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ESSAY ON THE SYSTEM OF CLASSIFICATION.
BY WM. T. HARRIS.
When one considers the function which the Library performs in modern Education, the importance of a good Catalogue becomes manifest. Our tuition in the Public Schools scarcely more than suffices to give the pupil the ability to use with advantage the printed page. If he is to become learned, he must do so by independent and extensive reading, Even our best Universities do not graduate learned men; they merely initiate their students into the technicalities of a cirole of sciences and arts, and, when this is done, send them forth to fill up these empty technicalities with real knowledge obtained from experience and, more especially, from books. For it must be borne in mind, that a science is rather the joint product of the labors of several generations of men belonging to different countries, than the result of the efforts of any one man. It is clear that these labors can be preserved and transmitted only by aid of books. Thus it is that each man must assist his own feeble efforts by availing himself of the labors of all. The individual must reinforce himself with the power of the race. He can do this by means of the library. Instead of being confined to the use of his own senses, however acute, the student has the service of the senses of all the great naturalists, from Aristotle down to Agassiz, for their results are all carefully collected and preserved in the library.
But, in order to subserve these high purposes, the library must be classified, arranged, and catalogued in such a manner as to furnish to the student a ready key to its contents. To use the words of Mr. Abbott, * there must be an “Index of Authors,?! to enable a person to determine readily whether any particular work belongs to the library, and, if it does, where it is placed; secondly, there must be an “Index of Subjects," to serve as. a guide to the separate works in the library on any particular subject.
This key to a library must be in the possession of the scholar who would master it. It will not suffice that a complete manuscript catalogue, or a card catalogue, be kept at the. library; for the scholar can best examine its resources in the quiet of his own study; he must not be forced to do this essential work in the public gathering place. It follows, therefore, that a printed catalogue is indispensable to the complete utilization of a library.
With these convictions regarding the importance of printed catalogues fixed: in our minds, we approach the practical problem placed before us in the needs of our Public School Library. The first question, “Is the particular work I wish to find in this Library?"' is solved by an alphabetical index of authors and book-titles, and there is no. practical difficulty in making such an index. But the second question, “What books. have you in this library treating on this partioular theme that I ain studying?'' it is notso easy to deal with: it can be answered only through a classified index, and there is great diversity of opinion as to the construotion of such an index.
Classified Index. Whoever has had occasion to consult the classified catalogues of libraries in this country or in Europe, has no doubt experienced the difficulty met with in determining what classes he shall search in order to find books treating on the topics of his investigation. The dificulty experienoed by the investigator is still more troublesome to the corps of librarians. To determine the exact class to which the book, belongs, to place it where it can be found again at once when inquired for, to open to the scholar seeking informa.. tion the entire resources of the library on a special theme-these are constant duties of the librarian, which imply a good system of classification. Every scheme of classification
• Report to the Committee on the Library of Harvard College, by Ezra, Abbott, July 10, 1863.
rests upon some philosophical system as its basis. Even that system adopted so widely in this country, which-to use the words of Mr. Abbott—"abandons the idea of classification and arranges the subjects, general and special, in alphabetical order, without subdivisions, like the words in a dictionary,”-even that system recognizes general classes, and by so doing it recognizes or implies principles of division and generalization which find no justification outside of Philosophy. And if the confusion and uncertainty arising from such a scheme be corrected in the way Mr. Abbott suggests—"by numerous subdivisions arranged in a secondary alphabetical series under the general head,''-still more is a philosophical system implied. The “confusion and uncertainty” of the mere alphabetical arrangement of subjects is well exposed by Mr. Abbott: "The inquirer must often be uncertain under what word in the catalogue he should look for his subject, because it is often difficult for the cataloguer to determine how a particular subject should be designated. First, there is the case of synonymous or equivalent terms. He has to choose, for instance, between Antiquities and Archæology; between Birds and Ornithology; between Shells and Conchology, or Mollusca and Malacology; between Masonry and Freemasonry, to say nothing of Anti-Masonry; between Protection, Tariff, and Free Trade. Or if, as has generally been the case in catalogues constructed on this system, he is governed merely by the accidental phraseology of the title, he separates works of precisely the same class, placing some under one heading and others under one or more synonymous headings in another part of the alphabet, greatly to the inconvenience of the inquirer. Again, many subjects are usually expressed by two or more words, as, Capital Punishment, Future Punishment, College Education, Moral Philosophy, Agricultural Chemistry, English Grammar, English Proverbs, Scottish Ballads, Art of War, International Law, Commercial Law, Comparative Anatomy, Natural Theology, not to mention the equivalent terms often used for many of them, as, Death Penalty, Academic or University Education, Ethics, Military Art, Law of Nations, Mercantile Law, Natural Religion. How is a person to know beforehand under which of these words he will find the subject entered in the Catalogue ?''
