Trivia

Hard

The Only Author To Have A Unique Dewey Decimal Number Devoted To Them Is?

William Faulkner
John Milton
William Shakespeare
James Joyce

Answer: Shakespeare

The Dewey Decimal System is a numeric library classification system created by Melvil Dewey during the latter half of the 19th century in order to help classify and sort all of human knowledge into easily organized (and shelf-friendly) categories. The system is based on an XXX.XXX format wherein the first three numbers indicate the broader subject and the last three numbers indicate the specific area of that subject. So, for example, 500 is reserved for the category of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. 510 is Mathematics. 516 is Geometry. 516.3 is Analytic Geometry, and so on. Anything more specific than Analytic Geometry gets a more specific number (like 516.375 for books dealing with Finsler Geometry).

You can repeat the above exercise for any topic under the sun and you’ll wind your way through a series of broad entries down to a very precise entry focused on a particular area of human knowledge. If you take a stroll through the 800 block, however, you’re in for a bit of a trivia treat. There, buried in the 800 Literature block, you’ll find 822 English Drama. Within the English Drama block you’ll find 822.3 The Elizabethan Period 1558-1625. Within that block you’ll find a little gem: 822.33 William Shakespeare, the only category in the entire Dewey Decimal System devoted expressly to an individual author.

Now while the inclusion of a specific category just for Shakespeare does highlight the age in which the Dewey Decimal System was created and the large amount of esteem Shakespeare was held in at the time, it’s also an inevitable extension of the sheer amount of work produced both by Shakespeare himself and about Shakespeare. There are further sub-divisions of the 822.33 block for biographies, critical appraisals, textual criticisms, adaptations, and, of course, collections of his works: the comedies, tragedies, histories, and poetry.  There’s even a small call number, 822.33 Z reserved for works proposed to be by Shakespeare but with doubtful authorship.

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