Some Common Library of Congress Subject Subdivision Patterns and Caveats

Document sections

Topical subdivisions Geographic subdivisions
Form subdivisions Some common subdivisions
Chronological subdivisions For more information


The following points — primarily intended for copy cataloguers — are a selection of explanations of patterns that are frequently observed in Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH) strings and answers to questions that often come up when working with LCSH subdivisions.  They do not represent a systematic presentation of LCSH policy, nor do they anticipate any future changes in LCSH policies or practise.

For more comprehensive explanations, see LC’s own publication, Subject Cataloging Manual:  Subject Headings, H1075-H2400.

For the most current information on a given subdivision, see Subject Cataloging Manual:  Subject Headings and the LC subject authority file.

For additional general background, see also our document “Introduction to Library of Congress Subject Headings” and the Subject Cataloging Manual:  Subject Headings.

Topical subdivisions ($x)

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Form subdivisions ($v)

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Chronological subdivisions ($y)

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Geographic subdivisions ($z)

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Some common subdivisions

The subdivisions listed here correspond to those listed in the “Full-Level OCLC-Member Editing Guidelines (Books Format)” as ones that should be added to existing headings when applicable.

$v Bibliography $x History $y <16th-21st> century;
    $x History $y To 1500
$v Biography$x History and criticism
$x Criticism and interpretation$x In literature
$x Description and travel$v Indexes
$v Dictionaries$v Maps
$v Directories$v Poetry
$v Drama$v Songs and music
$v Encyclopedias$v Texts
$v Fiction $v Translations into <language>
$v Guidebooks <Chronological subdivisions under place>
$x History

With each one, a brief scope note is included, along with:

For additional free-floating subdivisions, see the Subject Cataloging Manual, sections H1095-H1200.

$v Bibliography        (H 1205; H 1322; H 1325; H 1670)         sh 99001362 or sh 85013838
Use under subjects of all types.  Used for lists of works about a subject; when used under a person’s name, it may apply to lists of works by or about the person.

E.g.    650  0  $a Sociology $v Bibliography.
651  0  $a Guatemala $x History $y 1985- $v Bibliography.
600 10  $a Camus, Albert, $d 1913-1960 $v Bibliography.

$v Biography        (H 1330; H 1720; H 1845)         sh 99001237 or sh 85014152
Use under corporate and geographic name headings and under classes of persons, ethnic groups, individual and groups of animals, historic events, and uniform titles of sacred works.  The most common uses are following headings for classes of persons and places.

Used for individual or collective biography.

E.g.    650  0  $a Presidents $z France $v Biography.
610 20  $a Bear Paw Development Corporation $v Biography.
650  0  $a Potters $z Zambia $z Kafue River Valley $v Biography.
650  0  $a Jews $z Poland $z Warsaw $v Biography.
630 00  $a Bhagavadg¯it¯a $v Biography.
651  0  $a Mexico $v Biography.
651  0  Edinburgh (Scotland) $v Biography.

Strictly speaking, the subdivision “Biography” should only be used when more than half (50%) of a work deals with the personal aspects of a person’s life, as opposed to discussion of her or his career or works.  However, this restriction is not applied to historical figures, and in practise this subdivision is often used (even by LC) more generally for works about an individual.

Currently, the subdivision “Biography” should not be used following name headings of individual people.  (You will see many older records for biographies of literary authors that use “Biography,” however.)

$x Criticism and interpretation        sh 99005576
Use this subdivision only under persons active in the fine arts, literature, music, and performing arts; most commonly seen under headings for names of literary authors.

Use for works at least 80% of which consist of critical analysis or interpretation of the person's literary or artistic works or endeavors, without more than 20% dealing with biographical details.

E.g.    600 10  $a Camus, Albert, $d 1913-1960 $x Criticism and interpretation.
600 00  $a Leonardo, $c da Vinci, $d 1452-1519 $x Criticism and interpretation.
600 10  $a Olivier, Laurence, $d 1907-1989 $x Criticism and interpretation.

Note that “Criticism and interpretation” is considered to be a topical ($x) subdivision, not a form ($v) subdivision.

$x Description and travel        (H1530)         sh 99001278
Use under geographic headings for general descriptive works and travel accounts about that place.  Chronological subdivisions are no longer valid under “Description and travel,” although for early travel accounts the form subdivision “$v Early works to 1800" may apply.

E.g.    651  0  $a Belize $x Description and travel.
651  0  $a Mediterranean Region $x Description and travel $v Early works to 1800.