Not to speak of the errors that may arise in subdividing the general subjects, it is evident that Mr. Abbott's own system has merely abridged the number of the abovementioned causes of “confusion and uncertainty." For, unless he reduces his general subjects to two or three general heads and exhibits somewhere his scheme of classification, there will still remain the same difficulties in the way of finding these general subjects as before. He has reduced the confusion to comparatively narrow limits; there is no reason why he should not go on and complete a scientific system, by adding the few general heads needed for the purpose. And after doing this, what is clearer than the advantage gained by placing this index by itself, instead of scattering it through an immense list of alphabetically-arranged authors and book-titles? The amount of time consumed needlessly on account of this absurd arrangement (see the Index to the Boston Public Library, Lower Hall) is immense. Moreover, it effectually prevents the scholar from getting clearly mapped out before his mind the system of classification. Such a plan would seem to be resorted to for the purpose of concealing a crude and ill-digested system of division.
When we consider the obvious advantages gained by presenting to the eye of the reader for constant use an exhaustive scheme of classifying "Human Learning as preserved in books," it is strange that our Librarians have not deemed this subject worthy of more attention. The objections to a classified index: "That it is impractical;" “that it obliges the uninitiated person to master a very complex system of classification before he can use it;'' these objections apply also, and with more force, to the alphabeticallyarranged system of classification. In fact, the difficulty of mastering a system of classification is small, compared with the difficulty of making an exhaustive list of headings necessary for the search of books, in an alphabetical list. And such a mastery of the system is unnecessary, for the scholar can run his eye over the four or five pages of subjects in the scheme in a few moments, even if he does not know the principles of classification. No system would or could be complete without cross references, because of the miscellaneous character of the contents of books.*
* That the cross references are not numerous or complete in the Index herewith published is to be regretted; the excise is, that the time required in their preparation would bave deferred so long the publication of the Catalogue,
The results of a somewhat extended study of the subject of Classification of Books, and the arrangement of the practical details of a catalogue are embodied in the following remarks, with the hope that they may prove useful not only to librarians, but especially to philosophical students who desire to look over the whole range of human intelligence as realized in books. The scheme is given in detail on pages IV.-VII. of this Index.
The Scheme of Classification. It uses Bacon's fundamental distinction (developed in the De Augmentis Scientiarum, Book II. chap. I.) of the different faculties of the soul into MEMORY, IMAGINATIOx, and REASON, from which proceed the three grand departments of human learning, to wit: History, Poctry, and Philosophy. Without particularly intending to classify books as such, Lord Bacon attempted to map out “human learning," as he called it, and show its unity and the principle of development in the same. But his deep glance seized the formative idea which distinguishes different species of books.
The content-or what books treat of—is not a suflicient basis of distinction to ground a classification on. For any class of books may treat of two or more phases of the content at once; and since Nature and Mind never exist isolatedly, but always in some degree of synthesis, it follows that nearly all books treat of both, and hence will prove hybrids in such a classification. It may be here remarked that the chief reason for the signal failure of the attempts at classification made by distinguished philosophers and literary men is this: they have conceived that the classifications of science would answer equally well for the classification of the books of a library; and whereas science has for its domain all existence, and to some degree can be classified by its object-matter, they have sought to divide books on the same plan. Notable among the impractical systems of this order is that of Ampère, * which divides “Noölogically'' and “Cosmologically” according to a schematizing formalism as strict and stiff as mathematics. Coleridge, in the Encyclopædia Metropolitana, has given another example of the same error, though in a more genial shape. Coleridge was a poet, as well as philosopher-strongly influenced by the ideas of Schelling. Inasmuch as Schelling philosophized with the “Ideal and the Real”' and their "Union-making the Ideal the “pole'' of pure thought or Philosophy, and the Real, the pole'' of Nature, and Art the union of the two, or the “Absolute Indifference''Coleridge likewise set out with “Pure Sciences” as the first division, placed "History, Biography and Geography'' as the third, and for the middle or connecting link Mixed and applied Sciences." As result thereof we find the whole realm of Poetry crowded into a minute subdivision coördinate with “Numismatics''; it is the sixth section of the third class of the second division of the whole! Its subdivisions are entirely omitted, while minute subdivisions are given to "Astronomy?' and to “Invertebrals”! This, however, does not surprise us when we bear in mind that Coleridge had in view only the requirements of a Cyclopediat.
Brunet's system is the most popular of the unphilosophical order, and is somewhat
• See Appendix to Devey's Logic, Bohn's Library.
