A who’s who of Library and Information Science

A who’s who of Library and Information Science

In celebration of the start of this years #citylis, I thought it might be fun to write a very brief¬†who’s who guide to some of the main figures in Library and Information Science.¬†It is by no means definitive, so feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments below if you feel someone is missing.

Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria (668-around 630 BC)

The Royal lion hunt reliefs from the Assyrian palace at Nineveh , 645-635 BC, British Museum. by Johnbod CC-BY-SA-4.0

The last great King of the Neo-Assyrian empire in Nineveh near Mosul in Iraq. Ashurbanipal was responsible for assembling The Royal Library of Ashurbanipal, thought to be the oldest surviving Royal Library in the world. The library consisted of 30,000 cuneiform tablets and writing boards on a range of subjects including historical inscriptions, letters, administrative and legal texts, alongside found thousands of divinatory, magical, medical, literary and lexical texts.

The fragmented remains were discovered in the 1850s and are now kept in the British Museum. In 2002 the Ashurbanipal Library Project was setup between the museum and University of Mosul, in Iraq, with aim of cataloguing and digitizing the library to make it available to new and future generations.

Further reading:  The British Museum The Library of Ashurbanipal

. . .

Thomas Bodley¬†(2 March 1545 ‚Äď 29 January¬†1613)

Thomas Bodley Public Domain via` wikimedia commons
Thomas Bodley – Wikimedia Commons

Founder of Oxford’s famous Bodleian Library. After a career as an Oxford academic, Member of Parliament and diplomat for Queen Elizabeth the First, Bodley set about restoring the Library¬†known as Duke Humfrey‚Äôs, which had fallen into disrepair. The restored library reopened in 1602 containing some 2000 volumes, and included¬†works in Hebrew, Turkish, Arabic, Persian and Chinese. Today the Bodleian is one of Europe’s oldest libraries and also functions as one of the UK’s six¬† legal deposit library alongside the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the University Library, Cambridge, and. the Library of Trinity College, Dublin.

Further reading: The Death of Thomas Bodley

Bodleian Library: History of the Bodleian

. . .

Suzanne Briet (1 February 1894 – 13 February 1989)

Suzanne Briet

Known as Madame Documentation,¬†Ren√©e-Marie-H√©l√®ne-Suzanne Briet was born in Ardennes, but grew up in Paris. She began her career in librarianship at the Biblioth√®que Nationale de France in 1924 and would go on to shape both the field of¬† librarianship and Documentation. At the BNF Briet was responsible for establishing the¬†Office of Documentation, Alongside Chemist¬† Jean G√©rard she was responsible for co-founding the Union Fran√ßaise des Organismes de Documentation (UFOD) in 1931, the french equivalent of ASLIB or the American Documentation Institution. Brie Went on to influence the development of library education in her role as Director of¬†the¬†¬†l‚ÄôInstitut National des Techniques de la Documentation¬†one of France’s oldest library schools.

In 1951 Briet published her treatise on Documentation:¬† Qu’est-ce que la documentation?, a text of great significance that considers documents not as material objects but “evidence in support of a fact“. Her expanded definition of documentation, marked a departure from previous definitions asking the question:

‚ÄúIs a star a document? Is a pebble rolled by a torrent a document? Is a living animal a document? No. But the photographs and the catalogues of stars, the stones in a museum of mineralogy , and the animals that are cataloged and shown in a zoo, are documents.‚ÄĚ

In 1997,¬†Michael Buckland‚Äôs What is a Document? revived interest in Briet’s concept of Documentation and led to a renewed interest in the study of Documentation, providing¬† a foundation for modern debates about the nature of documents.

Further reading: On Documenting Performance and Suzanne Briet

Briet, S., et al (2006) What is documentation?: English translation of the classic French text, Scarecrow Press.

What is a Document? / Michael Buckland

. . .

Richard de Bury (1281‚Äď1345)

Portait of Richard De Bury via eBooks@Adelaide

Born at Bury St. Edmunds, Richard de Bury¬†was a Benedictine monk, he studied at Oxford and became tutor to the Prince of wales, the future Edward III. Bury¬†was a skilled diplomat and administrator, serving as¬†keeper of the privy seal, chancellor and treasurer of the exchequer.¬†¬†One of the first English book collectors, he founded¬†a library at Durham, searching far and wide for books and manuscripts. Prior to his death on 1345 De Bury¬†wrote his Philobiblon, a collection of essays¬†concerning the acquisition, preservation, and organization of books, in which he describes ‘his means and method’ of¬† collecting books.

Further reading: The Love of Books: The Philobiblon of Richard De Bury РTranslated Into English By E. C. Thomas

The Spectator Archives¬†¬†The “Philobiblon ” of Richard De Bury.¬†

. . .

Melvil Dewey¬†(10 December¬† 1851‚ÄĒ26 December 1931)


Melville Louis Kossuth (Melvil) Dewey, called “the father of modern librarianship” invented the Dewey Decimal Classification(DDC) system and helped establish the American Library Association, the ALA. At the age of¬† 21 whilst working on the reclassification library of Amherst College, Dewey devised a system of decimal numbers on top of a knowledge structure originally outlined by Francis Bacon. The system outlined in A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a Library, became the Dewey Decimal Classification System, which he Copyrighted¬†in 1876.

Having helped establish the ALA that same year, he served as secretary from 1876 to 1890 and then president for¬†the 1890/1891 and 1892/1893 terms. Alongside¬†R.R. Bowker and Frederick Leypoldt he became co-founder and editor of¬†the Library Journal.¬† In the year, following his appointment as librarian of Columbia College in 1883, Dewey founded the first ever library school,¬†the School of Library Economy, which opened in 1887,with a cohort of 20 students, mostly women, at Dewey’s insistence.

Following his move to New York State Library, in Albany, the school was reestablished under his direction as the New York State Library School.  As director of the New York State Library (1889 to 1906),  secretary of the University of the State of New York (until 1900) he reorganized the New York state library, into one of the most efficient in the United States. He was also responsible for establishing a system of traveling libraries and picture collections. Dewey, died of a stroke on 26th December 1931 at the age of 80.

Further reading: Irrepressible Reformer / Wiegand

. . .

Luciano Floridi (Born 16 November 1964)

Luciano Floridi via Oxford Internet Institute
Luciano Floridi via Oxford Internet Institute

Luciano Floridi is currently Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the University of Oxford, and Director of the¬†Digital Ethics Lab¬†of the Oxford Internet Institute.¬†Flordi’s main areas of research are Information and Computer Ethics (Digital Ethics), the Philosophy of Information, and the Philosophy of Technology. His current work includes the lifelong project, Principia Philosophiae Informationis, the Information tetralogy.

Florid’s work in the area of Information Philosophy and Digital Ethics is extensive having published more than 150 papers on these subjects.

In his Floridi’s central premise of his Information Philosophy is that :

Semantic Information is well formed, meaningful and truthful data. Knowledge is relevant semantic information properly accounted for: humans are the only known semantic engines and conscious inforgs (informational organisms) in the universe who can develop a growing knowledge of reality and the totality of information.(note the crucial absence of semantic)

Floridi also argues that¬†we are moving into the 4th revolution, following the Copernican, Darwinian and Freudian revolutions. In the Fourth Revolution information becomes our environment, the ‘infosphere‘. Floridi argues that following the Fourth revolutions we are becoming interconnected inforgs amongst other inforgs, our online personalities and personas begin to bleed into our ‘real lives’ leading to a phenomenon¬†known as onlife.¬†¬†Floridi’s work confronts the philosophical, ethical and moral issues of this new reality in¬†which¬†we find ourselves, what Flordi deems the ‘information ontology’ including the ethics of, Information, Onlife and particularly Artificial Intelligence.

Further Reading:

Floridi, L. (2010) Information: a very short introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford
Floridi, L. (2011) The philosophy of information, Oxford University Press, Oxford. (Volume one of the Tetralogy)
Floridi, L. (2013) The ethics of information, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom. (Volume two of the Tetralogy)
Floridi, L., (2014) The 4th revolution: how the infosphere is reshaping human reality, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom. (Oxford University Press, 2014)

Edited volumes include:
Floridi, L.(2004) The Blackwell guide to the philosophy of computing and information, Blackwell Pub, Malden, MA.
Floridi, L.(2010) The Cambridge Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Floridi, L., (2016) The Routledge handbook of philosophy of information, Routledge, London.

. . .

Conrad Gesner (26 March 1516 Р13 December 1565)

Conrad Gesner by Conrad Meyer 1662
Conrad Gesner by Conrad Meyer 1662

Conrad Gesner was a Swiss physician and naturalist born in Zurich 1516. As a child he demonstrated an aptitude for both Greek and Latin and at school studied classical languages and theology in Strasbourg. In 1533 he was given a scholarship to study medicine in Bourges University, France.

