Ann BlairMar 7, 2012
Too Much to Know
Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age
Yale University Press 2010
Chewing on raw turnips and sand, keeping both feet in a tub of cold water, reading with just one eye open (to give the other a chance to rest) and sleeping only every other night: no, I am not describing the typical life of a pre-tenure professor trying to get her book finished. Instead, these are just some of the sacrifices that compilers made in order to produce some of the most massive reference works in early modernity. In a work of extraordinary depth that ranges from antiquity through the eighteenth century (with stops in China and the modern world of the internet along the way), Ann Blair guides readers through the landscape of information management of early modern Europe. Too Much To Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age (Yale University Press, 2010) is many things at one: a richly textured history of early modern dictionaries and other reference works; an exploration of the emergence of the textual technologies like indexes that aided navigation through early modern texts; and a collection of stories about the lengths to which early modern authors would go to collect and manage information before the era of searchable word processing documents. Too Much To Know is a garden of paper, ready for harvesting by readers interested in a wide range of fields from book history to information technology to religious studies.