† Edwards in his Memoirs of Libraries'' gives Coleridge's classification differently. He has taken a modified form of it made for the purpose of adapting it to a library; hence he places "Literature and Philology'' under a fourth general head.
In the work of Edwards here cited, thirty-two celebrated schemes of classification are given, thirteen of which are designated as " more or less dependent on, or illustrative of, systems of Metaphysics;' the others are directed more or less specifically to the practical arrangement of books."
The most general divisions of some of the former schemes are as follows: that of
Prosper Marchand (A. D. 1701): Cl. I. Philosophy, II. Theology, III. History, IV. Appendix-Polygraphy,
System of Girard (1748): Class I. Theology, II. Nomology, III. Historiography, IV. Philosophy: V. Philology, VI. Technology.
System of Girault : Class T. Preliminary Instruction. II. Cosmography, III. History, IV. Legislation, V. Natural History, VI. Sciences and Arts.
System of Bentham: Class I. Ontology, II. Pneumatology (such subclasses are found in this system as Idioscopic Ontology, • Poioscopic Somatics, "Nooscopic Pneumatology," "Polioscopic Ethics,”' &c.)
System of M. Albert (1847): Class 1. Polylogy, II. Oosmology, III. Andrology, IV. Theology.
of the practical schemes mentioned, the following are notable:
practical-after one has learned it (for it requires the memory. exclusively, no aid being given the librarian by any intimation of a scientific justification at its basis). It is needless to say that it coördinates classes with subclasses and confounds genera with species, and yet has no practical reason therefor, inasmuch as some subdivisions have in an ordinary library) ten times the number of books that may be found under some one general class; take, for example, a subdivision of “Belles-Lettres'' and compare it with the whole division of “Jurisprudence' or that of “Theology." It is clear that Brunet's Catalogue was made rather for the bookseller in Paris than for the librarian.
In the classification based on the three faculties-Memory, Imagination, Reasonwhence we have History, Poetry, and Philosophy, the distinction according to form makes its appearance, and is of some use in the classification of books. Lord Bacon, however, did not have in view any such use of his distinction, nor did he develop it in a proper shape to be of such use. Nor, finally, was it possible for him at that time to do this work, had he contemplated it; for the sciences had scarcely begun to unfold in his time sufficiently to give him a hint as to what form they would assume. He evidently thought that they would take a historical form, and therefore placed what has proved the most important branch under the division of “History." It is for this reason that he names his third division “Philosophy”-excluding its more obvious forms—the Sciences-from his mind in naming it. In his time, prose fiction bad developed very little, and the novelists hitherto known had scarcely availed to advance any species of Prose to the dignity of Art; hence Bacon chose the name Poetry for the whole domain. In our time, the realm of Reflection and Speculation (Understanding and Reason) is called SCIENCE, Philosophy being merely one of its forms, while the realm of Phantasy or Productive Imagination is called Art or ÆSTHETICS. The word “Poetry,” in its origin containing creative significance, was admirably adapted to name the works of the Productive Imagination, and this recommended to Bacon.
An outline of Bacon's system as further elaborated in the nine books of the Advancement of Learning (De Aug. Sci.) is as follows: HISTORY. A. NATURAL HISTORY. a. Generations (i. e. producing regularly).
1. Celestial bodies.
4. Species of Bodies. [?]
a. Civil History Proper. (unfinished) 1. Memoirs. (a) Commentaries. (6) Registers. (1) Calendars. (2) Journals. (defaced) 2. Antiquities (sources). (finished) 3. Perfect History. (1) Chronicles. (2) Biographies. (3) Special Histories or Narratives.
4. Cosmographical. d. Ecclesiastical History. System of Aldus Manutius (1498): Class I. Grammar, II. Poetry, III. Logic, IV. Philosophy, V. Holy Scripture.
System of Johannes Rhodius (1631): Class I. Theology, II. Jurisprudence, III. Medicine, IV. Philosophy, V. History, VI. Poetry, VII. Oratory, VIII. Rhetoric, ix. Logic, X. Philology, XI. Criticism, XII. Grammar:
System of Bouillaud (1678), called the French System, and used with slight modifications by Martin (1740), Debure (1768), and by Brunet in his well-known “Manuel du Libraire: Class I. Theology, II. Jurisprudence, III. Sciences and Arts, IV. Polite Literature, V. History.
System of Leibnitz (1700): Class I. Theology, II. Jurisprudence, III. Medicine, IV. Intellectual Philosophy, V. Mathematics, VI. Physics, VII, Civil History, VIII. Literary History and Bibliography, IX. Polygraphy and Miscellanies.