. In 1537 he produced his first¬†Greek‚ÄďLatin dictionary and in 1545 he published his¬†Bibliotheca universalis, a bibliography of 1800 author listed alphabetically, and accompanied by annotations and listings of each author works. The work the first of its kind took him four years to complete and earned him the name “the father of bibliography.”¬†

Between¬†1551‚Äď1558 Gesner produced his greatest Zoological work, the Historiae Animalium,¬†a four volume bibliography of¬†writings on natural history, combined¬†with encyclopaedic descriptions of every¬†known animal. A fifth volume covering¬† snakes and scorpions¬†was published after his death in 1587. The book was illustrated¬†with some 1,200 hand drawn woodcuts.¬†Gesner’s unique method of arranging his notes involved cutting them into slips and arranging them as desired.¬†Gesner’s other works included studies of plants and his final book¬†De Omni Rerum Fossilium (A Book on Fossil Objects, Chiefly Stones and Gems, their Shapes and Appearances), in which he stressed the importance of the form of an object to its classification. He died of plague in 1565, having published 72 books, and written 18 more unpublished manuscripts.

Further reading: Gesner: Conradi Gesneri medici Tigurini Historiae animalium

Strange Science: Conrad Gesner

Egmond, F. (2013) “A collection within a collection: rediscovered animal drawings from the collections of Conrad Gessner and Felix Platter”, Journal of the History of Collections,. 25(2), pp. 149-170.

. . .

Johannes Gutenberg¬†(born 14th century, Mainz ‚ÄĒdied probably February 3, 1468)

Anonymous portrait of Johannes Gutenberg dated 1440, Gutenberg Museum
Anonymous portrait of Johannes Gutenberg dated 1440, Gutenberg Museum

Johann Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg, son of an upper class merchant, was born in Mainz,¬†Germany and devised the printing press that precipitated the ‚ÄúPrinting Revolution in Europe‚ÄĚ. Specifically It was Guttenberg‚Äôs method of printing with movable type, that would usher in the development of printed books in the west, influencing the reformation, renaissance and libraries. Although little is known of his life, around 1428/1430 he is thought to have moved to Strassburg (modern Strasbourg, France), following a dispute between Guilds. With Strasbourg at war Gutenberg is thought to have returned to Mainz around 1448.

Between 1450 and 1453 he entered into business with Johann Fust, who helped him to purchase the tools and materials he needed. However, by 1452, Guttenburg was heavily in debt to Fust and unable to repay the loan. A new agreement was entered into by the two men which made Fust a partner in Guttenberg’s business, however by 1455, Guttenberg was once again unable to pay.

Fust sued, successfully winning ownership of Guttenberg’s business, including his press and ¬†his masterpiece, “Forty-Two-Line” Bible , which Guttenberg had first managed to print at some point during the course of the trial. With Fust’s son in-law joining him in his newly business acquired business they went on to produce the first ever book to bear the name of it’s printers’, the Psalter (Book of Psalms). The Mainz Psalter was printed with 2 colour capitals, using a method of woodblocks and multiple inking no doubt pioneered by Guttenberg and put into practice by Fust and Schoeffer.

In 1462 Fust and Schoeffer’s business was destroyed in the sack of Mainz. Guttenberg remained in the city, and continued his printing, although, since he didn’t put his name to his outputs little is known about what he printed.¬†He died in February, 1468, and was buried in the church of the Franciscan convent in¬†Eltville, Germany.

Further reading:

Barbier, F. (20170) Gutenberg’s Europe: the book and the invention of Western modernity, Polity, Cambridge.
Baron, S.A.,Lindquist, E.N. & Shevlin, E.F. (2007) Agent of change: print culture studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, University of Massachusetts Press, Washington, D.C.

Eisenstein, E.L. (2012) The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

McKitterick, D. (2003) Print, Manuscript and the Search for Order 1450-1830, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

 . . .

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1 July 1646 –¬†14 November 1716)

gottfried wilhelm libeniz
By Kopie nach Andreas Scheits (um 1655‚Äď1735), deutscher Maleruploader was Hajotthu at de.wikipedia (Museum Herrenhausen Palace) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Born in¬†in¬†Leipzig,¬†Saxony, during the 30 Years War, Leibniz was a philosopher and polymath. Thanks to his farther’s extensive library of Greek and Latin texts, he was able to read by the age of four and by the age of eight had taught himself latin. By 1662 he had already completed a Bachelors Degree in¬†Philosophy at the University of Liepzig.¬†He served as Librarian to the Duke of¬†Guelph, at the¬†Leineschloss Palace and in 1691 he was appointed as Librarian of the Herzog August Library at Wolfenbuettel, containing some 100,000 volumes, and which Leibniz helped design.

Liebniz’s first discussion on the ordering of libraries appeared in his Leibniz discussed the order of books in a library in¬†Nouveaux Essais sur l‚ÄôEntendement humain, a rebuttal of John Locke’s¬†An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, written between 1703 and 1705, but not published until 1765.

As a Librarian Leibniz devised classification schemes that he detailed in his¬†Representation¬†to His Serene Highness the Duke of Wolfenb√ľttel, for the Purposes of Encouraging the¬†Maintenance of His Library. In 1679 he devised the modern binary number system, which today’s computers are based upon, in his¬†Explication de l’Arithm√©tique Binaire(published in 1703). Using the device known as the “Leibniz Wheel’ he developed a calculating machine that could Add,Subtract, Multiply and Divide, which continued to be used in calculating machines throughout the 20th Century.

Further reading:

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Davis, M. (2012) The universal computer: the road from Leibniz to Turing, Turing centenary edn, CRC Press, Boca Raton, Fla.

. . .

Carl Linnaeus¬†(23 May 1707 ‚Äď 10 January 1778)

Carl von Linné, Alexander Roslin, 1775
Carl von Linné, Alexander Roslin, 1775

Swedish botanist and the father of Taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus was born 1707 the eldest of five children, in Råshult, Sweden. At an early age, he was taught the names of every plant, by his father Nils, a keen gardener who took his son into the garden whenever he could. By 1728, having spent a year at University of Lund studying medicine, Linnaues transferred to Upsalla University. Whilst there he wrote a thesis, Praeludia Sponsaliorum Plantarum, on the classification of plants based on their sexual parts. The thesis caught the attention of Professor Olof Rudbeck and led him to ask Linnaeus to become a lecturer in botany.

Between 1732 and 1735 Linnaues travelled throughout Sweden including to Lapland, where he hoped to learn all he could about the country’s flora, fauna and natural resources. During his travels he used his binomial system of nomenclature to describe his findings and discovered great quantities of the twin flower Campanula serpyllifolia,later known as Linnea borealis. His Flora Lapponica described 534 species using his Linnaean classification and taxonomy. In 1735 he published his Systema Naturae in which he first established the three kingdoms that are still used today, Animal Vegetable and Mineral or Regnum Animale, Regnum Vegetabile and Regnum Lapideum. Alongside the Species plantarum the book is still used today by scientists and the basis for naming animals and plants respectively.

Further Reading: Who was Carl Linnaeus?

Quammen, D. (2007) Linnaeus: The Name Giver, National Geographic

. . .

Gabriel Naudé (2 February 1600 Р10 July 1653)

Gabriel Naudé. Line engraving by C. Mellan, 1765, after himself
Gabriel Naudé. Line engraving by C. Mellan, 1765, after himself РCC BY 4.0 Wellcome Images

Born in Paris 1600, Naud√© was well educated and was an avid reader of authors classic and modern. Having attended several colleges, and receiving the title master of arts he enrolled in the University of Paris to study medicine. Despite his medical training Naud√© would never practice medicine and instead was offered the position of Librarian to¬†President Henri de Mesme. Whilst working for de Mesmes, whose library¬†contained some 8,000 printed¬†books,¬†Naud√©¬†would¬†write¬†his famous¬†Advis pour dresser une biblioth√®que, considered the first modern treatise on Librarianship. Addressed to his patron¬†de Mesme¬†Naud√©‚Äôs Advis¬†consisted of 9 chapters dealing¬†with the selection, acquisition and arrangement of books under the subject headings that included “Theologie, Physick, Iurisprudence, Mathematicks,¬†‚ÄĮand¬†Humanity”.¬†Naud√©‚Äô used his Advis to advocate his vision for a universal library that was open to the public. Following, his time in the Bibliotheque Memmiana Naud√© returned to his medical studies before he¬†was asked to join Cardinal Bagni the¬†Vatican ambassador in Paris when returned to Italy in 1629. Naud√© returned to Paris in 1642, and the following year he entered into the service of France’s first minister Cardinal Mazarin, once again in the role of Librarian. In service to Mazarin, Naud√© sought to establish France’s first public library and would spend the next ten years devoted to the creation and development of his Universal Library in the shape of the Bibliotheque Mazarine, in Paris.

