Leveraging the RBMS/BSC Latin Place Names File with Python

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To answer the relatively straight-forward question “Which rare materials in my library catalog were published in Venice?” requires an advanced knowledge of geography, language, orthography, alphabet graphical changes, cataloging standards, transcription practices, and data analysis. The imprint statements of rare materials transcribe place names more faithfully as it appears on the piece itself, such as Venetus, or Venetiae, rather than a recognizable and contemporary form of place name, such as Venice, Italy. Rare materials catalogers recognize this geographic discoverability and selection issue and solve it with a standardized solution. To add consistency and normalization to imprint locations, rare materials catalogers utilize hierarchical place names to create a special imprint index. However, this normalized and contemporary form of place name is often missing from legacy bibliographic records. This article demonstrates using a traditional rare materials cataloging aid, the RBMS/BSC Latin Place Names File, with programming tools, Jupyter Notebook and Python, to retrospectively populate a special imprint index for 17th-century rare materials. This methodology enriched 1,487 MAchine Readable Cataloging (MARC) bibliographic records with hierarchical place names (MARC 752 fields) as part of a small pilot project. This article details a partially automated solution to this geographic discoverability and selection issue; however, a human component is still ultimately required to fully optimize the bibliographic data.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCode4Lib Journal
StatePublished - May 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Leveraging the RBMS/BSC Latin Place Names File with Python'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this