphabets (copy in Technical Services reference area).

If a significant amount of transliteration is used in a finding aid, it should be mentioned in the Processing Notes in the Administrative Information section of the front matter, e.g., "Slavic names, titles, and quotations in their original languages have been transliterated in accordance with Library of Congress guidelines."

IV.C.9. Cross-References

IV.C.9.a)General Notes

No general rule for cross-referencing applies in every case. The kind and quantity of material and the nature of the activities that generated the documentation must be considered in each instance. Make only those cross-references that are absolutely necessary. The simplest arrangement is usually best.

"See" and "See also" cross-references occur only in the finding aid; do not also insert dummy folders in the box.

As with standard library practice, a See reference links an access point not used (i.e., there is nothing in the box at that point) to an access point used (usually names, sometimes titles), and where the relevant material will be found. There should be one blank line between the folder title and the cross-reference or note.

IV.C.9.b)Types of Cross-Reference/Inclusion Notes

"See" references point to material located elsewhere. See example in sample finding aid.

"See also" references provide a link from listed material to other closely related material located elsewhere in the collection. See example in sample finding aid.

For personal names, cross-references are printed in normal word order, instead of the usual last name first. See example in sample finding aid.

When the cross-reference refers to another item within the same series, reference the specific name or title, in addition to the box and folder number. See example in sample finding aid.

If the cross-reference is to an item in another series, reference the series number, series name (which should be underlined), folder title, and box and folder numbers. See example in sample finding aid.

If the cross-reference is to an item that is stored in Oversize, do not include the Box and Folder numbers, since the pointer should be to the description in the regular folder list. Instead, give only the folder title. When the finding aid is tagged in HTML and SGML, the link will have to be made manually to the regular folder list, because there is no folder number to serve as the link.

In some cases you will need to be more specific about the particular item to which you are referring. For instance, in the case of enclosures that are filed in correspondence series, you may want to direct the researcher to a specific file. This would only be necessary in cases where a more general cross-reference would result in a researcher thumbing through numerous folders to find the enclosure. See example in sample finding aid.


IV.D.1. General Guidelines

Personal and corporate names in folder titles in Correspondence series and whenever used as Headings (@ 16, 18, 20, or 22) generally are formulated according to AACR2 (Ch. 22-24). This guarantees a reasonable measure of consistency between catalog record name tracings and finding aids, and facilitates name searches across finding aids. However, in the case of a newspaper or journal title that is used as a corporate name, the article should remain in the title used on the folder, even though the article is not shown in the authority file in Orbis (e.g., The New York Times or Der Sturm). If two corporate names are the same, you can distinguish between them by putting the place for each corporation in parentheses.

In the case of French names that contain prepositions (e.g., Alfred de Musset), AACR2 requires filing the name under the part of the name that follows the preposition (e.g., "Musset").  However, when referring to such a person in the front matter, include the preposition for names of one syllable (e.g., de Goy) or names that begin with a vowel (e.g., d’Alembert).  Multisyllabic names stand alone (e.g., Vilmorin).

Otherwise, names used in folder titles (@ 22 and 24) and notes (@24 and 26) may be recorded as found in the document(s) being described. If you're supplying the name, however, rather than transcribing the name as it appears in a title of the document in the file, use a form of the name that is consistent with the name as it appears as an access point (i.e., heading or correspondent) if it appears elsewhere in the box and folder list. When using a name in a note, abbreviate the name with initials if it is used frequently in the finding aid (e.g., "VS" would be used in a note in the Victor Serge Papers).

To identify an authorized form of a name, you must at the very least check the Yale and LC authority files (in Orbis). If an authority record is not found, use an AACR2 form of the name as found in the Orbis headings file. For names not present in LC or Orbis, do additional background work (e.g., checking RLIN) to establish the name fully only if the individual or corporate entity warrants the additional effort. Otherwise, establish the name with the information you have in hand, using the fullest form possible when the name appears in various forms in the collection.

If variant forms of a name appear in a collection and clarification is required, record this information in a headings note, below the authorized form in the box and folder list. Clarification of name usage on a more general scale should be treated in the Description of the Papers. For example, in a collection that contained many Spanish-language documents, with titles that included the variants "Tejas" and "Texas," and "Gefe" and "Jefe," a note was included in the front matter to alert researchers to the need to search under both spellings.

Where required, report alternative forms of names in headings to the Cataloging Coordinator in the Manuscript Unit, so that Orbis authority records can be updated or created to maintain the integrity of the OPAC headings file and to validate our use of a particular form of a name as a name tracing in the catalog record for the collection.

Keeping this general approach in mind, here are some guidelines that reflect aspects of name authority control and names as access points that occur frequently in describing Beinecke's manuscript collections. For further information on these topics and discussion of circumstances not touched on here, consult the appropriate chapters on establishing names in AACR2.

IV.D.2. Names as Headings

When using a name as a heading, the name should be in direct order.

IV.D.3. List Specifics

IV.D.3.a) Personal Names

A person who is bibliographically established or is otherwise "known" by a particular name, whether a maiden name, a pen name, or a former married name, is listed under that "known" name.

  • Buffalo Bill
  • not: William F. Cody
  • Eliot, George
  • not: Mary Ann Cross
  • H. D.
  • not: Hilda Doolittle
  • Stokes, Rose Pastor
  • not: Mrs. Victor J. Jerome
IV.D.3.b) Initials in Personal Names

If a personal name contains initials, put a blank space between the initials (e.g., Lawrence, D. H.). However, a corporate name with initials does not contain a blank space between the initials (e.g., H.P. Kraus).

IV.D.3.c)Correspondence of Married Couples

Letters jointly addressed to or written by both husband and wife should be filed under the name of the person of primary interest in the collection. If both are important, then file under one name and list the second below. Make the appropriate "See" cross-reference if both individuals cannot be accommodated in alphabetical sequence in a single list. See example in sample finding aid.

