12 February 2009

Back to Bibliographies

The various meanings given to the term for a library thus clearly show one of the major tensions that inhabited the literate 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. It led to extravagant ventures assembling -- in spirit, if not in reality -- all possible books, all discoverable titles, all works ever written. 'When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books, the first impression was one of extravagant happiness.' // Roger Chartier, The Order of Books, 88
Was thumbing through Chartier's The Order of Books today. Not a bad answer to my question about bibliographers earlier this week.

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