Cataloging in Publication data

I’ve always wondered what those mysterious “Cataloging in Publication” lines at the front of many printed American books meant.

I knew they had something to do with the US Library of Congress, and they seemed to be an indication of where to file the book. They generally include the name of the author and some indication of the book’s topics, and the book’s ISBN. The topics are phrased a little oddly, but the general purpose of the author and subject lines seems relatively clear.

But there are also more-mysterious parts. Like the line that says “p. cm.” Or the lines that give unlabeled strings of numbers and letters.

So I recently went looking for more information, and found a page titled CIP: What It Means, How to Read It, Who Should Get It, and an AbeBooks “Ask the Experts” page about numbers on the copyright page.

Among the things that I learned:

  • The “p. cm.” line is the “Physical description of the book, almost always blank since the books are usually not yet published” at the time when the CIP data is put together. Specifically, it’s an indication of the page count and the book’s size (in centimeters). As I understand it, those numbers are added to the Library of Congress’s stored CIP data after the book is published. I’m still confused, though, because I don’t understand the value of putting that line in the printed book if it never shows the actual numbers.
  • One of the strings of numbers and letters is the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) number, which indicates the category that the book belongs in. (The LCC includes capital letters.) Another number, confusingly, is the Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN), which is unique to the book. (The first four digits are the year of publication.)
  • The number that ends with something like dc21 or dc22 is the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) number. The dc part indicates which version of the DDC system it’s using.

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