A weblog following developments around the world in FRBR: Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records.

Maintained by William Denton, Web Librarian at York University. Suggestions and comments welcome at wtd@pobox.com.

Confused? Try What Is FRBR? (2.8 MB PDF) by Barbara Tillett, or Jenn Riley's introduction. For more, see the basic reading list.

Books: FRBR: A Guide for the Perplexed by Robert Maxwell (ISBN 9780838909508) and Understanding FRBR: What It Is and How It Will Affect Our Retrieval Tools edited by Arlene Taylor (ISBN 9781591585091) (read my chapter FRBR and the History of Cataloging).


March 2006
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Challenge: Fellowship twofer

Posted by: William Denton, 11 March 2006 12:36 pm
Categories: 2006 FRBR Challenge

Two manifestations of identical works and expressions. I go into a lot of detail, but you don’t have to. I got intrigued by all works and relationships involved here. Sketch out a work, expression, manifestation, and item to whatever level of detail you want, and leave your entry in a comment!

  • Work: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Expression: 1993? text edited by Douglas A. Anderson.
  • Manifestation 1: Verso of title page says it’s the first edition of the 1999 US mass-market paperback from HarperCollins, ISBN 007123825. However, it’s a tie-in to the 2001 movie The Fellowship of the Ring, the cover has a still image from the movie, and the back cover says “Photo © 2001 New Line Productions Inc.” Perhaps they printed up new copies from the 1999 plates and put new covers on them without updating the t.p. verso.
    • Item: Copy owned by the North York Central branch of the Toronto Public Library.
  • Manifestation 2: 2001 British trade paperback edition from Collins Modern Classics, ISBN 00712970X, with cover illustration by John Howe.
    • Item: Copy owned by the North York Central branch of the Toronto Public Library.


  • Tolkien’s work The Fellowship of the Ring is related to the work that dramatizes it, the 2001 movie The Fellowship of the Ring. Manifestation 1 has another, narrower, relationship to the movie work because it’s a tie-in edition.
  • John Howe’s painting is a work, a referential complement to Tolkien’s Fellowship. The FRBR Report says, “The third relationship type, complement, involves works that are intended to be combined with or inserted into the related work. In other words, they are intended to be integrated in some way with the other work, but were not part of the original conception of that prior work. As with successors and supplements, some complements can be used or understood on their own without reference to another work (i.e., they are autonomous), others require an understanding of another work (i.e., they are referential).” A manifestation of this work is part of Manifestation 1.
  • Things get even more complicated because both manifestations here contain the revised 1993 expression of Douglas A. Anderson’s essay, “Note on the Text.” (Anderson is a Tolkien bibliographer and helped Wayne G. Hammond with J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography (1993).) The essay here explains the history of the text of the book, Tolkien’s corrections over the years, American editions, typographical errors introduced in reprints, etc. Not only is the text of Fellowship here revised (“this new edition makes a significant stride towards such perfection”) but Anderson’s essay is a revision and correction of an earlier version (“This revison of the ‘Note on the Text’, undertaken for a new reset edition of The Lord of the Rings (to be published in various formats), replaces and supersedes the earlier version”).
  • Both manifestations say “This reset edition contains newly drawn maps by Stephen Raw, based on Christopher Tolkien’s original maps.” The originals appeared in the original manifestations of The Lord of the Rings but reproduced poorly, so Raw “has therefore redrawn them all, very closely following the originals.” The maps here would be, I think, manifestations of a new expression of a work that is a referential complement to LOTR.

The level of detail to be stored and shown to users would depend on who they are. Tolkien bibliographers have far more demanding bibliographic needs than someone who just wants to start reading LOTR.

Challenge: Tolkien reading

Posted by: William Denton, 10 March 2006 7:24 am
Categories: 2006 FRBR Challenge

There is now one official entry, from Jennifer Greig! The contest runs until next Wednesday so there’s lots of time to enter. Remember, there are prizes. See the original FRBR Challenge post for the details and Greig’s nice FRBRization of an atlas of Middle-Earth.

Here’s another example from me:

  • Work: The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
  • Expression: Tolkien’s abridgement (unknown date), read by Tolkien himself.
  • Manifestation: Included in The J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Collection, a four-cassette collection from Caedmon (ISBN 155994675X), c1992.
  • Item: The copy owned by the Maryvale branch of the Toronto Public Library, call number FICTION TOL.
  • Relations: The abridgement is a new expression the original work, not a new work in itself. The abridgement is in fact a new expression based on another expression, Tolkien’s original text (or perhaps his revised text, though I don’t suppose it would matter). The expression was read aloud by Tolkien and manifested in the recording stored on cassette. It may also be manifested in print, but I don’t know.

