“91 Rules” – How Random

The story on the naming of this blog, 91rules, has to do with the randomness of 91, not 90, not 100, but 91 rules.

These “91 Rules” were conceived during the Victorian Period.  Remember those Victorians and their love of scientific inquiry: Their need to classify, label, describe? Imagine this. In the1830s British Parliament – as in the government – argued about the introduction of catalogs. Vehemently for and against catalogs. Like catalogs could be a bad thing? Emotions were hot. How could a dictionary-like catalog be better than a living librarian? Absurd! And who says what information we catalog and how? Clearly, important debates for the British government.

But the contentious attitudes did not stop there. No. It was compounded by Anthony Panizzi, the newly appointed Assistant Librarian of the British Museum (1831) and later the Keeper of the Printed Books (1837) – really, the Keeper. I thought we were talking about libraries and not rugby. But that aside, it was the fact that Panizzi was an Italian! A political refugee! Slanderous! A foreigner believed to sell white mice in the streets of London! Yes, the horrors! Even with all of these slanderous statements against Panizzi, he was able to convince Parliament to approve his cataloguing code that consisted of 91 rules, and became known by that name. Panizzi wasn’t happy. He had to relinquish one of his rules on corporate main entry. We almost had 92 rules – and as well all know, we should have had that 92nd rule.

The “91 Rules” became the basis of our modern day cataloguing. Charles C. Jewett was deeply influenced by Panizzi and created a code for cataloguing in 1850 that was to be used by the Smithsonian Institution.

Ironically, we have continued this debate only we have replaced dictionary-like catalogs with online search engines. Are librarians doomed to extinction? Or will they assimilate and become Borg – or cybrarians?

In all of the absurdity, irony, oddity, and total randomness – I named this blog after Panizzi’s “91 Rules.”


Source: Taylor, A. and Joudrey, D. (2009) The Organization of Information, 3rd ed. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, pp. 73 – 75.
Images: Charles C. Jewett – Prof. Charles Coffin Jewett, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left. (1860 – 1868). Library of Congress,  Retrieved October 3, 2011 from   http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3c28407/ .
Anthony Panizzi –  Watts, George Frederic. (nd). Sir Anthony Panizzi.  National Portrait Gallery, London. Retrieved October 3, 2011 from http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait.php?search=ap&npgno=1010&eDate=&lDate=


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Woodrow Triarsi
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 09:09:46

    Some genuinely marvellous work on behalf of the owner of this site, dead outstanding written content .


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