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This is an edge case my mental citation engine couldn't quite handle. I'm entering all my physical books in a database, to do more principled library management (at long last), and I ran into a book, Rothbard's For a New Liberty, whose colophon is merely:

"This work is licensed under a creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Mises Institute, 518 West Magnolia Avenue, Auburn, Alabama 3682.

ISBN: 978-1-61016-731-4"

That's all. Verbatim. I've been entering the most recent copyright/license date on the colophon as the book's year; this is how I've cited books in the past too. What do I do with this one? The verso of the last page lists a manufacturing date of 22 June 2023 (evidently a make-to-order publishing operation). Do I use that? I'm concerned about semantic consistency with the rest of my data, and now wondering exactly what a "year" entry in bibliographies and library catalogs is supposed to mean.

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  • 2
    This pdf version says 2006.
    – mkennedy
    Aug 1, 2023 at 13:23
  • 13
    I have sometimes seen bibliographic information with "n.d." or "not dated".
    – GEdgar
    Aug 1, 2023 at 14:01
  • 4
    The book has a wikipedia page with the history of every edition, and ISBN numbers. Aug 1, 2023 at 18:53
  • 4
    Can you list it as "Prior to x/y/zzzz" or "No later than x/y/zzzz" ?
    – MikeB
    Aug 3, 2023 at 11:53
  • 3
    How would you cite the Bible, or Shakespeare? Aug 4, 2023 at 9:54

5 Answers 5

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If you visit https://isbnsearch.org and enter the ISBN number in the search box you will get details. The book was listed as published in 2020.

I think that the copyright distributors (like Bowker) know when a copyright was registered.

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This will depend absolutely on your bibliography style. For instance, the American Psychological Association, which has very detailed guidance and an entire publication manual wants you to do this if the date is missing:

Provide the author, write “n.d.” for “no date,” and then provide the title and source.

I assume that other style guides offer similar guidance.

If you are not required to follow a particular style guide (lucky you), choose a reasonable option. For instance, even if you don't need to follow the APA style, its recommendations are a good starting point. Of course, whatever you do, be consistent.

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Actually I see a Google search saying it was originally published in 1973.

The year seems plausible for such a text . . .

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    Note that new editions have new isbn’s.
    – Buffy
    Aug 1, 2023 at 15:13
  • It has a different ISBN but the contents pages are identical, same intro (and author of same) and all. Ch1 reads the same.
    – Trunk
    Aug 1, 2023 at 15:26
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    One purpose of including a year in the citation is to identify the specific version of the book one has actually used. Even if the pages are the same, one can't be sure that all the content is the same.
    – Joooeey
    Aug 2, 2023 at 7:16
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    I think it's safe to say that an edition released under a CreativeCommons license has been modified since 1973.
    – Sneftel
    Aug 2, 2023 at 11:00
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If no online sources credibly indicate a publication date, or if you find conflicting indications of the publication year - you could contact the publisher (in your example: The Mises Institute) and ask them.

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This is an answer to the question as asked in the title ... not to the question of how you might discover what the missing date is.

Many standard citation formats not only specify how to set out the various components of a referenced source (title, publisher, journal name, year of publication, authors, etc) but also explain what to do when some of that information is missing.

Here, for example, is the guidance from the American Psychological Association (APA) on what to do when the year is missing ... summarized as "insert (n.d.) in place of the missing year`.

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