Sometimes, academic journal are published in a double issues. It results, in the .bib file, a reference with a field 'number' which is not set to '2' or '3', for instance, but set to '2-3'.

Here is what biblatex+biber gives :

SURNAME Name, "A Nice Title", Annual Review of Something 10 (2-3 1996).

Here is what I want to get :

SURNAME Name, "A Nice Title", Annual Review of Something. 10.2-3 (1996).

I precise that everything works well when the field 'number' of my .bib file is set with a value specifically numeric.

What's happening ?


We've discussed on this issue on the github of the Zotero plugin called Better bibtex (here). A first step in answer is that such a functionning is normal. Indeed, the biblatex manual says (section 2.2.2) :

issue field (literal)

The issue of a journal. This field is intended for journals whose individual issues are identified by a designation such as ‘Spring’ or ‘Summer’ rather than the month or a number. Since the placement of issue is similar to month and number, this field may also be useful with double issues and other special cases. See also month, number, and § 2.3.9.


number: field (integer)

The number of a journal or the volume/number of a book in a series. See also issue as well as §§2.3.7 and 2.3.9. With @patent entries, this is the number or record token of a patent or patent request. It is expected to be an integer, not necessarily in arabic numerals since biber will automatically from roman numerals or arabic letter to integers internally for sorting purposes.

So it appears that Biblatex requires a integer value in the field number. If necessary, it recommends to avoid this limitation in using the field issue.

The problem remains that double issues do not render properly in this way.

Here is an example :


  title = {A {{Very Nice Title}}},
  volume = {10},
  number = {2},
  journaltitle = {Annual Review of Nothing},
  date = {1996},
  author = {Bob, Bob}

  title = {A {{Nice Title}}},
  volume = {10},
  issue = {2-3},
  journaltitle = {Annual Review of Something},
  date = {1996},
  author = {John, John}


Here is something\autocite{Bob1996} very interesting\autocite{John1996}.

What gives (with xelatex+biber) :

Bob, Bob. “A Very Nice Title”. In : Annual Review of Nothing 10.2 (1996).

John, John. “A Nice Title”. In : Annual Review of Something 10 (2-3 1996).

  • 2
    This is not the standard behaviour of the standard styles. What style do you use? Can you show us an MWE/MWEB. The answer will crucially depend on the style you use and its exact implementation of the number field format.
    – moewe
    Commented Mar 5, 2018 at 16:38
  • Some biblatex styles test if the field is a number before they put a 'vol.', 'no.' or 'edition' into the format. But there are several different tests a style could use \ifinteger, \ifnumeral, \ifnumerals, or their \iffield... versions (depending on the context). The styles also vary where they do these tests: In the field format (usually this is the best place) or in a different bibmacro (there may be cases where this is cleverer solution).
    – moewe
    Commented Mar 5, 2018 at 17:18
  • Thank you. I tried to make MWEB and I didn't manage to repoduce my problem ! I've looked for deeper and it appears that I've not a problem with biblatex formating but with the exporting process in .bib. If I fill the number field with '2-3', the field name turns from 'number' to 'issue'. If I correct it manually, everything fall into place. So, I'm going to ask what's happens in the Zotero forum...
    – laspic
    Commented Mar 5, 2018 at 17:37
  • We need to know the biblatex style you use. Show us an MWE/MWEB (see links in my first comment). While the biblatex documentation and Biber want an integer in the number field, you can get away not using an integer there in certain cases. issue is certainly a worse choice for input such as 2-3.
    – moewe
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 15:47
  • Of course, but I needed few minutes more to make it. Here it is.
    – laspic
    Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 15:50

1 Answer 1


For biblatex there are two possible fields to indicate the subdivision of a volume for @article and @periodical entries: number and issue. The go-to field is number and for most users that is the appropriate field even if the publisher calls the subdivision of a volume "issue". The issue field is printed closer to the date in the standard styles and can be used in case the number field gives unfortunate output.

In biblatex versions before 3.12 number was an integer field. This caused some export tools such as Better Bib(La)TeX for Zotero to only export integer values to number and use issue as a fallback for non-integer values. Since 2-3 is not an integer it was exported to issue. The output for number = {2-3} is also acceptable and arguably nicer than with issue = {2-3}, so it was decided that number should not be restricted to integer input any more: https://github.com/plk/biblatex/issues/726

The documentation for 3.12 states

Normally [the number] field will be an integer or an integer range, but in certain cases it may also contain “S1”, “Suppl. 1”, in these cases the output should be scrutinised carefully.

While for issue it reads

The placement of issue is similar to month and number, integer ranges and short designators are better written to the number field.

issue still makes sense for more verbose identifiers such as "Spring"/"Summer" or "Michaelmas term".

Starting from version 5.0.111 BBT exports integer ranges and a few other short designators to number as well, see https://github.com/retorquere/zotero-better-bibtex/issues/925. This gives the expected output in your case.

So you'll now get

  title        = {A Nice Title},
  volume       = {10},
  number       = {2-3},
  journaltitle = {Annual Review of Something},
  date         = {1996},
  author       = {John, John}

which will yield

John, John. “A Nice Title”. In: Annual Review of Something 10.2-3 (1996).

  • See also tex.stackexchange.com/q/414495/35864
    – moewe
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 11:50
  • That resumes perfectly the whole discussion and its conclusion. Thank for having taken the time to write it !
    – laspic
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 13:20

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