Revisiting Sayers: One Hundred Years of Canons of Classification


  • Department of Library and Information Science, Vidyasagar University, Midnapore – 721102, West Bengal



Bliss' Principles, Canons of Classification, Library Classification Theory, Ranganathan's Canons, Sayers' Canons, Subject Classification


William Charles Berwick Sayers (1881-1960), an English librarian, made outstanding contributions to the development of a theory of library classification. He is referred to as the first grammarian of library classification. Even though he did not design any classification scheme, he interpreted and systematised the ideas of other theoreticians to formulate guidelines for designing library classification schemes. Sayers presented his theory of classification by stating 29 principles, called Canons, in 1915. He desired to make a comparative study of his canons with Richardson's Criteria, Bliss' Principles and Ranganathan's Canons. This paper presents a comparative study of Sayers' Canons (29 Canons), Bliss' Principles (32 Principles) and Ranganathan's Canons (43 Canons). Richardson stated only five Criteria in the form of general instructional statements these are not included in this study. Sayers' two Canons are similar to both Bliss' Principles and Ranganathan's Canons. Bliss' three Principles show highest similarity with Sayers' five Canons. Ranganathan's three Canons show highest similarity with Sayers' Canons, which are Canon of Currency (Verbal plane), Canon of Reticence (Verbal plane) and Canon of Hierarchy (Notational plane) respectively.


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How to Cite

Dutta, B. (2021). Revisiting Sayers: One Hundred Years of Canons of Classification. Journal of Information and Knowledge, 58(3), 165–178.



Received 2020-08-25
Accepted 2021-06-07
Published 2021-06-20

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