Book Numbers

ISBN Group-0 Publisher Codes:

ISBN users' manual:

ISO 2108:2017(en):

ISO contact:


  • Daniel Melcher, Books Without Number, PW, July 18, 1966, at 52.

  • Daniel Melcher, Books Without Number, PW, Aug. 15, 1966, at 24-27.

  • Daniel Melcher, Electronic Processing in the Bookstore, PW, Sept. 5, 1968, at 30-33.

  • Bookseller has a few articles (Sept. 17, 1966, at 1666; Sept. 24, 1966, at 1756; Standard Numbering of Book Titles, Oct. 1, 1966, at ?, Standards Group to Study Book Numbering, Oct. 16, 1967, at 35?

  • Daniel Melcher, Book Numbering: The Need for National and International Standards (1967)

From WorldCat: “A review of recent developments prepared as a working paper for the June, 1967 meeting in Moscow of the International Standards Association,” 22 unnumbered leaves, no holdings…

Another reference provides an ISO document #: ISO/TC 46 (Sec 516) 821, Feb. 1967

Description (in French) here:

  • APBC Examines Plans and Structure, PW, June 12, 1967, at 26, 28-29 (section titled Statistics, IBI Plan, and Book Numbering)

  • Daniel Melcher, British Books to Be Numbered Beginning This Month, PW, Jan. 2, 1967, at 28-30.

  • ABPC Examines Plans and Structure, PW, June 12, 1967, at 26-31, 28-29 (section titled "Statistics, IBI Plan and Book Numbering," discussing Daniel Melcher's presentation to the ABPC on book numbers).

  • AAUP Views Publishing Scene in Canada and Abroad, PW, July 24, 1967, at 27, 28 (section titled "Du Sautoy: Copyright, Book Numbering," discusses at p. 28 implementation of the Standard Book Number and mentions the Technical Committee of the International Standards Organization meeting in Moscow, June 24-27, 1967).

  • Standards Group to Study Book Numbering, PW, Oct. 16, 1967, at 35.

  • Daniel Melcher, Standard Book Numbering: UK, USA, and Canada in Joint Plan / How the SBN Plan Works / Why It Was Started / How Other Language Groups Can Tie In With the SBN Plan, PUBLISHERS' WORLD 68/69: A YEARBOOK FOR PUBLISHERS, BOOKSELLERS, LIBRARIANS 63-65 (Bowker 1968).

  • Standard Book Numbering Adopted for U.S., PW, Apr. 8, 1968, at 29 (announcing that the transition to using ISBNs is underway, with Bowker administering the plan).

  • Daniel Melcher, Standard Book Numbering, PW, Apr. 15, 1968, at 39-40 (in urging publishers to adopt the SBN, Melcher mentions the practice of using of series numbers, which simplifies billing, inventory control, warehouse management, royalty accounting, and sales accounting).

  • SBN Prefixes Sent to Heads of Houses, PW, July 22, 1968, at 41 (mentioning a Standard Book Numbering Manual produced by the SBN Agency at Bowker).

    • Evidently the Standard Book Manual as produced in 1968 and had the ISBN 0-8352-0001-9, Bowker's first. The OCLC # is 2997359, although it has a 1970 copyright and includes the Supplement to the Manual. A reference in the Schmierer & Pasternak report at 15 (1977) indicates the manual is 13 pages long and the supplement 3 pages.

  • Judith Lee Krone, The Standard Book Number (SBN): Its Impact on the Book Trade and the Library (M.A. Thesis, U. Chicago 1971):

Evidently, Judy Krone was a W&M alum (1969). After getting her library science degree from U. Chicago ~1971, she at some point worked at the Library of Congress and lived in Arlington. Acc to obit in WaPo (Oct. 18, 2015), she died of breast cancer.

  • Helen F. Schmierer & Howard Pasternak, Study of Current and Potential Uses of International Standard Book Number in United States Libraries (Final Report to the Committee for the Coordination of National Bibliographic Control, Mar. 23, 1977),

  • Donald J. Lehnus, Book Numbers: History, Principles, and Applications (ALA 1980).

  • Cross Currents: One of the earliest advocates of the ISBN, PW, Oct. 29, 1982, at 14 (Daniel Melcher now criticizing use of ISBNs).

    • David T. Brautigam, Letters: Hang On to ISBNs, PW, Dec. 3, 1982 (response to Melcher's criticism from an acquisitions librarian).

  • Hartmut Walravens, ISBN, International Standard Book Number: Bibliography, Literature on the ISBN and ISMN (International Standard Music Number) from All Over the World (Simon Verlag für Bibliothekswissen 2010) — 3940862215, bilingual edition in German and English; here’s a selection from the Intro (badly translated from German):

In November 1966 the Third International Conference on Book Market Research and Rationalization in the Book Trade took place of Berlin. A major topic was the use of computers to rationalize the book-trade. Consequently, a unique identifier for books was suggested, in 1967 experts of the London School of Economics created the Standard Book Number — a nine digit number which comprised flexibel [sic] identification elements for publishers and titles, as well as a check digit for a mathematical plausbility [sic] control. The SBN was installed at Whitakers, the well known bibliographic publisher in Great Britain, and in 1968 R. R. Bowker introduced the system in the USA. The number was internationalized by the addition of a digit of the number in front, which designated the country or language area. As the ISBN was mainly used for the promotion of the book market, the focus of application was not national but market-oriented, and thus three important markets were served first — the English language (codes 0 and 1), the French languages (code 2) and the German language (code 3) areas. Acceptance of the new system was enhanced by an invention of Dan Melcher, head of R. R. Bowker, created a new directory for the book-trade, which became known as Books in Print; it listed the metadata of new books as quickly as possible and constantly updated the information. In contrast to national bibliographies, records were relentlessly eliminated from the directory as soon as books were out of print.

Books in Print dates to 1948, so I’m not sure what Dan Melcher’s innovation was.