How to Catalogue Books Using the Jefferson Classification Scheme

In 1789, Thomas Jefferson developed the Jefferson Classification Scheme to arrange his own books. He divided human knowledge into 44 broad categories within three fields: Memory, Philosophy, and Fine Arts.

All books are shelved by their subject within height groups in order to make the shelf aesthetically pleasing.

To browse books on the shelf by subject, first look by height, then follow the Scheme across the shelf.

I.   Memory

* 1. Antient History

* 2. Modern History-Foreign

* 3. Modern History-British

* 4. Modern History-American

* 5. History-Ecclesiastical

* 6. Natural Philosophy

* 7. Agriculture

* 8. Chemistry

* 9. Surgery

* 10. Medicine

* 11. Animals-Anatomy

* 12. Animals-Zoology

* 13. Botany

* 14. Mineralogy

* 15. Occupations of Man. Technical Arts

II. Philosophy

* 16. Ethics, Moral Philosophy, Law of Nature and Nations

* 17. Religion

* 18. Jurisprudence-Equity

* 19. Jurisprudence-Common Law

* 20. Jurisprudence-Law-Merchant

* 21. Jurisprudence-Law-Maritime

* 22. Jurisprudence. Law-Ecclesiastical

* 23. Jurisprudence. Foreign Law

* 24. Politics

* 25. Mathematics. Pure. Arithematic

* 26. Mathematics. Pure. Geometry

* 27. Physico-Mathematics. Mechanics, Statics, Dynamics, Pneumatics, Phonics, Optics

* 28. Astronomy

* 29. Geography

III. Fine Arts

* 30. Architecture

* 31. Gardening, Painting, Sculpture

* 32. Music

* 33. Poetry. Epic

* 34. Romance. Tales-Fables

* 35. Pastorals, Odes, Elegies

* 36. Didactic

* 37. Tragedy

* 38. Comedy

* 39. Dialogue-Epistolary

* 40. Logic, Rhetoric, Orations

* 41. Criticism. Theory

* 42. Criticism. Bibliography

* 43. Criticism. Languages

* 44. Polygraphical

Call Numbers

Sample Call Number: 15.09.58

15 = Height = 15 cm.

09 = Subject = Surgery

58 = Title Cutter Number = Introduction to Surgery

All books are shelved by height, then by Scheme subject within that height group, and then sorted by title using the Cutter Number.

Cutter Table

In 1893, Charles Ammi Cutter developed Cutter Numbers as a way to code alphabetical data numerically. A traditional Cutter Number retains the first letter of the title or author’s name to be Cuttered, plus at least two digits which represent the next letters in the word’s spelling. Note that in the Scheme, the initial letter is dropped once the Cutter Number has been ascertained, in order to keep the Call Number strictly numeric.

(1)  After initial vowels
     for the second letter:           b  d  l-m  n  p  r  s-t  u-y
     use number:                      2  3   4   5  6  7   8    9

(2)  After initial letter S
     for the second letter:           a  ch  e  h-i  m-p  t  u  w-z
     use number:                      2   3  4   5    6   7  8   9

(3)  After initial letters Qu
     for the second letter:           a  e  i  o  r  t  y
     use number:                      3  4  5  6  7  8  9
     For initial letters Qa-Qt, use:  2-29

(4)  After other initial consonants
     for the second letter:           a  e  i  o  r  u  y
     use number:                      3  4  5  6  7  8  9

(5)  For expansion
     for the letter:              a-d  e-h  i-l  m-o  p-s  t-v w-z
     use number:                   3    4    5    6    7    8   9

In order to catalogue a book using the Jefferson Classification Scheme, three pieces of data must be known. The height of the book, in centimetres, rounded to the nearest centimetre, the Scheme’s category into which the overarching subject of the book falls, and, the title. Materials required for cataloguing include a metric ruler, the book, a computer, and the tables of Scheme categories and the Cutter Table.

1. Measure the height of the book along its spine. Round to the nearest centimetre. Enter the height into the computer to store for future consultation or directly into the Shelf List or catalogue.

Example: A Life of Thomas Jefferson is 20 cm tall. The first number in the Call Number is 20.

2. Determine the Scheme’s category into which the book and its subject will fall. Consult the Scheme tables. Choose the category which is a closest broad fit. Enter the category’s number into the computer as the second number in the Call Number.

Example: A Life of Thomas Jefferson is the biography of an American statesman. In the Scheme’s tables, the closest category match would be 4. Modern History-American. The second number in the Call Number is 04.

3. Determine the first main word of the book’s title. Ignore initial articles like “the”, “a”, or “an”, et cetera. Use the Cutter Table to Cutter this main word. While Cuttering, retain the initial letter of the word, finding the next two letters’ digits or more if expansion is needed. Titles that begin with numerals are treated as words. To add the Cutter Number to the Call Number in the computer, drop the initial letter and close the Call Number with this final one.

Example: A Life of Thomas Jefferson‘s main word is “Life”. This word, when Cuttered, is L54. Dropping the initial letter, the final number of the Call Number is 54. The final Call Number is 20.04.54.

Note that when sorting Call Numbers in the computer, sort as Text, not as Number or Date. Shelf-markers should be strips of acid-free paper with the Call Number divided into three lines, written in acid-free ink. The shelf-marker should be inserted like a bookmark into the middle of the book, with the Call Number visible over the spine. It is recommended that the Call Number be marked inside the book in acid-free ink, as well. Books should then be shelved numerically by Call Number. The result will be a shelf of books arranged by ascending height, as Jefferson’s own library looked. The catalogue should be sorted into a Shelf List, a list by Titles, and a list by Authors.