Paper #33

Universality and utopia in Conrad Gesner and Paul Otlet: historical approximations

Andre Vieira de Freitas Araujo, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) / University of São Paulo (USP) (Brazil)

Carlos Henrique Juvêncio Da Silva, Researcher and librarian (Brazil)

Giulia Crippa, University of São Paulo (Brazil)

This work proposes a brief historical approximation between Conrad Gesner (1516-1565) and Paul Otlet (1868-1944). Gesner created the first printed universal bibliography called Bibliotheca Universalis, giving fundamental bases to the constitution of Bibliography as a discipline. While Otlet forged an inventory of all the fruits of the human spirit; that is, of all intellectual production, no matter the format, the language, or where it would be. For this purpose, he designed the Universal Bibliographic Repertoire (RBU) and created the precepts of Documentation. There is a number of elements that allow us to establish approximations between Gesner and Otlet, which we highlight: the historical landscape in which the two are inserted was marked by a revolution (Printing Revolution / Industrial Revolution), the elaboration of indexes (with the use of slips of paper / with the use of card indexes), the conception of a method (bibliographical method / documentary method), the design of a classification system (the Pandectae / Universal Decimal Classification (UDC)) and, finally, the disciplinary precepts (Bibliography / Documentation). The Swiss polimath and the Belgian pacifist were pioneers in the Bibliography / Documentation field, respectively, and they found a common historical-epistemological thread that brought them under the aegis of universality and utopia. We conclude with the statement that the historical approximation between the two figures goes beyond universality and utopia, determining the construction of contemporary techniques and conceptual models of treatment and diffusion of the information – what shows the importance of these techniques for the cultural, scientific, technological and historical development of society.

Keywords: Bibliography, Conrad Gesner (1516-1565), Documentation, Paul Otlet (1868-1944), Universality, Utopia