Further Reading:  Naudé, Mazarin and the origins of France’s oldest public library

Kelley, D.R.(1997) History and the disciplines: the reclassification of knowledge in early modern Europe, University of Rochester Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk.

. . .

Paul Otlet  (23 August 1868  Р10 December 1944)

Paul Otlet by Marc Wathieu
Paul Otlet – Marc Wathieu -Flickr Commons [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Belgian bibliographer, lawyer and entrepreneur Paul Marie Ghislain Otlet, was another figure said to be the ‘father of information science’, and ‘father of the internet’.¬†Born in Brussels, Belgium, in 1868, he¬†trained as a lawyer, completing his law degree at the Free University of Brussels in 1890. That same year whilst working as an intern at the offices of Edmond Picard, he met¬† fellow lawyer Henri La Fontaine, who shared Otlet’s interest in bibliography.

Otlet and La Fontaine soon became good friends and in 1892 they formed the International Institute of Social Bibliography and began a bibliographic survey of sociological literature that would last the next three years. In 1895 they established the Institut International de Bibliographie and turned their focus to the cataloging of  published information across all subjects. Together they created their Universal Bibliography, a card catalog comprising over 400,000 entries recorded on index cards, each assigned a class number, initially based on the Dewey Decimal Classification and later his own UDC.

La classification Décimale Universelle - Indices composés détaillant l;analyse classificatrice
La classification D√©cimale Universelle – Indices compos√©s d√©taillant l’analyse classificatrice.
Indexation des publications et rédaction des fiches bibliographiques
Indexation des publications et r√©daction des fiches bibliographiques” “By Mundaneum

Otlet and La Fontaine initially decided to use a translated version of the Dewey Decimal Classification, with the agreement of Melvil Dewey, in the process they developed and adapted it to their needs, creating a classification scheme they named Universal Decimal Classification. Like Dewey UDC divided all knowledge into 10 main categories, that could further be subdivided into any number of subcategories. Where the two diverged was in the separation of numbers, while Dewey used the decimal point from which it took its name, the UDC used a range of notations, such as the plus and equals signs, the colon and parentheses to allow a much expanded range of relationships between concepts.

They published the first complete edition of the UDC in 1905 in form of the Manuel du R√©pertoire Bibliographique Universel¬†(Handbook of the¬†Universal Bibliographic Repertory) a 2000+ page containing elaborate and extensive subject arrays illustrated by extended classification tables, auxiliary tables and a guide to the scheme’s use in creating¬†catalogs and indexes. The arrival of the¬†First World War forced Otlet and La Fontaine into exile, with the former travelling to the Netherlands, Switzerland, and finally to France. Meanwhile La Fontaine journeyed to¬†London and then the United States. Both were committed to peace as reflected in their writings¬†with Otlet penning¬†his¬†Trait√© de paix g√©n√©rale (Treatise on General Peace, 1914) and Les probl√®mes internationaux de la guerre¬†(International Problems of War,¬†916) whilst La Fontaine¬†published his The Great Solution: Magnissima Charta (1916) in the United States where he was involved in the Pacifist Movement.

In 1910 having been to the universal exposition in Belgium, Otlet conceived the idea for the Palais Mondial or World Palace, which would act as an international centre for knowledge and peace. At its centre would be the Mundaneum, a universal network of all the world‚Äôs knowledge and containing his universal bibliography. In what has been described as an ‚Äėanalog internet‚Äô, Otlet envisioned network of ‚Äúelectric telescopes‚ÄĚ, dubbed ‘resau’, connected to the Mundaneum, through which users could request documents from the great libraries, that would be would be projected into a telegraph room. Following the end of the War, the Begian Government, proving receptive to the idea, provided Otlet and La Fontaine, space in the left wing of the Palais du Cinquantenaire, a government building in Brussels, opening 1921. The following year it was shut briefly, due to lack of support from the government,¬† but was reopened again after lobbying from Otlet and La Fontaine. In 1924 Otlet renamed the Palais Mondial to Mundaneum and the Universal Bibliographic Repertory, continued to expand and take in all forms of document including letters, reports, newspaper articles, and images.

By 1934, the Belgian government had again lost interest in funding the Munadaneum and its offices where closed, despite the protest of Otlet. Whilst the collection remained in situ, but inaccessible, Otlet returned to his writing producing¬†in 1934¬†Trait√© de documentation, still considered a key text in the sphere of Documentation. The following year he published¬†Monde:Essai d‚Äôuniversalisme (1935), which described his vision for a worldwide information network, that foreshadowed the internet. In 1940, Germany invaded Belgium and the Palais du Cinquantenaire was taken over to house a collection of artwork of the Third Reich, destroying much of the Mundaneum in the process. Otlet salvaged the remains and moved them to Parc L√©opold, the dilapidated building in which the collection remain until it’s rediscovery by a young research name Boyd Rayward, in 1968.

Otlet died in December 1944, however the Mundaneum continues today as a private museum and archives center, with a mission to conserve, preserve and showcase within its space of temporary exhibitions, archives and collections bequeathed by its founders : nearly 6 km current documents and 12 million index cards of Universal Bibliographic Repertory!

In many of his ideas Otlet was ahead of his time, the semantic relationships that UDC allows have been compared by many to the RDF-Triples data model that underlies the semantic web. His thoughts on a network of information centres and the transmission of documents predicted the Internet several decades before Tim Berners-Lee would first propose his vision of hypertext.

Further reading:

Boyd Rayward(1981) The Evolution of an International Library and Bibliographic Community- The Journal of Library History  Vol. 16, No. 2, Libraries &Culture II (Spring, 1981)

Rayward’s Otlet Page: Paul Otlet and Documentation

Manfroid, S., Gillen, J. & Phillips-Batoma, P.M. (2013) The Archives of Paul Otlet: Between Appreciation and Rediscovery, 1944‚Äď2013, Library Trends, vol. 62, no. 2, pp. 311-328.

Otlet, P. (1934) Traité de documentation: le livre sur le livre, théorie et pratique

Wright, A. The Web Time Forgot

Wright, A., (2014) Cataloging the world: Paul Otlet and the birth of the information age, Oxford University Press, New York, NY.

Cataloging the World by Alex Wright [Video]

. . .

Claude Shannon (30 April 1916 Р24 February 2001)

Claude Shannon by Konrad Jacobs CC BY-SA 2.0

Widely regarded as the ‘Father of the Information Age‘ Claude Elwood Shannon was born in¬†Petoskey, Michigan. After obtaining bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics and Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan, Shannon began his graduate studies in¬†electrical engineering at MIT in 1936. ¬†His familiarity with Boolean Algebra allowed him to design¬†electrical switching circuits based on Boolean Logic. His¬†master’s thesis, A Mathematical Theory of Communication, was described by¬†Howard Gardner¬†as “possibly the most important master‚Äôs theses ever written‚ÄĚ, whilst other have called it “the Magna Carta of the information age.”

It was Shannon he who first established that data could be measured in “bits” (a term derived from the contraction of binary and digit)¬†in his 1948 paper¬†‚ÄúA Mathematical Theory of Communication.‚Ä̬†In 1941, Shannon, having obtained A PhD in Mathematics was recruited by Bell Labs, where he worked on cryptography. He continued to work on Information Theory during this time, realizing that the encoding of messages in cryptography could be applied on a theoretical level to communication in general. The general premise of his theory was that: “a¬†message‚Äôs information is proportional to its improbability–or¬†its capacity to surprise an observer.

Whilst at Bell Labs, he would work closely with Alan Turing, who had been seconded to Washington in 1943, to aid the allies efforts in decryption. In 1949, his previously classified paper “A Mathematical Theory of Cryptography‚ÄĚ was published in the Bell Labs Research Journal. Shannon’s landmark theory stated that all communications could be though of as the same regardless of the medium. Noise poses a risk to all messages regardless of the channel and so Shannon declared that the key to ensuring accurate delivery of any message was the information contained in the message, rather than the meaning of the message itself.

Shannon stated that all communication systems can be broken down into the same essential components, information source, source, transmitter, channel, noise source receiver and destination. From there he was able to determine that the encoding of message by the transmitter was the key to ensuring the accuracy of the message and the avoidance of noise.

