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The Bliss Bibliographic Classification : history & description

Outline of the Bliss Bibliographic Classification (2nd ed.)

What is the Bibliographic Classification?

The Bibliographic Classification (BC2 or Bliss) is the leading example of a fully faceted classification scheme. It provides a detailed classification for use in libraries and information services of all kinds, having a broad and detailed structure and order.

The vocabulary in each class is comprehensive and complemented by an exceptionally brief faceted notation considering the detail available, providing indexing to any depth the classifier wishes.

The structure of the subject within each class is clearly and simply laid out with rules provided for the quick and consistent placing of any item. A thorough A-Z index is provided in each volume. Users can access a subject catalogue record via any part of the whole, depending upon the primary interest of the user.


The Classification (known as BC) was originally devised by Henry Evelyn Bliss and was first published in four volumes in the USA between 1940 and 1953. Bliss stated that one of the purposes of the Classification was to "demonstrate that a coherent and comprehensive system, based on the logical principles of classification and consistent with the systems of science and education, may be available to services in libraries, "to aid revision ... of long established ... classifications" and to provide an "adaptable, efficient and economical classification, notation and index." A fundamental principle is the idea of subordination - each specific subject is subordinated to the appropriate general one. This version of the classification is now known as BC1.

BC1 was first applied in broad outline at the College of the City of New York (where Bliss was librarian) in 1902. The full scheme followed the publication of two massive theoretical works on the organization of knowledge. Its main feature was the carefully designed main class order, reflecting the Comptean principle of gradation in speciality. Work on a radical revision of BC1, incorporating the great advances in logical facet analysis initiated by Ranganathan and developed by the Classification Research Group in Britain, began in the early 1970s.


On the formation of the Bliss Classification Association (BCA) in 1967, it was suggested that a new and completely revised edition of the full BC should be made available. However, the revision has been so radical that it is more accurately described as a completely new system, using only the broad outline developed by H. E. Bliss. Its central features are outlined below, but in addition to these the vocabulary is very much greater than that of BC1. An annual Bulletin had been providing revised schedules, mostly in science and technology. The new, revised edition was initiated by Jack Mills and was to be produced in 22 parts, comprising one or two subjects per volume. The first volumes were published in 1977 (Bliss Bibliographic Classification, edited by J. Mills & Vanda Broughton. London: Butterworth, 1977-). Publication is now undertaken by K. G. Saur. Further revisions have been made to some of the BC2 volumes in order to retain subject currency and updates continue to be published in the BCA Bulletin.

The main features of BC2 are as follows:

History of the Bliss Classification, with some reminiscences of Henry Evelyn Bliss

A student paper by Charles Dowdell prepared at the School of Information Studies, Syracuse University, New York, 22nd October 2000. Includes a copy of a letter signed by H. E. Bliss.