The UNIMARC format was first published in 1977 under the title UNIMARC Universal MARC Format. It was recommended by the IFLA Working Group on Content Designators set up by the IFLA Section on Cataloguing and the IFLA Section on Information Technology. It contained specifications for book and printed serial material and provisional fields for various non-book materials such as music, motion pictures, phonodiscs etc. A second edition UNIMARC: Universal MARC Format was published in 1980. This edition added data fields required for cartographic materials and updated several fields relating to continuing resources and monographs. Provisional fields for additional cartographic attributes and for non-book materials were edited and revised.
In 1983, citing the need for the format documentation to be expanded to provide more interpretative guidance, the document was revised and expanded and reissued as the UNIMARC Handbook. Following a major UNIMARC maintenance meeting in 1986, a revised document, UNIMARC Manual, was issued in 1987. This edition of the format removed the provisional status from and revised fields that were specific to sound recordings, visual projections, video recordings, motion pictures, graphics, printed music, and microforms, in addition to the remaining provisional cartographic fields. Fields for electronic resources were added as provisional.
This edition supersedes the previous ones, the later of which, the second edition, was looseleaf. Since June 1990, additions and changes have been agreed upon by the Permanent UNIMARC Committee. Fields added and changed since the fifth update of the second edition are listed in Appendix O. This new bound manual is intended for the time being to be updated on the internet as changes are needed. The editor for the Third Edition is Alan Hopkinson. Previous editions were edited by Brian P. Holt, British Library, and Sally H. McCallum, Library of Congress.
Section 1, INTRODUCTION, and Section 2, ORGANIZATION OF THE MANUAL, give introductory material to assist in the use of this Manual. Section 3, FORMAT STRUCTURE, presents basic information concerning the organization of the format. Section 4, RECORD LABEL AND DATA FIELDS – GENERAL INFORMATION, explains conventions that are applicable throughout the format and provides an introduction to Section 5, RECORD LABEL AND DATA FIELDS – FIELD DESCRIPTIONS. The Manual aims in Section 5 to give guidelines for those areas of UNIMARC that are not as well-defined as is needed to permit effective exchange of bibliographic data. This is necessary because, outside those UNIMARC fields that correspond to ISBD data elements, there are often no standard data element definitions for bibliographic data. The data field descriptions are presented according to the following outline.
Definition: the content of each field is briefly defined.
Occurrence: this part notes whether the field is repeatable or not and whether it is mandatory or optional. In a few instances, a statement that explains or qualifies the occurrence is included.
Indicators: The indicator values are explained.
Subfields: The subfields are listed in order, each being followed by a definition and, where applicable, a note as to its repeatability and whether it is mandatory.
Noteson Field Contents: This part discusses the data content of the fields and explains the interrelation between the subfields within the field. It includes notes about ISBD equivalents, where applicable, and about punctuation, as well as making recommendations about the form of the contents of the field.
Related Fields: This part lists fields or data elements that contain data related to the contents of the field. One of the problems that has been encountered by users of UNIMARC is in determining which field in UNIMARC is equivalent to any particular field in a source format, especially in those instances where two or more fields in UNIMARC would seem to be a suitable home for a particular data element occurring in the source. This part lists other fields which under certain circumstances may be used as well as or in place of the field in question. To assist in comparison of fields, a short description of the usage of the other fields is given.
Examples: This part consists of examples, many of which are referred to in the text in the other parts. They illustrate the conditions that are described in the preceding text.
History: This part gives details of major changes to the field.
The final sections of the Manual, the appendices, consist largely of code lists for use in coded data elements. These codes are those that apply to more than one field; codes relating to one field only are usually placed with the description of that field.
2.2 Notation Conventions
The following notation conventions are adopted in Section 5 in the listing of fields, indicators and subfields and in the description and examples relating to them.
subfield identifier: The dollar sign '$' has been used to represent ISl of ISO 646 as the first character of the subfield identifier.
blank: The hash sign '#' has been used in the examples to represent 2/0 in ISO 646, the space character. It thus indicates a blank or space where the presence of or necessity for a space in the text of the Manual is not obvious from the context.
field separator: The commercial at sign '@' has been used to represent IS2 of ISO 646 as the field separator in the complete examples. However this is not included in the examples of the use of individual fields although in fact IS2 terminates each field in the UNIMARC record.
end of record mark: The per cent sign '%' has been used to represent IS3 of ISO 646 as the end of record mark in the complete examples.
'not defined': The phrase 'not defined' associated with an indicator position means that no values have been given to that position and the indicator position is filled with a blank.
non-sorting characters: The characters ¹NSB¹ and ¹NSE¹ have been used in some examples as symbols for ISO 6630 Bibliographic Control set positions 08/08 and 08/09 respectively. They enclose characters which are to be ignored for sorting purposes.