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Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age
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Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  53 ratings  ·  10 reviews
The flood of information brought to us by advancing technology is often accompanied by a distressing sense of “information overload,” yet this experience is not unique to modern times. In fact, says Ann M. Blair in this intriguing book, the invention of the printing press and the ensuing abundance of books provoked sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European scholars to re ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published November 30th 2010 by Yale University Press (first published November 2nd 2010)
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Margaret Heller
The problems of an overabundance of information is a perennial complaint, but how scholars have dealt with this has evolved over time. Early modern scholars worked in a transitional period where one medium--the manuscript--was being superseded by a new medium--the printed book. This book focuses on the methods of information gathering and retrieval by scholars during the 14th-17th centuries.

There were several things I found particularly striking about this book. First, there was a great concern
Scholars in almost every age seem to feel overwhelmed with the amount of knowledge available to them, and seek ways to extract the most valuable material to have at hand. This is a history of Renaissance Latin reference works, concentrating on how far their makers drew on classical and medieval references for organization and means of composing, how they compare with 19th and 20th century references, and how the purposes behind them changed or remained stable. She gives very brief overviews of t ...more
While reading this book for class, I was surprised to find that I was quite interested in the management of information and the organization of reference books in medieval and early modern periods. I think some of my neurotic impulses are soothed by thinking through organizational systems, and on that level this was a satisfying read/skim. That said, it's occasionally dry (it's hard to get excited about a chapter titled "Note-taking"), and I'm not sure what I could do with this information, es ...more
Information Management Practices: Sort, Store, Select, Summarize. Info glut was not a new problem characteristic to the internet "information age."

Interesting comparative work: islamic, byzantine, chinese.

While most of the material Blair looks at is early modern european (in an age which sees the rise of urban, quasi-secular print culture), there's some great background about medieval information practices too, particularly on the production and consumption of florilegia, where bible bits and o
Janice Liedl
If you want to understand how people coped with the avalanche of information which printing and other early modern technologies piled onto their lives, this is the book for you. A useful corrective to the common belief that only the 21st century has ever really seen "information overload". This study ably blends cultural, technological, print and educational history into the examination of what we understand as information and how new avenues of providing it challenged the status quo. Probably a ...more
An interesting and detailed look at the creation and use of the earliest reference works. Very interesting to see that many of the practices, issues, and concerns that we encounter today are not at all new. Take note that this book is far more academic than the title suggests: an important piece of scholarly work in our field. If your interests tend toward the modern, the Epilogue, while short, provides a good entry point to the text and should give you a good sense of whether you want to commit ...more
Bill Sleeman

This book gets a DNF from me – it is filled with detail and reads like the scholarly text that it is. I really enjoyed the way the author pulled together those 'bits of books' that we appreciate but seldom think about how they came to be. Sadly, I feel like I have too many other things going on right now to give this book the fair and full reading it deserves. Perhaps I will come back to it….perhaps not...
Took a long time, and I didn't read through ALL of this book, but I think it was interesting and a worthwhile read.
skimmed this...but is really interesting history of reference books and compiling information for scholarly use.
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