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Library books on a shelf, displaying on their keels the Dewey Decimal System numbers.

Bookcases are an altogether useful invention. Often used, strangely enough, to hold books, although some people consider this a little un-original. Those people instead use it for a plethora of other things, which may involve a screwdriver, a large hammer and a stencil set - but this entry will not go into that here.

When people first see bookcases, they frequently don't recognise them and think that someone has stupidly delivered them a few blocks of wood, a plastic bag full of screws and lots and lots of bubble plastic. However, most people quickly realised that this is simply the early stage of a bookcase's development and then proceed to get very angry for no apparent reason.

The actual reason is usually that they have absolutely no idea how to put a bookcase together, and that someone they generally consider to be inferior to them, eg, their 12-year-old son, manages to put it together in no time at all. Actually no time at all is not completely accurate, but it works for this comparison.

A common and sensible way to acquire a bookcase is to buy one, although this is not always the way people go about it. IKEA is one of many places where one may find these rather curious, mostly wooden items, and the trading of the right amount of money will allow you to make such a purchase. A bookcase may not be just made of wood, they can also be made out of various types of metals and plastics and may be of varying sizes.


Exactly when the first bookcase came to existence is unknown. In the remains of ancient Herculaneum scroll libraries were discovered, previously hidden by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD. The scrolls were piled on top of each other in doorless cupboards, with no particular regard for an ordering system. The invention of the printing press allowed books to be mass produced for the first time and hence it would appear fairly obvious that a case to hold books would be required: a bookcase.

With current wisdom, bookcases in their various shapes, sizes and states are likely to have been with humans ever since things in general have been recorded. The falling of a 'herd' of bookcases, causing a cascade effect, has been used in films such as The Mummy (which starred Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz) for years. These scenes stand as a warning to let us all know that the bookcase is far from mostly harmless.

Human Interaction

Bookcases are often found collectively: in libraries, at places of work or school, or even in the home. Most people see the relationship between the bookcase and human as very simple:

  1. Look at book titles on the shelves of the bookcase.
  2. Pick book from the bookcase.
  3. Read book.
  4. Return book to the bookcase.

The Dewey Decimal System

A man who may have been able to solve the mystery of how to store books effectively was a man by the name of Melvil Dewey. He invented the rather strange notion of ordering the books in a method commonly referred to as the Dewey Decimal System, although it is to be noted that some librarians refer to it in a rather less friendly manner. This system involves numbering books according to a specific subject, although some might consider the ordering of books in general as a very strange notion. Unfortunately, Melvil Dewey died, quite inconsiderately some might say, at age 80, in 1931 and so he may have taken any secrets regarding the mysteries of book classification with him.

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