If I want to add the numbering for a book in a series, which field should be used? number or volume?

In texdoc bibtex, it says

number The number of a journal, magazine, technical report, or of a work in a series.

volume The volume of a journal or multivolume book.

In texdoc biblatex, it says

number The number of a journal or the volume/number of a book in a series.

volume The volume of a multi-volume book or a periodical.

It seems that both bibtex and biblatex recommend using the field number for the designation of a book in the book series. But usually these two fields will be formatted as "No. xx" and "Vol. xx` for book entries.

Now I am confused, which one should I use in general? Or there is no general choice and it depends on the style in use?


2 Answers 2


They mean different things. The volume field is for a multi-volume book with a single title and author/editor. The number field is for a series of independent books that are published as part of a series. For example, Don Knuth's Art of Computer Programming is a single work with multiple volumes. You would use volume for these. But this work itself is part of the Addison-Wesley Professional Computing series. If they number each book in the series, you would use number for that number.

As a general rule of thumb, the number field for a book in a series is rarely needed, since the book is easily identified from the title, author and publisher. The fact that it's number X in a publisher's series is basically irrelevant. But the volume number of a multi-volume work is very important, since the book usually has a single title and author/editor, so which volume you are citing matters.


I don’t know about bibtex, but for biblatex you should use number.

Here is a specific example: As part of the series London Mathematical Society Student Texts, there are the following three books:

  • Elements of the Representation Theory of Associative Algebras, Volume 1: Techniques of Representation Theory
  • Elements of the Representation Theory of Associative Algebras, Volume 2: Tubes and Concealed Algebras of Euclidean type
  • Elements of the Representation Theory of Associative Algebras, Volume 3: Representation-infinite Tilted Algebras

These are number 65, 71, 72 in the the overall series. An entry for the first volume could look somewhat like this:

  author    = {Assem, Ibrahim and Simson, Daniel and Skowroński, Andrzej},
  maintitle = {Elements of the Representation Theory of Associative Algebras},
  volume    = {1},
  title     = {Techniques of Representation Theory},
  year      = {2006},
  pagetotal = {x+458},
  publisher = {Cambridge University Press},
  location  = {Cambridge},
  series    = {London Mathematical Society Student Texts},
  number    = {65},
  isbn      = {978-0-521-58423-4},
  doi       = {10.1017/CBO9780511614309},

For me, the output of this entry looks roughly as follows.


  • 1
    I hesitate for a few days and I am sorry for not choosing your answer as the accepted one. Your answer and the detailed example is very helpful, but Alan Munn gives further advice on the importance of volume field for a multi-volume work, though he did not make his example as detailed as yours and your example also indicates his advice. I hope this will not discourage you from answering questions. Again, your answer is very helpful.
    – Eli4ph
    Commented May 20, 2021 at 3:10
  • No problem. :-) Commented May 20, 2021 at 3:32

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