restricted access Chapter 2. Temporary Indexing
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2 Temporary Indexing With the invention and spread of printing with movable type, a complaint arises in the learned reading world. It is the book flood, always a nautical or irrigation metaphor, that has a disturbing effect on readers in the newly established privacy of their studies.1 “There are so many books that we lack the time even to read the titles,” notes the Italian bibliographer Anton Francesco Doni in 1550, already pointing toward the increasing reading of titles and footnotes as a principal reaction to too many texts.2 The explosion of written material after the introduction of the printing press brings a lot of attention to the library, which it did not garner in medieval times. “The Middle Ages read and wrote little,” a 1920s library history summarizes laconically.3 In the medieval canon, the one book dominates the selection and reading of all other texts, so that the medieval library yields to the domination of biblical order and selection patterns; inventories comprise between a few dozen and a couple of hundred volumes, and it is merely for the sake of inventory control that they are listed.4 Only when the library is inundated is the need to deal with all this material recognized. In view of this difficulty, it is hardly surprising that efforts are made, as a kind of emergency response, not only to sort through the masses of books, but also to furnish an exact and thematically purposeful orientation. Claiming to navigate through the book flood, the Swiss doctor, polymath, and mountaineer Konrad Gessner5 (1516–1565) publishes the Bibliotheca Universalis; the first two of three planned volumes come out in Zurich in 1545 and 1548—taken up here only in terms of library innovation. The first volume of the Bibliotheca Universalis, which Gessner starts to sketch at the age of 25, consists of a bibliography of around 3,000 authors in alphabetical order, describing books in terms of content and form, and offering textual excerpts.6 The bibliography lists over 10,000 texts, breaking 10 Chapter 2 with the legacy of listing books in a specific way. In contrast to previous catalogs, the Bibliotheca Universalis undertakes an appraisal of the content of the holdings. Conventional catalog lists mostly tended to originate within the scope of annual inventory checks. Gessner, however, examines every single book meticulously to gather complete specifications of format, title, authors (provided they are named or discoverable), place of publication , and year of publication.7 Then he appends a content description. Hence, Konrad Gessner can rightly count as the father of the modern bibliography.8 Earlier catalogs, mostly limited to theological subjects, did not make a distinction between source and representation, between their description and quotations from other catalogs, and hardly ever sorted their lists alphabetically. The second volume of the Bibliotheca Universalis, published in 1548 under the title Pandectarum sive Partitionum Universalium, contains a list of keywords, ordered not by authors’ names, but thematically. This introduces a classification of knowledge on the one hand, and on the other hand offers orientation for the novice about patterns and keywords (socalled loci communes) that help organize knowledge to be acquired.9 “Many scholars accumulate such loci in the course of their varied reading in Commentarios or chartaceos libros, sorted according to titles and classes, either in alphabetical order, as Dominicus Nanus did in the Polyanthea, or according to genres or divisions of philosophy or other principles.”10 The order of the commonplaces at first follows a tree structure, carefully partitioned into 21 main classes; remarkably, grammar appears first and theology last (see figure 2.1).11 Each of these 21 classes and chapters is articulated into paragraphs and separated by the symbol “¶.” Gessner writes a preface to some, with rather extensive comments.12 A list of authors’ names follows, along with titles referring to the first, alphabetical compilation, directing readers to the description of texts in the first volume on corresponding subjects.13 Only the twentieth chapter on medicine (which Gessner practices to make a living) is not published, presumably because the proceeds of the first part of the Bibliotheca Universalis failed to meet the expectations of the publisher, Christoph Froschauer. Others suppose Gessner may have been so dissatisfied with the results that he refrained from publishing them.14 In 1549, one year after the first nineteen Pandectae, the twenty-first is finally printed, in God’s name (= theology). Theological commonplaces Temporary Indexing 11 Figure 2.1 The...


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