Shannon’s Schematic diagram of a general communication system – Wikimedia commons

Building on the premise of information as a measure of “surprise, or the amount of uncertainty we can overcome” he used the example of a coin toss to illustrate his point. Asserting that a fair coin toss, with equal chance of landing on either side, head or tails contains one bit of information. Shannon argued that the messages we send are like weighted coin tosses, they aren’t merely a random assemblage of characters but follow implicit rules that make them more predictable. Using this knowledge exemplified by the rule that certain characters are usually followed by others for example the letter “Q” is most commonly followed by a “U” or an “E”, he was able to show that the value of English (he called it H value) characters could be less than 1 bit. He expressed this in the following equation:


In 1956 he joined¬†MIT’s¬†Research Laboratory of Electronics¬† and served as faculty until 1978. Outside of work Shannon dabbled in robotics and computing, he invented a juggling robot, a flame-throwing trumpet, an electronic maze-solving mouse called Theseus, and a roman numeral arithmetic machine called¬†THROBAC I Thrifty Roman Numeral Backward-Looking Computer. One of his most interesting devices was the “Ultimate Machine” a featureless box, with a single switch¬† on the front, when the¬†switch was flipped the lid of the box would open and a mechanical hand reached out, flipped off the switch, then retracted back inside the box.

In 1973,the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers bestowed him the first ever Shannon Award. In later life¬†Shannon was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and spent his last years in a nursing home. He died in 2001. His legacy lives on in his Information¬†theory and work which formed the basis of modern computing, the internet and everything that followed.

Further reading: Soni, J. (2017) A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age, Simon & Schuster

Claude Shannon, the Father of the Information Age, Turns 1100100

10,000 Hours With Claude Shannon: How A Genius Thinks, Works, and Lives

Profile of Claude Shannon, Inventor of Information Theory Scientific American


Naud√©, Mazarin and the origins of France’s oldest public library

FeaturedNaud√©, Mazarin and the origins of France’s oldest public library

As an undergraduate I studied history and developed an interest, some might say an obsession, in the French King Louis XIV, also known as the Le Roi Soleil or The Sun King, as a result of his carefully managed image. Louis’s reign was the longest of any European monarch, lasting 72 years  and was the high watermark for the style of monarchy known as absolutism. It was the notion of Louis’s absolute monarchy, which triggered my interest and which saw my first essay on the Sun King discussing Louis’ proclamation “L’√©tat c’est moi“(I am the state/the state is me). As it turns out this proclamation was apocryphal and Louis’s absolute monarchy was not all-powerful as nineteenth century scholars led us to believe. As Parker  says:

It is highly arguable that absolute power really rested on a compromise with the families and groups who controlled the key institutions of central and provincial France. In return for the latter’s political conformity the monarchy sustained their material interests through a system of patronage from which both parties benefited.¬Ļ

Louis’s first minister Cardinal Mazarin was the owner of a great library, known as the Biblioth√®que Mazarin, is today France’s oldest public library. The library was run by Gabriel Naud√©, writer of the first modern treatise. In this blog I will delve into the history of Mazarin, his library, and his Librarian Naud√©.

Portrait of Cardinal Jules Mazarin (1602-1661) by Pierre Mignard
Portrait of Cardinal Jules Mazarin (1602-1661) by Pierre Mignard c1660

Giulio Raimondo Mazarini, an Italian by birth, was born in Pescine, Aquila in 1602, and would study at Jesuit School in Rome. Having served as a captain in the papal army from 1624, before becoming a papal nuncio in Paris between 1632 and 1636. It was during this time that he attracted the attention of Cardinal Richelieu, chief minister to French King Louis XIII, who took him under his wing. Having become a naturalised Frenchman in 1639, Mazarin’s service to France was recognised and rewarded with the granting of a Cardinal’s hat in 1641. Two years later following the deaths of Richelieu (1642) and Louis XIII(1643) he was chosen by Anne of Austria, the Queen Regent, to be first minister.

The Fronde and exile

As first minister Mazarin continued many of Richelieu’s policies, which proved unpopular with the nobles and judiciary. They resented him for impeding their access to the royal government, through restrictions on the sales of offices of state, which were traditionally a source of income for many nobles. Many were also suspicious of him, due to his Italian birth. Printed pamphlets, known as Mazarinades circulated, attacking the Cardinal, accusing him of jumping into bed with the Queen or being homosexual.

Folger call number DC124.M2925 var. Cage. A Mazarinade from 1651. The title roughly translates as “Unfortunate Prosperity, or the short history of Cardinal Mazarin, in which is set forth all the ruses and all the trickery that he used to achieve his prodigious fortune, with a relation of all the causes of his disgrace.

Between 1648 and 1653 France was embroiled in a period of unrest and civil war known as the Fronde. On one side was Mazarin and the monarch, on the other the parlements, the noblesse d’robe. Initially Mazarin agreed to make concessions to avoiding a head on confrontation. However, when he and Anne arrested several deputies, including the popular figure Pierre Broussel, rioting broke out and a mob barricaded the streets of Paris, an event know as the journ√©es de barricades (day of the barricades). Anne, Mazarin and young Louis XIV were forced to leave the city and raise troops to retake the city. With the end of the Thirty Years’ War, marked with the Peace of Westphalia, the Royal army was deployed to put down the Frondeurs. In March 1649 the Peace of St Germain was agreed bringing an end to what became known as the Fronde Parlementaire.

Many frondeurs such as Gondi were unhappy with the peace, and a second period of civil war known as the Fronde des nobles ensued from 1650-1653.  During the ensuing conflict Mazarin, fearing reprisals from the parlement was forced to flee the country, when the frondeurs allied with the forces of the Prince Cond√©. Whilst in exile Mazarin was able to sway the great General Turenne, whose forces were then arrayed against Cond√©’s. By September 1651 Louis had reached the age of his majority, following his thirteenth birthday and Mazarin was recalled to France.

A second brief exile occurred before a triumphant Louis reentered Paris in October 1652, with Mazarin following in February 1653. Mazarin continued to serve Louis until his death in 1661, by which time he had:

“…negotiated lasting peace treaties with both the Holy Roman Empire and Spain (securing valuable territorial and dynastic rights in the process), preserved the “absolutist” innovations of Richelieu and Louis XIII, and trained those who would direct the century’s most spectacular reign, including Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Michel L Tellier, and even Louis XIV himself.“¬≤

Les bibliothèques de Mazarin

Mazarin owned three libraries during his lifetime, the first one was established in Rome before he moved to France in 1639. Following his move to Paris he tasked his librarian Gabriel Naud√© with establishing a second considerably larger library, which was dispersed during the Fronde in 1652. Lastly, the library which was reassembled on his return from exile in 1653 and which today forms the core of the current Biblioth√®que Mazarine, following the instructions of Mazarin’s will.¬≥

Mazarin’s new Library was to be located within L’H√ītel Chevry-Tubeuf, situated close to the Palais Royal, where Anne of Austria and the young Louis XIV resided. Mazarin set about extending and refurbishing the building, including two galleries by Fran√ßois Mansart to house his art collections, constructed between 1642 and 1644 (today they form the Galleries Mansart and Mazarine of the Biblioth√®que National de France). Between 1646 and 1648 a new wing of the Palais Mazarin was constructed by Pierre Le Muet and Maurizio Valperga along the Rue Richelieu. Contemporary accounts show that this wing was about 190 toises (144 meters) long, with the lower floor comprising stables and the upper floor containing a library and living quarters.4

The Palais Mazarin with the library wing from the Plan de Paris par Bullet et Blondell 1676

French historian Henri Sauval (1621 – 76) provided a description written around 1655, but not published until after Mazarin’s death:

“This illustrious library is in a gallery of about thirty toises, about four and a half in breadth, covered with a vault of more than five, lighted by eight windows, and surrounded by two shelf arrangements. The first are full of books in-quarto and folio, and, moreover, are accompanied by a large desk breast high prevailing all around; and fifty Corinthian columns of wood, tall strong, and worked with the cleanliness. The balusters are placed above, where one goes up by four staircases practiced, and hidden in the four corners of the first shelves. This second ordinance occupies all the space which, from the first, goes as far as the birth of the vault, and is destined for the volumes, both in octavo and for the other little books; and for further enrichment and convenience, a small gallery the stone worn on the cornice and entablature Corinthian columns and closed with a painted iron baluster breast high.”5

Yann Sordet current director of the Biblioth√®uqe Mazarin argues that the Mazarin’s new library was significant for several reasons, that it was the first library in France to housed in a purpose-built wing and that it was also:

The first library in France to be designed as a gallery: a rectilinear space, not segmented by desks, pulpits or cupboards, in which the books were not only pushed to the periphery, but also lined the walls from floor to ceiling. It was a functional, modern library, with as its sole decoration the mass of books and the shelving structures.6

