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Survey of Western Civilization 1648 to Late 20th Century
Last Updated: Sep 14, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Library of Congress Print Page

LC and History Call Numbers

Library of Congress Classification Outline

Letters and titles of the main classes. Click any class to view an outline of its subclasses.

History of Europe Call Numbers

Class D - World History. Scroll to see the subclasses, which include coverage and dates.

LC Classification System

Notice that the sub-divisions include time frame. Do not choose books before 1648:

DA350-360        Elizabeth I, 1558-1603.  Elizabethan age

DA385-398        Early Stuarts, 1603-1642

DA400-429        Civil War and Commonwealth, 1642-1660

DA430-463        Later Stuarts

DA498-503        1714-1760

DA505-522        George III, 1760-1820

DA550-565        Victorian era, 1837-1901

DA566-592         20th century


Use call numbers to browse!

Call numbers do two things: 1) They represent what the subject matter of the book is -- books on similar topics are thus shelved near each other; 2) They uniquely identify every specific book -- no two books have exactly the same call number.

Brian Bailey's The Luddite Rebellion has the call number DA535.B35 1998 and is shelved in the Main Stacks.

I could go to the shelves and browse, using that call number as a place to start.

Academic libraries use the Library of Congress Classification system (affectionately known as LC) to give call numbers to their books.

Many books in history are given call numbers beginning with the letter D. Click to go to Library of Congress Classification Outline and look at the D section. Note that call numbers for books about Great Britain begin with DA, books about the history of Spain begin with DP. Even Switzerland gets a whole subclass: DQ. Then all of Asia (which includes the Middle East) is DS, all of Africa is DT.

The reason is that the LC Classification schedule was devised to provide order to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. beginning in 1897. The library of 1.5 million volumes was moving to new quarters. Melvil* Dewey (of the Dewey Decimal System) refused to allow any alterations to his schedule. So, a new system was created and letters were used as the first defining element. Classification was based on "literary warrant" -- if Library of Congress had books on a topic, a place in the classification schedule was created. The LC Schedule was devised to represent the collection in the Library of Congress in the late 1890s. --Topsy Smalley


    Jefferson's Library "I cannot live without books,"

    "Through a generous grant from Jerry and Gene Jones, the Library of Congress is attempting to reassemble Jefferson's library as it was sold to Congress. Although the broad scope of Jefferson's library was a cause for criticism of the purchase, Jefferson extolled the virtue of its broad sweep and established the principle of acquisition for the Library of Congress: "there is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer." Proclaiming that "I cannot live without books," Jefferson began a second collection of several thousand books, which was sold at auction in 1829 to help satisfy his creditors."

    Thomas Jefferson's Library Exhibit, Library of Congress

    Jefferson's Letter

    "On learning of the burning of the Capitol and the loss of the 3,000-volume Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson wrote to his friend, newspaper publisher, Samuel H. Smith (1772-1845) asking him to offer Congress his personal library of between "9 and 10,000 volumes" as a replacement."

    Jefferson's classification of books
    In Thomas Jefferson's day, most libraries were arranged alphabetically. But Jefferson preferred to arrange his by subject. He chose Lord Bacon's table of science, the hierarchy of

    Memory (History)

    Reason (Philosophy)

    Imagination (Fine Arts)

    to order his arrangement of books by subject with some modifications.

    The resulting arrangement as illustrated in the Nicholas Trist (1800-1870) copy of Jefferson's library catalog for 1815 is a combination of subject and chronology. In practice, however, Jefferson shelved his books by size.


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