Class Outline and General Notes

800s: Literature

800-809: Rhetoric and criticism
810-890: Literatures of specific languages and language families —

  • 810s: American
  • 820s: English
  • 830s: German
  • 840s: French
  • 850s: Italian, Romanian, and related literatures
  • 860s: Spanish and Portuguese
  • 870s: Latin
  • 880s: Classical and modern Greek
  • 890s: Other

Class Contents

Poetry, plays, essays, speeches, writers’ letters, humorous and satirical titles, as well as literary works of miscellaneous form go in the 800s. Dewey calls for regular fiction to go here as well (under 813 for American fiction, 823 for British fiction, etc.), but like most public libraries we break our fiction collection out separately.

NOTE: Put a compilation of a writer’s fiction against the wall in regular fiction, not in the 800s (do this so that they’re shelved alongside the writer’s individual novels). But put anthologies that include works by more than one author in the 800s.


The basic arrangement is LANGUAGE FAMILY + LITERARY FORM + TIME PERIOD. For example, 81X (American literature) + -4 (essays) + .54 (1944-1999) is the number for The selected essays of Gore Vidal: 814.54.

Some specifics to keep in mind:

  • Biographies, criticism, and other comprehensive works on an individual author go with the form of writing the author is primarily known for. John Steinbeck is famous as a novelist, so a collection of essays critiquing his body of work would go in 813.52, where the -3 represents the form “fiction.”
  • Miscellaneous writings (8X8) must always end with a facet indicating the type of miscellaneous form represented. Categories include anecdotes/jokes (-02), diaries/reminiscences (-03), humor and works without identifiable form (-07), prose literature in more than one form (-08), and collections/critiques/biographies of writers not associated with any one particular literary form (-09). So Dave Barry’s guide to life, a parody of self-help guides by an American humorist, is in 818.5407 (818 for miscellaneous + .54 for late 20th century + -07 humor).
  • Keep an eye on authors writing in more than one language. There are specific guidelines for which language family to use when an author writes a work in a different language than his original one, changes citizenship, etc.
  • Shakespeare gets special treatment. His works have their own table, a special coding system designed just for his plays and the commentaries on them. See the previous link and the existing titles in the catalog for guidance.
  • To group related material together as much as possible, use a hyphenated author-editor call number for any biography or analytical work covering a single author. See the linked page for details.
  • 817 is NO LONGER USED for “funny” books by a single author. Class these in essays (8X4), miscellaneous writings (8X8), or with the topic area the writer’s associated with, i.e., Amy Poehler would be in the 700s with the film and television books. Some common numbers for humorous works by celebrities:
    • TV actors: 791.4502
    • Film actors: 791.4302
    • Comedians: 792.7028

    If there are a lot of these piling up over time, we can add -0207 at the end to separate the funny books out from the more serious celebrity memoirs. NOTE: Works in the vein of The mammoth book of jokes are OK in 817. So long as the title contains multiple forms (in this case, limericks, toasts, etc.) or was composed/compiled by multiple people, the -07 humor facet is permitted.

  • Also pay attention to the time period facets used in this class. There should be NO VARIATION in the literary period associated with any one author. All books on Salman Rushdie, for instance, should have -914 (1945-1999) as the time period facet — regardless of when the critique was written or which period of Rushdie’s career it covers. The key is to use only the number indicating the period in which the author flourished.