Piquard provides more details about the design  and construction saying that:

It was a matter of building along the Rue de Richelieu, on the edge of the Mazarin Palace, a long gallery in which the books would be placed On shelves fixed to the wall, while the middle of the room would be used to welcome the readers. The work was completed and the books in place at the end of 1649.7

He then quotes the principles set forth by Naud√© in his Advis  which recommends that the library should be built:

“In middle aisles so that the dampness of the earth does not produce the remorse which is a certain rot that attaches itself Insensibly to books “8

Naud√© also talks about the importance of a well-lit library:

“But all these difficulties and circumstances are nothing to those which are to be observed for the giving light, and conveniently placing the windows of  a Library, as well for being of great importance, that it be fully illuminated to the very farthest corners, as in respect likewise of the several natures of the winds which ordinarily blow, & which  produce effects as different as are their qualities and the places through which they pass ; … “9

Naud√© also made  several recommendations concerning the interior design, which Le Muet would have followed:

Much less ought one to employ so much gold on the ceiling, Ivory and glass upon the Walls, the Cedar Shelves, and Marble Floor, seeing as this is not now in use; nor do they now place their Books upon Desks, as the antients did; but upon Shelves that hide all the Walls ; but in lieu of such gildings and adornings, one may supply it Mathematical Instruments, Globes, Mapps, Spheres, Pictures, Animals, Stones and other curiosities as well Artificial as Natural, which are ordinarily collected from time to time. 10

We have some idea of how the library looked based on architectural drawings discovered by Knud B√łgh, among the collections of the Royal Library of Denmark. The drawings are thought to have been made on the occasion of a visit by the future Christian V of Denmark, who stayed in Paris from December 1662 to May 1663. They are likely to have influenced the design of Frederick III’s  Royal Library which began construction in 1665.

Architectural drawings of the gallery of the Bibliothèque Mazarin 1662-4 (Royal Library of Denmark)
Architectural drawings of the gallery of the Bibliothèque Mazarin 1662-4 (Royal Library of Denmark)

In terms of decoration the Library was said to have featured varnished woodwork, probably the work of carpenter Pierre Dionys and inspired by the Roman libraries of Borromini.

The library was completed in 1653, but in 1668 was removed to its current site within the Palais de l’Institut de France, on Quai de Conti opposite the Louvre, in execution of the Cardinal’s will. This new library occupied a wing of the newly formed Coll√®ge des Quatre-Nations was created as a device by Mazarin to ensure his collection was not dispersed after his death as it had been during the Fronde. As Sordet points out, Mazarin:

Sparing himself the trouble of drawing up a deed of conveyance, he created an institution from scratch, which would perpetuate his person in the form of a college. The act of ‚Äėfoundation‚Äô ‚Äď as defined by canon law, allocating a mass of goods or assets to a perpetual service ‚Äď consisted in forming a corporate body (a college) to receive it. It took over ten years for this idea to come to fruition: Mazarin first brushed aside Naud√©‚Äôs proposal to entrust his library to the University of Paris (1649), he then preferred the King‚Äôs protection (1650); but his last will and testament (1661) brought the university back into the loop, as it were, because, as the library was attributed to a college, it automatically came under the University‚Äôs supervision.11

In 1668, seven years after Mazarin’s death, Mazarin’s library, with the exception of his collection of manuscripts which were taken by Colbert for the Biblioth√®que du Roi, moved to the new site. The new library designed by Louis Le Vau, opened to the public in 1691, took the form of two galleries intersecting at right angles, rather than a single gallery. All the fittings, including columns from the previous library in the rue Richelieu, columns, pedestals, capitals, shelves and wood panelling, were transported and fitted  into the new library.

Bibliothèque Mazarine
Bibliothèque Mazarine

Gabriel Naudé

Gabriel Naudé. Line engraving by C. Mellan, 1765, after himself
Gabriel Naudé. Line engraving by C. Mellan, 1765, after himself РCC BY 4.0 Wellcome Images

The size of Mazarin’s library at the time of his death was recorded in an inventory drawn  up in 1661-2 by the executors of his will , totaled around 29,200 which included 2400 manuscripts and  26,800 printed books. This was smaller than the first Parisian Library that he had amassed before it was dispersed in the Fronde and which was though to total between 40,000 and 56,000.

The man entrusted with the position of Librarian to Mazarin’s new library was Gabriel Naud√©, who was appointed in 1642.  As Clarke says:

“One of this new minister’s first acts was to offer Gabriel Naud√© a position as librarian in his household at a salary of 200 livres a year. He wished, Mazarin said, to build a library that would rank from its very beginning among the richest and most complete in Europe.”12

Born in Paris 1600, Naud√© was well educated and was an avid reader of authors classic and modern. Having attended several colleges, and receiving the title master of arts he enrolled in the University of Paris to study medicine. Despite being named royal physician to Louis XIII in 1632 Naud√© never practised medicine, perhaps for the because:

In the first half of the seventeenth century the practice of medicine centred in scholarly libraries and botanical gardens, not in hospitals or laboratories. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that although physicians trained at Paris were often learned men, their scientific ideas were rooted in the past. Understandably, the more intelligent among them escaped from medical practice into literature, philosophy, or the natural sciences.13

In 1620 published Naud√© Le Marfore, ou Discours contre les libell√©s, his first book, at his own expense and it would be his writings that brought him to the attention of President Henri de Mesme, offering Naud√© position of librarian.The library of  de Mesmes was contain 8,000 printed books including many classics from the Aldine Press and was

 …the venerable collection of one of the better established robe families in Paris. Particularly in the last half of the sixteenth century, the Hotel de Mesmes and its library had been at the centre of learned parlement culture. More than this, the de Mesmes library was one of a handful of robe libraries, the de Thou library among them, whose status as the private professional collections of public persons granted them, as sites of public scholarship and loci of Gallican and constitutional research, a quasi-public status in the Parisian intellectual community.14

Title page of Naude's Advis Source:gallica.bnf.fr
Advis pour dresser une bibliothèque présenté à monseigneur le président de Mesme.. Par G. Naudé, 1627 РSource:gallica.bnf.fr

Instructions for erecting a Library

In 1627 Naud√© wrote his famous Advis pour dresser une biblioth√®que, in which he laid out his vision of the universal library. Addressed to “Monseigneur le President de Mesme” Naud√©’s Advis is considered the first modern treatise on Librarianship. It consisted of nine chapters or poincts as Naud√© called them:

  1. One must be curious to set up libraries, and why.
  2. How to learn and to know how to draw up a library.
  3. The number of books which are required.
  4. Of what quality and condition they ought to be.
  5. By what expedients they may be acquired.
  6. The disposition of the place where they should be kept.
  7. The order which it is required to assign them.
  8. Of the ornament and decoration necessary to be observed.
  9. What should be the main purpose of the library.

Naud√©’s stated reason for writing his Advis was a lack of suitable guidance on the selection of books, but he clearly had a particular vision of what a Library should be. In his Advis he appealed to De Mesmes’ sense of honour :

“And therefore, my Lord, it seems very much to the purpose, since you govern and preside in all signal Actions, that you never content yourself with a Mediocrity in things which are good and laudable; and since you have nothing of mean  and vulgar, that you should also cherish, above all others, the honour and reputation of possessing a Biblioth√®que, the most perfect, the best furnish’d and maintain’d of your time.”15

Naud√©’s Advis was significant in that it advocated a move from collecting books for their material features, rich bindings and illustrations to a more reasoned consideration of their scholarly value. Unlike his contemporaries, such as Claude Clement, Thomas Bacon and Bodley, Naud√© promoted what he considered a universal library:

a Library which is erected for the publick beneÔ¨Āt ought to be universal, but which it can never be, unlesse it comprehend all the principal Authors that have written upon the great diversity of particular Subjects”16

A public library

As we see Naud√©’s vision for a universal library also involved making it available to the public. Influenced by his experience of private libraries Naud√© believed that the value of the library would benefit the public and that citizens should have access to as much information as possible. This was a radical idea since, as Lars Qvortrup say, at that time of writing it was widely believed that possession of knowledge was dangerous and should be limited to an educated few. Up until the 17th century libraries were mostly private institutions which sought to restrict access to books rather than promote. Naud√© however subscribed to the Baconian theory that education of the human mind could transform society and that liberal public access to a well-stocked and organized library supported this. As Rovelstad states:

“Naud√©’s user was everyone who may reap any profit from the library’s collection.”17

Naud√© was able to convince de Mesme that creating and opening a great library to the public would bring him unique prestige and lasting fame:

