The Library and the Book: Forms of Alexandrian Encyclopedism

Diogenes 45 (178):63-82 (1997)
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The history of encyclopedism seeks to trace the metamorphoses and various cultural adaptations of three essential components. The first of these is an intellectual endeavor, reflecting the conception, hierarchy, and articulation of knowledge in a given society: How is the map of knowledge organized and defined? How do human thought and memory gather together and master all accessible knowledge? The second component can take the form of a material object, the encyclopedia - whether conceived as a book that unites the knowledge found in all other books, or again as the body of texts that, though not titled as such, belong nevertheless to an encyclopedic genre. The last constituent of the trilogy consists of the group of practices that fan out between these two poles, between the intellectual endeavor and the material object, and contribute to collecting, shaping, and transmitting the knowledge in a given society and time.



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