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The 1791 French Cataloging Code and the Origins of the Card Catalog

Judith Hopkins
Libraries & Culture
Vol. 27, No. 4 (Fall, 1992), pp. 378-404
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25542474
Page Count: 27
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The 1791 French Cataloging Code and the Origins of the Card Catalog
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Abstract

The French cataloging code of 1791 was notable for two reasons: it was the first national cataloging code and it was the first code to provide for the use of cards in the cataloging process, with playing cards serving as the medium of choice. This article sets the code in the context of the government's confiscation of church property in 1789 and its efforts to learn what the new national property consisted of, goes on to show how the code was used in revolutionary France in an attempt to compile a national bibliography/union catalog of the holdings of the various confiscated libraries, introduces the government bodies and individuals involved in this effort, and describes the ultimate fate of the cataloging records created on the basis of the 1791 code. The article also examines the use of playing cards in the cataloging process, both prior to 1791 and thereafter.

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