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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Cataloging Services: Dewey Decimal Classification

A guide on using DDC at Illinois.

Biography & Criticism in Dewey




Background & Summary

Biography classification has evolved over time at the UIUC Library, corresponding to the history of the catalog itself. Prior to the adoption of Dewey 19, this Library used a variety of special numbers for both individual and collective biographies, in addition to "B." which was assigned for individual biography, and 921-928 for collective biography. Many of these numbers have been discontinued.  Starting with the adoption of Dewey 19, and continuing with later editions, "B." is no longer used in establishing new biography. Under the 920's, only 920.001-920.09 and 920.7 are used for very general collective biographies. Most new (un-established) individual biographies, as well as other, subject-specific collective biographies are currently classed by subject, adding either standard subdivision -092 (individual biography) or -0922 (collective biography) from Table 1.

General procedures

  • Overview of general procedures

    Determine whether the subject falls into one of the special categories listed below. If it does, see that section of the instructions. For all other biographies, determine whether a number has been established. If so, add to the work mark of the established number to make it unique. If not, create a new number using the current rules.

    Special categories include:

    For all other biographies, is there an established number (4 or more)? If so, use the established number. This includes certain previously established special biography numbers that will still be used only if the number has already been established and there are 4 or more items classed in it (if 3 or fewer items have been classed, assign a new number using -092).

  • Established numbers:

    B. See instructions below
    W For biographical works classed in history, usually world leaders. See below
    -0924 Standard subdivision from Dewey 19 for biographies of individuals
    020.92 Collective biography in library science
    020.921 Individual biography in library science
    326.92 Biographies of slaves (both individual and collective)
    610.92 General and collected biography in medicine
    610.923 Individual biography in medicine
    780.92 Collected biography in music
    780.923 Individual biography in music
    791.43 Individual biography of film stars, directors, &c.
    940.919 Biography and illustrative material on European War
    940.9191    Collected biography of Allies
    940.9192 Collected biography of Central powers
    940.9193 Individual biography of Allies
    940.9194 Individual biography of Central powers
    973.391 Collected biography of Americans in Revolutionary War
    973.392 Collected biography of British in Revolutionary War
    973.393 Individual biography of Americans in Revolutionary War
    973.394 Individual biography of British in Revolutionary War
    973.791 Collected biography of Federal officers or soldiers
    973.792 Collected biography of Confederate officers or soldiers
    973.793 Individual biography of Federal officers or soldiers
    973.794 Individual biography of Confederate officers or soldiers

    Specific procedures for established numbers using ‘B.' or ‘W.'


    If established, we continue to use B.  The only exceptions are literary authors and philosophers, which should be reclassified. Place works by or about literary authors on the Literature Shelves. Classify philosophical works according to the instructions on p. 5)

    Under B. (if 4 or more works are established) continue to use the established cutter number (from the name of the biographee), and workmark from the name of the biographer. (For autobiographies, this will be the same letter) For already established autobiographies, letters from the title will continue to be added to create unique call numbers.

    Distinguish later editions of each title by adding the date to the call number of the later work, as usual.

    Expand workmark for a different biographer with the same initials:

    • G233gr -- The life of Garland, by Graham (1st biography)

    Add a number to distinguish additional biographies by the same author:

    • G233gr2 -- Garland's life, by Graham (2nd biography)


    This rule usually applies to a biography classed in history for heads-of-state such as presidents, kings, queens, or prime ministers, although it has been used for a few non-"heads-of-state" as well.

    If 4 or more items have been established with W, continue to add a capital W to the cutter number, and add further the initial letter of the surname of the author of the biography or autobiography. An example of a "world leader" with an established number is Calvin Coolidge. Letters are added to the base number, 973.915 C77W to create a unique call number.

    If not established, (3 or fewer used), omit the W; determine the appropriate classification number, and add 092

  • General procedures for creating new biography numbers

    Use the Dewey number for the subject; add the standard subdivision for biography from Table 1 of DDC, -092 (or -0922 for collective biography).

    If no subject can be determined, class in the 900's for place and time period; cutter from subject; work mark from main entry (either the author [individual or corporate], or if there is no ‘1xx' field, from the title in the ‘2xx' field).

