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Hidden Wisdom and Unseen Treasure: Revisiting Cataloging in Medieval Libraries

Hidden Wisdom and Unseen Treasure: Revisiting Cataloging in Medieval Libraries

By Beth M. Russell

Cataloging and Classification Quarterly, Vol. 26, no. 3 (1998)

Abstract: Scholars working in the fields of medieval history and cultural history have recognized that understanding the cataloging and accessioning of books is central to understanding the transmission of ideas. This view should come as no surprise to catalogers themselves, who daily struggle with the problem of providing intellectual, and sometimes physical, access to texts and information. Unfortunately, general histories of libraries and even the library literature seem content to sketch out a chronological development of cataloging in line with the nineteenth and twentieth century view of library development, from a simple list to complex intellectual systems. In truth, however, those individuals responsible for cataloging books in medieval libraries faced many of the same challenges as catalogers today: how to organize information, how to serve local needs, and how to provide access to individual works within larger bibliographic.formats. This article will summarize recent scholarship in the history of the book that relates to library cataloging, as well as providing parallels to the cooperative library environment of today.

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