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Dewey Decimal Classification : Brief Information of DDC

History of Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC)


The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system is a general knowledge classification tool used in library classification that is continuously revised to keep pace with current knowledge. This system first published in the United States of America by Melvil Dewey in 1876. Currently DDC is published by OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), and it is the most widely used classification system in the world translated into more than 30 languages. It has been revides and expended through 23 major editions and the latest issued in 2011.DDC

Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) is the most popular of all the modern library classification schemes. It was devised by Melville Dewey in 1876. It provides a systematic arrangement of all the materials mechanized by notation of great simplicity and apparent flexibility. With the emergence of DDC, the principle of relative location of books on shelf according to the subject became perfectly feasible and it replaced the then existing practice of a fixed location, when a certain number of shelves were allotted to each subject and each book was identified by the shelf number and its position on the shelf. As a matter of fact, all our decimal fraction notation, but for the convenience of remembering the number, the decimal point is inserted after the third digit. Sub-divisions are carried out decimally and all numbers are read as decimals. At each stage, there are nine coordinate divisions whenever there are more than nine divisions of equal status, the eight are named and the remaining are covered in the nine division i.e. ‘others’. The use of simple and pure notation that is Indian numbers, provision of form division andrelative index has made DDC very popular.

Different Editions of DDC:

EditionYear of PublicationTotal PagesEditiors
1st edition187644Melvil Dewey
2nd edition1885314Melvil Dewey & W.S. Biscoe
3rd edition1888416Melvil Dewey & W.S. Biscoe
4th edition1891466E. May Seymour
5th edition1894467E. May Seymour
6th edition1899511E. May Seymour
7th edition1911792E. May Seymour
8th edition1913850E. May Seymour
9th edition1915856E. May Seymour
10th edition1919940E. May Seymour
11th edition1922988J. Dorkas Fellows
12th edition19271243J. Dorkas Fellows
13 edition19321647
J. Dorkas Fellows & M.W. Ge tchell
14 edition19421927
Constantin Mazney & M. W. Getchell
15 edition1951716
Milton J. Fergusom
15 revised edition1952927Godfrey Dewey
16 edition19582439Benjamin A. Custer & D. Haykin
17 edition19652153Benjamin A. Custer & D. Haykin
18 edition19712718Benjamin A. Custer
19 edition19793385Benjamin A. Custer
20 edition19893388Benjamin A. Custer
21 edition19964115J.P. Comaromi
22 edition20034076
J. Mitchell
23 edition2011
J. Mitchell

Features of the Dewey Decimal Classification:

Decimal Classification is an almost enumerative scheme of classification. Since 1876 to 2011(23rd edition) this scheme did not look back, and its popularity has grown day by day throughout the world. This statement can be justified by the fact that DC has been translated into many languages, such as Chinese, Spanish, Danish, Turkish, Japanese, Hindi, Portuguese, Sinhalese and several other languages across the globe. Dewey introduced the notion of using notation for the subjects in his scheme and applying the notation to the book and not to the shelves. But certain features forming the basis of its present form can be still recognized as follows:

  1. Universal Scheme: A distinctive feature of the DDC is that its classes reflect all the areas of specialized knowledge developed in modern society. These specialized areas are loosely put together in the main classes in the scheme, able it in this manner the principle of collation of bringing of related subjects in close proximity is sometimes violated.
  2. Relative Location: In his scheme, Melvil Dewey introduced the brainwave of‘relative location’ as opposed to ‘fixed location.’ For this purpose, heutilized the decimal notation consisting of Arabic numerals for the subjects and assigning that notation to the books on the basis of thought content and not on the basis of the shelves. In this method, a new book on a given subject may be put in between the existing sequence at the required position, directed by the notation assigned to that book and there is no necessity to put the book at the end of the sequence as had been the practice in “fixed location.”
  3. Decimal Notation: Melvil Dewey used decimal fraction notation for the arrangement of knowledge on the shelves. Indo-Arabic numerals (0 to 9) are used decimally for the sub-divisions of knowledge. In this process, the universe of subjects is divided into ten main classes, each of which is again divided into ten divisions. Again each division is further divided into ten sections. At each stage of division, a given number is sub-divided decimally. All the class numbers in DDC are decimal fractions.
  4. Minute Division: The first edition of DDC consisted of only 42 pages and at that time, it was criticized for its being too broad in its sub-division. The number of pages had since been increasing as shown in Table 1. This growth suggests the enormous number of sub-divisions which are possible and useful for minute classification. Dewey emphasized the need of minute division as “the advantage of close classing is unquestioned if the user knows just what it is.”
  5. Mnemonics: Another important feature of DDC is mnemonics, which means ‘aid to memory.’ In DDC, mnemonics are available for subject synthesis. The use of consistent order in the subject division of different classes produces mnemonics. There are various tables, such as, Area Table, Language Table, Standard Division Table, etc. which are used to achieve subject synthesis. The user may also find Scheduled Mnemonics, Systematic Mnemonics and Alphabetical Mnemonics at a few places in DDC.
  6. Integrity of Numbers: One of the most important features of DDC is the integrity of numbers. To incorporate new developments and to keep pace with the growth of knowledge, a scheme of classification should be revised continually, without changing the basic structure, so that the professionals may accept the revised edition without hesitation.
  7. Auxiliary Tables: Auxiliary tables provide an important basis for preparing numbers and lead to uniform meanings of numbers when used in various contexts. A document, which is a source of knowledge, always has some physical form. Melvil Dewey in the second edition of the scheme published in 1885 introduced the concept of “Form Divisions” to be used for the sub-divisions of a subject based on the characteristics of documents, either in accordance with the point of view of the author, i.e. Bibliographical, Philosophical, Theoretical, Historical or in accordance with the form of thought content in documents, i.e. Digest, Manual, Monograph, Dictionary, Periodical or Manual. The “form divisions,” could be attached to any class number according to the instructions provided therein. The system of ‘form divisions’ remained in use up to the 12th edition. The 13th edition consisted of 5 “Auxiliary Schedules.” The 14th edition had 4 tables. In the 15th edition, the conventional 9 form divisions, i.e. 01-09 were annexed along with the tables,without any detailed sub-divisions. The word ‘Form divisions’ was replaced by“Standard Subdivisions’ in the 17thedition, along with new area table in volume 2(Index). The 18th, 19th and 20th editions consist of 7 auxiliary tables which are detailed under DDC 20.

Structure of Dewey Decimal Classification:

  1. Schedule: A basic premise of DDC is that it is arranged by discipline and not by subject. At the broadest level, the DDC is divided into ten main classes, which together cover the entire world of knowledge. Each main class is further divided into ten divisions, and each division into ten sections (not all the numbers for the divisions and sections have been used). The three summaries of the DDC are as given:
  2. Summaries: Summaries provide an overview of the intellectual and notational structure of classes. Three types of summaries appear in the schedules and tables of DDC. The summaries of the schedules as a whole are found at the front of the schedules (Volume 2-3). Single level summaries in the schedules and tables provide an overview of classes that have sub-divisions extending over more than two pages. Multi-level summaries are provided for eight major divisions and the Area Tables for Europe and North America.

The First Summary: Contains the ten main classes. The first digit in each three-digit number represents the main class.

000Computers, information & general reference
100Religion
200Philosophy & psychology
300Social sciences
400Language
500Science
600Technology
700Arts & recreation
800Literature
900History & geography

The Second Summary: Contains the hundred divisions. The second digit in each three-digit number indicates the division.

