The French Revolutionary government issued the French Cataloging Code of 1791 for the cataloging of libraries seized from religious houses. These books were ordered to be brought to literary depots at several locations in Paris. The code was published by the Imprimerie nationale as a 15-page pamphlet entitled Instruction pour procéder à la confection due Catalogue de chacune des Bibliothèques sur lesquelles les Directoires ont dû ou doivent incessamment apposer les scellés. Though authorship was not identified on the pamphlet itself, the Bibliothèque nationale de France identifies the author as Jean-Baptiste Massieu (1743-1818), information about whom is available at this link. According to the pamphlet, the staff at each literary depot was to record on cards the basic particulars about each item held. These cards were then bound up in bundles and sent to the Paris Bureau de Bibliographie. Because of wartime shortages, the blank backs of confiscated playing cards were used to record the information. This may be the earliest documentation of the use of cards for the production of library catalogs.
The title page was transcribed on the card and the author’s surname underlined for the filing word. If there was no author, a keyword in the title was underlined. A collation was added that was to include number of volumes, size, a statement of illustration, the material of which the book was made, the kind of type, any missing pages, and a description of the binding if it was outstanding in any way. The collation was partly for the purpose of identifying valuable books that the government might offer for sale in order to increase government revenue.
After the cards were filled in and put in order by underlined filing word, they were strung together by running a needle and thread through the lower left hand corners to keep them in order.
Joseph Smally, "The French Cataloging Code of 1791: A Translation," The Library Quarterly, 61 Number 1 (January 1991) 1–14.
Jean-Paul Seguin, Le Jeu de carte (1968) 282.
Claire Bustarret, "La carte à jouer, support d’écriture au XVIIIe siècle. Détournement, retournement, révolution," Socio-Anthropologie, « Le retournement des choses," 30 (2014) 83-98.