[Dewey wrote his guide in a simplified spelling. This is an extract, pp67-71.]
Dewey decimal classification and relativ index for libraries. [sic]
devised by Melvil Dewey, 1851-1931.
1926, as reproduced in the 19th edition 1979.
Melvil Dewey's Introduction to Edition 12Orijin and growth The plan of this Clasification and Index was developt erly in 1873, the result of long study of library economy as found in hundreds of books and pamflets, and in over 50 personal visits to libraries. This study convinst me that usefulness of libraries myt be greatly increast without aded expense. Only a fraction of the servis posibl cud be got from them without clasification, catalogs, indexes and other aids, to tel librarians and readers what they containd on any givn subject; yet, by methods then uzed, this cud be dun satisfactorily only at a cost so great as to be prohibitiv to all but a few welthy libraries. With rare exceptions, libraries wer growing rapidly. Catalogs, made at great cost, soon became antiquated. Methods uzed involvd frequent rearranjement, renumbering and remarking of books, and of necesity remaking of catalogs and indexes, as the only escape from a confuzion that seriusly cripld usefulness. In this costly repetition, work of previus librarians was larjly lost. The great need was a sistem which wud enable each to stand on the sholders of his predecessors, and fully utilize their labors; which wud make work dun today permanent, insted of sumthing to be superseded in so few years as not to be worth doing in the best way; which wud supply the best applyances, insted of leaving yung librarians not only to lern how to work, but to make all their own tools.
Practical use for 54 years proves that this sistem wil accomplish this result; for with its aid catalogs, shelflists, indexes and references, essential to this increast usefulness, can be made faster and cheaper than by any method not having its essential features, and, when dun, they ar better and vastly more permanent. Practical utility and economy ar its keynotes and no theoretic refinement has been allowd to modify the skeme, if it wud detract from usefulness or ad to cost.
It was chiefly necesary to find a method that wud clas, arranje and index books and pamflets on shelvs, cards of a catalog, clippings and notes in scrapbooks and index rerums, references to all these items, and indeed any literary material in any form, as redily as an ordinary index gyds to proper paje of a bound book. This difficult problem was solvd by uzing no reference marks except the simplest simbols known to the human mind, arabic numerals with their uzual arithmetic values, and by aiding their unequald simplicity by many practical nemonic [mnemonic] devices.
Tho the importance of clasification was recognized, the filosofic sistems proposed wer so difficult fully to understand or apply that not 1 person in 1000 cud uze them practicaly. Decimal Clasification simplicity and even more its Relativ Index hav made this work 10-fold eazier. In recent years, use of the sistem has spred rapidly in all civilized cuntries, meeting success in thousands of different applications. In its simpl form a skoolboy can quikly master it and keep for instant reference not only his books but every note, clipping or pamflet. Almost every profession and occupation has lernd its wonderful laborsaving powers. It is in daily use by miriads of business and professional men who wud never even attempt to understand or uze the old sistems.
By mere adition of figures, without chanjing this shorter form, this very simpl sistem is redily made to record the utmost refinements of specialists, and the Relativ Index, as simpl as a, b, c, sends the novis to the exact place where the expert has clasifyd the matter sought. Thus 942 is history of England, and 942.99055 is history of County Pembroke in Wales, under Elizabeth, 5th of the Tudors. A colon between 2 numbers to mean 'in relation to', and other combining simbols for time, languaj etc. make of the sistem a compact shorthand for each fact. But this brevity is les important than the eaz with which matter so markt can be arranjed (giving figures and decimal point their common arithmetic value), stored as compactly as wisht and found again in the least posibl time.
The sistem has been found equaly valuabl for cataloging, indexing, analyzing and summarizing, and for clasifying, numbering and arranjing books and pamflets on shelvs.
The 1st edition, publisht in 1876, 12 pajes of tables containing 1000 Sections, was criticized as altogether too elaborate for even a larj library. As fast, however, as the Relativ Index with its remarkabl powers became known, the rapidly increasing uzers askt for further subdivisions, til Tables hav grown from 2600 entries in Index of 1876 to 43,000 in this edition 12, becauz it has been found so eazy to gain the admitted great advantajes of close clasification, and yet, by means of this Index, avoid the old difficulties.
