Well. There is a long established practice of adding the real person’s dates to a pseudonym, with or without the need to distinguish it. As we’ve always applied the options in both AACR2 and RDA to add dates when known. In most cases the pseudonym has simply been another name used by the real person. I don’t see this as problematic.


The complication occurs when someone ascribes a back story to the pseudonym, effectively creating a fictitious character. Sometimes the pseudonym is for an actual fictitious character in literature. In these cases, are we saying that the pseudonym is a nomen of the writer, or the fictitious character?


We wrestled with these issues at some length in the RSC Fictitious Characters Working Group last year. I came to the conclusion that however much we go round the houses, they are ultimately intractable. In theoretical terms at least. In practice we can usually judge whether an attribute belongs or not. Nobody ever suggested that George Orwell wasn’t born in 1903. On the other hand, if someone writes purporting to be Sherlock Holmes, the question arises.







Richard Moore

Authority Control Team Manager

The British Library


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From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging <[log in to unmask]> On Behalf Of Luiza Wainer
Sent: 12 December 2018 16:32
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] Describing pseudonyms/real identities


Dear PCCers,


Sorry to keep beating a dead horse, but there is still some internal disagreement in my institution about describing pseudonyms, so I wanted to open up for discussion once more the issue on using biographical information for the "real" identity to describing a pseudonym in an authority record.

The pseudonym and the "real" identity are two separate identities that are linked to the same entity, each of them with their own set of identifying attributes. This image from Wikimedia Commons by Audun Jøsang [CC BY 3.0] exemplifies this perfectly.


Authors may or may not decide that their pseudonym has a completely different backstory (or set of attributes) than their own.


This is clear in the case of Jim Dodge and Gordon Langley Ives: Jim Dodge (the “real” identity) was born in 1945 in California; Gordon Langley Ives (the pseudonym) was born in 1936 in England. They are both identities of the same entity (Jim Dodge the person).


Same goes for Hannelore Hippe (“real” identity) who lives in Cologne; and Hannah O’Brien (no2018166157, pseudonym) who lives in Ireland.


Some of my colleagues believe that we should carry over these attributes from the “real” identity to the description of the pseudonym (like death/birth dates, professions, associated locations, etc), since that is how we’ve historically done things (see: Mark Twain  and Samuel Clemens).


I argue that these attributes of the real identity should not be used to describe the pseudonym, even if the pseudonym doesn’t have its own, separate backstory. If an attribute is needed to disambiguate the name of the pseudonym, $c (Pseudonym) can be used instead of the dates of the real identity. Since these are two separate identities, using attributes of one to describe the other is inaccurate at best and harmful at worst.


Curious to see what you all think.





Luiza Wainer

Metadata Librarian

Princeton University Library

[log in to unmask] | (609) 258-2789

(Pronouns: they/them/theirs)




From: Luiza Wainer
Sent: Thursday, August 23, 2018 10:01 AM
To: Program for Cooperative Cataloging
Subject: Describing pseudonyms/real identities

Dear collective wisdom,


I was wondering on best practices for creating authority records for pseudonyms beyond what is covered on the LC/PCC FAQs on individuals with more than one identity.


If an individual only uses a pseudonym, we're instructed in RDA (exception), RDA and the aforementioned FAQs to input the person's real name, if known, as a 400. This seems a bit unethical to me. If this person does not want their real name associated with their works (hence the use of pseudonym), why are we making this explicit? In many cases with pseudonyms, a person has their real identity outed without their consent, and I question our complicity in this by publicly sharing this information in the NAF (see, for instance, the outing of J.K. Rowling as the real identity behind Robert Galbraith [1])


I also question using biographical information for the real identity when describing a pseudonym. Author's might decide that their pseudonym has a different gender, nationality, birth date, etc. then themselves for a myriad of reasons (like the endless list of women writers that decide to use male pseudonyms because, as Charlotte Bronte puts it, "we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice" [2]). Records like no2018033569 (Cunha, Eduardo, ǂd 1975-), n  79045512 (Eliot, George, ǂd 1819-1880), n  78081235 (Sand, George, ǂd 1804-1876) - just to name a few off the top of my head - all carry biographical information of the real identity, which does not describe the pseudonym.


It seems to me that the same best practices suggested for recording information about gender [3] should be applied for pseudonyms: "Do not dig for given names or genders assigned at birth". Which is to say, describe the identity associated with the pseudonym, and do not dig for information regarding the real identity. 


I'd love to hear your thoughts and practices on the matter.



[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/15/books/a-detective-storys-famous-author-is-unmasked.html

[2] https://doi.org/10.1080/00138389408598916

[3] https://www.loc.gov/aba/pcc/documents/Gender_375%20field_RecommendationReport.pdf



Luiza Wainer

Metadata Librarian

Princeton University Library

[log in to unmask] | (609) 258-2789

(Pronouns: they/them/theirs)




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