“Description and travel” should not be used under headings for extinct cities, parks, or Indian reservations.

E.g.    651  0  $a Yosemite National Park (Calif.)
651  0  $a Pompeii (Extinct city)

If the work contains an extensive amount of practical travel-related advice, use “$v Guidebooks.”

$v Dictionaries        (H 1540)         sh 99001671 or sh 85042997
Use under subjects of all types.  Under language headings, use "$v Dictionaries" for comprehensive alphabetical lists of words in those languages.  If the dictionary is bilingual, a final $x subdivision should be added listing the other language, and paired headings may be needed if words in each language are defined in terms of the other.

E.g.    650  0  $a German language $v Dictionaries $x English.
650  0  $a English language $v Dictionaries $x German.

“Dictionaries” can also be used under topical headings for comprehensive alphabetical listings of terms used in connection with that field or other topic.  It should be followed by “$x <language>” if the language is not English.

E.g.    650  0  $a Sociology $v Dictionaries $x French.

If the work includes articles on a topic or topics, use "$v Encyclopedias.”

$v Directories        (H 1558)         sh 99001609 or sh 85038267
Use under corporate, geographic, and family name headings and under classes of persons, ethnic groups, Christian denominations, types of organizations, and general topical headings for alphabetical or classified lists containing names, addresses, and other identifying data.

E.g.    650  0  $a Engineers $z Monaco $v Directories.
650  0  $a Mexican Americans $z New Mexico $z Albuquerque $v Directories.
651  0  $a Ann Arbor (Mich.) $x Officials and employees $v Directories.
610 20  $a Tulane University $v Directories.

$v Drama        (H 1780)         sh 99001612 or sh 85039316
Use under personal, corporate, family, and geographic name headings and under classes of persons, ethnic groups, and general topical headings for plays or musical dramatic works on those subjects.

E.g.    650  0  $a Agincourt, Battle of, Agincourt, France, 1415 $v Drama.
650  0  $a Mexican Americans $z New Mexico $z Albuquerque $v Drama.
600 00  $a Leonardo, $c da Vinci, $d 1452-1519 $v Drama.
651  0  $a France $x History $y Revolution, 1789-1799 $v Drama.

$v Encyclopedias        (H 1540)         sh 99001614 or sh 85042997
Use under subjects of all types.

Use for works consisting of explanatory articles arranged alphabetically or topically.  (Note that works of this type are sometimes called “dictionaries.”)

E.g.    650  0  $a Sociology $v Encyclopedias.
600 00  $a Homer $v Encyclopedias.
651  0  $a France $x History $y Revolution, 1789-1799 $v Encyclopedias.

$v Fiction        (H 1720; H 1790)         sh 99001562 or sh 85048050
Use under personal, corporate, family, and geographic name headings and under classes of persons, ethnic groups, and general topical headings for collections of stories or novels on those topics.

E.g.    650  0  $a Truffles $z Italy $v Fiction.
610 20  $a Microsoft Corporation $v Fiction.
651  0  $a Buenos Aires (Argentina) $v Fiction.
650  0  $a Musicians $z Louisiana $z New Orleans $v Fiction.

Also use under names of individual persons and historic events for individual works of biographical or historical fiction, and under animals for individual stories about animals.

E.g.    600 00  $a Eleanor, $c of Aquitaine, Queen, consort of Henry II, King of England, $d 1122?-1204 $v Fiction.
651  0  $a France $x History $y Revolution, 1789-1799 $v Fiction.
650  0  $a Dolphins $z Mexico, Gulf of $v Fiction.

$v Guidebooks        (H 1645)         sh 99001297 or sh 85057716
Use under corporate and geographic name headings and topical headings.

The subdivision “Guidebooks” should be used for handbooks with practical travel-related advice, “how to get there and what to see and do” information.  For narrative, more descriptive travel accounts, use “Description and travel.”

E.g.    651  0  $a Switzerland $v Guidebooks.
651  0  $a London (England) $v Guidebooks.
651  0  $a Yosemite National Park (Calif.) $v Guidebooks.
650  0  $a Historic buildings $z Italy $z Florence $v Guidebooks.

Note that:

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$x History        (H 1647; H 1845)         sh 99005024 or sh 85061212
Use under corporate and geographic name headings, under uniform titles of sacred works, and under classes of persons, ethnic groups, and topical headings.

The subdivision “History” should be used for descriptions and explanations of past events connected with a non-literary or non-artistic subject.  The description may continue up to the present time, provided that some chronological depth is present.