000 Computer science, knowledge & systems
010 Bibliographies
020 Library & information sciences
030 Encyclopedias & books of facts
040 [Unassigned] 050 Magazines, journals & serials
060 Associations, organizations & museums
070 News media, journalism & publishing
080 Quotations
090 Manuscripts & rare books
500 Science
510 Mathematics
520 Astronomy
530 Physics
540 Chemistry
550 Earth sciences & geology
560 Fossils & prehistoric life
570 Life sciences; biology
580 Plants (Botany)
590 Animals (Zoology)
100 Philosophy
110 Metaphysics
120 Epistemology
130 Parapsychology & occultism
140 Philosophical schools of thought
150 Psychology
160 Logic
170 Ethics
180 Ancient, medieval & eastern philosophy
190 Modern western philosophy
600 Technology
610 Medicine & health
620 Engineering
630 Agriculture
640 Home & family management
650 Management & public relations
660 Chemical engineering
670 Manufacturing
680 Manufacture for specific uses
690 Building & construction
200 Religion
210 Philosophy & theory of religion
220 The Bible
230 Christianity & Christian theology
240 Christian practice & observance
250 Christian pastoral practice & religious orders
260 Christian organization, social work & worship
270 History of Christianity
280 Christian denominations
290 Other religions
700 Arts
710 Landscaping & area planning
720 Architecture
730 Sculpture, ceramics & metalwork
740 Drawing & decorative arts
750 Painting
760 Graphic arts
770 Photography & computer art
780 Music
790 Sports, games & entertainment
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
310 Statistics
320 Political science
330 Economics
340 Law
350 Public administration & military science
360 Social problems & social services
370 Education
380 Commerce, communications & transportation
390 Customs, etiquette & folklore
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism
810 American literature in English
820 English & Old English literatures
830 German & related literatures
840 French & related literatures
850 Italian, Romanian & related literatures
860 Spanish & Portuguese literatures
870 Latin & Italic literatures
880 Classical & modern Greek literatures
890 Other literatures
400 Language
410 Linguistics
420 English & Old English languages
430 German & related languages
440 French & related languages
450 Italian, Romanian & related languages
460 Spanish & Portuguese languages
470 Latin & Italic languages
480 Classical & modern Greek languages
490 Other languages
900 History
910 Geography & travel
920 Biography & genealogy
930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)
940 History of Europe
950 History of Asia
960 History of Africa
970 History of North America
980 History of South America
990 History of other areas

The Third Summary: contains thousand sections. The third digit in each three-digit number indicates the section. Thus 530 is used for general works on physics, 531 for classical mechanics, 532 for fluid mechanics, 533 for gas mechanics. Arabic numerals are used to represent each class in the DDC. A decimal point follows the third digit in a class number, after which division by ten continues to the specific degree of classification needed.

DDC Relative Index:

Relative index is appended to the schedules of book classification. It is the most important feature of this scheme; arranged in an alphabetical order and aims to include all topics expressed or implied in the main tables together with every likely synonym. Theindex is comprehensive one but exhaustive. The topics whichare further sub-divided inthe table are entered in the bold face type. The specific items in the sub-divisions areentered directly under their own name. The index is relative in the sense that each phaseof the subject is noted. If a topic is treated intwo or more classes, the number it takes ineach group is taken. The use of the index is not limited to locating topic in the tables, ithas equal value in locating topic on the shelves and in fact the reader’s key to the shelfarrangement in every library in which the DDC is being used.

Revision of the Scheme:

The main method of revision has been the result of publication of new editions. Revisions usually take the following forms: Expansion, Relocation, and Reduction and Phoenix schedules. The last form is the most far-reaching form of revision. However, “DDC & Decimal Classification: additions, notes and decision’ is a beneficial means by which modifications can be announced in advance of a forthcoming latest edition.


References: (This document is collected from materials available from online/web and organize here for LIS students)

  1. KRISHAN KUMAR. Theory of classification. 1993. Vikas Publishing; New Delhi. p1.
  2. SHARMA (C D). Use of libraries: A guide to better use of libraries and their resources. 1978. Metropolitan Book; New Delhi. p-120.
  3. SHARMA (C D). Op. cit., p 121.
  4. KRISHAN KUMAR. Op. cit., p 4.
  5. INDIRA GANDHI NATIONAL OPEN UNIVERSITY (IGNOU). Unit 2: Needand purpose of library classification. IGNOU; New Delhi. p 26.
  6. DUTTA (Dwijendranath). Library classification: Theory and practice. 1962. The Western Book Depot; Nagpur. p 48.
  7. RAJU (Addepali Appala Narasimha). Dewey decimal classification (DDC 20): Theory and practice: A practical and self instructional manual. 1995. T.R. Publications; Madras. p 4.
  8. CHOWDHURY (G G). Introduction to modern information retrieval. Ed. 3. 2004. Facet Publishing; London. p 89.

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Md. Ashikuzzaman

Work at North South University Library, Bangladesh.

7 Comments

  1. This was a terrific article and summary of the DDC! May I ask permission to use your chart on the different editions of the DDC for a library science research paper? This would be perfect for my paper (and would give credit to you of course)

  2. Hello,
    i have exams in this course on thursday. Its nice reading it again here aside my notes. do you mind if i print it out and share also with my classmates?

      1. Hy Gooday sir

        Can you please assist me on the following 2 questions:
        1. Critical discuss the role of tables in a classification system such as the DDC.
        2. Discussions of the conceptual framework of the Dewey decimal classification.

        Thank you.

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