[ModLib] ISBNs

Ron Holl ron at scribblemonger.com
Thu Jul 25 10:48:21 EDT 2013

Hi Barry,

Excellent observation.

Do you know for sure when Random House started using these standard book
numbers on the jackets?  They seem to appear on the jackets, both regular
and giant, at the same time as ISBNs came into existence (even though SBNs
were created in 1965).  We have always figured 1971 based on Auden second
edition (and also based on first edition 1970 jackets NOT having the SBN
but later jackets having them).

I don't know why we never noticed this (only 9 digits).  We've been
calling these numbers ISBNs for many years.  We shall change this to SBN. 
I took a quick look, and I can't find a 10 digit ISBN appearing on an ML
until the regular woodcuts.  My 1981 first edition Chopin/Awakening has
the leading "0" digit and is thus, technically, an ISBN.  The giant
woodcuts continue with an SBN presentation through 1985.  (The ISBN is
backward compatible with SBN.)

Even though we've always used the creation of ISBN in 1970/71 as the main
fact in dating later jackets, I don't think this revelation (the numbers
are actually SBNs) changes anything, as there is other dating evidence

Thanks for pointing this out and correcting us.


> The 9 digit numbers on the back panel of some late Giant jackets are
> actually standard book numbers, not international standard book numbers.
> The first field 394 identifies the publisher (394 is Random House), the
> second field indicates a specific title or edition (if a given publisher
> had hardbound and paperbound editions of the same title the second fields
> would be different), and the third field is a check digit based on the
> preceding numbers that made it possible for a computer to flag numbers
> that had been transcribed incorrectly. ISBN's, which didn't come into use
> until 1970, have 10 digits, with an added first field indicating the
> country or language area where a book is published (0 indicates
> English-language area, 3 indicates Germany, etc.)  Available 10-digit
> numbers began to be exhausted in the early years of the present century,
> and since 2007 all ISBN's are supposed to have 13 digits.
> Barry
> --
> Gordon B. Neavill
> Associate Professor
> School of Library and Information Science
> Wayne State University
> 106 Kresge Library
> Detroit, MI 48202
> 313-577-0507; 313-577-7563 (fax)
> _______________________________________________
> ModLib mailing list
> ModLib at thuban.owu.edu
> http://thuban.owu.edu/mailman/listinfo/modlib


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