<physdesc> Physical Description

<physdesc> is used within <did> to provide unstructured information about the material. It may be used to describe the amount, the color, the volume, the function, etc. To provide the same information in a more structured fashion, use <physdescstructured> elements, possibly grouped within a <physdescset> element. Essentially, <physdesc>’s utility has been diminished, although it may still be useful when the information doesn’t fit a proper structured format.


  • @altrender – not required. Use if the content of the element should be displayed or printed differently than the rendering established in a style sheet for other occurrences of the element.
  • @audience – not required. Use to set whether the element’s contents will be visible to external users or to internal ones. Possible values are: “internal” and “external.”
  • @encodinganalog – not required. May contain information to map this tag to a particular element in another schema.
  • @id – not required. Creates an ID for element. Can be used for linking.
  • @label – not required. This can be used when a meaningful display label for an element can’t be derived by the stylesheet from its name. It is available in all <did> subelements.
  • @lang – not required. Three-letter code that indicates the language in which the element’s contents were written. It should come from ISO 639-2b.
  • @localtype – not required. This attribute may be used within a number of elements. Its use and values are not defined by the schema and may be defined locally.
  • @script – not required. Four-letter code that indicates the script in which the element’s contents were written. It should come from ISO 15924.

Child Elements

<physdesc> may contain text as well as <abbr>, <emph>, <expan>, <foreign>, <lb />, <ptr/>, and <ref>.


See DACS Section 2.5, Extent. (DACS 2013, pp.28-30)


<physdesc>55 letters</physdesc>
  <unittitle>Quilting Technologies Department Records</unittitle>
  <unitdate normal="1978/2020" unitdatetype="inclusive">1978-2020</unitdate>
  <physdesc>10 linear feet</physdesc>
  <physdesc>221 GB</physdesc>

Changes from EAD 2002

<physdesc> gained @lang and @script attributes while losing @rules and @source attributes. More importantly, much of its functionality was moved to <physdescstructured> and it was left with only generic elements. It may not longer contain <dimensions>, <extent>, or <physfacet>.

EAD3 Tag Library Entry

View the official tag library entry for <physdesc>