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DATE: May 29, 2020

NAME: Recording the Type of Binding for Manifestations in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format

SOURCE: MARC/RDA Working Group

SUMMARY: This paper discusses RDA’s controlled list of values for "type of binding" and how to code this data in the MARC Bibliographic format.

KEYWORDS: Type of Binding (BD); Vocabulary Encoding Schemes (BD); RDA Toolkit Restructure and Redesign Project; RDA


05/29/20 – Made available to the MARC community for discussion.

07/02/20 – Results of MARC Advisory Committee discussion: MAC reached a consensus that field 340 $l represents a reasonable location for recording type of binding information as a structured description. The new RDA vocabulary for type of binding may undergo further development in the light of comments regarding its current list of terms. The paper will return as a proposal.

Discussion Paper No. 2020-DP17: Recording the Type of Binding for Manifestations


The RDA Toolkit Restructure and Redesign Project (3R) has introduced a new Manifestation level element "type of binding" to the RDA element set. Type of binding is defined as:

"A method used to bind a published or unpublished manifestation."

Information about binding can already be recorded in various parts of the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format. For instance, it can occur in subfield $q (Qualifying information) after the ISBN in the 020 field (International Standard Book Number). Likewise, it is aligned to field 024 (Other Standard Identifier) subfield $q and 027 (Standard Technical Report Number) subfield $q. In these contexts the subfield $q represents an unstructured qualifier to the relevant standard number. Recording a type of binding can also be done using field 563 (Binding Information) subfield $a. Again, in this context data may be recorded using an unstructured form of note.

Although it is possible to express a type of binding using an unstructured (i.e. free text) approach in MARC 21, the new RDA also allows this element to be recorded in a variety of other ways. These in turn offer the potential of enhanced functionality in a catalog search and collection management context. For example, recording RDA’s controlled terms for type of binding could be used to provide a more structured means of indexing and faceting binding information for library users. Likewise, these terms could be used to simplify the process of making resource selection, shelving, and preservation decisions at the collection level. In addition, since these controlled terms for type of binding are all associated with corresponding RDA Registry URIs, this element’s vocabulary could also be used to support linked data applications. In order to exploit the full potential offered by the RDA "type of binding" element, this paper recommends that new encoding is specified to carry it in the MARC Bibliographic format.


The new RDA element "type of binding" is associated with its own vocabulary encoding scheme as set out below:

closed ring
open ring


These categories of binding may already be expressed in the MARC Bibliographic format in an unstructured way; however the existing provision is limited in various regards. Hence, although 020, 024 and 027 $q offer the means to record binding information, this subfield is also used for other purposes; its broad scope is defined as follows:

$q - Qualifying information
A brief statement of qualifying information concerning the item associated with a number being recorded in subfield $a or subfield $z.

 The following examples demonstrate a range of applications unrelated to binding:

020 ##$a9780060723804$qacid-free paper 

020 ##$a9780060799748$qtrade

020 ##$a0717941728$qfolded$c$0.45

Indeed, even when binding information is recorded, the notation used is subject to variation as the following examples demonstrate:

020 ##$a0394170660$qRandom House$qpaperback$c$4.95

020 ##$a0835200019$qpbk.$c$2.95

The generalized and uncontrolled nature of 020, 024 and 027 $q content means that it is ill adapted for supporting more than the most rudimentary search functionality. The alternative means of recording binding information in MARC are also limited. Although field 563 is simply labeled "Binding Information", its definition and scope indicate that its principal usage is constrained:

Field 563 Definition and Scope:
Binding information intended primarily for use with antiquarian materials, rare books and other special collections.
It is not intended for serials bound together after publication for shelving and storage purposes.

Furthermore, like 020, 024 and 027 $q, the 563 field is designed to carry an unstructured note, rather than controlled term. The following examples demonstrate this:

563 ##$aLate 16th century blind-tooled centrepiece binding,dark brown calf.$5StEdNL 

563 ##$aGold-tooled morocco binding by Benjamin West, ca. 1840.$5Uk

It is also notable that field 563 may be used to record a Uniform Resource Identifier in subfield $u. However, as the definition of $u indicates, this is for purposes of referencing an electronic item rather than a vocabulary encoding scheme for a controlled term:

$u - Uniform Resource Identifier
Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), for example a URL or URN, which provides electronic access data in a standard syntax. This data may be used for automated access to an electronic item using one of the Internet protocols.

