Cutters rules - british museum cataloguing rules, Other Management

Cutters Rules - british museum cataloguing rules:

Cutter, Charles Ammi. Rules for a Dictionary Catalogue. - 4th ed., rewritten. - Washington D .C.: Government Printing Office, 1904. - Republished: London: The Library Association, 1953.  

The US Bureau of Education commissioned Cutter to write a status report on the public libraries in the United States to commemorate the nation's centenary year. The report, Public libraries in the United States, prepared, accordingly by Cutter, was published in 1876 along with his code entitled, Rules for a Printed Dictionary Catalog which constituted the second part of the report. 

Considered as a "landmark work," and described as an "epitome of the cataloguing art of the period," the rules presented consistent summary of the ideas and works of most leading librarians of the time, evincing particularly, the influence of Panizzi, Jewett, Perkins, Poole and many others. 

The first edition (1F contained 205 rules which was tested by applying to the Boston Athanaeum and the rules then were revised and expanded, and continued through the fourth edition (the second edition published in 1889, the third in 1891 and the fourth posthumously in 1904). The fourth (and the final) edition contained 369 rules. The Library Association (UK) later brought out at least three reprints of this final edition (1938, .1948 and 1953) which is proof enough of the popularity of the code even long after the demise of the author. Ranganathan commenting about the code had to say that "RDC [Rules for a Dictionary Catalogue] is indeed a classic. It is immortal. Its influence has been overpowering. It inhibits free rethinking even today. Being a one man's creation it has been largely apprehended intuitively. This is why RDC is whole as an egg". Indeed the value of the code diminished the least even to this day. 

The chief merit of the code lies in the pragmatism applied by the author in the making of the rules and in setting forth "what might be called a set of first principles" to govern the creation of rules and their practical application. Although, generally, many cite three principles as having been articulated by Cutter, he indeed postulated more than three. 

The first principle may be called the 'principle of convenience of the public.' Cutter declared that "cataloging is an art, not a science. No rules can take the place of experience and good judgment but some of the results of experience may best be indicated by rules." His emphasis was on pragmatism, i.e., practical experience and proper judgment. According to Cutter, the convenience of the public is always to be set before the ease of the cataloguer. In most cases, they may coincide. A plain rule without exceptions is not only easy for us to carry out but easy for the public to understand and work by. But strict consistency in a rule and uniformity in application sometimes lead to practices which clash with the public's habitual way of looking at things. When the habits are general and deeply rooted, it is unwise for the cataloguer to ignore them, even if they demand a sacrifice of system and simplicity." He favoured, therefore, wherever needed, flexibility of rules. and sensitivity to user's requirements. He was opposed to Jewett's legalistic approach (i.e., a cataloging rule for every cataloguing problem), insistence on strict application of rules and adherence to consistency. Consistency, no doubt, is a virtue but it cannot be an absolute and unviolable principle. 

The second principle is the 'principle of collocation.' Cutter, however, did not use the term, collocation. He meant it by stating that the catalogue should facilitate location of all books of an author (i.e., entries for all books of an author) by bringing them together in one place. For, he believed that catalogue was something more than a mere finding list "for a given book by an author." 

The third principle relates to subject entry/heading. This may be called the 'principle of specific and consistent subject entry.' 

Besides these three principles, a couple of principles may also be inferred and added. The fourth one may be termed as the 'principle of adequate description.' Cutter did not name it. A library could accordingly, adopt the rules in a code wholly or partially (i.e., in varying degrees of details) depending upon the nature and size of the collection as well as the objectives of the library; 

A further principle which can also be surmised is the 'principle of probable association.' The choice of entry (from among possible alternative methods), Cutter started, "choose that entry that will probably be 'first looked under by the class of people who use the library. Structurally, it is a well laid comprehensive code, the rules covering the whole of cataloguing procedures. It is organised in three parts. The first part constitutes the preliminaries or prefatory notes. Cutter discussed in this part some basic issues, such as objects of catalogue, the means and methods to attain them, definitions (of cataloguing terms) including a note on classification of particular value is the statement of objects, means and methods. Some claim this too as a set of empirical principles. It is as follows: "Objects:

1. To enable a person to find a book of which either (a) the author, (b) the title, (c) the subject is known.

2. To show what the library has (d) by a given author, (e) on a given subject, (f) in a given kind of literature.

3. To assist in the choice of a book (g) as to its edition (bibliographically) (h) to its character (literary or topical). Means: Author entry with the necessary reference (for a and d). 2. Title entry or title reference (for b.)

3. Subject entry, cross reference, and classed subject table (for c and e) 

4. Form entry and language entry (for f)

5. Giving edition and imprint, with notes when necessary (for g).

6. Notes (for h) Reasons for choice: Among the several possible methods of attaining the objects other things being equal, choose that entry,

(1) that will probably be first looked under by the class of people who use the library; (2.) that is consistent with other entries so that one principle can cover all; (3) that will mass entries least, in places were it is difficult to so arrange them' that they can be readily found, as under names of nations and cities." Although it is said that Cutter's code found refuge in tradition it certainly helped a codification of policies needed by American Libraries. Many issues raised by him became the subject of intensive debate in later period. Akers' observation that after 1876, "there has been no further development in principles although an enormous amount of work has been done in amplifying, codifying, and clarifying rules, which has contributed to a needed uniformity of practice", is a comment indeed on the positive as well as the negative sides of the influence that Cutter's code exerted on the subsequent efforts of code making. This aspect will be revealing itself as we progress in studying the later codes.  

Posted Date: 11/9/2012 12:28:30 AM | Location : United States

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