Forgetting Machines: Knowledge Management Evolution in Early Modern Europe


We are so accustomed to use digital memories as data storage devices, that we are oblivious to the improbability of such a practice. Habit hides what we habitually use. To understand the worldwide success of archives and card indexing systems that allow to remember more because they allow to forget more than before, the evolution of scholarly practices and the transformation of cognitive habits in the early modern age must be investigated. This volume contains contributions by nearly every distinguished scholar in the field of early modern knowledge management and filing systems, and offers a remarkable synthesis of the present state of scholarship. A final section explores some current issues in record-keeping and note-taking systems, and provides valuable cues for future research.

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Alberto Cevolini is Assistant Professor of Sociology of Knowledge at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. He has published books and many articles in the field of intellectual history and knowledge management evolution in early modern Europe, including De arte excerpendi. Imparare a dimenticare nella modernità (Leo S. Olschki, 2006).
“The present volume collects a cohesive series of essays, many advancing key results of scholarship unavailable in English, about the development and significance of knowledge management systems from antiquity to the eighteenth century, along with several well-integrated more contemporary case studies. [...] The volume’s learned essays demonstrate how seriously we should take forms of note taking as constitutive of, not ancillary to, intellectual history and the history of science from antiquity to the present.”
Matthew L. Jones, Columbia University. In: Isis, Vol. 109, No 4 (December 2018), pp. 852-853.

List of Figures
Notes on Contributors

Knowledge Management Evolution in Early Modern Europe: An Introduction
Alberto Cevolini

Scholarly Practices and the Transformation of Cognitive Habits
in the Early Modern Age

Chapter 1. Notebooks and Collections of Excerpts: Moments of ars excerpendi in the Greco-Roman World
Tiziano Dorandi

Chapter 2. From domus sapientiae to artes excerpendi: Lambert Schenkel’s De memoria (1593) and the Transformation of the Art of Memory
Koji Kuwakino

Chapter 3. Christoph Just Udenius and the German ars excerpendi Around 1700: On the Flourishing and Disappearance of a Pedagogical Genre
Helmut Zedelmaier

Chapter 4. The Art of Excerpting in the Eighteenth Century Literature: Subversion and Continuity of an Old Scholarly Practice
Élisabeth Décultot

Chapter 5. Notebooks, Recollection, and External Memory: Some Early Modern English Ideas and Practices
Richard Yeo

Chapter 6. Storing Expansions: Openness and Closure in Secondary Memories
Alberto Cevolini

Chapter 7. Johann Amos Comenius: Early Modern Metaphysics of Knowledge and ars excerpendi
Iveta Nakládalová

Chapter 8. The ‘White Book’ of Miguel de Salinas: Design, Matter, and Destiny of a codex exceptorius
José Aragüés Aldaz

Chapter 9. Albrecht von Haller as an ‘Enlightened’ Reader-Observer
Fabian Krämer

Chapter 10. Medical Note-Taking in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
Michael Stolberg

Chapter 11. Early Modern Attitudes Toward the Delegation of Copying and Note-Taking
Ann Blair

Current Issues in Note-Taking and Card-Indexing Systems

Chapter 12. Niklas Luhmann’s Card Index: Thinking Tool, Communication Partner, Publication Machine
Johannes F.K. Schmidt

Chapter 13. Note-Keeping: History, Theory, Practice of a Counter-Measurement Against Forgetting
Markus Krajewski

Chapter 14. Tools to Remember an Ever-Changing Past
Elena Esposito

Scholars of intellectual history, history of ideas and memory studies, students of sociology of knowledge. Advanced level undergraduates and post-graduates students with interest in these fields, general readers concerned with the historical background of data management and information retrieval in digital archives.