Since the beginnings in the second millennium BC, the catalogue has accompanied the history and development of our written heritage. With its complex and at the same time precise concept and structure, the catalogue represents a fundamental ambition which is the origin of science and culture: to name, to describe and to classify the universe. Catalogues allow us to find taxonomies for the elements and all aspects of nature, nomenclatures to identify the stars, and devices to find access to our written heritage, to education and learning as well as to trade and economics and to the printing of books.
The exhibition at the Bibliothèque Mazarine (in cooperation with the Bibliothèque de Genève) focuses on the prevailing question of collecting, organizing and preserving information through history in a diversity of forms: catalogues on clay tablets, as codices, books, index cards, on computer screens, and in cloud computing.
The Mesopotamian clay tablets have been dematerialized into virtual clouds, the glossaries of the Carolingian era were further developed to the brilliant encyclopedias of the Renaissance, commercial catalogues were the first steps to the excellent catalogues of the great libraries and private collections. All these catalogues in their various forms preserve the history of our cultural heritage, they are the most important tool of our libraries. They were designed to serve diverse functions as research texts, as a cultural memory, to document or to transport collections, for the censorship of books, for the release of funds, for the trade and the circulation of historical documents.
All these facets of the history of the catalogue from clay to cloud will be documented in the exhibition at the Bibliothèque Mazarine until May 2015. Afterwards the exhibition will be shown at the Bibliothèque de Genève until mid-June 2015.
A catalogue is available (42 €).
Curators: Frédéric Barbier (EPHE), Thierry Dubois (Bibliothèque de Genève), Yann Sordet (Bibliothèque Mazarine).
Picture: Bibliothèque Mazarine.