Krajewski 2011

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Krajewski, Markus. Paper Machines: About Cards & Catalogs, 1548-1929. Trans. by Peter Krapp. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011.

From Library Guides to the Bureaucratic Era: An Introduction

"This book seeks to map the three basic logical components of every computer onto the card catalog as a 'paper machine,' analyzing its data processing and interfaces that my justify the claim, 'Card catalogs can do anything!'" (3)
"Although the card catalog may appear rather insignificant next to the delicately imposing typewriter, it stubbornly claims its place by its promise of universality. What achievements is this claim based on? Against what background does the paper machine stand out? What roots does this system of recording stem from?" (3)

card index cooccurs with the invention of the house number (4)

"The discursive transfers between institutions and also within the card catalog configure the history of the card catalog. In this book, I seek to write this history from the material, thus allowing many voices to be heard, naturally at the risk of discordant polyphony. However, as the task consists of tying together episodes involving an arrangement of paper slips and their respective links, I will allow index cards to lead the way." (6)
"card indexes not only possess all the basic logical elements of the universal discrete machine -- they also fit a strict understanding theoretical kinematics. The possibility of rearranging its elements makes the card index a machine: if changing the position of a slip of paper and subsequently introducing it in another place means shifting other index cards, this process can be described as a chained mechanism." (7)
"the goal is to point to structural similarity without denying differences. The risk of an imperfect figure of speech is taken because metaphors, allegories, analogies, and parallels harness a specific power of insight this study intends to deploy to good effect." (7)

Temporary Indexing

"Paper slips can be rearranged again and again in different orders, serving as a basis for text production. This method allows the writing of several books at the same time. And finally, it is even possible to cut books up to save oneself the trouble of copying." (14)
"the type case with its compartments for discrete elements is the driving force behind segmented storage as suggested by Gessner for bibliographical units on slips of paper in subject or alphabetical order, for the generation of new texts through recombination. Whether for the production of catalogs or as building blocks for learned excerpts, th carefully stored slips of paper allow long-lasting use. For both type case and card catalog, it is essential to keep the respective materials in a flexible form so as to enable the creation of ever new and different arrangements." (16)

Placcius, De arte excerpendi: of scholarly book organization

  • binding slips of paper into books
  • boxes for organizing slips; "With their aid, one no longer need worry about errant slips of paper or the difficulty of lack of excerpt mobility. Both variations show internal, replaceable wooden strips that can fix paper slips, either hung with 'needles' or 'pierced on the corners and thus stitched'." (18)
"Thanks to internal mobility, or the permanent potential for reordering, the index catalog emancipates the order of the library from its physical shelving locations." (23)
"in contrast to the fixed entries of a continuous list on sequentially linear pages, paper slips can be reconfigured as freely mobile units in ever new arrangements." (23)

visiting cards

Goethe, book collections as accumulation of capital; "At the very beginning of this paper machine that eventually produces novels and learned texts stand the anonymous catalogs without which the material is inaccessible. The slips of paper in the catalogs become a derivative of the registered writings, the interest rate of amassed capital." (24)

The First Card Index?

exact addressing -- "the question of where to find which book is no longer directed toward a particular shelf; rather, it is directed to the symbolic order of the catalog. Thus, the need for a mobile (and adaptable) systems is moved to the catalog itself. (30)

house numbers arise at same time as numbers for books on shelves; points "to a coinciding addressing logic during the same decade and in the same town, both guided by the same phenomenon: a reaction to mobility. Both forms of addressing are designed to account for units that threaten to disappear among countless masses. In addition, both are united in the logic of a list whose entries register the respective depository alongside the names of those 'deposited' -- the authors or recruits." (31)

"'Dictatorial power of the catalogs over books takes hold only at the end of the age of Enlightenment, at the beginning of the Napoleonic age, and as a consequence of the French Revolution." (33)

Josephinian catalog, 206 small boxes in the Austrian National Library; considdered the first catalog in library history; differences from Gessner: written instructions to cataloguer, division of labor, duration of catalog use (39)

catalog would be too long, resultes in "extended temporary use of the index cards. Instead of producing the book of books, the Bible of all libraries, as prescribed by every routine and library practice to date, one boldly keeps the bibliography divided into discrete miniature bibliographies. Because the abundance of books prevents the completion of bound catalogs, a preliminary, interim paper slip solution finally gives birth to the card index." (42)

arrangement -- "the insurgent paper is emancipated fromt he continuous ream and elevated to the precisely cut, standardized dimensions of the index card. In fact, the French Revolution brings bout the transformation of the paper slip to the index card by virtue of material equality." (47)

