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I'm compiling a book of contributed chapters, and a couple are heavily dependent on references from archive records such as the Congressional Serial Set, collections of records from a nineteenth century iron company housed in a museum's archives, and material from the National Archives and Record Administration, Washington, DC.

The book is required to use author-date inline citations, with each book chapter having its own bibliography, so I'm using \usepackage[authordate,backend=biber]{biblatex-chicago}.

Inline citations (as they appear in the author's manuscript) are things like

(Ordnance Department Contract, 27 Sept. 1812 National Archives and Record Administration, Washington, DC [NARA], Record Group [RG] 156/Entry 78/vol. 1, p. 5)

(William Simonds to Townsend, letter, 1 March 1813, New York State Library Manuscripts and Special Collections, Albany [NYSL, MSC], Sterling Iron and Railway Company Records, 1740-1918 [SIRC], SC14069, box 1, fol.1-2, no. 5)

(Decius Wadsworth to Townsend, letter, 21 March 1814 [SIRC, no. 6])

(Townsend to Gen. Calendar Irvine, letter, 14 Aug. 1814, NARA, RG 156/E21/[box 5]).

Sterling Forge Company daybook (SIRC 6/612)

(W. Jones to Townsend, letter, 17 October 1814 [SIRC, no. 7])

(House Journal, 16th Congress, 1st session:236)

and bibliogrpahy entries such as:

Secretary of War. (1819). Letter from the Secretary of War, transmitting statements of contracts made by the Commissary General of Subsistence, the Ordnance Department, the Commissary General of Purchases, and the Engineer Department, in the year 1818, February 24, 1819, 15th Cong., 2nd sess. [Congressional Serial Set 24 H.doc.148].

The citations are to various documents and records in archival collections, and reference to primary documents in common for historical research of this nature. This isn't a type of citation I use often, though. They appear to be following the Chicago 16 style, but I have no idea how to set them up as .bib entries biblatex.

For example, the "Simonds to Townsend" letter above is an original letter dated March 1, 1813 that is in a collection of archival documents (Sterling Iron and Railway Company Records, 1740-1918) housed at the New York State Library Manuscripts and Special Collections in Albany NY. The catalog reference is "SC14069, box 1, folders 1-2)" and the letter is Document #5 in that collection.

There are another 43 citations of materials within that archival collection. Should each separate document appear in the bibliography, or only the archive itself and use prepend and append in the in-text citation for the specific document information e.g.,

\autocite[Decius Wadsworth to Townsend, letter, 21 March 1814][no. 6]{SIRC}

What is more confusing (for me, at least) is that the author includes some fo these archival materials individually in the bibliography (e.g., anything for the "Congressional Serial Set") , but not necessarily things form the NARA records group?

I would think that @MVCollectionwith additional @Collection entries for each item being cited would be the way to go, but I can't find much in the way of biblatex-style examples for these specific types of materials. I could use @Misc, but then can't crossref them all to the collection.

So, my question is twofold:

  1. Regarding proper citation under Chicago 16, what is best practice for archival documents?
  2. Regarding biblatex-chicago, what are the appropriate entry types and fields to structures these in the .bib?

Can anyone recommend current practices for these types of materials, or at least a source for .bib entry examples that I might be able to use as a template? Nothing in the documentation for biblatex-chicago or in the example supplement cms-dates-intro.pdf seesm to match.

  • What does 'Inline citations are things like' mean? According to whom? Is there truly a 'proper' way to cite these materials? (I'm familiar with 'rules' about citing manuscripts from before the print era, but not these sorts of things.) My advice is: (1) step back and think about all the different 'types' of archival material there is (e.g., letters are not daybooks or contracts); (2) remember that just because you can, in theory, \cite anything does not mean it is the best way to cite all sources whatsoever; (3) make use of the @misc entry-type; (4) make use of a list of abbreviations. – jon Feb 15 '17 at 21:39
  • @jon, I've edited the question to make it more explicit (which should help with your #1-2). I'm frantically looking through the documentation on @Misc entries, but they don't seem to cover collections with sub-documents. I'm not sure what you mean by using a list of abbreviations (#4). – Scard Feb 16 '17 at 17:47
  • My first thought is still 'don't use bib(la)tex for this. It is not hard to create a separate reference list for these entries called (say) 'Archival Sources' and list everything there. From your description, the information is already there, typed out in full, in the contributed chapters, so all you need is to create the reference list. (4) is a list of abbreviations or 'shorthands' (common in history(-related) fields). But if you want to do biblatex, then then in biblatex-chicago, the @misc field caters to many entrysubtypes. [...] – jon Feb 16 '17 at 18:20
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    [...] In my view, you don't cite the collection, but the relevant archival source within the collection (the reader surely wants to find the collection information by means of looking up the item in the reference list, not find the item by looking up the collection. That means you don't need the @mv... entrytypes. This leads to some reduplication, perhaps, but this can be minimized through a judicious use of abbreviations. (Note this is a personal view: I do not know how well the Chicago Manual addresses the issue --- though a quick glance suggests 'not well' / 'vaguely'.) – jon Feb 16 '17 at 18:22
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    Ah, OK. Please post a solution if you get one you find satisfying. (Or edit the question to reflect the problem you [still] face.) Archival documents are hard to cite properly, so I think it would be good to get an answer to this question posted, even if it is not 100% perfect. – jon Feb 16 '17 at 20:34
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After a considerable back and forth between myself, the chapter authors, and various colleagues - it would appear that there really isn't a reasonable answer to be had on this, even among historians. In part, the problem is that primary document citations such as these (e.g., archival collections, manuscripts, &c.) are simply not well suited to in-line citation formats.

The compromise we reached, since in-line was a publisher's requirement, was the the specific document retrieval information (identifier, doc #, file box, &c.) should be with the in-line citation, and the collection is what should appear in the biblio/references cited.

The only good way to do this was with @misc entries such as:

@misc{SIRC,
    author = {{Sterling Iron and Railway Company}},
    title = {Records, 1740-1918},
    shorthand = {SIRC},
    type = {SC14069, box 1, fol.1-2},
    institution = {New York State Library},
    organization = {Manuscripts and Special Collections},
    location = {Albany}
    }

with an in-text as:

\autocite[Decius Wadsworth to Townsend, letter, 21 March 1814][no. 6]{SIRC}

This does, unfortunately, lead to really ugly LaTeX and very disjointed prose within the published document...

...which is exactly why it is normally done by note-style citations rather than in-line.

So, basically, yes - it can be done, no - it isn't pretty, and no - there really aren't any good standards for doing so. Find a good kludge to compromise on, and stick with whatever ends up being consistent.

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