Things get a bit more complicated because this recording is one of several on The J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Collection, which also includes readings of adbridgements of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and some poems and songs and other things, some read by Tolkien’s son Christopher. Is this work part of that larger work, or is it just this manifestation that’s part of something larger? Hmm.

Further musings: In a FRBR-aware catalogue, I imagine that when looking at any work I would see a link to a list of all audiobook versions, or indeed perhaps all audio versions, including dramatizations. This reading would be on a list along with any unabridged recordings and perhaps the relevant parts of the BBC’s radio dramatization. Looking at the other recordings in this Caedmon collection would lead me up to their works and to the trilogy as a whole.

Challenge: LOTR game

Posted by: William Denton, 9 March 2006 7:19 am
Categories: 2006 FRBR Challenge

Another example of the FRBRization of something in the Lord of the Rings bibliographic universe: a game.

  • Work: The Fellowship of the Ring, a game from Iron Crown Enterprises.
  • Expression: The original version of the game.
  • Manifestation: The original 1983 boxed set including a map, cards, counters, instructions, etc. “Stock #FR-7100.”
  • Item: My copy, which I’ve owned for over twenty years and never played.
  • Relations: “The Fellowship of the Ring (FOTR) is a game based upon J.R.R. Tolkien’s three-volume epic, The Lord of the Rings, with the focus on the action in the first volume, The Fellowship of the Ring.” So an inspired-by relation to the trilogy as a whole and a special one to the first book.

Challenge: inspired musical work

Posted by: William Denton, 8 March 2006 7:26 am
Categories: 2006 FRBR Challenge

There has been less than one entry in the 2006 FRBR Challenge. Here’s another example of something Lord of the Rings-related, something one might find in a library, this time music:

  • Work: Nightfall in Middle-Earth by Blind Guardian (a German power metal band).
  • Expression: The original 1998 release (I believe there was a later release with two bonus tracks).
  • Manifestation: The 1998 compact disc pressing from Century Media, number 7961-2 (it could be a repressing; I don’t know).
  • Item: My copy.
  • Relations: This CD is inspired by The Silmarillion. It contains twenty-two works, each inspired by a particular incidents or stories from The Silmarillion. There are eleven songs and eleven interludes, the first with Sauron taking his leave from Morgoth. This CD has a whole-part relation to each of the twenty-two tracks, and each of those has its own relations to The Silmarillion.


Posted by: William Denton, 5 March 2006 8:13 am
Categories: Education

FRBR: What is it and Why Does it Matter to Me and My Users?, a two-hour online class on 24 March, offerd by SOLINET, a library organization in the southeast United States, for its members. The description says they’ll cover FRAR a bit at the end, too.

LibraryThing Google group

Posted by: William Denton, 4 March 2006 7:13 am
Categories: Blog Mentions,LibraryThing

There’s some discussion in the LibraryThing Google group by people combining manifestations into works, and combining other things, such as variations of Cervantes’ name to gather all the versions of Don Quixote together. Other things are discussed on the list, of course, but if you want to listen in on people FRBRizing a catalogue, you can do it there.

And don’t miss this by Steve Oberg, at Family Man Librarian: LibraryThing and Cataloging Nirvana, er, FRBR, which also points to the Google group. I haven’t tried combining a work yet but when I do I’ll grab some screenshots.

No challenge entries yet

Posted by: William Denton, 3 March 2006 8:05 am
Categories: 2006 FRBR Challenge

I’ll have some more examples of my own to post next week. In the meantime I hope you’re thinking of some Lord of the Rings-related thing to describe with a work, an expression, a manifestation, and an item. Fame and possibly a button with the face of S.R. Ranganathan await you.

Find in a Library

Posted by: William Denton, 7:15 am
Categories: Blog Mentions,Implementations,OCLC

Sighted elsewhere:

I think this is the same thing as the displaying of other editions in OpenWorldCat which has been around since last year. Was it not visible through the “find in a library” feature at search engines? I don’t know. Perhaps someone from OCLC can clear things up. Searching Google for "find in a library" the three musketeers leads to http://www.worldcatlibraries.org/wcpa/isbn/0679603328 and the FRBRish display there (in the Editions tab) isn’t new, though I could be mistaken.

