How would names with 'van', written in the Dutch style - e.g. van Beukering, J., be ordered in a bibliography?

Do we count the 'van' element so that e.g. van Beukering, J. would be some point after Campbell, S. - or do ignore the 'van' element so that the first letter is and would therefore come before Campbell in a bibliography?

Does this depend on whether the author uses the Dutch 'van X' style or the American 'Van X'? Obviously concatenated forms such as Vancouver, C. would be counted as .

  • 9
    Whatever you do, please, please, do not put "Hendrik Frans van Lint" under "L" and "Louis Van Lint" under "V". – Peter Shor Mar 28 '13 at 21:00
  • The rule I learned: for multiple-word surnames, use the first capitalized word. – GEdgar Jun 3 '15 at 15:04
  • There is an anecdote about mathematician John von Neumann. He and his two brothers emigrated to the US at different times. Their new surnames became: "von Neumann", "Vonneumann", and "Neumann". – GEdgar Jun 3 '15 at 15:08

This depends on the specific style or country. In the Netherlands, surnames are sorted by the "main" part, so van Beukering would come before Campbell. On the other hand, in Belgium it is sorted by the first letter of the surname. There capitalization is also dependent on how the name is registered in the passport. In the Netherlands, one would write "Van Beukering" if the first name is omitted, and "J. van Beukering" if the initials or first name is there.

In short, it may be difficult to tell if you are not a native speaker. It is probably best to just pick one of the alternatives and stick with that.

  • Unless he's citing almost only dutch authors I'd avoid it, as it would be inconsistent with the bastardized dutch surnames that there are in the US and France (e.g. Vandermonde in France, the matrix guy) that would end up under V. It's not like dutch surnames come up that often anyway, and in other languages these von/de/di/da particles aren't so frequent. – Formagella Dec 10 '14 at 18:16

The authoritative reference for this type of question (for librarians, at least) would be the publication "Names of Persons" by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, which is available for download here:


Here's what it says about 'van':

  • If the person is Dutch, "van Beukering" should be sorted under B
  • If he or she is Belgian, sort it under V (but note the small print that says Belgian libraries aren't consistent across the country)
  • If they're from the US, sort it under V

The problem is that following these rules strictly is rather likely to confuse your readers, so I wouldn't actually recommend using different formats for people of different origin (though you will find this in library catalogues!). Instead, I suggest you pick one style and stick to it, as suggested by the other answers. Nonetheless, I think "Names of Persons" is worth consulting if you encounter name formats you're unfamiliar with.


There are varying conventions, obviously. Pick one, and you might have biblio entries "van B (see B... van)" or vice-versa, especially if you have a large bibliography. That way you serve everyone. (I don't know whether automated biblio software can be immediately configured to do this automatically, but there are obviously work-arounds.) That is, functionality trumps everything else.

  • You might be right about the automated software, but I imagine something like BibTeX would count it as a V and not a B. – Danger Fourpence Mar 25 '13 at 18:14
  • 7
    Bibtex is aware of this, and you can choose to sort on the "von" part or not. This depends on the specific style you choose. At least I remember it is one of the options if you want to make your own .bst style with makebst. – Pieter Naaijkens Mar 25 '13 at 18:19
  • 5
    Biblatex+biber, which is the modern alternative to bibtex, supports sorting in different languages fully according to the Unicode standards. Just use \usepackage[backend=biber,sortlocale=de]{biblatex}, or omit the sortlocale and have it automatically picked up from the babel language. – Federico Poloni Oct 21 '14 at 6:53

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