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Have you ever wondered about what library catalogues used to look like – or what books were in your local library’s collection many decades ago?

We’ve come across a handful of historical library catalogues in Open Collections, which we’ve gathered here for your perusal. You can click on the title or cover of any of the catalogues below to explore the full list of titles from each library.

Catalogue of books in the Free Public Library of Victoria City (Victoria, B.C., 1890)

 

The Free Public Library of Victoria City library catalogue demonstrates the library’s unique classification system. The library had the following classifications:

  • Arts and Science – Class A
  • Travels and Voyages – Class B
  • Biography – Class M
  • Religious – Class R
  • Poetry – Class P
  • Juveniles – Class J
  • History – Class H
  • English Literature – Class L
  • Cassell’s National Library
  • Magazines in Volumes – Class G
  • Miscellaneous – Class Z
  • Books for References – Class D
  • Parliamentary Books
  • Curios and Fine Arts – Class C
  • Novels – Class B

 

Within each classification, books were listed alphabetically by title. To supplement this, there were two additional indices listing titles alphabetically by author in the back of the catalogue. Each entry had a shelf number and an accession number.

 

Catalogue of library books : Royal York Hotel (Toronto, [between 1920 and 1929?])

The Royal York Hotel catalogue also features a unique classification system. The classifications are listed in alphabetical order:

  • Adventure
  • Amusements
  • Art, Painting, Sculpture and Architecture
  • Business, etc.
  • Books for Young People
  • Biographies and Memoirs
  • Drama
  • Fiction
  • Foreign Fiction in English
  • General Literature, Essays, etc.
  • General Extra Suggestions
  • History
  • Makers of Canada, The (12 Vols.)
  • Poetry
  • Popular Science
  • Reference Books
  • Religion
  • Travel and Description
  • Travel (General)
  • Authors Indexed Alphabetically

 

The “General Extra Suggestions” category appears to list the equivalent of today’s self-help or how-to books. It includes titles such as “Dame Courtsey’s Art of Entertaining,” “Eating and Health” and “Inside the House Beautiful”:

Each book has a unique item number, starting from one at the beginning of the catalogue and ending with 1418. Because books are listed alphabetically by title within each category, this catalogue also includes an index in alphabetical order by author. However, the index still separates out books by classification, so you have to know generally where to look!

 

Library catalogue from Canadian Pacific Steamships, Empress of Japan [1919?]

This catalogue is shorter than the previous two; with only five pages of listings, this perhaps reflects limited shelf space within the steamship library.

 

The catalogue contains one listing in alphabetical order by author (as in, “Dickens’ Dombrey and son”) unless only the title was listed (e.g., “Cream of Leicestershire”):

Can you find any interesting titles in these library catalogues? Let us know in the comments!

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