Principles of Transcription in Rare Book Cataloging

Current faculty: Randal S. Brandt


The 12-hour online course is aimed at catalog librarians who desire to gain a thorough knowledge of the principles that guide the transcription fields in a rare book catalog record, according to Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Books). Emphasis will be on understanding and applying DCRM(B) Areas 0, 1, 2, 4, and 6 in the MARC format for printed books from the hand-press period (roughly the 16th through 18th centuries), with some discussion given to 19th and 20th century books in a special collections context.

Topics include:

  • The nature of rare book cataloging
  • Relationships between DCRM(B) and AACR2/RDA
  • Basic and Advanced title page transcription principles
  • Transcription of early letterforms, ligatures and digraphs, marks of contraction, etc.
  • Concepts of edition, issue, and state

Through online lectures, class discussion, and nightly homework, students will gain the knowledge, experience, and confidence to transcribe title pages according to DCRM(B) in catalog records.


In order for a MARC21 catalog record to include the descriptive convention code “dcrmb,” even at a minimal level, all of the Required Elements as outlined in DCRM(B) 0B1 must be included. An exact physical description of a rare book, recorded according to DCRM(B) Area 5 principles, is one of the Required Elements. Since this course lacks a laboratory component, and students will be working from title page facsimiles only, it will not cover methods for recording physical description and will therefore not provide enough information to complete a full DCRM(B) catalog record.

Application requirements: In their personal statement, applicants should:

  • Describe their experience with machine-readable AACR2 and/or RDA cataloging;
  • Provide a brief description of the types and date range of materials they expect to catalog with DCRM(B), and whether they are expected to produce RDA-compliant records at their home institutions.

Students who have some prior experience in rare book cataloging, or who have taken a previous rare book cataloging course, but seek a comprehensive refresher course in transcription according to DCRM(B), are encouraged to apply.

Note: In 2021, this course will be offered at the reduced rate of $900.

Years taught: 2006-2007 (taught by Deborah Leslie), 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016 2017, 2018, 2019​, 2021