In addition, a significant consideration as regards the application of field 563 is that early printed books were often originally sold without any binding attached to them in the first instance. A binding might have been subsequently added by the owner of the item and so different items exemplifying the same manifestation may carry different bindings as a result. Under these circumstances the RDA element "type of binding" would be out of scope because it is expressed as a manifestation attribute; a separate RDA element "binding of item" could be used to express this concept as a relationship instead.

As described above, the existing coding in MARC fields 020, 024, 027 and 563 offers limited, unstructured means to record type of binding information.  In the case of field 020, its application in relation to binding type can also be ambiguous. If, for example, a resource description carries subfield $q qualifiers for both hardback and paperback binding, then this raises the question of which binding relates to the physical details recorded in field 300 (Physical Description). The dimensions, font size and other physical characteristics of a manifestation may vary according to the binding which accompanies it. Going forward, it would be desirable to express type of binding in an unambiguous way which relates the value recorded to other aspects of physical description expressed in the same bibliographic record.

Bibliographic Field 340

Field 340 offers the potential to record the type of binding in a more structured and unambiguous way than those fields listed above; it also allows for the recording of URIs. Field 340 (Physical Medium) is already used to express a wide variety of manifestation entity level RDA vocabularies in MARC. These include the vocabularies for production method, generation, layout, font size and polarity. A full list of existing 340 subfields is given below, followed by the field’s definition and scope:

Field Definition and Scope:
Physical description information for an item that requires technical equipment for its use, and/or more granular description information of an item's material properties to facilitate access and discovery or to support collection management.
Coded physical information is contained in field 007 (Physical Description Fixed Field). The field is repeated for each subfield $3 (Materials specified).

As indicated by its definition and scope, field 340 allows for the description of a resource’s physical attributes in a focused way as a means of supporting discovery, access and management information functions. The inclusion of subfield $2 (Source) in its list of subfields means that it is optimized for recording terms from a controlled vocabulary. Likewise, the presence of subfields $0 and $1 mean that it can also be used to carry URIs associated with those terms.


It is proposed to add another subfield to Bibliographic field 340 to carry type of binding information. This would be to record a structured description using the RDA vocabulary encoding scheme.

In field 340 of the Bibliographic format, define $l as follows:

$l – Type of binding (NR)
A method used to bind a published or unpublished manifestation.


The following examples present two illustrations of type of binding in field 340 $l. The subfield $2 code "rdatb" is modelled on the anticipated curie for RDA Registry URIs associated with the vocabulary encoding scheme for type of binding.

For purposes of brevity the examples do not include notes or subject headings. These would offer no additional value in terms of contextual information.

Example 1

LDR  02008cam a2200529 i 4500
001  000053420970
005  20180603070150.0
008  140918t20152015vraa\\\j\\\\\\000\1\eng\d
020  \\ $a9780143506973
035  \\ $a(OCoLC)891423103
040  \\ $aANL$beng$erda$dANL
042  \\ $aanuc
082  04 $aA823.3$223
100  1\ $aBase, Graeme,$d1958-,$eauthor.
245  10 $aUno's garden counting book /$cGraeme Base.
264  \1 $a[Melbourne, Victoria] :$bPenguin Group Australia,$c2015.
264  \4 $c©2015.
300  \\ $a1 volume of unnumbered pages :$bcolour illustrations ;$c24 x 24 cm.
336  \\ $astill image$bsti$2rdacontent
336  \\ $atext$btxt$2rdacontent
337  \\ $aunmediated$bn$2rdamedia
338  \\ $avolume$bnc$2rdacarrier
340  \\ $lpaperback$2rdatb

Example 2

LDR  01523cam a2200385 a 4500
001  000049791353
005  20150720142846.0
008  080901s2008\\\\vraa\\\br\\\\\000\1\eng\d
020  \\ $a9780670072019 (hbk.)
035  \\ $a(OCoLC)807467948
040  \\ $aVWMR$cANL$dNJB
042  \\ $aanuc
082  04 $aA823.4$222
100  1\ $aBase, Graeme,$d1958-
245  10 $aEnigma :$ba magical mystery /$cGraeme Base.
260  \\ $aMelbourne :$bPenguin/Viking,$c2008.
300  \\ $a36 p. :$bcol. ill. ;$c32 cm.
340  \\ $lhardback$2rdatb


When the proposed addition is further developed, approved, and implemented, the BIBFRAME ontology may be modified to add a new property.


6.1. Is the benefit of recording type of binding using a structured description, identifier or URI sufficiently articulated?

6.2. Is field 340 subfield $l a suitable subfield in which to record a structured description for type of binding?

6.3. Are there any circumstances in which it would be desirable to record more than one value for type of binding in the same description (e.g. an aggregate resource, the components of which represent different binding types).

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