Bibliotheca universalis

Bibliotheca universalis

"Bibliotheca universalis" (in four volumes, 1545–49) [In full "Bibliotheca universalis sive catalogus omnium scriptorum locupletissimus in tribus linguis Latina, Graeca et Hebraica: extantium & non extantiu, ueterum & recentiorum".] was the first truly comprehensive "universal" listing of all the books of the first century of printing. It was an alphabetical bibliography listing of all the known books printed in Latin, Greek, or Hebrew. Eisenstein, pp. 97–98 ]

History

The Swiss scholar Conrad Gesner started to do this extensive work on "Bibliotheca universalis" at the age of 25. He first visited as many of the Italian and German libraries as he could find. He published the work in the year 1545, after some four years of research. It included his own bio-bibliography. His first edition of the "Bibliotheca universalis" listed about ten thousand titles. "Bibliotheca universalis" was the first modern bibliography of importance; through it, Gesner became known as the "father of bibliography." [ Anzovin, p. 68 item 1813 "The first modern bibliography of importance was the Bibliotheca Universalis. Conrad Gesner was known as the "father of bibliography"."]

The work included approximately eighteen hundred authors. The authors’ forenames were listed with a reverse index of their surnames. It was intended as an index by subject of all known authors. Gesner listed the writers alphabetically with the titles of their works. He added his own annotations, comments, and evaluations of the nature and merit of every entry. Anzovin, p. 68 item 1813 ]

Gesner followed Johannes Trithemius’s work of placing works in systems of cataloging. Gesner admired Trithemius’s systems and used them as guidelines and templates; however Gesner carried the idea of cataloging and systems a step further. Theodore Besterman, in "The Beginnings of Systematic Bibliography", suggests that Gerner’s work to organize knowledge was the forerunner of Francis Bacon’s works and other encyclopedias that followed.

Additions

In 1548 Gesner followed with another companion work to "Bibliotheca universalis" and published a large folio, "Pandectarum sive Partitionum universalium Conradi Gesneri" ("Pandectae"). This contained thirty thousand topical entries. Each of these entries were cross-referenced to the appropriate author and book, arranged under headings and sub-headings. All these headings were associated with various branches of learning.

The "Pandects" had nineteen sections, each devoted to a scholarly discipline and contained dedications to the best scholar printers of Gesner's time. He listed their publications and accomplishments. Gesner made full use of any publishers' catalogues and booksellers' lists which were available in the sixteenth century that were printed when he was doing his research. Hans Fischer in his book "Conrad Gesner (1516–1565) as Bibliographer and Encyclopaedists" points out that Gesner made use of printed catalogues supplied by firms like Manuzio and Estienne.

Faith

Gesner became famous after his publication of "Bibliotheca universalis". He received many offers of employment in the educational fields. One such offer came from the Fuggers of Augsburg, the richest family of Europe at the time. The Fuggers attached the condition of employment that he follow Catholicism. Gesner refused the offer since he was Protestant.

Notes

Bibliography

*Eisenstein, Elizabeth L., "The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe," Cambridge University Press, 1979, ISBN 0-5212995-5-1
*Anzovin, Steven et al, "Famous first facts, international edition: a record of first happenings, discoveries, and inventions in world history" by H. W. Wilson Company (2000), ISBN 0-8242-0958-3


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