What do you put in a reference when the page lacks numbering? Is there any abbreviation to denote such a case? I'm working on some manuscripts that are numbered only on the front side. I refer to them as folium, abbreviated fol. Unfortunately, some of the sheets aren't numbered at all(???)

  • Are the remaining sheets numbered consistently? E.g. Do you have page 1, (no page number), (no page number), 4, …? If so, consider using the implied page number.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 9:17
  • Unfortunately, not. I have a few files of separate documents and letters, and now one of the files turned out to contain a set of sheets without any numbering. In my native language there's an abbreviation that translates to l.n. (lack of numbering), but I've never seen such a thing in English.
    – shogun
    Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 9:28
  • 1
    If there is no consistent and explicit numbering of any kind (page, paragraph, or chapter), then all you can do is cite the source itself without being specific. Specifying something that might work for one person but fail for another is worse than not specifying anything at all. You could give at least a general location in the narrative ("close to the start") outside of the citation itself. Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 14:05
  • If it's a manuscript then page numbers are useless anyway. Better to identify the reference through some semantic association, such as "section on potatoes".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 2:24

2 Answers 2


The Chicago Manual of Style provides a list of abbreviations used in scholarly works.

n.p. stands for no place, no publisher, no page (presumably whichever one is missing).


Two examples of page references from manuscripts from a book I have at hand (Thomas, Religion & the Decline of Magic):

E. Bulkeley, A sermon (1586), sig. B4v. [referring to the verso side of the fourth sheet in the second signature of a bound manuscript]

Ely D.R., B 2/15, f. 4v [verso side of fourth sheet (f=folium); I assume this is for unbound papers, volume 2 of 15 (B=Band??), not sure]

  • jlovegren, you are absolutely right, the v stands for verso – the back side of a sheet. But from f. 4v I understand that at least the sheets are numbered on the front side. In my case there's no numbering neither on the front nor on the back.
    – shogun
    Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 17:32
  • 1
    @shogun if you are dealing with some loose sheets, do they even have a canonical order? if not, there's no point in a page reference. otherwise just pick a logical system. also it might be a good idea to pause your main work and create a table of contents for the file you are working from. if the archival institution permits, you can also make copies of the documents and produce an edited volume which will henceforth define the canonical citations.
    – user31341
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 3:48

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