“we first deduce, & explain the reasons which are most likely to perswade You, that it is to Your advantage, and that You ought by no means to neglect it. For not to go far from the nature of this Enterprise, common sence will informe us, that it is a thing altogether laudable, generous, and worthy of a courage which breathes nothing but Immortality, to draw out of oblivion, conferve, & erect (like another Pompey] all these Images, not of the Bodies, but of the Minds of so many gallant men, as have neither spared their time, nor their Industry, to transmit to us the most lively features and representations of whatsoever was most excellent & conspicuous in them.”18

The contents of the library

In his Advis Naud√© makes many recommendations for the types of books that should be included in a library. For example he recommends buying not only works in their original language, but also their translations and commentaries:

“I Will now say notwithstanding, […] to omit nothing which may serve us for a guide, in this disquisition, that the prime rule which one ought to observe, is, in the first place to furnish a Library with all the chief and principal Authors, as well antient as modern, chosen of the best Edi¬≠tions, in gross, or in parcels, and accompa¬≠nied with their most learned, and best In¬≠terpreters, and commentators, which are to be found in every facultie; not forget¬≠ing those which are lesse vulgar, and by consequent more curious.”16

Naud√©  was opposed to  censorship of religious works and was in favor of the inclusion of controversial and heretical works in a collection. He believed that a good library must include works on all subjects and that scholars should  be free to read these works because their contents and arguments had to be known in order to be refuted. As Paul Nelles states Naud√©’s Advis signifies:

“a shift in contemporary experience of the library. It initiated a methodological discussion which supplanted the dominant bibliographical conception of the library as a static repository of existing knowledge with a recognition of the library as an institution actively engaged in the production of new knowledge. The Advis bears witness to the ongoing early modern redefinition of the central purpose of the library from one of determining the authority texts to one of evaluating the validity of sources.”20

Naud√©  would take a break from his work in theBibliotheque Memmiana to return to his medical studies. Around 1629 Guido de Bagni, the Vatican ambassador in Paris returned to Italy, and asked Naud√© to join him as his librarian. He served Cardinal Bagni and then Cardinal Barbarini until 1642, when he was recalled to Paris to enter the employ of Cardinal Richelieu, who had been planning a royal library and invited Naud√© to return to his native city. However, with the death of Richelieu, Naude came into the employ of the newly risen Cardinal Mazarin, who as we know was embarking on the creation of his first Parisian library.  As Lemke says of their partnership:

“…there is little doubt that the right patron and the right bookman had come together and that neither Mazarin nor Naud√© could have accomplished singly what they achieved in the next years together. Theirs was a genuine interest in learning, and Naud√©, the implementor of their passion, was not dogmatic. Instead, he had come to the job with an open mind, a broad education, and a great joy of vocation.”21

With his new position Naud√© now had the opportunity  to put into practice the principles he had set out in his Advis. Naud√© set about assembling the collection for the Biblioth√®que Mazarin which was estimated to contain between 40,000 and 56,000 items at the time of its dispersal. Naud√© set about amassing the collection through bulk acquisition of books and whole libraries, a method set out in his Advis. Clarke says that Naud√©:

“…saw at once that the most practical method of acquiring books rapidly and in large numbers lay in block purchases by weight without regard for their condition or for duplicates. He knew that he must watch for large private collections to appear on the market and that he must also haunt the Parisian bookstores for suitable volumes.”22

To this end in 1643, Naud√© acquired the collection of the late scholar from Limoges Jean Descordes, to form the basis of the Biblioth√®que Mazarin. It consisted of 6,000 to 7,000 items including 1,700 volumes in folio, 2,000 in quarto, and 3,000 or 4,000 in octavo. Naud√© was not restricted to buying books locally, having exhausted the bookshops of Paris, he travelled to Flanders, then Italy, Germany, and England. His friend Gian Vittorio Rossi, described his methods in a letter to Cardinal Chigi:

“Having purchased every last one of the books dealing in any language whatever with any subject or division of knowledge no matter what, he left the stores stripped and bare. Sometimes, it seemed as if he had come to these shops not as a buyer of books, but to ascertain the size of the walls for he measures with a rule all the books and shelves to the very roof, and names his figure on the basis of that measurement… [the seller]would wrangle, but in the end it is he [Naud√©] who by insisting, by bullying, by blustering, and finally by sheer gall, gets his way so that he carries off the very best volumes cheaper than if they were pears or lemons, while the merchant, reflecting on this transaction, complains later that a spell was cast over his eyes and his hand forced, because he could have gotten a far better price for these books from the spice merchants for wrapping incense or pepper, or from the grocers for wrapping up butter or fish in sauce, and other pickled items.”23

In his Advis Naud√© also suggested other means of acquiring book such as making the library known in order to attract gift, working with antiquarian book dealers, and consulting library and bookseller catalogues. He maintained an extensive network of contacts of scholars and friends, who were said to be alerted to donate and/or purchase new books for the Mazarin Library.

The order of books

Having acquired the books for Mazarin’s library, Naud√© had to ensure they were arranged appropriately on the shelves. According to  Paul Nelles, Naud√©’s Advis:

“confronted the most pressing dilemma facing the universalization of the library in this period: the need to establish a nonhierarchical classification of knowledge that avoided the charge of arbitrariness but which could yet claim to accurately serve all disciplines of knowledge and provide a stable basis for investigation”21

Naud√© would devote a whole section of his Advis to the arrangement of books titling the seventh Poinct or Chapter L’ordre qu’il conuient leur donner (The order which it is requisite to assign them.) He set out the importance of organising the Library saying:

“…for without this, doubtless, all inquiring is to no purpose, and our labour fruitless; feeling books are for no other reason laid and reserved in this place, but that they may be serviceable upon such occasions as present themselves; Which thing is not withstanding impossible to effect, unless they be ranged, and disposed according to the variety of their subjects, or in such other sort, as they may be easily be found, as soon as named.  I affirm, moreover that without this Order and disposition, be the collection of books whatever, were it of fifty thousand volumes, it would no more merit the name of a Library than an assembly of thirty thousand men the name of an Army, unless they be martially in their several quarters, under the conduct of their Chiefs and Captains; or a vast heap of stones and materials, that of a Palace or house.”22

Naudé propsed a classification scheme for subject arrangement that mirrored the University Curricula and which he said were familiar mostly to readers:

“I conceive that to be alwayes the best which is most facil, the least intricate, most natural, practised, and which follows the Faculties of‚ÄĮTheologie, Physick, Iuris‚ą£prudence, Mathematicks, Humanity,‚ÄĮand others, which should be subdivided each of them into particulars, according to their several members, which for this purpose ought to be reasonably well understood by him who has the charge of the Library.”23

He further established that arrangement would aid discovery saying that:

“…fourth & last, that all Books of like argument & subject be precisely reduced, and disciplin’d in their destin’d places; since in so doing, the memory is so refreshed, that it would be easie in a moment onely to find out whatever Book one would choose or desire, in a Library that were as vast as that of Ptolomy.”24

He was critical of alphabetical and symbolic  classification schemes of libraries like the Ambrosiana and other libraries that arrange their books ‘pellmejle’ only to be located alphabetically in an author catalogue. Instead Naud√© proposed two catalogues one arranged by author and one by subject:

“After all which it shall be very requisite to make two Catalogues of all the Books contained in the Library, in one whereof they should be so precisely dis- pos’d according to their several Matters and Faculties, that one may fee & know in the twinkling of an eye, all the Authors which do meet there upon thefirst subject that shall come into ones head ; and in the other, they fhould be faithfully ranged and reduced under an Alphabetical order of their Authours, as well to avoid the buying of them twice, as to know what are wanting, & satisfie.”25

To accomplish this Naudé recommends the employment of a Librarian, with experience of books to provide assistance to the readers and maintain the library. This man must be a learned and honourable person, who would add prestige to the library and be given an appropriate salary, along with the rank and title of librarian, in order to acknowledge his social standing.

