Gerhard’s Book Classification System

No, I’m not smarter than John Dewey or the Library of Congress. Their book cataloging systems were developed over many years, and a lot of careful thought have gone into them. But my situation is different. First, I don’t have millions of books. I wish I had, but I don’t. Second, my books don’t cover the gamut of human knowledge, but just the minute corner of it that I’ve been able to glance over in my studies and as part of my interests. So when I look for one of my books, I don’t have to examine Life, the Universe, and Everything; I just need to know more or less what it’s about. But there’s another factor: Wouldn’t it be really neat if my book classification followed my personal taxonomy (relax – we all have one) that I use on my computer’s hard disk (directory structure), in my Internet bookmarks and in my Zotero research database?

One thing all taxonomies have in common is the binary tree. Although the Swedish botanist Linnaeus often gets the credit for that, Aristotle’s Categories really laid the foundation. Today, there is hardly any significant body of information that will not retrieve a requested datum out of such an upside down tree. My friend David Pacini, who teaches Historical Theology, likes to talk about the catalog of the British Museum and how it struggled to mirror human knowledge (and the Bible) in a time when phenomena such a duck billed platypus were being discovered on the other side of the earth. The British Museum had, as it were, to create a position for the egg-laying mammal, which, according to Scripture, could not possibly exist. In my humble system, that would be no problem:
“animals.weird”. But I’m being facetious – back to my books. The main categories are: art, economy, education, health, health-religion, history, home, language, literature, music, my writing, mysticism, mythology, philosophy, psychology, reference, religion, science, sociology, and sustainability.

That gives me 22 categories that, although admittedly different from those of anyone else, cover all the books I own. Now I can go down the garden path as far as I want to for a specific category, for instance philosophy:
20th Century
German Philosophers


Thus, following a binary notation, one of Hoelderlin’s works can be cataloged as  phil.German.Hoelderlin.Works.  Compare that with the Library of Congress code or the Dewey number and it’s easy to see that Gerhard’s humble little garden path is better suited to his humble little library than those Map-the-cosmos systems. So all that remains to be done now is to print out a lot of small address labels and paste a new layer of them on the backs of my books. In some cases it will not only be the fourth layer, but also essentially the same as the second layer. Real decision-maker, me.