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The term work is used in a number of languages with more or less the same meaning – in German Werk, in French œuvre, in the Scandinavian languages verk or værk, etc. It is primarily a literary term, and belongs to the taxonomy of the textual material which usually is a basis for the actual stemmatological investigation. Works are identified in catalogues in which their transmission in manuscripts is described. In academic literature, works are commonly referred to by italicised titles, typically in the language of the work itself. For example, the Old Icelandic work Njáls saga (The saga of Njáll) is preserved in a number of manuscripts, and can only be accessed through these manuscripts or any editions based on these.

It happens that the textual critic decides to change the delineation of the work, e.g. by removing or adding manuscripts, but for most types of literature, the works have been rather firmly established, and the interest for the textual critic is to trace their transmission rather than to analyse their contents or historical settings.

In the FRBR model, the work is at the very top of the model, being represented by expressions, manifestations and individual items (Functional Requirement for Bibliographical Records, 1998, p. 14).


– Functional Requirements for Bibliographical Records. Final Report. München: Saur, 1998. – Accessed 1 November 2015.

In other languages

DE: Werk
FR: œuvre
IT: opera


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