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Search limits help make most searches more specific.

Search limits may be applied prior to executing a search, or to a search results set (post search limits).

Limiting Searches

One or more of the following search limits
can be used (please read the "restrictions and cautions" below) :

  • Date of publication or creation of the material
  • Language of the material
  • Type of material (e.g., book, serial, music)
  • Location of the collection within the Library of Congress
  • Place of Publication (e.g., country, state, province)

Restrictions and Cautions

The Set Search Limits button, used prior to executing a search, can be selected for any search method, but it has NO EFFECT on Subject, Author/Creator, or Call Number Browse searches.

The [Image of Post Serach Limits button] button is only available when viewing a Titles List or a Titles List (Keyword). Selecting this button takes you to the Limits screen, where you can apply multiple limits to the existing search results set.

Once search limits are set (either before or after a search), they remain in effect for subsequent searches, until the Clear Search Limits button is selected. The limits also affect searches that are launched by selecting hypertext links in single catalog record displays.

Note: Search limits in the Library of Congress can be very useful for refining large sets of search results, but should be used with caution. Not all catalog records contain the data that is used to set limits. When multiple values (e.g., several languages) are recorded in a catalog record, limits can only retrieve on one of them. If relevant material is not retrieved after setting limits, clear the limits and modify the search.

Setting Search Limits

  1. From the Basic Search or Guided Search screens, select the Set Serach Limits button.

  2. To set Date: limits:
    1. Type a year in the initial box (shown as 1984 in the example below)
      Image of 1984 in the Date limits box

    2. Select the "radio" button in front of the type of limit desired:
      - Select the equal sign, for materials published/created in 1984:
      Image of 1984 in the Date limits box

      - Select the greater-than sign for materials published/created after (not including) 1984:
      Image of the Dates limit with 1984 in the and the greater-than sign selected

      - Select the less-than sign for materials published/created before (not including) 1984 :
      Image of the Dates limit with 1984 in the box and the less-than sign selected

      - Select Range, for materials published/created between 1984 and 2000:
      Image of the Date range  limit 1984 - 2000

  3. To set Language, Type, Location, or Place of Publication limits:

    1. Select a limits category by highlighting an option within the scroll window by clicking on it with the mouse or using the keyboard:

    2. Jump quickly to the alphabet range of the category you desire by typing its first letter. This technique can only be used to make a single selection in a limits category. Alternatively, scroll through the list using the mouse controls.

    3. Choose more than one option within a category by holding down the <Ctrl> key (or <Apple> key on the Macintosh) while making additional selections.

  4. Once all limits selections have been highlighted, select the Set Search Limitsbutton at the top or bottom of the Search Limits box to make them take effect. The following message appears on all search screens, once limits have been activated:

    Search Limits Are In Effect (they will not work with Author/Creator, Subject, or Call Number)

  5. When using Search History to repeat previous searches, note that the search limits will use only the ones currently set. To restore previous search limits, use the Clear Search Limitsbutton to clear the current limits, reset the previous limits, then select the Set Search Limitsbutton. Return to the Search History screen and repeat the search.

Details about Each Kind of Limit

Date - Language - Type - Location - Place of Publication


  • Confines search results to materials published or created in a single year or span of years.

  • The "after the year" ( sign > ), "before the year" ( sign < ), and "range" options can be particularly useful when searching for materials whose date of publication/creation is uncertain or consists of a span of years.
    • Example #1: A book whose publication date was recorded as "[19--]" (i.e., uncertain decade) in the catalog record will not be retrieved when limiting by a single date, but it will be retrieved with any one of the following date limits: range of 1900 to 1960; range of 1890 to 1970; or > 1899.
    • Example #2: A serial whose publication dates span the years 1926-1969 will not be retrieved when limiting by a single year within that span, e.g., 1930. It will be retrieved when selecting a range of years or a "before" or "after" date that encompasses the whole span of years cited for the material, such as one of the following: range of 1920 to 1970; > 1920; or < 1970.

  • Reprint publications will only be retrieved by setting the search limit to the date of the reprint, not the original date of publication.

  • Some materials will not be retrieved at all when date limits are set because no data was recorded in the encoded fields used for date limiting. For instance, catalog records for many archival manuscript or mixed material collections do not include this encoded kind of date information.


  • The "Language" limit reflects only the primary or predominant language of the material because only one language can be recorded in the data field used for limiting.

    Example: A work in Chinese with some English translation will not be found when limiting on works in English.

  • A full list of the languages, with cross- references from terms not used, is available on the Library of Congress Web Site.


  • Confines search results to a particular type of material. For example, select this option to limit search results to books and serials, excluding records for the many other formats the catalog includes (e.g., maps, music, photographs).

  • A list of types of material, with cross-references from unused terms, is available.

  • Although materials represented by catalog records can be of more than one type, this search feature generally retrieves only the predominant type.

    For instance, a sound recording may consist primarily of spoken material, but with some musical accompaniment. In such cases, the type of material is recorded as "Nonmusic Sound Recording"; a limit by "Music Sound Recording" would not find this item.

    An exception is material that is serially produced. For instance, a computer file that is issued serially can generally be retrieved either using the Serial or the Computer File selection.


Place of Publication:

  • When two or more places of publication are cited in a catalog record, only the first named place will be retrieved.

    Example: A work published both in London and New York will not be found when limiting on works published in New York (State).

  • A full list of place names, with cross-references from names not used, is available on the Library of Congress web site. A list of the places, with their corresponding codes, organized by continent or region, is also available on the web site (see )

Use the browser's [Back] button to resume searching.

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Library of Congress Online Catalog -
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September 14, 2006