    For later biographies of the same person by the same author, add sequential numbers 2,3,4, etc. to make them unique.

    For autobiographies, the cutter and the work mark are from the biographee/biographer (same person). Later autobiographies are distinguished by the addition of sequential numbers 2, 3, 4, etc., in the same way that biographies are classified.

    The previous method of classifying autobiographies was to identify a first autobiography by adding a ‘1' to the work mark. Additional autobiographies then added another work mark from the first significant word from the title. If an autobiography number has been established under the previous rules, the practice of adding a work mark to the end of the cutter line after the ‘1' is still followed.

  • Newly Established Authors - Autobiography and Biography (Examples)

    REFERENCE: A newly acquired book: UFOs and me by Kevin J. Johnson.
    UFO's Class #: 001.942
    Cutter # for Johnson: J633

      Autobiography 2nd Biographer 3rd Biographer
    1st work UFOs and me by Kevin J. Johnson
    Out of this world adventurer by Jillian Walnut
    Ufologist of Utah by Lee Harper
    2nd work More encounters with illegal aliens
    Further exploits of an out of this world adventurer by Walnut
    The ufologist takes leave by Harper
    3rd work They're coming to take me away
    Final days of an out of this world adventurer by Walnut
    The ufologist returns by Harper
    Later Edition of 3rd work 001.942092

Special Category Procedures

  • Art or Architecture

    Except where noted, these rules apply in all cases, whether 4 or more works have been classified under previous rules.

    Books on a specific artist and/or his works are entered under the nationality of the artist as provided for under the various art media subdivisions (classified first according to medium and then by nationality). For individual artists, do not add a time period or the standard subdivision -074.

    Medium (& class #) Classification add Instructed to add...
    General arts (709...) 7-(art) 09 standard subdivision (Table 1) Geographic designation (Table 2)
    Architecture (720.9...) 72-(architecture) 09 standard subdivision (Table 1) Geographic designation (Table 2)
    Sculpture (730.9...) 73-(sculpture) 09 standard subdivision (Table 1) Geographic designation (Table 2)
    Drawing (741.9...) 741 (drawing) 9 built into schedule for collections of drawings Geographic designation (Table 2)
    Painting (759...) 75- 9 built into schedule Geographic designation (Table 2)
    Prints (769.9...) 769 (prints) 9 built into schedules Geographic designation (Table 2)

    The Cutter number is derived from the artist and the work mark from the main entry. (i.e., Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, 720.973 W93a) Similarly, in 708.1-708.999 (Art galleries and museums), the cutter is for the museum and the work mark is for the main entry.

    In the classification of art books, the individual artist or country takes precedence over style, period, school, subject matter, etc. For example, Italian Renaissance Painting of the 15th Century would be classed in Italian painting (759.5), with a time period added when appropriate, rather than under Renaissance Painting (759.03).

    Likewise, murals, miniature, landscape paintings, portraits of an individual artist or from a certain country would be classed as paintings, subdivided geographically (i.e., Italian Miniatures is classified in the number for Italian painting (759.5) rather than under miniature paintings (757.7). Also, Etchings of Whistler would be divided geographically under prints (769.973), not classed under etching (767); 767 is reserved for technical books and "how-to" books.

    In subdividing art books geographically, a distinction has been made for ancient art in a manner similar to classification for the ancient vs. modern world in the 900's or Table 2. Thus, Italian Gothic Art would be 709.45 while Ancient Roman Art would be 709.37.

    Art of Native Americans has sometimes been classified in 970.67, but current practice is to classify these in 704.0397.

    Description or history of an individual building is generally classed in architecture.

    Description of the sculpture of an individual building is also classed in architecture. Sculpture of Chartres Cathedral is classified under the number for cathedrals (726.6) rather than under sculpture.

    Whenever possible, museum catalogs are entered under the artist, country, school, medium, etc. represented in the catalog, with the option of the adding standard subdivision -074. Only catalogs too general to be classified elsewhere are classified under "art galleries and museums" (708). Temporary exhibits, such as traveling exhibits, exhibits at world fairs, etc, of a general nature are classed in 707.4.

