On 20/11/2012 09:32, Bernhard Eversberg wrote:
They didn’t really have a choice here because the first objective was that books be findable by their author and title. (When talking about “discovery”, we almost always mean subject access, but “formal” (rule-based) access by names and titles remains a necessity for library catalogs, and it remains important that it be efficient and reliable.)
Classified access, to work well, needs a good classification, and then to to be kept current. With new subjects cropping up all the time, this was never possible and may not be even today.
In addition, it was never quite possible to classify all titles, but all got an author-title unit card.
Together, these restrictions make a classified catalog less reliable.
Nonetheless, some countries, Germany among them, have had a long tradition of classified catalogs. They were maintained seperate from the alphabetical main catalog, of course, since the ordering was by number. Some have integrated classified access into their opacs.
For those who may be interested, I think the “Catalogue of the Mercantile library in New York” is one of the clearest examples of how it used to work. http://books.google.it/books?id=2aAQAAAAIAAJ
It begins with a listing of all books by main entry order, or by title when there is no author. Otherwise, there is normally no title added access, e.g. You find James Audubon’s “Birds of America” only under A and not under B. But you find “Autumn leaves: miscellaneous poems, from various authors” only under A. This section is followed by “Novels, tales, and romances, in English prose” first by title (this is where title is considered important) and then by author, creating almost a separate catalog.
After this is the classified arrangement, beginning–as was normal then–with Theology, going to Morality, and so on. Finding anything this way was almost impossible, so they would also add a “Table of Contents” that provides the individual classes in an alphabetical order. So, for someone interested in knowing what is in this collection on “Tobacco”, you discover it is under
“Mental and Moral Science” — “Rhetoric” — “Temperance” (!!).
Or “Ghosts” is under
“Medical science” — “Mesmerism and superstition”
So, we see the absolute need of the index.
Some catalogs kept the subject catalog separate as here, while others kept it all in a single alphabet. Charles Cutter kept a single alphabetic arrangement in his catalog http://archive.org/details/cataloguelibrar05cuttgoog.
When the development of cardboard and card stock made the card catalog a possibility, the catalogers of those times saw that the task was to make the catalogs they knew (like this) work in a card environment. That is still being done today. I discussed some of this in a post to Autocat https://blog.jweinheimer.net/2012/06/re-acat-currency-of-subject-headings-was-tell-all-your-associates.html