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Hyperlink aggregation circa 1689

Ann Blair sent me an illustration she showed during her fascinating talk on the history of the book:

1689 cabinet for arranging notes
Click on image to download large version

The cabinet was designed by Vincentius Placcius. It had 3,000 hooks for topics, each with places where you could hang scraps of paper with notes pertaining to those topics.

BTW, I came across a fascinating blog on note taking that says that Leibniz had perhaps a million notes on scraps of paper, and owned a Placcius cabinet. Leibniz certainly corresponded with Placcius.

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10 Responses to “Hyperlink aggregation circa 1689”

  1. Wow-I should have had one. Now I have a Palm T|X and a desktop. It looks like it even had drawers for the real miscellaneous, if I may use part of your book title. Wow.

  2. Fantastic device !!

    There is something appealing about physicality of the scraps and notes and paper, all that forgettory we use -even today, when we have computers and web.

    For years I look for a device on which I could write, dab, sketch and scribble and then have it in my computer without a labor of scanning. I once bought a tablet, but it did not work – maybe because of not reacting to my regular fountain pen…

    I thought I was just doddering old geek – but maybe there is something deeper in our need to have the disorder of notes and scraps, something that has been with us for centuries…

  3. links for 2009-04-19…

    Joho the Blog » Hyperlink aggregation circa 1689
    Placcius cabinet
    (tags: Placcius cabinet hypertext text index history)

    Julia Emde » Blog Archive » Post des Grauens

  4. […] Joho the Blog » Hyperlink aggregation circa 1689 Placcius cabinet (tags: Placcius cabinet hypertext text index history) […]

  5. The cabinet was NOT designed by Placcius. It was aactually designed by Thomas Harrison, a seventeenth-century English inventor, and it was called the “Arc of Study.”

    Placcius just published Harrison’s Latin treatise, describing his project.

    See Malcolm, Noel (2004) “Thomas Harrison and his `Ark of Studies’: An Episode in the History of the Organization of Knowledge,” The Seventeenth Century 19, 196-232

  6. One other thing: Leibniz did buy the cabinet made by Placcius, and then he used it for his own note-taking.

    The blog that was referred to earlier is not “moribund,” even if I say so myself.

  7. Manfred, thanks for the additional info and correction. And I’ve removed the “moribund” comment (which I meant merely as a temporal description) since I was wrong about that.

  8. David,
    thanks. I just wrote an entry in my blog with even more details (and one correction). I will also take out the comment about “moribund” :)

    Let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed your books (even if I don’t always agree.

    I especially enjoyed the pages on the store at Coolidge Corner, which sadly has changed owners.

    I teach at BU. so close, yet so far away.


  9. I would trade my iphone for this in a second.

  10. I get the impression from reading The Professor and the Madman (about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary) that they used something akin to this process (scraps of paper) in putting together the extensive references required for something like the OED. I’m guessing this cabinet wouldn’t have been big enough.

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