E.g.    650  0  $a Photography $z England $z Bath $x History.
650  0  $a Women $z Indonesia $x History.
610 20  $a Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México $x History.

Under geographic headings, “History” is used for fairly general accounts of the past; for works dealing with a particular aspect of the past, a different, more specific subdivision may be more appropriate, such as “Economic conditions,” “Politics and government,” or “Social conditions.”

E.g.    Title:  London through the ages.
    651  0  $a London (England) $x History.

Title:  The economic development of London since 1600.
    651  0  $a London (England) $x Economic conditions.

Note that "History" is considered to be a topical ($x) subdivision, not a form ($v) subdivision.

There are certain headings and subdivisions that are not followed by “History,” because they are considered to be inherently historical (or inherently potentially historical).  Examples include:

E.g.    650  0  $a Renaissance.
650  0  $a Glass blowing and working $z Rome.      ["Rome" by itself represents the ancient republic and empire]

and the subdivisions “Politics and government” and “Social conditions”:

E.g.    651  0  $a Cuba $x Social conditions.
651  0  $a Guatemala $x Politics and government $y 1985-

For a complete list, consult "Subdivisions Not Further Subdivided by $x History,” taken from the Subject Cataloging Manual, H1647, section 9.

For historical treatment of literatures, music, and film (with certain film headings), use the literary subdivision “$x History and criticism.”

$x History $y <16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, or 21st> century        (H1647)

Use under corporate body headings and under classes of persons, ethnic groups, military services, Christian denominations, and topical headings; use for historical works limited to a given period that falls largely within a century.

E.g.    650  0  $a Shipping $z Turkey $z Istanbul $x History $y 17th century.
650  0  $a Political science $x History $y 20th century.
610 20 $a University of Oxford $x History $y 19th century.

Use cautiously under geographic headings, provided that no conflicting established chronological subdivision exists.  Check the LC subject authority file first for any established subdivision.

E.g.    651  0  $a Baton Rouge (La.) $x History $y 20th century.
651  0  $a Alps, Bavarian (Germany) $x History $y 18th century.

Please note that the heading for a topic with a history only extending for the period covered by the work or for a specific century does not need chronological subdivision.

E.g.    650  0  $a Motion pictures $x History.
    [Book covers 20th-century beginnings to date; ”Motion pictures $x History $y 20th century” and ”Motion pictures $x History $y 21st century” would not be necessary.]

650  0  $a Blogs $z Portugal $z Sintra Mountains Region $x History.
    ["$y 21st century" would not be a useful addition to a heading string about an essentially 21st-century phenomenon.]

$x History $y To 1500        (H1647)        sh2002006121

Use under topical headings for works that cover the ancient and/or mediaeval periods.

E.g.    650  0  $a Bee culture $z Italy $z Umbria $x History $y To 1500.

$x History and criticism        (H 1647)         sh 99001187 or sh 85034149
Use under literary, music, and certain film form headings.

Use for general historical and critical studies of literature or music, which are not limited to a particular aspect or topic.

E.g.    650  0  $a Brazilian literature $x History and criticism.
650  0  $a French poetry $y 19th century $x History and criticism.
650  0  $a Opera $x History and criticism.

The list for the pattern heading “Literatures” (H1156) includes more specific subdivisions that can be used when applicable.

E.g.    650  0  $a Brazilian literature $x Themes, motives.
650  0  $a Canadian drama $x Shamanistic influences.

Also use "$x History and criticism" with certain film form headings (those with the term "films") for general historical and critical studies of types of film:

E.g.    650  0  $a Caper films $x History and criticism.
650  0  $a Motion pictures $x History.

Screenplays are treated like literature:

650  0  $a Motion picture plays $x History and criticism.

$x In literature        (H 362; H 1780; H 1790; H 1800)         sh 2002011414
Use for discussions of a person, corporate body, or place as a theme in literature, including musical dramatic works and individual literary genres.  In other words, use for critical works about literary works about the person, body, or place.  The subdivision "$x In literature" may also be used under headings for Christian denominations and uniform titles of sacred works.

E.g.    600 00  $a Napoleon $b I, $c Emperor of the French, $d 1769-1821 $x In literature.
610 10  $a Great Britain. $b Parliament $x In literature.
651  0  $a New Orleans (La.) $x In literature.
650  0  $a Methodists $x In literature.
630 00  $a Koran $x In literature.

For literary works themselves about the person, body, or place, or in which he, she, or it appears as a character or key setting, assign the appropriate form subdivision, for example, "$v Drama," "$v Fiction," "$v Literary collections," and "$v Poetry."

