Database Schema

The schema below describes the original Basira database, which was constructed in FileMakerPro version 13. As part of our planned transition to Open Source software at the Univ. of Pennsylvania, this schema has been extensively revised; an updated version will be posted in 2021.

This current listing displays groups of records, with group names are ALL CAPS.Underlined fields are followed by their entry options (as dashed lists).
We continue to welcome colleagues’ input on these; choosing which options to include obviously determines what data can be counted / analyzed.
Words with Capital Letters are the names of record fields in the database.

The primary organizing group is ARTWORK. Artwork records can be sorted by any other field.

The secondary organizing group is BOOK RECORDS; each Book Record is linked to the Artwork within which the Book is located. A Book Record is created for each book classified as “Prominent” in an Artwork. See Number of Books, below.


Title. List full formal title first, with any alternate titles following in parentheses. Preferably use the language of the original title.
Alternate Title. Common name OR translated name.
Name Source. Reference authority for name: in most cases, this will be “repository”
Date Created. List as year(s). In case of a date range, use 4 digits for both start & end dates. Add the letters “ca” after a date to indicate “circa.” If only “active” dates are known, enter “ac”. In case of “before” or “after” use “< 1500” or “< 1500”.
Dimensions. List in centimeters. Use gallery convention of depth first, followed by width.

_ Bas relief (ivory, bone, stone, wood)
_ Drawing
_ Engraving
_ Illustration (in book)
_ Metal (includes coins)
_ Painting (panel or fresco)
_ Stained Glass
_ Sculpture
_ Textile
_ Other

_ Annunciation
_ Mythology
_ Sacred
_ Secular
_ Teachers  / students
_ Other

Presentation Image? *
_ yes / no
* “Presentation” indicates the act of one being handing a book to another being.

BETA? [Book Expected, though Absent]
Indicates an image in which books usually appear, by convention. Examples include an Annunciation image without a book, or a portrait of St. Jerome without a book.

_ Name
_ Nationality

Commissioned for
_ Church or Chapel
_ Confraternity
_ Home
_ Monastery / Convent
_ Public Space
_ Other

Religious Order
_ Augustinian
_ Benedictine
_ Church of England
_ Carthusian
_ Cistercian
_ Dominican
_ Franciscan
– Lutheran
_ Olivetan
_ Other

_ First name
_ Last Name
_ Year born
_ Year died
_ Nationality

  • Names: Generally, First Name record includes qualifiers. Example, for Bernardo di Penzance, “di” would be entered in the First Name field. Use the “Preferred Name” from the Getty Union List of Artist Names.

  • When only “years active” information is known for an artist, use those years as if they were birth & death dates.

  • Nationality: Use the modern country name for the region most identified with an artist. For an artist who grew up in Saxony and worked later in Venice, enter “German.”

Name. Name most known as.
Repository City.
Repository Country.
Provenance / Collection. This field may contain accession number. Or, for example, Kress ID number.

Image Source.
Photographer Name.
Image Permissions. Information about image use, such as Open Access; Creative Commons. Include credit line information if available.

Image Dimensions. Enter in inches, width then depth.
Image Resolution. Enter resolution in pixels (usually 72 for lo-res web use)
Hi-res URL. Web location of high resolution image.

Number of books (portrayed in the Artwork)
_ Total ____ (number)
_ Prominent _____ (number)

  • The Total number should include every single book recognizable in the painting.

  • Identification of a Prominent Book is subjective; if an Artwork contains only one book, then that book is classified as Prominent.

  • An open book is normally counted as Prominent. Other books are denoted Prominent based on their visual importance in the artwork.

When an artwork portrays multiple books, each Prominent Book is identified by assigning a location, as described below (Book Locator Grid).

Locator Grid: IF Artwork is a composite, it will be treated as a whole IF the available image includes the entire Artwork (such as a many-paneled altarpiece). If the Repository displays only one panel of a composite, then that panel is given an entry as an individual Artwork.

