Library Catalog - History


Library catalogs originated as manuscript lists, arranged by format (folio, quarto, etc.) or in a rough alphabetical arrangement by author. Printed catalogs, sometimes called dictionary catalogs, began to be published in the early modern period and enabled scholars outside a library to gain an idea of its contents. Copies of these in the library itself would sometimes be interleaved with blank leaves on which additions could be recorded, or bound as guardbooks in which slips of paper were bound in for new entries. Slips could also be kept loose in cardboard or tin boxes, stored on shelves. The first ] appeared in the late 19th century after the standardization of the 5 in. x 3 in. card for personal filing systems, enabling much more flexibility, and towards the end of the 20th century the Online public access catalog was developed (see below). These gradually became more common as some libraries progressively abandoned such other catalog formats as paper slips (either loose or in sheaf catalog form), and guardbooks. The beginning of the Library of Congress's catalog card service in 1911 led to the use of these cards in the majority of American libraries. An equivalent scheme in the United Kingdom was operated by the British National Bibliography from 1956 and was subscribed to by many public and other libraries.

  • c. 245 BC: Callimachus is considered the first bibliographer and

is the one that organized the library by authors and subjects. The Pinakes (Ancient Greek: Πίνακες "tables") was the first ever library catalogue. Variations on this system were used in libraries until the late 1800s when Melvil Dewey developed the Dewey Decimal Classification in 1876, which is still in use today.

  • c. 800: Library catalogues are introduced in the House of Wisdom

and other medieval Islamic libraries where books are organized into specific genres and categories.

  • 1595: Nomenclator of Leiden University Library appears, the

first printed catalog of an institutional library.

  • 1674: Thomas Hyde's catalog for the Bodleian Library.
  • 1791:

More about the early history of library catalogs has been collected in 1956 by Strout.

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