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Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 1 February 1956



Serious contributions to library history are all too rare, and the series of studies now being issued from the University of South Africa Department of Librarianship under the collective title of Mousaion is to be welcomed. It is proposed to publish six numbers of this journal annually in English, French, German, Italian, or Spanish. The first number dealt with Les Bibliothèques Ptoléméennes d'Alexandrie, and this is followed by two volumes comprising (in the author's words) a ‘methodological prolegomena to library history’. The term ‘encyclopaedia’ in the title is used in the sense of a technical discipline of historical librarianship. The project is formidable, and it is attacked with meticulous and laborious thoroughness: so laborious indeed that one sometimes has the impression of an elephant cracking a hazel nut. In history, over‐complication is as misleading as over‐simplification, and the scientific historian occasionally seems to introduce his own complexities into a problem for the sheer pleasure of disentangling them. Professor de Vleeschauwer is right in saying that in this field of library history the time for anecdotes has gone (though properly employed the anecdote has its uses). He is equally right in condemning the amateurishness of much that has passed for library history, and the ‘lyricism’ (as he calls it) of works such as Parsons's The Alexandrian Library. But is he right in supposing that the only alternative is to bring into action the whole armament of deductive logic and scientific method, in his anxiety to make his picture philosophically complete, with no term undefined and no particle of it unclassified or unorganized? His guns are too heavy for his target.


(1956), "REVIEWS", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 116-130.




Copyright © 1956, MCB UP Limited

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