    For works about two or more artists, class according to medium if possible, then divide geographically if appropriate; OR if you can do neither, class in 709. For example, a work on:

    3 French sculptors 730.944 73- (sculpture) + -09 (Table 1) + 44 (France, from Table 2))
    3 French artists 709.44 7- (Art) + -09 (Table 1) + 44 (Table 2)
    3 artists (different mediums, different countries) 709 7- (Art) + -09 (Table 1)

    Unlike works about a single artist, a time period can be added to the resulting number.

    NOTE: Photography books and collections are now divided geographically. Therefore, a work by a U.S. photographer would be 779.0973. Prior to Dewey 20, 779 without geographic division, was used. However, if 4 or more have been established, use the previous number.

  • Philosophy (books about the philosopher or his works)

    A criticism or biography of an individual philosopher is classed in the 180's or 190's as appropriate. Cutter from the philosopher; add a capital "Y" to signify a work about the philosopher; and add a workmark from the name of the critic or biographer. Within Philosophy, the "Y" indicates either Critical or Biographical works. This is done regardless of how many works have been established at this number. However, to ensure that books are collocated correctly, see the philosopher's list to find numbers which have already been established.

    A biography or criticism of two or more philosophers is classified in the 190's (or elsewhere in the 100's if more appropriate), and cuttered from the name of the critic or biographer; add a workmark from the title.



A general criticism of the ideas or work of a person, rather than a criticism of a specific individual work, is classified in the appropriate subject specific Dewey number, with the standard subdivision number -092 added. The criticism is then cuttered from the subject (person being critiqued), with the work mark taken from the main entry, usually the name of the critic.

A criticism of an individual work should stand with the work. This applies to all subjects. Add a capital "Y" to the work mark (taken from the title), followed by a lower case initial letter from the name of the critic, or main entry.

A book about Defoe's Robinson Crusoe by Hermann Ullrich uses the base number for the book, 823 D36r adds Y for criticism and a " u" for Ullrich. The resulting number is 823 D36rYu. A second criticism by the same author adds the number 2, so the call number is 823 D36rYu2. And so on.

Edmund Clarke's book Adam Smith meets "Greedy Gus" a review of the "Wealth of Nations", is a critique of Adam Smith's Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. To classify the criticism, start with the call number for the book being criticized, 330 Sm51i, add a "Y" to indicate criticism, and add "cl" for Clarke. (Note: "c" has already been used for a previous criticism of the work, so "cl" is used to provide a unique work mark for Clarke). The final number is: 330 Sm51iYcl.

A criticism of an individual work of an artist or musician is classed in the appropriate number in the 700's, with cutter number for the artist or musician, and workmark for the title. Add "Y" to denote criticism, and add a lower case initial for the critic.

An example of a criticism of an individual artistic work:

  • 759.5 L553mYc -- Clark, Kenneth. Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
    • (759.5 L553, base number for the Italian painter, Leonardo da Vinci, m as workmark for the name of the painting, Y to indicate criticism, and c for the name of the critic)

A criticism of an individual musical work:

  • 782.1 B55cYp -- a criticism of Bizet's Carmen by Phillips
    • 782.1 (individual songs) + B55 (Bizet) + c (Carmen) + Y (criticism) + p (from critic)

Newly established biographical and general critical numbers for individual musicians are classed in the appropriate number in the 7xxs, adding -092.

Newly Established Authors - Critical Works (Examples)

REFERENCE: A newly acquired book by Kevin J. Johnson -- 001.942
UFOs of the world: an illustrated encyclopaedia and tourbook -- J633u

  General criticism of an author's works 1st Critic of  an Individual work 2nd Critic of an Individual Work
1st work Johnson's views on extraterrestrial worlds by Lester Bloomingdale
Johnson's encyclopaedia by Leon Baker
A critical review of Johnson's UFO encyclopaedia by Mrs. K.J. Johnson
2nd work Johnson's further views by Bloomingdale
Other thoughts on Johnson's encyclopaedia by Baker
Further review of Johnson's UFO encyclopaedia by Mrs. K.J. Johnson
3rd work Johnson's other ideas by Bloomingdale
Johnson's UFO encyclopaedia revisited by Baker
Final thoughts about Johnson's UFO encyclopaedia by Mrs. K. J. Johnson
Later edition of
3rd work