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Goldschmidt & Otlet Promote Books on Microfiche


In 1907 Belgian chemist, physicist and engineer Robert B. Goldschmidt and Belgian author, entrepreneur, visionary, lawyer and peace activist Paul Otlet published "Sur une forme nouvelle du livre-- le livre microphotographique" in l'Institut international de bibliographie bulletin. In this paper they proposed the livre microphotographique as a way to alleviate the cost and space limitations imposed by the codex format. Otlet’s overarching goal was to create a World Center Library of Juridical, Social and Cultural Documentation, and he saw microfiche as way to offer a stable and durable format that was inexpensive, easy to use, easy to reproduce, and extremely compact.

"Goldschmidt and Otlet wrote that from the point of view of scientific research, books are not the best possible means of storing information, because "access to the libraries is not always easy and delays in the transmission of books often discourage the most tenacious workers, to the detriment of scientific progress....Travel by scholars, the international exchange of scientific books between libraries, the copies or extracts requested from abroad, are seriously under-resourced." Thus there is a need for "a new form of book that will help overcome these major inconveniences." They proposed that a solution to the problem lay in photography, and proceeded to explain how a single card measuring 12.5 X 7.5 cm, providing 72 square cm of space (margins excluded) could contain the contents of an entire 72-page book (Wikipedia article on Robert Goldschmidt, accessed 9-2020). 

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