By Alex Wright
The dream of taking pictures and organizing wisdom is as previous as heritage. From the information of historic 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 stands proud 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 by means of education, labored at increasing the opportunity of the catalog card, the world's first info chip. From there common libraries and museums, connecting his local Belgium to the realm via an unlimited highbrow company that tried to prepare and code every thing ever released. 40 years ahead of the 1st laptop and fifty years sooner than the 1st browser, Otlet anticipated a community of "electric telescopes" that may enable humans in every single place to look via books, newspapers, photos, and recordings, all associated jointly in what he termed, in 1934, a réseau mondial--essentially, a global web.
Otlet's existence fulfillment used to be the development of the Mundaneum--a mechanical collective mind that might condominium and disseminate every thing ever dedicated to paper. full of analog machines equivalent to telegraphs and sorters, the Mundaneum--what a few have referred to as a "Steampunk model of hypertext"--was the embodiment of Otlet's goals. It was once additionally short-lived. by the point the Nazis, who have been pilfering libraries throughout Europe to assemble details they inspiration worthwhile, carted away Otlet's assortment in 1940, the dream had ended. damaged, Otlet died in 1944.
Wright's enticing highbrow historical past offers 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 seeing that Otlet's loss of life the realm has witnessed the emergence of a world community that has proved him correct in regards to the possibilities--and the perils--of networked info, and his legacy persists in our electronic global this day, captured forever.