Extent of use The rejister of libraries which hav actualy adopted it, tho growing rapidly, is incomplete. Libraries often uze the sistem for many years before we lern the fact. We rejister all byers of the Clarification, so far as known, but do not assume that a library has adopted the sistem becauz it has orderd the book. A L A Bulletin, Sep. 1926, p. 167, estimates a use by about 14,000 libraries. There is also an immense use (for which not even approximate statistics can be furnisht) by individuals, with their private, business and professional colections of books, pamflets etc., and in their correspondence and notes files. The sistem has been adopted, not only thruout U S, but in other parts of North America, in South America, in many European cuntries, and, stil more distant, in Asia, Hawaii, Philippines, Java, Australia and Africa, and the Tables ar known to hav been translated, either wholy or in part, into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Russian, Hungarian, Bohemian, Chinese and Japanese.
The table below shows the growth of the editions.
[not included as it shows figures, not words with simplification.]
What is the Sistem? A Subject Clasification with a Relativ Index  so numberd or letterd that reference is compact, accurate and quik, is the essential feature; anything beyond this is merely applying this plan with varius helps and accessories. Any subject clarification with a relativ index in which the entry indexes a book in the ordinary way, and also indexes shelvs, cards, clippings or any other literary material, is a form of this sistem.
Notation We devized and experimented with several notations by means of numbers, letters, and combined numbers and letters, with bases of 26, 35, 50, 100 and 150, yet none seemd good enuf to warrant publishing details, except that here printed, based on simpl arabic numerals with their uzual decimal powers. International adoption of this sistem is larjly becauz no one ever complains that any clarification is too simpl, while there is constant complaint of complexity. Decimal simplicity has so commended itself that many think of it as the only form, tho obviusly it wud be just as much a `relativ index sistem' if the clarification wer wholy markt by letters or other simbols.
The Subject Index is the simplest application of a, b, c, the simbols next in simplicity to 1, 2, 3. This use of the simplest 2 sets of simbols known, with their common meanings, has givn our notation its worldwide reputation as the simplest yet devized.
Best known decimal form Decimal form means simply that heds ar groupt and numberd with common arithmetic figures uzed decimaly. This, the only decimal form thus far carefuly elaborated and publisht, is commonly spoken of as if it wer the only posibl form of our orijinal plan; tho obviusly an infinit variety of 'relativ index sistems' in decimal form cud be made by filling the outline with different heds, or with the same heds in different order.
To make out new heds involvs labor and cost vastly beyond the dreams of any person who has not tryd exactly this work. Time actualy spent on tables here printed, by varius committees and individuals, totals hundreds of years and has cost an immense sum. Uniform and urjent advice of the experienst is to adopt a poorer skeme alredy made rather than undertake so herculean a labor. When dun, the maker may posibly be better suited with it, but few if any others wil be. It is wizer for anyone whose time is of value, to uze it in sumthing more practicaly useful to himself and his library than in trying to construct a 'satisfactory' skeme of clasification. No one yet ever wholy suited himself or anyone else, and probably no one ever wil. By adopting this alredy workt out he saves much time and money, and gains the immense advantaj of uzing a sistem in common with thousands of others, so that he may utilize their labors and investigations and share with them economies of cooperation.
 Tho the author is interested only in the usefulness of the sistem, not in questions of priority of its invention, extended investigation by others fails to show that this most important feature of the sistem - the Relativ Index, on which all else hinjes - had ever before been uzed as here to index by a singl reference most diverse material. Relativ location had been uzed, but not in the present combination with the subject index, which givs it most of its value. The Clarification Tables, while adopting sugjestions from many sources, ar orijinal in their sistem of arranjement and notation, and in many minor features. The decimal form and many nemonic features hav not been found in erlier use, tho since their invention in 1873 these as wel as the Subject Index and other features hav been very frequently copid, often with, but oftener without, aknowlejment of their source. But we ar glad to find this sistem, which has cost so much labor, doing good servis even for those who neglect to mention where they found so valuabl a laborsaving literary tool.
Back to the top.