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Too Much to Know by A. Blair

In which I report a couple of very interesting things I found in the book, and why I ultimately abandoned reading it.

The other book that I recently abandoned reading: Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age by Ann M. Blair 📚.

There is a ton of fascinating history in managing and accessing all the information in books. A lot of the tools and technology you and I use today are much older than you might think! Tables of contents probably started out as the outer layer of a scroll.

Also, lots of fun random trivia. And not at all presented as fun random trivia. This is a serious scholarly book after all. Example: incipit: “the first few words of the text, employed as an identifying label.” I didn’t know that word or definition. I didn’t even know that was a thing. I might be able to use that. Cool!

Or the crazy random rabbit holes you can get to on the internet now. I learned about the Bibliotheca of Photius, which is Photius’s Photius of Constantinople, 810-893. list of all the books he read, and his reviews Maybe he even invented the book review, or at least the written form. of them. Like this gem about Socrates of Constantinople: “There is nothing remarkable in the author’s style, and he is not very accurate in matters of doctrine.” Ouch. You can check out the rest of Photius’s big list of books with commentary here! Never would have found something like this in a million years.

But, what am I going to do with it? Right now I haven’t got many plans that this would fit in. Maybe one story idea could use it for texture, so I’m glad I found it. Reminds me a bit of The Ninth Gate (book or movie, take your pick). But there was a lot of reading to find these two and the few others too.

So, I’m a bit more bummed about quitting this one than the other one. It was interesting, often fascinating. But, in the end there was too much to read here to get the useful bits out that I wanted to use for my own practical gain. I’ll probably graze occassionally, maybe I’ll pull out more random gems.

I read this as an Apple Book, and my comment is the same as last time: I’ve seen the end notes done in a more useful way in other books. But I was able to get to the good stuff, so they are at least workable. Really appreciated that about it.

cc @chrisaldrich

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