Thinking in Boxes

library catalog as collective search engine (50)

libraries as herbaria

in box of paper slips, "power of selection defines its idiosyncrasy"; "The architecture of the idiosyncratic scholar's machine requires no mediation for, or access by, others." (50-1)

"Provided that the scholar knew how to tie new material together with the existing stock of excerpts, and marked connections and associations to similar texts and themes, the scholar's machine as a text generator delivers these very connections by branching out into forgotten memories as virtually new, served up as well as unexpected connections. The apparently insignificant, but regularly marked cross-reference yields rich profits when its recombinatory linkages enrich the power of the excerpts with chains of references. As a result of unilateral liberation from the bound book, freely interconnected slips of paper expand the intersections and so increase the connectivity of possible relationships." (52)

Johann Jacob Moser, 18c, "box of excerpts as a method for collecting material for future writing" (53)

"The reformulation of excerpts into new texts trnasforms the copyist into an artist." (57)

analogy bw banknote and index card

  • "For the circulation of representations of money and thoughts obeys the same structural model of substitution, supported by notes to which in fact the same name is applicable." (58)
  • "Both are united in the desire to increase deposits and to enhance what is achieved in processing money and writing by means of circulating paper slips." (59)
"In their time, men like Moser could proudly refer to their index cards as a text-generating technology, contributing to the Enlightenment with an almost uncanny production rate. Yet around 1800, with the blossoming of the European idea of genius, this light dims, and production aesthetics undergo a fundamental change. From now on, painstakingly produced drafts go unmentioned, veiling the writing process in the darkness of a productive sleep. Darkness keenly protects the trade secret of textual genius. Mention of index cards as a production aid is generally banned: external tools are not supposed to be required for the writing of great works." (62)

excerpting alone has little productive strength; "What is the use of several pages of excerpts if they do not enter into a network of connections? In isolation, every index card is in peril of becoming a data corpse; to live, it must enter into relations with the remaining content." (63)

"Only through this skill does the index card box grow from a mere filing instrument to an author's assistant, or even -- as we will see -- into a regular communication partner during textual production. For the apparatus returns infinitely more than the user feeds into it. As soon as one regularly cross-references new input with older material, the index database blazes associative trails that may serve as clarifying creative prompts for different connections and unexpected arguments." (63)
"In contrast to a book with its fixed connections and unchangeable format defaults, every slip of paper represents a finite, extendable info-unit, an expandable, elementary piece of information that can easily be cited -- for every index card carries an unequivocal address thanks to its position in the set order or int he form of a number others can refer to." (64)
"The system of notes develops surreptitiously, as it were: a box of index cards yields not only the preparation for a new text, but also a mold for text yet to be written. The cross-reference creates, almost autonomously, a kind of argumentative surplus that is the true value added of a box of index cards, while incessantly helping the reader fix his or her impressions and associations." (65)
"The box of index cards offers an interface that is more than just a stimulating sight, as the apparatus, upon the lightest touch, delivers keywords that stimulate the protagonist to further production of thought. Thus, a silent counterpart can grow into an actual interlocutor." (66)

American Arrival

William Croswell, cataloging at Harvard

Institutional Technology Transfer

Dewey -- system "lays claim to feature such as boundless extensibility, general intelligibility, and clarity to a rather unusual degree" (88)

two systems that most revolutionized accounting (card system and loose leaf system) originated in libraries (102)

"The intertwined genealogy of card index makers and typewriter manufacturers, leading to a production of the universal discrete machine, remains an American history of mergers an acquisitions." (106)

Otlet La Fontaine -- Bibliographia Universalis (113-4)

  • The Bridge -- transfers of knowledge

Paper Slip Economy

cards deployed as part of Taylorism, push for efficiency (124)

card index as efficient liberation from book (127)

"With the arrangement of modularized slips of paper, access to the slip boxes undergoes a change as well. Consultation of the card index occurs from another perspective: the book may not force sequential access, but it certainly suggests that path (though it does permit browsing); by contrast, the card index requires ipso facto a different perspective. Extracts from its data occur by recombining the modularized entries, permitting an easy overview -- and it is exactly the absence of this overview that is posed by conservative bookkeepers as a counterargument." (128)

cards as modern (129)

Zettelirtschaft, a "paper slip economy" (133)