I want to reference a 19th century French journal paper, which appears in vingt-quatrieme cahier, tome XV, of the Journal de l’École polytechnique. The journal front page lists them in that order: cahier first, then tome.

I am using Word and tried to enter the citation data in the bibliography fields Word provides. In those fields there is Volume and Issue. Now, cahier translates to notebook and tome to volume, as far as I can understand. Furthermore, Word suggests a format of Latin numerals for Volume and a decimal number for Issue. So I put the tome data into Volume and the cahier data into Issue. The resulting citation was like "....., XV(24), .....", i.e. the tome first and inside brackets was the cahier number.

So then I started thinking whether this is correct, given that the journal lists them in the reverse order.

The question, then, is: does cahier correspond to Volume and tome to Issue, or is it the other way round? (Or is there another interpretation?)

(Just a thought: maybe their mindset was to treat this as a postal address, where the most inclusive part of the address (e.g. the country) goes last. So with them the tome goes last.)

  • Could you provide a link with an example? Even as a native speaker, I'm not sure. This cannot be a direct translation.
    – Emilie
    Feb 20, 2019 at 19:08
  • @Emilie Here's a Google books link. zerzevul, a representative citation I've found (to one of Poisson's papers) contains "Journal de l'Ecole Polytechnique, Cahier XV, t. VIII". Whether that's the proper way or not, I do not know.
    – Anyon
    Feb 20, 2019 at 19:26

5 Answers 5


In the article you linked, it says: "Tome XV, Vingt-quatrieme cahier, 1835", i.e.,

Tome 15, Cahier 24, 1835

Then we find two more, for;

Tome 15, cahier 25, 1837, and

Tome 18, cahier 30, 1845

So, it seems like there are a few cahiers for each tome.

Since this is a different system than modern Anglophone publishing, I would keep "tome" and "cahier" untranslated in the bibliography. If this is not possible, I would treat cahier as issue and tome as volume, since in English, there are several issues for each volume.

  • Thank you cag51. I agree that keeping tome and cahier might just be the best course of action. This was bound to be an obscure topic of conversation right from the start, but it increasingly seems like splitting hairs.
    – zerzevul
    Feb 21, 2019 at 15:23
  • 1
    I hate not having a chosen answer; and since you suggested what in hindsight seems the best approach (keep "tome" and "cahier" untranslated), while also agreeing with the logic of cahier as issue and tome as volume, I will choose yours as the answer of choice, with Peter Shore's being an honourable mention.
    – zerzevul
    Mar 18, 2019 at 15:10

According to the webpage of the Journal de l’École Polytechnique, each cahier corresponds to a one year volume, and tome corresponds to an issue.

  • Thank you for your answer. I checked the link you sent, which directs to the Overview section. That section does not explain the breakdown of journal publications in cahiers and tomes, as far as I can see. However, I clicked on Browse Issues and in French it lists tomes. When choosing English as the site language, it is changed to volumes. So, according to the journal, it seems that a tome is a volume, not an issue.
    – zerzevul
    Feb 21, 2019 at 9:22
  • 1
    @zerzevul: On the webpage this answer links to, it explains the various name changes of the journal. For example, "Journal de l’École royale polytechnique, 18e cahier (1820, janv.)-31e cahier (1847)." Translating, this means that the 18th cahier was in 1820, and the 31st cahier was in 1847. So 27 years for 14 cahiers. Clearly, cahier means volume, roughly 2 years per volume (although if you trust the website, it was not biannual but "irrégulière"). Feb 21, 2019 at 12:18
  • @PeterShor I see what you're saying but it's not that clear to me. The fact of the matter is that the journal itself translates tome as volume. At the moment, that is the most objective piece of information I have to work with. By the way, the tome number is lower than the cahier number, so this might also be an indication that tome is the principal number.
    – zerzevul
    Feb 21, 2019 at 12:25
  • @zerzevul: Let me take back the comment; cahier corresponds to issue, and tome to volume, but they are used somewhat differently than issue and volume in standard modern-day journals; see my answer. Feb 21, 2019 at 14:55
  • I think the point is finding the hierarchy of the subdivision of the journal, the vocabulary does not matter. (As a native French speaker, I would consider cahier to be smaller than volumes.) But according to the website, the cahier seems to be the subdivision that matters.
    – user36236
    Feb 22, 2019 at 13:08

In this case, I think the 'cahier' is the volume and 'Tome' is the issue, based on this example but also based on the definition of tome. This Larousse's definition state that a tome is the division of a work.

