The magic number 793.9


793.9 that magical number that ought to be the PIN number or four digit code of all gamers of a certain generation.

793.9 the most important bit of any school library or the adult section of the public library when you were too young to afford any gaming books except at Christmas or Birthday.

793.9 the public secret code to the portal of gaming. The cupboard to Narnia of toy soldier gaming. As I recall in one lovely tiny branch library of my childhood,  793.9 was round the back of shelving and out of view from the rest of the library.

What was 793.9 in the mysterious world of Dewey library numbers?

793 Indoor games & amusements
793.2 Parties and entertainment
793.3 Social, folk, national dancing
793.4 Games of action
793.5 Forfeit and trick games
793.7 Games not characterized by action
793.8 Magic and related activities
793.9 Other indoor diversions

793.9 other indoor diversions including Wargames 

793.9 has even generated its own 2014 book Dragons in the Stacks, as befits some of the more forward thinking libraries such as Kaptain Kobold’s local Australian library’s games events.



Mainly focussed on RPG games, snippets can be read on Google books.  suggests that Wargames now have their own unique number 793.92

So who was Dewey the decimal library wizard?

Here is the man himself, American librarian  Melvil Dewey (1851-1931)

The great man Melvil Dewey  1851–1931 (Image:Wikipedia source)

Would Melvil Dewey have approved of the activities categorised under 793.9?

Probably not, accorading to Anna Elliott’s article below. He did not seem too fond of “silly games” although arguably everything I have learned about history, psychology and tactics through gaming would class it as the sort of “self improvement activity” he enjoyed in place of “silly games” as a child.


What a singular man Melvil Dui turned out to be …

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, player of Games not characterized by action


17 thoughts on “The magic number 793.9”

  1. As a librarian I can tell you this is entirely true – although you’re more likely to find such books, especially older ones, in a college library, and they use Library of Congress cataloging. Military and Naval science are U and V respectively, and I first turned up Little Wars, Charge, and several Featherstone and Grant books in U310 which got me started back in the day. They also had a colorfully illustrated history of Britains’ toy soldiers, which was in the hobby/collecting section. I picked up Collecting Toy Soldiers, by Henry Harris with a chapter by Featherstone, in the 745.9 DDC section at my own branch – it was about to be weeded, so I snagged it before it went to the recycler! 745 and 746 are the crafting/collecting section, and 745.9 is roughly where you’ll find toys and miniatures (dollmaking, dollhouses, toy soldiers, antiques, etc).

    Sadly, those books, published in the ’60s, gave me an entirely incorrect idea of the state of wargaming in the late ’90; the local stores (in a small Kansas college town) had no historical games, just RPGs and Games Workshop, and this was long before Black Powder by the same authors. I spent many happy years with 40K and still roleplay as I can, but now I’m getting back into classic old-school and it’s wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jennifer
      Well done for rescuing Henry Harris (and Donald Featherstone) – that can be your Centenary Featherstone tribute!
      Why recycle or pulp them? Why don’t they just sell such books online?

      British libraries have lots of these 1960s & 1970s books inaccessible in HQ stores and they are often sold off to online dealers – many of my recent purchases of Featherstone hardback books come through this route.

      To be fair, I only have my childhood library copies of these gaming books and uniform books because inexplicably my local council libraries started selling off such books in the early 1990s. I was puzzled as they were perfectly good condition, repeatedly borrowed non fiction reference books. I was in the right place, right time to buy them and still have them, still use them. Some of my childhood painty inky fingermarks are still in there from its branch library days (whoops!)

      I remain old school mostly as my brain doesn’t extend to complex new school rules.

      Best of luck with your Revolutionary War game, I hope it inspires some historical wargaming, old school or new school followers (Revolutionary War ? that would be in Britain AWI or the American War of Independence). Best played with Airfix OOHO or Spencer Smiths in old school.
      Mark, Man of TIN


  2. It was obviously outdated and not in the best condition. It might have ended up in the yearly booksale, but I doubt it. Readable enough though. As a children’s/teen librarian, I game at work regularly; had several months of Dungeons and Dragons and now am regularly running Featherstone’s “Close Wars” with Armies in Plastic 54mm AWI figures and the occasional TSATF demo. I’m seriously thinking of doing a “paint-and-take” with them on the 4th of July this year.