 The composition of the Library

We know from various accounts, including Naud√© himself, that the first Library of Mazarin contained at least 40,000 items, which were amassed over a period of ten years as a result of Naud√©’s efforts. We know from Naud√©’s  account of the surrender of the library that its rich and varied holdings included:

“Civil law philosophy in folio and books of theology in quarto…Medicine, chemistry  and natural history in volumes of all sizes…Around two hundred Bibles in all languages, Greek, Hebrew and other oriental tongues, Latin, French, Italian, Spanish. German, Flemish, English, Dutch, Polish, Hungarian, Swedish, Finnish, Welsh, Hibernian and Rutenian and commentaries on the Bible in volumes of all sizes.”26

Naud√© collected books in many different languages including Hebrew, Syriac, Samaritan, Ethiopian, Arabic, Greek, Spanish, Provencal, Italian and Latin. We also know that he advocated the inclusion of heretical texts and he lists books:

“in all languages including Lutheran, Calvinistic, Socinian and other heretical books in all languages, with many Hebrew,  Syriac, Arabian , Ethiopian, and Oriental books of all sorts.”27

Later on he describes books on the history of many nations and other subjects:

“All the history, ecclesiastic and profane, universal and special, of every nation” and claims that “Italians, Germans, Spaniards, Englishmen, Polonians, Dutch, and other nations, found here the histories of their own nations, far more rich and better furnished than they could find in their several native countries…Books on mathematics to the number of thirty-five hundred volumes, the Fathers, Scholastics, controversies, sermons, books of the Louvre press and almost all of the humanities.” Lastly, “many large volumes of charts, prints, travels, voyages, tariffs, etc.”28

Once the Library was completed Mazarin instructed Naudé to:

“throw open the library doors to “every living soul” and to provide his readers “with all the books they desire in any language or on any subject.”29

And by 30 January 1644 the Gazette de France was reporting that Mazarin’s palace had been transformed into:

“an academy for all the learned and curious, who flock there on Thursdays, from mo rning till night in order to peruse his beautiful library.”30

Mazarin Library opened to the public with great fanfare. Clarke quotes that day’s Paris Gazette which reported that Mazarin:

“Welcomed in his library all learned and curious people every Thursday from morning to evening to “feuilleter”, literally “leaf through”, his rich collection.”whilst Naud√© is described as the most”thoughtful, wise and hardworking librarian and scholar”, who possesses “perfect” knowledge of books. His library was soon called “without flattery, ‘une bibliotheque vivante’ “-a living, lively library.”31

Naud√©, keen to let the patrons of his Library come and go with ease, persuaded Mazarin to install a second entrance to the Library, above which was to be placed the following inscription:

“In the prosperous reign of LouisXIV during the wise regency of Anne of  Austria, most august mater castrorum, Julius Mazarin, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, a minister most pleasing to both councils, in his own good will wishing this library, so rich in books of all languages, arts, and sciences, to be an honour to the city, an ornament to France, and a promoter of knowledge, determined that it should be open to the public and, consecrating it as a gift, endowed it with permanent wealth and commended it to posterity”.32

Naudé and the Fronde

Naud√© continued to serve Mazarin during the Fronde. When Mazarin was forced into exile, Naud√© remained and in addition to fulfilling his duties as Librarian, took up the role of defender of the Cardinal. In September 1649 Naud√© published  his response to the attacks on the Cardinal made in mazarinades,  Judgement of all that has been written against Cardinal Mazarin or La Mascurat as it was more commonly known. Rather than a direct defense of the Cardinal, La Mascurat takes the form of a dialogue between two characters St Ange, Librarie, and Muscarat, imprimeur, in which Naud√© is St Ange and Mascurat  is the Paris printer R. Camusat.33

On 14 February 1651, a few days after Mazarin’s exile, Naude was forced to surrender the keys of the Library to Monsieur Tubeuf Presidentof the Chambre des Comptes. Tubeuf had taken possession of the Palais Mazarin, as surety for a debt, owed him by Mazarin, but also in the hopes of saving the library. In his Remise de la bibliotheque de Monseigneur le Cardinal Mazarin par le Sieur de Naude entre les mains de Monsieur Tubeuf, Naude describes the sad scene in which he leads Monsieur Tubeuf from room to room, showing him each part of the library before surrendering the keys. He says:

“And having implored the said Sieur Tubeuf to use the utmost care to prevent as far as possible the dissipation of this the most beautiful, the best and the largest library which had ever been brought together in the world, containing, to my own knowledge, more than forty thousand volumes, of which more than twelve thousand were in folio, I withdrew, with tears in my eyes at the thought that the public was on the eve of being deprived of so great a treasure, and that the noble intentions of His Eminence were being so ill repaid..” 34

When the Parlement proposed to sell Mazarin’s Library, Naud√© attempted , in vain, to avert disaster by proclaiming that the Mazarin intended to give the library to the public and saying:

Believe, if you please, that the ruin of this library will be more carefully marked in all histories and calendars, than the taking and sacking of Constantinople.35

Sadly, Naud√©’s appeals and other attempts to save the library were in vain and the library was auctioned off. Mazarin’s enemies deliberately chose to sell it off in small discrete lots, to prevent the Cardinal from regaining possession. In 1652 having had to stand by impotently as his life’s work was rendered asunder, Naud√© left France for Sweden to serve as Librarian to Queen Christina. The only part of the Biblioth√®queMazarin which Naud√© was able to save were the medical books which he personally bought at auction.

When Mazarin returned in 1653, one of his first thoughts was for his Library. He set about reconstructing the great collection of books that had been lost during the Fronde and Naud√©  was recalled from Sweden. Sadly Naud√© died in Abbeville, 29 July 1653 before he could reach Paris.

First page of The Mazarin Bible [Biblia latina]. Gen√®se-Psaumes. ‚Äď [Mayence] : [Johannes Gutenberg et Johannes Fust], [c. 1455]. ‚Äď In-folio. - 1er volume.
The Mazarin Bible [Biblia latina]. Gen√®se-Psaumes. ‚Äď [Mayence] : [Johannes Gutenberg et Johannes Fust], [c. 1455]. ‚Äď In-folio. – 1er volume.
Naud√© was succeeded by Fran√ßois de La Poterie, who aided Mazarin in his efforts to reclaim what he could of his library, but as we know the library that Mazarin left to the newly formed Coll√®ge des Quatre-Nations, was substantially smaller than before the Fronde. The reformed library reopened to the public again in 1689 and remained open during the revolution even while the Coll√®ge was closed.

Naud√© and Mazarin bibliographic legacy can still be seen today in the Biblioth√®que Mazarine located at Quai Conti and its digital surrogate the Mazarinium digital library. Its manuscript collection was rebuild during the revoloution through the efforts of the Librarian Abb√© Gaspard Michel, known as Leblond. Since 1945 it has been under the administrative authority of the Institut de France, which took over the buildings of the Coll√®ge. 

Its collection have continued to grow and today contains roughly 600,000 items. Its collections include an exceptional heritage library, that comprises around 80,000 printed volumes prior to 1800, including 2,400 incunabula, 4600 manuscripts, a collection of works and works of art.35 Included amongst the collections is a Guttenburg Bible, also known as the Mazarin Bible holds the distinction of being the first copy discovered around 1760 in the library of Cardinal Mazarin.

Naud√©’s ideas as expressed in his Advis represent the early origins of modern librarianship, representing a break with the religious orientation of libraries of the past. They represent an expression of an idea, that is resonant today, knowledge as a public good.

The Bibliotheque Mazarin today By Remi Mathis & Marie-Lan Nguyen (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0
The Bibliotheque Mazarin today. By Remi Mathis & Marie-Lan Nguyen (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sources:1.Parker, D. (1971) THE SOCIAL FOUNDATION OF FRENCH ABSOLUTISM 1610- 1630″, Past and Present, , no. 53, pp. 67.

  1. Cardinal Mazarin Goes into Exile. By: Cavendish, Richard, History Today, 00182753, Feb2001, Vol. 51, Issue 2
  2. Yann Sordet. D’un palais (1643) l’autre (1668) : les biblioth√®ques Mazarine(s) et leur decor. Journal des Savants, De Boccard, 2015, p. 79-138.
  3. ibid
  4. Sauval, H. (1724) Histoire et recherches des antiquit√©s de la ville de Paris. Tome 2 / . http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k1040563h/f196.item.zoom in Yann Sordet. D’un palais (1643) l’autre (1668): les bibliotheques Mazarine(s) et leur d‚Äôecor.
  5. Sordet,Yann (2016) Reconstructing Mazarin’s Library / Libraries in Time and Space Sources, Tools and Hypotheses Quærendo 46 (2016) 151-16
  6. Piquard, M. (1975). La biblioth√®que de Mazarin et la biblioth√®que Mazarine, 1643-1804. Comptes-Rendus Des S√©ances de L‚Äôann√©e… – Acad√©mie Des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 119(1), 125‚Äď136. http://doi.org/10.3406/crai.1975.13099
  7. Evelyn, J., & Naud√©, G. (1661). Instructions concerning erecting of a library: presented to my lord, the President De Mesme.(Keynes.B.2.8) London, Printed for G. Bedle, and T. Collins … and J. Crook. University of Cambridge Digital Library. [English translation of Naude‚Äôs Advis]
  8. ibid
  9. ibid
  10. Sordet,Yann (2016) Reconstructing Mazarin’s Library / Libraries in Time and Space Sources, Tools and Hypotheses Quærendo 46 (2016) 151-164
  11. Clark, Jack. A. (1969)Gabriel Naud√© and the Foundations of the Scholarly Library.The Library Quarterly 39(4), pp. 331-343.
  12. ibid.
  13. Nelles, Paul (1997)The Library as an Instrument of Discovery: Gabrielle Naude and the Uses of Historyin Kelley, D.R., (1997) History and the disciplines: the reclassification of knowledge in early modern Europe, University of Rochester Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk;Rochester, N.Y.
  14. Evelyn, J., & Naud√©, G. (1661). Instructions concerning erecting of a library: presented to my lord, the President De Mesme.(Keynes.B.2.8) London, Printed for G. Bedle, and T. Collins … and J. Crook. University of Cambridge Digital Library. [English translation of Naud√©‚Äôs Advis]
  15. ibid
  16. Rovelstad, M. V (2000) Two seventeenth-century library handbooks, two different library theories. Libraries & Culture, 35(4), pp. 540-556.
  17. Evelyn, J., & Naud√©, G. (1661). Instructions concerning erecting of a library: presented to my lord, the President De Mesme.(Keynes.B.2.8)London, Printed for G. Bedle, and T. Collins … and J. Crook. [English Translation of Naude‚Äôs Advis]