2006 FRBR Challenge: FRBR vs. Middle-Earth!

Posted by: William Denton, 1 March 2006 7:30 am
Categories: 2006 FRBR Challenge

Today is the start of the first contest here at the FRBR Blog: the 2006 FRBR Challenge. The challenge is: How well does FRBR handle Middle-Earth?

People are using FRBR, some on a small scale, some on a large scale, some by automating the extraction and matching of works from a set of manifestations, some by having people do the work manually, most by a mix of both. They’re all showing that FRBR works and that it helps users. They’re also turning up some problems, points that need clarification, grey areas, and places where the model falls a bit short and needs something added. That’s to be expected.

Applying FRBR to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and everything else) will test the model and give us some ideas about what’s easy to do and what’s hard to do, what’s clearly explained in FRBR and what needs more detail, what FRBR already handles and where it’s lacking, and how to deal with really complicated situations involving digital copies or multiple works in one work. I really do mean everything else: movies, Sindarin dictionaries, the whole megillah.

The Rules

So here’s what to do: think of something LOTR-related, and, as best you can, describe it as a work, expression, manifestation, and item, and, if you can, explain a relationship it has to a book Tolkien wrote or something inspired by Tolkien’s work. That’s all. Use official FRBR terminology if you want, but you don’t have to. If you can’t think of what the expression is, or the work, just say so and maybe someone else will have a stab at it.

The challenge closes in two weeks, at the end of Wednesday 15 March 2006.


Anyone who enters is eligible for a prize. First prize is a Nancy Pearl Librarian Action Figure and a copy of Out On the Rim, by Ross Thomas (40 KB PDF). Second prize is a copy of Gone, No Forwarding by Joe Gores. Both the first- and second-prize winners also get one of these S.R. Ranganathan buttons, and third prize is just a button. I’ll pick at random from everyone who suggests something.

How to Enter

Add a comment to this post, or any post until the contest closes. When you submit a comment it won’t show up right away, because I need to approve them by hand (to prevent spammers from clogging things up). I’ll approve it as soon as I can. You can also e-mail me your entry, and I’ll post it.


Here’s an example:

  • Work: The Fellowship of the Ring.
  • Expression: I don’t know if this is Tolkien’s original text or the revised text (see Wikipedia for a brief explanation).
  • Manifestation: Unwin Paperback’s second edition (unknown reprinting) of 1966 (ISBN 004823155X).
  • Item: My copy, the one I’ve had since I first read the series in grade six.
  • Relationships? It’s part of The Lord of the Rings, of course.

Here’s another:

  • Work: The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth: From The Hobbit to The Silmarillion, by Robert Foster.
  • Epxression: Revised 1978 text.
  • Manifestation: First paperback edition, published by Del Rey (ISBN 0345279751).
  • Item: My copy.
  • Relationships? This is a detailed index to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, explaining all the characters and places and events and listing where they occur in the texts. It cites two different editions of The Hobbit, other Tolkien works, and some secondary sources.

Here’s a third, somewhat less thorough:

  • Work: A clip-on costume Gandalf beard.
  • Expression: I have no idea at all.
  • Manifestation: I don’t remember any details; I just saw it in a store once and didn’t write down the details.
  • Item: The one I saw in the store.
  • Relationships? Well, it’s inspired by the books or the movies. The precise term for the relationship between a book and a clip-on beard escapes me.

Things to Consider

My Unwin paperback of The Fellowship of the Ring isn’t too hard to describe using FRBR. The bibliographic universe of Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations will probably be very difficult: think of all the different releases and the DVD versions with lots of extras and documentaries and commentary tracks, all packaged differently, in different languages, all over the world. Other things to ponder:

  • Is The Lord of the Rings a work made up of three smaller works? What about the appendices at the end of Return of the King — is each a work of its own? How many works are contained in a one-volume edition of LOTR? I believe Tolkien considered it all one novel.
  • The Silmarillion and all those other books edited by Christopher Tolkien. That’s a complicated publishing history.
  • The Lord of the Rings, the musical, opening in Toronto later this month
  • The Ralph Bakshi movie.
  • Rush’s Rivendell, Led Zeppelin’s The Battle of Evermore, and hundreds of other works of music inspired by LOTR, including a lot of progressive rock and heavy metal.
  • The Very Secret Diary of Boromir of Gondor at LiveJournal.
  • Translations.

Background Reading and Sources of Ideas


Let the challenge begin! Leave your entry in a comment.

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