Normative Principles (Canons) of Cataloguing

The term ‘Canon’ was first introduced by W. C. B. Sayers in his book ‘Canons of Classification, applied to ‘the Subject’, ‘the Expansive’, ‘the Decimal’ and ‘the Library of Congress’ Classifications: A Study in Bibliographical Classification Method’,  published in 1915 in which he explains his theory of book classification. The term ‘canon’ simply means rules, regulations, standard tests or criteria by which judgment may be formed.  In the context of cataloguing, Ranganathan was the first to apply the scientific method to cataloguing by formulating various normative principles of cataloguing, calling them as canons of cataloguing. Normative principles are those rules which govern the preparation of cataloguing codes, various types of entries, choice of headings and descriptions related to cataloguing of documents.
Historical Development of Normative Principles: There are 9 Canons of Cataloguing given by Dr. S. R. Ranganathan. However, all these normative principles (canons) of cataloguing were not developed in a single stretch; they were formulated in different stages as given below:

Stage 1: Although Classified Catalogue Code (CCC) was published in 1934, but the normative principles of cataloguing were first time included in the Theory of Library Catalogue published in 1938 by Madras Library Association.

The following six canons were introduced for the first time in the ‘Theory of Library Catalogue’, published in 1938.

(i)                 Canon of Ascertainability
(ii)        Canon of Relevance (Renamed as: Canon of Sought Heading in ‘Heading and Canons’, published in 1955)
(iii)             Canon of Consistency
(iv)             Canon of Currency
(v)               Canon of Permanence, and
(vi)             Canon of Prepotence

Stage 2: The second stage of the development of canons for cataloguing was made in Ranganathan’s ‘Heading and Canons: Comparative Study of Five Catalogue Codes’ published in 1955. The numbers of canons were extended to eight with the addition of the following two canons:

(vii)           Canon of context
(viii)         Canon of purity (Changed to: Canon of Individualization in the 4th ed. of CCC in 1958)

The last canon of cataloguing was introduced by Dr. S. R. Ranganathan in December 1969 issue of Library Science with a Slant to Documentation, making the total tally to nine:

(ix)             Canon of recall Value

Need & Importance of Canons: Canons of cataloguing are the specific normative principles which provide a scientific basis to the field of cataloguing. These canons are implications of the law of library science and helps in providing solutions to cataloguing. If a canon fails to provide solution to a specific problem, then the canons are in conflict and can appeal to the Laws of Library Science to provide a solution for it. The purpose and functions of these canons are to help in –

a)      drafting of a cataloguing code and formulation of rules
b)      interpretation of rules to meet new situations
c)  providing guidance to catalogers in their routine cataloguing work to achieve uniformity, consistency and accuracy.

(i)                 Canon of Ascertainability

(ii)               Canon of Sought Heading

(iii)             Canon of Consistency

(iv)             Canon of Currency

(v)               Canon of Permanence

(vi)             Canon of Prepotence

(vii)           Canon of Context

(viii)         Canon of Individualization

(ix)             Canon of Recall Value


1.The latest canon of cataloguing formulated by Dr. S. R. Ranganathan is __.

Answer: (C) Canon of Recall value

2. The problem of Homonyms can be solved by __.

Answer: (A) Canon of Individualization

3. Which canon suggests the best way to make the choice of heading for a catalogue?

Answer: (B) Canon of Sought Heading

4. Which of the following canon says that the choice and rendering of heading should be determined from the title page and its verso:

Answer: (D) canon of Ascertainability

5. The term 'Canon' was first inroduced by __.

Answer: (D) W. C. B. Sayers

6. 'Heading and Canons: Comparative Study of Five Catalogue Codes' was first published in __.

Answer: (B) 1955

7. Which among the following are not the canons of Cataloguing?

Answer: (B) Canon of Relevance

8. Who authored the book 'Canons of Classification'?

Answer: (B) W. C. B. Sayers

9. 'Canon of Recall Value' was first introduced in the year __.

Answer: (D) 1969

10. 'Theory of Library Catalogue' was first published in 1938 by __.

Answer: (B) Madras Library Association

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