System of St. Petersburg Imperial Library (1808): Class I. Sciences, II. Arts, III. Philology.
System of Middleton (1775): Class I. Theology, II. Profane History, III. Civil Law, IV. Philosophy, V. Mathematics, VI. Natural History, VII. Medicine, ' VIII. Polite Literature.
System of Schleiermacher -(1847): Class I. Encyclopædias, Literary History and Bibliography, II, Polygraphy, III. Philology, IV. Greek and Latin Literature, V. Modern Polite Literature, VÍ. Fine Arts, VII. Historical Sciences, VIII. Mathematical and Physical Sciences, IX. Natural History, X. Medicine, XI. Industrial and Economical Sciences, XII. Philosophy, XII. Theology, XIV. Jurisprudence and Politics.
There is a tendency to the use of new-coined words in many of these schemes. It is of the utmost importance in a practical scheme to avoid pedantry of this sort.
1. History of Church.
2. History of Prophecy. * ** 3. History of Providence. piny C. .
c. Literary History. -B 4. Speeches. :?
c. Apothegms. POETRY FUSA. NARRATIVE OR HEROIC” [Epic and Lyric).
5355,": B. DRAMATIC.
C. ALLEGORICAL. Fables, Mythologies, &c. PHILOSOPHY.
A. TIXOLOGY or Divine Philosophy. B. NATURAL PHILOSOPHY. a. Speculative. 1. Physics. (a) Principles of things. (b) Structure of things. (c) Varieties of things.
(1) Concretes. Subdivided like Natural History into ''celestial, terrestrial, cc.
(2) Abstract. a. Properties of matter. b. Motions.
2. Metaphysics. (a) Essential forms. (0) Final causes. isp ORAD. Practical.
2. Magic (1 e. application of the discoveries of Science to practical uses- Telegraph). to boic. Appendix. *Mathematics. 1. Pure Mathematics. (a) Geometry (continued Quantity).
(0) Arithmetic (discrete Quantity).
(d) Cosmography (Géography),
(e) Architecture. (f) Mechanics.
(3) To prolong life.
(1) Painting. (2) Musić. 2. Soul and Body related. (a) Indications. (1) Physiognomy.
(2) Interpretation of dreams.
(b) Impressions upon the soul through the body. 3. Soul. (a) Rational soul. (1) Faculties. (a) Logic. Arts of -1, Invention; II. Judg
ment; III. Memory; IV. 'Tradition. (6) Ethics. 1. Models ; 11. Culture of
mind; &c. The general unfitness of this system* for the classification of books is apparent; it was not intended for it. But its principle of division is of great value. To be applied to the use of a library, it is necessary to seize and not lose sight of its spirit, in the details which Bacon gives. It will be found that in minor divisions and sections the content exercises a predominating influence on the classification, while in the principal divisions the form is the guiding principle.
Inverting the order in which Bacon considers the system, Science should come first on account of its furnishing the method and principles for what follows. I. SCIENCE gives the department of books in which conscious system prevails. II. ART (Æsthetics) gives the department in which "organic unity?' or unconscious
system prevails. III. History gives the department in which the system is determined by accidental rela
tions, such as time and place.
* I should not omit this opportunity to refer to the Catalogue of that excellent collection, the St. Louis Mercantile Library, which is based on the Baconian system. In fact, it was the eminent practical success of that system of classitication-considering both its usefulness to the reader and its convenience to the librarians-that led to this attempt at a Classitied Catalogue of the Public School Library. The form of the Baconian system adopted in the Catalogue of the Mercantile Library is substantially that of D'Alembert [Encyclopedie Methodique, 1767]; but it has numerous modifications introduced by the jertile mind of the librarian, Edward Wm. Johnston, Esq., whose remarks in the introduction are worthy of being remembered here: “There is but one real method of arranging the contents of large libraries ; and this is the Systematic—the regular classing of books, each under the subject of which it treats, so as to bring together for the student in one body all that the collection affords as to each separate matter; while every matter, of course, finds its own due place in a right intellectual arrangement of all human knowledge. A mere alphabetical method (if indeed it can be called such) can never, no matter how well executed, supply the place of a true one. There is nothing to recommend it except its facility of execution. For to make its (so-called) Classified Index at all accomplish what it assumes to do, it would have to be as large and minute as a regular systematic one, while totally destitute of its high advantage of rational arrangement."
In Mr. Johnston's arrangement there are 74 subdivisions of the class History; 120 of the class Philosophy; 31 of the class Poetry. Many of the subdivisions in the present, Catalogue have been borrowed from his system ; but his system lacks proper subordination, and there is consequently much confusion in the second department, or "Philosophy."