The collections for inclusion in the STCN have been selected on the basis of size, composition, special collection emphasis, accessibility and willingness to co-operate. All collections provide public access.
The STCN-instructions are based entirely on the principles of the modern analytical bibliography. Every description is made on the basis of autopsy, that is, with the book in hand. The description rules have been laid down in the Handleiding voor de medewerkers aan de STCN (Manual for STCN-personnel).
The following procedures apply in the production and verification of a STCN-description. In a given the library, the books to be processed are selected on the basis of existing registers, such as a printers' register or a catalogue, and requested. A cataloguer makes a title description, which is corrected by a colleague with the book still to hand. From the (engraved) title-page and - where extant - the colophon photographs are made. The book is then returned to the stacks. The editor also checks the description, especially for the application of the rules to ensure consistency within the database. In deciding a problematic case, he or she has the last word.
Although the STCN became quickly known in bibliographical circles for its advanced and computer-friendly 'fingerprint', that is only a small part of the descriptions. Meticulous transcription, a collation formula in stead of listing the number of pages, inclusion of a large number of ‘typographical features’ (typefaces used, the presence of a printer's device, illustrations and stocklists, and later also of price indications and lists of subscribers, etc.) are just as important for the quality and usability of the descriptions. Nevertheless, the fingerprint has definitely proven its worth in the project. For more information on the fingerprint see here.
All stocklists used to fill the remaining blank pages at the end of a book, whether booksellers' or publishers', have been copied. This unique book-historical source can be consulted at the KB.
For seventeenth-century books additional photocopies have also been made of all printers' devices and the monumental Dutch Printers’ Devices by Van Huisstede and Brandhorst rests entirely on the material thus collected.