Monday, September 22, 2008 dreamed of in the early age of print

In The Order of Books, Roger Chartier attempts to trace a genealogy of the drive to capture and catalogue the information flow in its entirety.
The dream of a library that would bring together all accumulated knowledge and all the books ever written can be found throughout the history of Western civilization,
he claims, and in fourteenth and fifteenth century Europe, following the invention of print, this became 'one of the major tensions that inhabited the literates of the early modern age and caused them anxiety’:
A universal library (or at least universal in one order of knowledge) could not be other than fictive, reduced to the dimensions of a catalogue, a nomenclature, or a survey. Conversely, any library that is actually installed in a specific place and that is made up of real works available for consultation and reading, no matter how rich it might be, gives only a truncated image of all accumulable knowledge. The irreducible gap between ideally exhaustive inventories and necessarily incomplete collections was experienced with intense frustration.
Roger Chartier, The Order of Books (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994), p. vii.

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