19 ibid

  1. Nelles
  2. Lemke, A. B., 1991. Gabriel Naud√© and the Ideal Library. The courier, Spring(280), pp.27-44
  3. Clarke
  4. De Rossi, Giovanni Vittorio.Epistolae ad neur 1602-1661, exposition organise’e
    pour Tyrrhenum et ad diversos.Cologne, 1749 in Clark, Jack. A. (1969) Gabriel Naud√© and the Foundations of the Scholarly Library. The Library Quarterly 39(4), pp. 338
  5. Nelles, Paul (1997)The Library as an Instrument of Discovery: Gabrielle Naude and the Uses of Historyin Kelley, D.R., (1997) History and the disciplines: the reclassification of knowledge in early modern Europe, University of Rochester Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk; Rochester, N.Y.
  6.  Evelyn, J., & Naude, G. (1661). Instructions concerning erecting of a library: presented to my lord, the President De Mesme.(Keynes.B.2.8)London, Printed for G. Bedle, and T. Collins … and J. Crook. [English Translation of Naude‚Äôs Advis
  7. ibid
  8. ibid
  9. ibid
  10. Clark, Jack. A. (1969)Gabriel Naud√© and the Foundations of the Scholarly LibraryThe Library Quarterly 39(4), pp. 331-343.
  11. ibid
  12. Gazette de France. No. 13 (January 30, 1644) in Clark, Jack. A. (1969) Gabriel Naudé and the Foundations of the Scholarly Library. The Library Quarterly39(4).
  13. NaudeŐĀ, G., Richmond, V., & Dana, J. C. (1907).News from France or, A description of the library of Cardinal Mazarin, preceded by the Surrender of the library (now newly translated). Chicago, A.C. McClurg & Co [California Digital Library].
  14. ibid
  15. Evelyn, J., & Naude, G. (1661). Instructions concerning erecting of a library: presented to my lord, the President De Mesme. (Keynes.B.2.8)London, Printed for G. Bedle, and T. Collins … and J. Crook.

Stationers Hall

Stationers Hall

The area around St Paul’s Cathedral was once the heart of London’s book trade,¬†hidden away behind a rather bland looking office block lies the Stationer’s Hall, home to The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers.

Earlier this week myself and a few others from #citylis and #citypublishing were fortunate enough to be given a tour of the hall by David Pearson Director of Culture, Heritage and Libraries for the City of London.

David , who is also a liveryman of the company gave us an overview of the¬†history of the Stationers Company and Stationers Hall. The Stationers Company as it is commonly known is the City of London Livery Company for printing, publishing and broadcasting. It can trace its¬†origins back to the early 15th century, when the¬†Guild of Stationers was formed in 1403. In 1557 the Company was ¬†granted its Royal Charter by Queen Mary and after two years, they were permitted to wear the the Company’s distinctive blue and yellow livery. The name stationers comes from the fixed (stationary) location of the book sellers who worked near St Paul’s.

A portrait of Queen Mary of England
A portrait of Queen Mary of England – who awarded the Company its Royal Charter

A form of trades union and quality assurance body the Livery Company of the Stationers, was involved in the earliest forms of Copyright ¬†Law¬†and Legal deposit.¬†The first Copyright Act of 1709 known as the Act of Anne or¬†an¬†“Act for the Encouragement of Learning by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies. During the Times Therein Mentioned”¬†¬†granted¬†a Copyright to any authors who’s works were entered into the Stationers’Register 1. This practice continued through to the early 20th Century when the 1911 Copyright Act was passed.

The tour began in what is¬†known as the Crush Landing, a small space dominated by the main stairs and used for drinks receptions prior to a main event. Portraits of former¬†members who have served as Lord Mayors hang on the walls and a small model of the¬†Company’s barge used on¬†Lord Mayor’s day sits on the first stage of the landing.

A model of the barge of the Stationers

Moving up the stairs we pass into the Stockroom. It was from here that the Company would administer the English Stock, a bundle of titles, such as almanacs,¬†the Company held the publishing rights to.¬†The most popular of these was ‘Old Moore’ and the stockholders were¬†prominent members of the Company. As well as generating a profit for the Company the sales of Stock were¬†also used to¬†provide¬†pensions for poor and needy¬†members.2

The room itself is decorated with dark wood paneling that dates¬†to the 17th Century, while the shields were carried by former liveryman are said to have been carried in the 1749 Lord Mayor’s procession. The ceiling dates to a later renovation and above the fireplace is the small portrait of Queen Mary shown above.¬†Carved books are featured in¬†decoration above the doorways and the fireplace and¬†an old printing press¬†are featured as reminders of the link between publishing and the Stationers.

From the Stockroom we pass through to the great Hall a magnificent room decorated with Stained Glass windows, a beautiful ceiling and more dark wood paneling.

20160406_113212 (2).jpg
The Stationers Hall

The Hall itself was constructed between 1670 and 1673 on the site of the earlier hall which was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. The pennants that hang from the walls are of masters who held the office of Lord Mayor. At the far end of the hall is a wooden screen topped by decorations and a gallery which we were able to access via a small staircase through the doorway. From atop the gallery you can get an amazing view of the large stained glass window inserted into the north-wall.

Painted glass window depicting the King visiting the printers
Painted glass window depicting the King visiting the printers – courtesy of @book_turner

The hall was renovated in the early 1800s and the stained glass windows and stone facade of the hall all date from this time. Each window depicts figures and scenes from history of printing including Shakespeare, William Caxton, William Tynedale, St Cecilia and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer who served Henry VIII, Edward and Mary.


David said that in 1611 John Norton made a bequest that every Shrove Tuesday all members attend the hall¬†and¬†are provided with cake and ale followed by a service at St Pauls a tradition that carries on today.¬†The ceiling carries the Latin inscription ¬†verbum domini manet in aeternum – the word of the Lord endures forever –¬†the motto of the Lutheran¬†reformation.3

From the Hall we passed through a small anteroom into the elegant looking Court Room. It is here that the small group of Liverymen that comprise the Court decide the affairs of the company. At present there are around 460 Liverymen, members join as Freemen and can go onto become Liverymen. Membership is made up of people who are work in or supply the paper, print, publishing, broadcasting or online media industries, including Libraries.

Ceiling detail in the Hall features the Latin motto Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum

The Court Room decoration dates to a refurbishment of 1757 and features an overmantel¬†and gilt ceiling¬†ornamentation in Rocco style. At the far end of the room the Court was in session so we couldn’t venture too far into the¬†room, although I managed to snap a picture of the beautifully illuminated charter which dates from 1687¬†and features a portrait of Charles II.

Here again you will notice the nods to printing in the carved books on either side of the room.

This marked the end of the tour and we gradually made our way back through the rooms taking a few more pictures along the way before returning to the small courtyard where we started our tour.

Many thanks to Lyn Robinson and David for arranging the tour and to Lyn and @book_turner for the use of their tweets. A fascinating glimpse into a building with a unique role in the history of printing and publishing. For more information about the Hall and Company visit¬†stationers.org¬†and¬†Noel Osborne’s The Stationers’ Company and Copyright: a brief¬†introdcution


  1. J.C.T. Oates, Cambridge University Library: a historical sketch
    Cambridge: Cambridge University Library, 1975 available at http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/history/4.html
  2. Leaflet provided for the tour
  3. List of Latin Phrases wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Latin_phrases_(V)