$v Indexes        (H 1670)         sh 99001477 or sh 85064865
Use under subjects of all types for works that provide a comprehensive subject approach to printed materials published in a specific field of knowledge.

E.g.    650  0  $a Political science $v Indexes.
651  0  $a South Africa $x History $v Indexes.

Note that, for an index to a bibliography on a topic, you would simply use the heading for the topic subdivided by “$v Indexes,” without using “Bibliography” between the heading and subdivision.

E.g.  An index to a bibliography of political science periodicals:
650  0  $a Political science $x Periodicals $v Indexes.

Also used under personal name headings for an index to the collected published works of an individual author.

E.g.  600 10  $a Poe, Edgar Allan, $d 1809-1849 $v Indexes.

For a separately published index to a particular work, use “$v Indexes” under the uniform title or name-uniform title for that work.  (The subdivision should not be used for indexes published as part of a book.)

E.g.    600 10  $a Faulkner, Raymond Oliver, $d 1894-1982. $t Concise dictionary of Middle Egyptian $v Indexes.

$v Maps        (H 1865)         sh 99001269 or sh 85080858
Use under geographic and corporate name headings and under topical headings for individual maps or collections of maps.  This subdivision can be used if at least 20% of a work consists of maps, not only for works catalogued or identified as atlases.

E.g.    651  0  $a Pakistan $v Maps.
651  0  $a Crete (Greece) $v Maps.
610 20  $a University of Oxford $v Maps.
650  0  $a Geology $z Tanzania $v Maps.

$v Poetry        (H 1800)         sh 99001678 or sh 850103704
Use under personal, corporate, family, and geographic name headings and under classes of persons, ethnic groups, and general topical headings for collections of poetry and individual poems on those subjects.

E.g.    650  0  $a Cats $z New Zealand $v Poetry.
651  0  $a Machu Picchu Site (Peru) $v Poetry.
650  0  $a Women $z Italy $z Venice $v Poetry.
610 20  $a Temple of Poseidon (Ákra Soúnion, Greece) $v Poetry.

$v Songs and music        (H 2075)         sh 99001806 or sh 85088762
Use under personal, corporate, and geographic name headings and under classes of persons, ethnic groups, individual wars, and general topical headings.

This form subdivision can be used for both vocal and instrumental music with a particular theme.

E.g.    650  0  $a World War, 1914-1918 $v Songs and music.
650  0  $a Castles $z Austria $v Songs and music.
600 10  $aValentino, Rudolph, $d 1895-1926 $v Songs and music.
651  0  $a Paris (France) $v Songs and music.

$v Texts        (H 2190)         sh 99001271 or sh 87007621
Use under individual lesser-known languages, language groups, dialects, early periods of languages, headings for vocal music, and liturgy headings for individual texts or collections of texts.  Also use under the heading strings "<place> $x Languages" and "<ethnic group> $x Languages."

Locally, the subdivision “Texts” is used most frequently for song lyrics and under headings for indigenous Latin American languages.

E.g.    650  0  $a Cakchikel language $v Texts.
650  0  $a English language $y Old English, ca. 450-1100 $v Texts.
650  0  $a Drinking songs $v Texts.
610 20  $a Orthodox Eastern Church $x Liturgy $v Texts.
651  0  $a Assam (India) $x Languages $v Texts.
650  0  $a Yuit Eskimos $x Languages $v Texts.

$v Translations into <language>        (H 2220)         sh 99001577 or sh 85136967
Use under literary form headings for collections of translated works.  Use for translations of individual works when a specific literary form heading has been assigned.

E.g.    650  0  $a Japanese poetry $v Translations into English.
650  0  $a Short stories, German $v Translations into Spanish.
650  0  $a Fantasy fiction, Danish $v Translations into German.

Use under literary authors for collected translations (not for individual translations of one work).

E.g.    600 00  $a Ovid, $d 43 B.C.-17 or 18 A.D. $v Translations into English.

Use more cautiously under non-literary headings, only for collections of translations and only if the primary purpose of the work — as stated or implied by the title — is to provide translated materials.

E.g.    Title:  Recent Japanese articles on radiation chemistry : for English readers:
    650  0  $a Radiation chemistry $v Translations into English.

Note that “Translations from <language>” is no longer a valid subdivision (although you may see it in older records).

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For more information:

For further information on the construction of subject headings, you may consult:

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Revised draft 20 October 1994; further revised 24, 29 November 1999, 22 August 2006, 4 May 2007

HTML document last reviewed:  6 May 2007