IV.D.3.d)Mc and Mac, St. and Saint

Names beginning with M,' Mac, and Mc (e.g., McLaughlin) are filed alphabetically under Mac; names beginning with "St." (e.g., Louis Stephen St. Laurent) are filed alphabetically under Saint. However, the names are typed in the finding aid according to their authority heading (e.g., St. Faith's House, or McLaughlin). For questions on form and punctuation, consult The Chicago Manual of Style.


Use common sense. It is not necessary to note that "Bill" is a nickname for William. Less common nicknames, however, that appear routinely in the documentation, especially those used among members of a family and among close personal friends, and therefore are significant access points, should be noted in the Description of the Papers, the box and folder list, family charts in the biographical sketch, and/or the appendices. Cross references in the box and folder list should only be made to access significant variant forms of the name.

IV.D.3.f)Family Relationships and Identical Names

Family relationships may be delineated whenever confusion is likely to occur, by indicating the nature of the relationship along with the name. See example in sample finding aid.

In cases in which two persons have identical names, include birth and death dates to distinguish between them. Always file the senior person first. See example in sample finding aid.

In cases in which two persons have identical names, and you do not have birth and death dates, include place names to distinguish between them. See example in sample finding aid.

IV.D.3.g)Professional Titles

Professional titles (e.g., Dr., Ph.D., Captain) need not always be included in folder descriptions, although at times their use may help to identify an individual: e.g., Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935, the Supreme Court Justice) vs his father, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894, the physician and American author). Obviously, if the individual is best known by the title (e.g., Captain Kangaroo), then it should be used.

IV.D.3.h)Titles of Nobility

For rules on the capitalization of titles of royalty and nobility, follow AACR2 (Appendix A.13 E1), not The Chicago Manual of Style.

Establishing names of nobility is problematic, particularly in the Osborn Collection (where this occurs most frequently), because the scholarly known form of the name rarely corresponds to the AACR2 form, and the scholarly forms are well established in the literature of the field. For the present, we've opted to go with the non-AACR2 form for registers, and use the AACR2 form in MARC AMC records. Eventually, this matter will have to be taken up via a thorough review of the status of authority records in Orbis for these names to determine whether this practice really presents any serious access problems and to identify what further action is required to resolve conflicts.

IV.D.3.i)Letters Signed by Secretaries or Others

If the collection contains letters signed by a correspondent's secretary or other assistant, the letter should be filed under the principal's name or under the parent corporate name. (See the section on personal names vs. corporate names.) If the principal is prominent, include a note stating that the letter is not signed by the individual if the letter would have particular autograph value above and beyond its association value or subject content. Obvious cases are U.S. Presidents, Signers of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, foreign heads of state, and other prominent historical figures. See example in sample finding aid.

IV.D.3.j)Names of Married Women

The correspondence of a married woman (even the letters she received before she was married) is filed under the authorized form of her name (i.e., her married name, assuming an alternative bibliographical form hasn't already been established). Where the maiden name functions as a middle name, as in Ellen Rice Wilbur, where Rice is Ellen's maiden name, the maiden name is not placed in parentheses. Cross-referencing from the maiden name to the married name usually isn't necessary and should be avoided unless deemed essential. See example in sample finding aid.

A note (née Rice) below the name heading might also be used if some form of linkage is deemed desirable.

IV.D.3.k)Corporate Entries

IV.D.3.k)(1) Personal Names vs. Corporate Names

How we handle corporate names, particularly for listing and filing purposes, depends on the particular properties of each collection. How much information should be included in the register for access purposes? How can this information be best accommodated so as to create efficiencies in register production and access? Several options are open to us.

A recurring question is whether to file correspondence under the author's name or under a corporate name (institution, company, organization, etc.) with which the individual may have been affiliated. For clerks, secretaries, and other routine functionaries, entry under the corporate entity is sufficient. Known individuals require special consideration.

Purely personal letters, even if written on corporate letterhead, should be filed under the personal name, not the corporate name. But if the individual is writing in an official capacity, file the letters under the corporate name. Cross reference (See or See also, as appropriate) from the personal name to the corporate entry if the author is prominent in his/her own right. See example in sample finding aid. Under the corporate entry, make a note to show that there are letters by the author who has been cross-referenced. See example in sample finding aid.

IV.D.3.k)(2) Filing Initials in Corporate Names

File in direct order, and do not put a blank space between initials (e.g., H.P. Kraus, NOT Kraus, H.P.). In contrast, in the case of personal names, do put a blank space between initials (e.g., Lawrence, D. H.).

IV.D.3.k)(3) Editor and Publisher Names

Correspondence with an unidentified or little-known editor or publisher usually can be filed under the name of the publication or publishing house along with other materials (e.g., royalty statements, publication notices, etc.). If an individual is notable in his/her own right, make a cross-reference from his/her name to the corporate entry, or append a note to the corporate entry regarding those individuals represented in the file. See example in sample finding aid.

Use the AACR2 form of the editor or publisher's name. However, if the material in your collection uses an older version of the name that is not contained in AACR2, then use that alternative name and report it to theCataloging Coordinator so that the Orbis authority record can be updated.

IV.D.3.l)Annotations and Postscripts by Others

Postscripts or additional notes and annotations written by known individuals other than the principal correspondent, whether accompanying or appearing on the letter, should be noted in a folder note.

Additional signatures without accompanying comment should be noted only if they are significant within the context of the particular collection, or are by persons who are otherwise prominent, thereby giving the item autograph value above and beyond its association with the collection.

Comments: Karen Spicher,
Copyright 1997. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
All rights reserved.