Detail map of Oxford, England, United Kingdom,Paris, Île-de-France, France Overview map of Oxford, England, United Kingdom,Paris, Île-de-France, France

A: Oxford, England, United Kingdom, B: Paris, Île-de-France, France

Humbert of Romans Institutes Rules for the Arrangement and Cataloguing of Books

Circa 1270

Humbert de Romans, Dominican scholar who promulgated the notion of arranging books by subject matter.

"The arrangement and cataloguing of books within the individual colleges and other university institutions were also influenced by the changes in book usage reflected in the union catalogs and location lists. In monastic institutions, book collections had traditionally been kept in book chests or armaria — though the individual volumes themselves doubtless were, for much of the time, parceled out among the members of the house. We find, however, in the writings of the Dominican Humbert of Romans, about 1270, instructions that books in the armaria should be physically arranged by subject matter, and that certain ones of them should be chained at lecterns for the common use of all, rather than being either locked away in a chest or loaned for the use of only one person. Before the end of the thirteenth century, both the Collège de Sorbonne in Paris and University College in Oxford had such a collection of chained books attached to reading benches. Early in the next century, about 1320, a member of the Sorbonne compiled a subject catalog of the hundreds of individual texts bound together in some three hundred chained codexes of his college. This development — arrangement of manuscripts by subject matter, affixing chains to selected books, an index of the content of a whole collection — corresponds in its way, in both purpose and inguenuity, to the making of concordances, distinction collections, subject indexes, and union catalogs; and it is in such a context that it should be considered. The common goal of all these devices was to facilitate access to desired information" (Rouse & Rouse, Authentic Witnesses: Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts [1991] 238-39).

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