Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Johann David Köhler's Anweisung Für Reisende Gelerte, Bibliothecken, Munz-Cabinette, Antiquitäten-Zimmer, Bilder-Sale, Naturalien- Und Kunst-Kammern U.D.M Mit Nutzen Zubesehe: Inferred Ethical Concern in Eighteenth Century Library Practice and Lessons for the Twenty-First Century *

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Johann David Köhler's Anweisung Für Reisende Gelerte, Bibliothecken, Munz-Cabinette, Antiquitäten-Zimmer, Bilder-Sale, Naturalien- Und Kunst-Kammern U.D.M Mit Nutzen Zubesehe: Inferred Ethical Concern in Eighteenth Century Library Practice and Lessons for the Twenty-First Century *

Article excerpt

Introduction

Information ethics is by no means a twenty-first century phenomenon. Professional interest in information ethics increased dramatically in the twentieth century, more particularly in the fourth quarter of that century. That increased interest has been demonstrated in a variety of ways to include conferences with ethics specific orientation, the promulgation of professional codes of ethics, and the increase in the scholarly attention to the subject (Koehler, 2002; Koehler, 2004). To state that the interest in information ethics is increasing presumes necessarily that there existed an explicit or implicit concern with information ethics in earlier times. We suggest that such evidence exists. We offer an analysis of Johann David Köhler's Anweisung für reisende Gelerte, Bibliothecken, Munz-Cabinette, Antiquitäten-Zimmer, Bilder-Sale, Naturalien- und Kunst-Kammern, u.d.m mit Nutzen zubesehen first published in 1762 and reprinted in part in 1973.

This work is essentially a travel guide. In its first sixty pages, Köhler described the major European libraries of his day from Berlin to Rome and London. He discussed major theories of classification and cataloging by several authors, usually based on subject cataloging. He also explored what has now come to be known to catalogers and abstractors as metadata: how books are produced, the types of inks and papers used, the quality and type of binding, printed and copied documents, illustrations and colors, and so on.

Köhler distinguished between public and private libraries as well as open and closed library sections. He argued that private libraries were biased according to the interests of individual collectors while open libraries sought a broader representation of thought on given subjects. Some libraries are public in that all learned persons might use them; others were closed to the general public. Köhler also urged users to familiarize themselves with individual library catalogs before searching for materials in those libraries. He argued that library catalogs should be organized along subject lines.

Die Substanz einer Bibliotheck sind die Bücher (Köhler, 1762, p. 9) or books are the substance of a library. Köhler spent several pages describing different book types. Some are handwritten, others printed. Some are in codex format, others are scrolls. Köhler warned his readers that handwritten books were relatively rare, that one is best prepared if one knows beforehand which library held a specific item. One way to locate books is to consult library catalogs. Köhler listed several union catalogs as well as catalogs of individual libraries. These include Montfaucon's Bibliothecam Manuscriptorum novam and catalogs of the Vatican library, library of Queen Christine, and others. Before turning to the analysis of the ethical content of Köhler's work, we provide a very brief biography.

A Brief Biography

Johann David Köhler came into scholarly prominence in a transitional period for European scholarship. From the Middle Ages and into the Enlightenment, European scholars were part of a "common culture of scholarship," a respublica litteraria (Eskildsen, 2005, p. 421). That common culture of scholarship was subjected to a series of nationalistic and religious pressures across the eighteenth century so that as Köhler came into prominence in the eighteenth century, there had been a shift from the pan-European imagined community to a more parochial nationalist one (Anderson, 1991). Köhler might be considered a great grandfather of information science and a grandfather of library science. He was born in Colditz in 1684 and died in Göttingen, Germany in 1755. He was a professor of logic and history at universities in Altdorf and later Göttingen and served briefly as university librarian at Altdorf. His academic focuses were Roman coins as historical artifacts, ancient weapons, and genealogy.

His credentials as a library and information scientist are based upon three of his monographs: Syllogie aliquot Scriptorum de bene ordinanda et ornanda Bibliotheca in 1728; Hochverdiente und aus bewährten Urkunden wohlbeglaubte Ehren-Rettung Johann Guttenbergs, eingebohrnen Bürgers in Mayntz . …

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