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De l'argile au nuage : une archéologie des catalogues (2e millénaire av. J-C - 21e siècle)

Depuis son apparition au 2e millénaire avant J.-C., le catalogue accompagne le développement de la culture écrite. Si sa construction est en apparence fastidieuse (l'inventaire, l'étiquetage analytique, l'enregistrement uniforme de données innombrables), il témoigne d'une ambition fondamentale, qui est à l'origine de la science et de la culture : celle de nommer, décrire et classer l'univers. Les catalogues ont permis d'imaginer des taxinomies pour inventorier la nature, des nomenclatures pour désigner les étoiles, des dispositifs pour favoriser l'accès aux textes, l'enseignement, mais aussi le commerce et la production des livres.

Publié le 20 Février 2018

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Exhibition at the Bibliothèque Mazarine from 13th March to 13th May, 2015


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).


From Clay to Clouds – The Evolution of the Catalogue (2000 BC – 21st Century)


Bibliothèque Mazarine, 13th March to 13th May, 2015


23 quai de Conti, Paris

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Picture: Bibliothèque Mazarine.

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