By Alex Wright
The dream of shooting and organizing wisdom is as outdated as background. From the data of historical Sumeria and the Library of Alexandria to the Library of Congress and Wikipedia, humanity has wrestled with the matter of harnessing its highbrow output. The undying quest for knowledge has been as a lot approximately info garage and retrieval as inventive genius.
In Cataloging the World, Alex Wright introduces us to a determine who sticks out within the lengthy line of thinkers and idealists who dedicated themselves to the duty. starting within the past due 19th century, Paul Otlet, a librarian through education, labored at increasing the potential for the catalog card, the world's first details chip. From there common libraries and museums, connecting his local Belgium to the area through an enormous highbrow firm that tried to arrange and code every little thing ever released. 40 years ahead of the 1st laptop and fifty years ahead of the 1st browser, Otlet predicted a community of "electric telescopes" that will permit humans in every single place to go looking via books, newspapers, pictures, and recordings, all associated jointly in what he termed, in 1934, a réseau mondial--essentially, a world web.
Otlet's existence success was once the development of the Mundaneum--a mechanical collective mind that may condominium and disseminate every little thing ever devoted to paper. full of analog machines comparable to telegraphs and sorters, the Mundaneum--what a few have known as a "Steampunk model of hypertext"--was the embodiment of Otlet's objectives. It was once additionally short-lived. by the point the Nazis, who have been pilfering libraries throughout Europe to gather info they proposal helpful, carted away Otlet's assortment in 1940, the dream had ended. damaged, Otlet died in 1944.
Wright's attractive highbrow background supplies Otlet his due, restoring him to his right position within the lengthy continuum of visionaries and pioneers who've struggled to categorise wisdom, from H.G. Wells and Melvil Dewey to Vannevar Bush, Ted Nelson, Tim Berners-Lee, and Steve Jobs. Wright exhibits that during the years because Otlet's demise the area has witnessed the emergence of an international community that has proved him correct concerning the possibilities--and the perils--of networked info, and his legacy persists in our electronic global at the present time, captured all the time.
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Extra resources for Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age
Wiegand, calls him), Dewey devoted most of his life to pressing for social change: railing against alcohol and tobacco, promoting the metric system, and even agitating to simplify English spelling (even going so far as to change the spelling of his own name to the phonetically correct Melvil Dui). Dewey invented his Decimal Classification while still an undergraduate at Amherst College, drawing on the earlier work of important library thinkers like Cutter and William T. Harris, whose cataloging scheme for the St.
153. 32 T he L ibraries o f B abel c entury, a Frenchman named Abbé François Rozier took on the formidable task of cataloging the library of the French Academy of Science. Taking Gessner’s method a step further, he not only separated his notes into individual entries, but he also settled on a more durable form of data storage: playing cards. Unlike their modern counterparts, eighteenth-century playing cards featured no decorative patterns on their backs. These blank white surfaces made them ideal for use as note cards, lottery tickets, marriage and death announcements, and business cards.
49 C ATA L O G I N G T H E WO R L D As he continued his bibliographical journeys, Otlet eventually butted up against the limitations of the school’s library collection, confined as it was to books the Jesuit fathers deemed appropriate. Seeking to broaden his intellectual horizons, Otlet—like his Renaissance forebears—gravitated toward dictionaries and encyclopedias. He especially liked Pierre Larousse’s Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXieme siècle. Published from 1866 to 1876 and spanning fifteen volumes with more than 20,000 total pages (with another two supplements published after Larousse’s death in 1876), it offered an endless source of diversion for Otlet as he whiled away his time in the school library.
Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age by Alex Wright