The organization of knowledge and bibliographic classification in nineteenth-century America
Bibliographic classification is culturally bound. This research examines the classification systems created for social libraries in the first half of the nineteenth century in the United States. Social libraries are defined as institutions that have voluntary membership and are dependent on membership fees. Seventeen classified catalogs were examined and their classification systems compared. This study explored the underlying warrant of these classification systems and compared the systems to Francis Bacon’s organization of knowledge as published in The Advancement of Learning to identify the potential influence of the underlying warrant on the classification structures. Contextual influences of individual libraries and larger sociocultural influences on religion, fiction, and science were also considered. Of the 17 classification systems in the sample, 13 were comparable to Bacon’s organization of knowledge, although the order of classes was not followed. Religion classes demonstrated a shift away from primacy, while the fiction class solidified its place in the libraries. Finally, changes in science classes demonstrate the immediacy of the environment on the development of systems. Further research is suggested on the utility of warrant as a component of discourse as well as its possible limitations.
0723: Information science