BSIP Referencing & Citation System

One of the problems of referencing artworks (and to some degree archaeology) 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 research material we offer a permanent, academic quality, referencing system that may be used to uniquely identify sources. It is intended to augment existing referencing systems and has designed to be succinct to ensure minimal extension to existing references.

BSIP References

BSIP references are a unique and permanent referencing system, allowing precise specification of iconographic, archaeological sources and extant objects pre-1500. The system provides facilities to reference individual depictions of instruments, bows, musicians, bow accessories, bow parts, instrument accessories and instrument parts (known collectively as Research Targets). For instance, in a depiction of the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse in an iconographic source, each musician (elder), bow and instrument are uniquely identified and may be referenced. The system also provides the means to reference specific images. In particular this represents a breakthrough in iconography research allowing referencing at a granularity previously not available.

Format Specification​​​​

BSIP references are prefixed by the database identifier; either 'bsip' for iconographic sources 'bsip-archaeo' for arhcaeological sources or 'bsip-extant' for extant objects pre-1500 CE. 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. Therefore the BSIP database is always specified  lower case.

The format of a BSIP iconographic reference is:

bsip<ref no>[.​<image-ref>][-{M|I|B|IA|IP|BA|BP}<object no>]

The format of a BSIP archaeological reference is:

bsip-archaeo<ref no>[.​<image-ref>][-{I|B|IA|IP|BA|BP}<object no>]

The format of a BSIP extant object reference is:

bsip-extant<ref no>[.​<image-ref>][-{I|B|IA|IP|BA|BP}<object no>]


[] denotes optional an part
{} denotes one of the groups of characters
| separates the character groups in the list {}
<> 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.

[-{M|I|B|IP|IA|BA|BP}<object-no>] is an optional Research Target specifier. It consists of one of  M = Musician, I = Instrument, B = Bow, IA = Instrument Accessory, IP = Instrument Part, BA = Bow Accessory or BP = Bow Part, 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 or bsip-archaeo, or bsip-extant database 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 source. These are simply 'bsip' or 'bsip-archaeo' 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 = The iconographic source whose  BSIP reference ID is 734.

  • bsip734.1 = Image 1 of iconographic source 734.

  • bsip734-M2 = Musician 2 of iconographic source 734.

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

  • bsip-archaeo2 = The archaelogicai source whose BSIP reference ID is 2.

  • bsip-extant1 = The extant object source whose BSIP reference ID is 1.


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 should normally include the database identifier of 'bsip', 'bsip-archaeo' or 'bsip-extant'. The default database is the iconographic database. Iconographic sources may therefore be specified without the database identifier for even shorter URLs. The URLS for the above examples would be:


Citation Example

The minimum information needed in a citation is just the BSIP reference:

Bosse, Abraham, Auditus, c. 1635-1638, etching, paper, bsip3154

A full citation including the online information should use the permalink URLs:

Bosse, Abraham, Auditus, c. 1635-1638, etching, paper, bsip3154, <> [accessed Tue Dec 28 2021]

The Source Image Viewer in the BSIP Insight Research Platform includes buttons to cite sources, images and research targets.

Cite this article:

Pearce, Barry. Bowed Strings Iconography Project: BSIP References. <>