Book Review: The Card Catalog (Books, Cards and Literary Treasures)

Let me admit up front: other than the introductions, I didn’t read much of this book. I perused the images of the cards from books in the Library of Congress catalog system. It sort of seems appropriate that I would do that, given the nature of the book.

The Card Catalog: Books, Cards and Literary Treasures is published by the Library of Congress, and while I am sure the text for each chapter is a dive into history, I found myself enjoying the flipping of pages so I could “read” the notecards on all sorts of books. Seeing the handwritten notes and the typed information was a sort of Wayback Machine. Most libraries are now searched digitally, but this book reminds us of the long period where the art of curation was found in little notecards of information.

Here you will find replicas of the original notecards in the LoC catalog for books like W. E. DeBois (Souls of Black Folks), James Joyce (Ulysses), Orville Wright (Stability of Airplanes), and Edward Lear (The Complete Nonsense Book). In many cases, we see the original cover art of the books situated next to the card from the catalog. It’s fascinating.

Another interesting area of the book is the design pages, showing how the physical aspects of a catalog works, and was engineered, complete with schematic drawings. This is real library geekiness, but even a breezy read of The Card Catalog will spur appreciation for the work of librarians, even in this digital age.

Get thee to your public library and breathe in the air of books!

Peace (page after page),
Kevin

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