    I’ve been lucky to finally turn up a historical group, which meets monthly and has its own clubhouse. This will be the first game I’ve run for them, and I’m both looking forward and dreading it… They play mostly modern rulesets (though I’m not sure what The Sword and the Flame counts as), are easygoing and at least a few of them are eager to try something new. We’ll see how it goes.


    1. Jennifer
      This all sounds amazing, nothing like the libraries I grew up in and or know now, hopefully you’ll be creating a whole new generation of gamers of whatever variety -Online and / or hands on.

      Fantasy and RPG passed me by, what with the complex rules with the possible exception of the Fighting Fantasy books, although I have always had an interest in sci-fi and space (what 70s kid didn’t?), hence my Close Little Star Wars version set on the Planet Yarden (garden).

      Fear not. A return to simple old school ‘Close Wars’ at your local club will be a welcome return to childhood simplicity for some, back to H G Wells and garden games, whilst others will want to start tinkering with the rules straight away! 54mm sounds a great fun version.

      Getting a cluttered enough Close Wars terrain usually means raiding the yard / garden etc. although do some interesting card tree markers and interesting back up materials aimed at helping to encouraging young gamers. The Thor Sheil sandpit type rules also use whatever dollar store figures you have around.
      This all sounds like something that should be blogged – do you have a blog?

      “Paint and take” sounds great fun – even on a library budget. If anyone wants more than ‘modern’ khaki, you can also use pound / dollar store figures (Soldiers, cowboys etc) and paint them as ACW / old 19th century / Imagi-Nations. There are a few examples of ones I have done on my blog and my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog too.
      Best wishes for all these projects! Mark, Man of TIN.


      1. I haven’t got a blog, but I participate regularly on the Facebook “League of Librarian Gamers.”

        The terrain for this was simply a green library display tablecloth, tape for the trails, books (naturally) for a hill, and a crude Lego building. Everything not a trail is assumed to be forest. I have a handful of 3D-printed trees, but will probably make some paper ones next time to make it look a little more foresty.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Whoops, will try and put the pics up on a hosting site instead… but you ought to get the gist from the description.


    1. They do – IF they’re in good condition. One of the ironies of running a library is that the most popular books are often in the worst condition, for the obvious reason that they’ve been read so much. Whereas there may not be any point in selling a book in excellent condition, since that probably means that no one is interested enough in it to borrow, much less buy. It is sad, yes.


    2. Some online UK sellers like betterworldbooksltd work with former UK
      library stock (sold selling through Amazon) to fund literacy projects. Seems a fitting reuse or happy end for former library books.


    1. Wonderful! I can see the graphic novel series, then the movies, until someone realises we have ripped off both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter. I’m sure The League of Librarian Gamers would be flattered.


      1. There are a surprising number of manga (Japanese comics) about heroic librarians literally fighting to save books. And a movie series, The Librarian (think Indiana Jones).

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember it as being 794.6 in my local library system. For a midwestern American library system in the 1970s it had a surprisingly comprehensive collection of wargaming books. Little Wars, Wargames, Advanced Wargames, Wargames Campaigns, Naval Wargames, The Wargame (Grant), Charge!, the Gush book and Carter (naval) book. so Igot a very thorough Old School upbringing.


  4. Also 623, military engineering – this is where you’ll find the colorful guides to aircraft, ships and tanks for painting camo schemes and figuring out armament and armor. And 629, of course, aviation and space. The 930s and on are the histories of different parts of the world – 930’s for ancients, while the Zulu and Boer Wars would be in 968, South Africa, but could also be in 941-2 (UK).

    391 is costume, and you might find books of uniforms there.

    And of course, don’t forget historical atlases (912) or biographies (usually apart from the others and in order by name, but can also be found in the 920s – this is where you’ll find dictionaries and who’s who’s.

    Liked by 1 person

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