What Is Bates Numbering?

If you have been in document management for any period of time you have heard about Bates numbering. It is a system that provides a unique number to every page of a document. It is sometimes used to refer to a time and date stamp on a document.

Bates numbering is most common when dealing with legal documents. By having a unique number for the document speeds up the discovery process.

Most legal practices in the United States use the Bates numbering system. It is also used in some medical practices and large businesses to manage large libraries of documents.

How the Bates Numbering System Came to Be

The name comes from Edwin G. Bates. He patented a device for “new and useful improvement in Consecutive-Numbering Machines.” The patents for the device were issued between 1891 and 1901. It was a rubber stamp that included a wheel that would increment after each time it was stamped.

The first stamp the Bates Manufacturing Company introduced had four digits so the pages would be numbered from 0000 to 9999. The obvious limitation is the stamp can only count to 10,000 pages. Over time additional digits were added to some models.

The Bates Manufacturing Company continued to manufacture the stamps until 1993. It was purchased by General Binding Corporation. The stamps are still used in some law offices but more often now the numbering is done with a sticker or placed on the document when it is digitized.

So today lets thank Edwin G. Bates for introducing the first mechanical indexing system. He simplified document management for a hundred years and made finding pages on a document much faster.While his machine is not used much anymore, the idea lives on. Every time we index pages during the document conversion process we are standing on the shoulder of giants.

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