  • Books within an Artwork are identified thus: Imagine mechanical scanner moving top left to right: it denotes a “row” when it encounters ANY book. Along that same horizontal scan line, any tiny edge of another book, within about 1/4 inch, will be counted in that row. Each book in the row will be designated by a “column” number. These columns are not actual grid columns; they are simply instances of books encountered (left to right) in the horizontal scan sequence:

The grid uses letters for horizontal positions and arabic numbers for vertical positions.

left to  right,

top to bottom

(column)- A

(column)- B

(column)- C

















Once the ARTWORK has been sorted down to this level, the taxonomy focuses on the BOOK as object.
There will normally be one Book Record generated for each Prominent Book in the Artwork.

Book Action
_ Breathing*
_ Displaying
_ Holding
_ Reading
_ Touching
_ Writing
* (“Breathing” describes a book whose pages are flipping/ in motion)
Reading requires that eyes are directed at the pages.

Book Support Type.
_ Animate, human (all)
_ Animate, animal
_ Inanimate, altar
_ Inanimate, furniture
_ Inanimate, other

Animate Book SupportER.
_ Angel
_ Clergy incl. monk
_ Christ
_ Devil / demon
_ God
_ Human, not saint
_ Mary, mother of Jesus
– Nun / religious sister
_ Saint (includes apostles)
_ Saint Jerome
_ Saint John the Baptist
_ Unknown
_ Other

SupportER Gender
_ Male
_ Female
_ Other

How Held
_ Hands, both
_ Hand, left
_ Hand, right
_ Under arm
_ On knee(s)
_ Touching
_ In lap
_ On floor
_ “Holy hold” *
_ On Table
_ On ledge
_ On shelf
_ On shoulder
_ On lectern
_ On back
_ On other books
_ Other

*  “Holy hold” designates that the book holder’s skin does not touch the physical book. Most commonly seen when a saint supports a book through the folds of his/her garment. Also known as “Draped Hands.”

Spine Position
_ Medial (body center)
_ Left lateral
_ Right lateral
_ Toward floor
_ Facing Up
_ Other

Fingers IN book?
_ 1 or 2
_ 3 or 4
_ Thumb in book

_ Yes
_ No
Describes a book held partially withIN the cloak (cope) of the holder

Binding type
_ Banderole
_ Board (hard case)
_ Chemise
_ Girdle book
_ Limp case
_ Paper covered
_ Scroll or roll
_ Sheet of paper
_ Three-piece case
_ Other

Binding color
_ Black
_ Blue
_ Brown
_ Gold/yellow
_ Gray/silver
_ Green
_ Orange
_ Pink
_ Purple
_ Red
_ Tan or beige
_ White or Cream
_ Multiple colors
_ Other

_ Bar
_ Endband string markers
_ Leaf tab markers
– piece of paper
_ Ribbon
_ Spine ball (pippe)
_ Other

Bookblock edges
_ Cut
_ Gilded / painted
_ Labeled (writing)
_ Tooled / Diapered
_ uncut
_ Undecorated (plain)

Binding Features
_ Bosses
_ Clasps
_ Cords visible
_ Edge-pattern
_ Endband
_ Embossed Case
_ Squares visible
_ Straps

Book Size
_ Miniature
_ Small
_ Medium
_ Large
_ Other
_ Scroll (used only very exceptionally)

Book Position
_ Fully open, outward (text faces viewer of Artwork)
_ Fully open, inward (text faces figure within Artwork)
_ Fully closed
_ Partially open

Book Type
_ Bible or Gospel
_ Blank
_ Book of Hours
_ Breviary
_ Business Ledger
_ Devotional
_ Liturgical
_ Magic
_ Missal
_ Music
_ Psalter
_ Reference
_ Textbook (schoolbook)
_ Other

Book as Table*
_ Book
_ Chalice
_ Cross or Crucifix
_ Globe
_ Infant
_ Lamb
_ Lion
_ Pen
_ Other
* (Describes a book portrayed as support for another object.)

Text Language
_ French
_ German
_ Greek
_ Hebrew
_ Italian
_ Latin
_ Lorem ipsum
_ Spanish
_ Other

Text Style
_ Single Column
_ Multiple Column
_ Rubricated, single
_ Rubricated, multiple
_ Illuminated
_ Illustrated
_ Handwritten
_ Printed (if certain)

Text Transcribed. (Enter first few lines of legible text, with citation if available.)

Page Contents
_ Art / illustration
_ Diagram
_ Math
_ Music
_ Other

Notes. (free-form alpha field)

Some screen shots of the database layout follow:

FMP Athens.png


How Held

Book Supporter


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