  • Thank you for your reply Emilie. I checked the example from Google Books that you sent. If you see on the left hand side, it says "Journal de l'Ecole Polytechnique, Volume 15, by École Polytechnique (Paris)". So they translate tome as volume, exactly like the Journal itself seems to be doing (see my other comment to user36236's answer)
    – zerzevul
    Feb 21, 2019 at 9:31
  • But the definition of a cahier can be Revue éditée par un groupe d'intellectuels, d'écrivains et publiant, avec une périodicité non fixée, des textes variés: "journal edited by a group of intellectuals, writers, containing various texts, and published at irregular intervals." Feb 21, 2019 at 13:50
  • You know what...I've become really unsure of my answer. This thing is really confusing.
    – Emilie
    Feb 22, 2019 at 20:26
  • 1
    @Emilie :-) As I said in another comment, this thing increasingly seems like splitting hairs.
    – zerzevul
    Feb 25, 2019 at 10:11

If you look at the 1900 issue of the journal, you can find advertised for sale (for 3 fr.):

Table de Matières contenues dans les 64 premiers Cahiers, formant 45 Volumes, suivie d'une Table analytique et d'une Table générale par noms d'auteurs.

Which I would think should be translated as

Table of Contents of the first 64 Cahiers, forming 45 Volumes, followed by a subject index and a general index by authors' names.

So the first 64 issues were grouped into 45 volumes (presumably also known as tomes). These were numbered 1 through 64, and 1 through 45, respectively. The numbering of cahiers starts again with after the 64th cahier, with cahier 1, second series.

Thus, the smaller number would probably be translated as "volume" and the larger number as "issue". However, it's clear that the journal considers the "cahier" the primary number, and the "volume" secondary. In fact, in the second series, they seem to have dispensed with tomes or volumes altogether, and use only the cahier number.

  • 1
    Thank you Peter. Your digging also seems to suggest that a tome is a volume and a cahier is an issue. And yes, it seems that the journal considers the cahier the primary number, so it's probably not a strange case of listing the least important first. I don't know about dispensing with tomes back in 1900, but today they still use tomes, as seen here.
    – zerzevul
    Feb 21, 2019 at 14:43
  • By the way, I guess your answer nullifies your previous comment, right?
    – zerzevul
    Feb 21, 2019 at 14:50
  • Yes. I take back the comment. Feb 21, 2019 at 14:53
  • Here (click on the front page on the left) is the front page of their 1904 issue. No mention of tome or volume. Feb 21, 2019 at 15:01

Ok, after looking at the Browse issues link from the Journal de l’École polytechnique (changing the site language to English turns tome into volume; thanks to user36236 for pointing me towards looking at their site - seems obvious but I didn't think of it), I am inclined to interpret cahier as the issue and tome as the volume. I think the logical conclusion is that the journal, for some obscure reason, lists the principal piece of volume numbering data second and the secondary piece first, i.e. it first mentions the cahier and then the tome. Maybe their mindset was to treat this in the logic of a postal address, where the most inclusive part of the address (e.g. the country) goes last. So with them the tome goes last.

If anyone provides justification for the contrary or actual proof for my "educated" guess, then I will choose that answer as the accepted one.

  • I would assume it mentions the cahier first because it thinks that is the most important number, which is contrary to our usual assumption about volume and issue. Feb 21, 2019 at 13:01
  • True. I agree that mentioning the cahier first is because they think that is the most important number. :)
    – zerzevul
    Feb 21, 2019 at 15:07

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