Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Smithsonian Catalogue System (1850)

Cool. The Internet Archive has a copy. For all you library scholars who want to read some early liberry history, for whatever good that would do, check it out; and it comes in Kindle!

I think it's cool that libraries had so few books that keeping an alphabetical catalog was actually desirable. At least according to this author. Remember, this is before Dewey and LC.

I wish I could remember if there was a publishing boom after the American Civil War...

from p. 14 of the Smithsonian Catalogue System (1850), with my thanks to Cornell University Library for keeping it safe this many years,
"If, however, it were possible to agree upon a system of classification, the attempt to carry it out would, in a work like that proposed, be fatal to uniformity. Where different men were applying the same system, their opinions would vary, with their varying intelligence and skill. This would lead to titter and irremediable confusion, and would eventually defeat all our plans.

Even were these objections obviated, the occurrence of fewer difficulties in constructing an alphabetical catalogue would still present a decisive argument in its favor. Even these are great. If increased, by an attempt at classification, they would soon lead to an abandonment of the work.

Another consideration of great weight is, that, in reprinting classified catalogues, and inserting additions, if the titles were kept in systematic order, the work of selecting those to be used, and of distributing them to their places, would have to be done by a person, who, besides being a practical printer, should be familiar with the bibliographical system adopted. This would be very expensive. Whereas, on the alphabetical plan, any printer could do the whole."