BSIP Referencing & Citation System

One of the problems of referencing artworks is being able to look at the original source material and re-create datasets presented by various authors and researchers. Frequently one is left needing access to a huge reference library in order to refer to a given work, or in some cases we are left with the untraceable "Unknown painter, private collection, Spain, 12th Century". These references are frustrating to other researchers and consumers of the research material.

As a significant repository of iconographic material we offer a permanent, academic quality, referencing system that may be used to uniquely identify sources.

BSIP References

BSIP references are a unique and permanent referencing system, allowing precise specification of iconographic sources. The system provides facilities to reference individual depictions of instruments, bows, musicians (known collectively as Research Targets) regardless of the numbers of these depicted in the source. For instance, in a depiction of the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse, each musician (elder), bow and instrument are uniquely identified and may be referred to. The system also provides the means to reference specific images. This represents a breakthrough in iconography research allowing referencing at a granularity previously not available.

Format Specification​​​​

BSIP references are prefixed by 'bsip' in lowercase. Whilst the BSIP systems ignore case when handling references, the lowercase representation has been specifically chosen to make the reference number stand out improving the eye's ability to separate the prefix and the numbers. Uppercase letters have the same height as numbers and whilst not wrong, using uppercase visually buries the important reference number. It is therefore recommended that the BSIP reference is always specified in lower case.

The format of a BSIP reference is:

bsip<ref no>[.​<image-ref>][-{MIB}<object no>]


[] denotes optional an part
{} denotes one of the enclosed characters
<> denotes a value

The characters []{}<> do not form part of the reference and are present here only to describe the format.

<ref no> is the BSIP reference number of the source in the database.

[-{MIB}<object-no>] is an optional Research Target specifier. It consists of one of  M = Musician, I = Instrument, or B = Bow, followed by the number for that type of research target within the source.

[.<image-ref>] is an optional image specifier. The image-ref is the BSIP reference of the image within the source. Images start numbering from 1 and are assigned sequentially.

NOTE: The bsip text identifier should always be present in a BSIP reference.

Leading Zeros

BSIP References can be specified using leading zeros. If leading zeros are used we recommend padding so the numeric part contains 6 digits. Thus bsip734 may also be expressed as bsip000734. The use of padding with leadng zeros has advantages when used in IT systems, and results in two benefits; firstly the  width of the reference is constant, and secondly sorting based on the BSIP reference now preserves BSIP reference order.


The most common usage is a simple reference to a specific iconography source. These are simply "bsip" followed by a number. This is the minimum needed to identify a given source. The references may be expanded in order to specify particular research targets, and/or specific images.

  • bsip734 = A specific source whose  BSIP reference ID is 734.

  • bsip734.1 = Image 1 of source 734.

  • bsip734-M2 = Musician 2 of source 734.

  • bsip734.1-B1 = Bow 1, on Image 1 of source 734.


Permalink URLS

BSIP offers succinct permalink URLs which refer directly to the work, and can be constructed by just knowing the BSIP Reference. Permalinks are guaranteed to exist for many years and may be relied upon.

The base URL is

The BSIP reference (as described in the format above) is then appended to the above URL. The URLs can include "bsip" identifying text, or may be used without it for even shorter URLs. The above examples would be used as follows: