Christoffel Plantin in Cyberspace
Christoffel Plantin was acquainted with a couple of attempts in history to collect and structure all the knowledge and information in the world. In Antiquity there was the library of Alexandria, in the Renaissance, his own time, there was the Bibliotheca Universalis of Conrad Gessner, during the Enlightenment there was the encyclopedia of Diderot and d’Alembert and during the Victorian Period there was the Mundaneum of Paul Otlet. Apart from the limited storage capacity and expansion possibilities, there were, according to him, even more problems with collecting material documents in one particular locality. In this way the collection was vulnerable to fire, water damage or theft. Moreover, it was not possible for everyone to consult it because it was just not within everybody’s reach.
Digitization and the electronic opening up of all the precious and rare books from all libraries and archives in the world was a tremendous step forward. Project Gutenberg, Project Laurens Janszoon Coster and Google Book Search offered a lot of advantages in comparison to the often praiseworthy endeavours from the past. Storage capacity, accessibility and the possibility of linking pieces of information was almost unlimited on the World Wide Web. That everything could be sorted, selected and indexed in an easy and transparent way meant that not only metadata but the actual content in the form of a full text could be found.