Universität Basel

s/f/m | Seminar für Medienwissenschaft

Paper Machines

Markus Krajewski, Paper Machines. About Cards & Catalogs, 1548–1929, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2011, 224 pp., 24 figures.


Today, on just about every desk there is a gray box emitting a range of wires. 70 years ago, this data processing box was less conspicuous, non-electronic and made from wood—a literal paper machine. Notes & Quotes explores the way this indexing ›machine‹ set out on its triumphant march, entering offices and orderly rooms around 1930 as a universal and crucial instrument for data processing, and eventually transmuting into the »Universal Machine« known as the computer. Notes & Quotes follows the development of the index card along its various historical breaches, beginning with the first references to the indexing of knowledge in early modern times. The book examines the almost accidental introduction and gradual assertion of card index boxes in libraries around 1800 and glances at the production conditions of literature with the aid of index files, before suggesting a discursive transference between the institutions of writing, that is, libraries and offices. Among its protagonists are, e.g., Melvil Dewey, known as the father of the Decimal Classification System, or William Croswell, yet unknown as America’s laziest librarian, but inventor of Harvard College Library’s card catalog.



Information Research, November 2011
Tom Wilson

The Library Quarterly, vol. 82, no. 4, October 2012
Andrew B. Wertheimer

Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, vol. 50, no. 8, 2012
Suzanne M. Stauffer

Cabinet Magazine. Issue 47 (Logistics), Fall 2012
Interview with Brian Dillon

Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
vol. 64, no. 2, p. 431–432, February 2013
Alistair Black

InterActions. UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies
vol. 9, no. 1, 2013
Morgan Currie

Teorie vědy (in Czech)
XXXIV, 2012, Nr. 3, S. 313–326
Tomas Dvorak

vol 104, no. 1 (March 2013), 151–152
Gregoire Chamayou



Digital Histories at Yale, September 10, 2012
One man's trash... is another man's archiv

Library History Bluff Blog, May 1, 2012
How the Library Catalog Card Transformed the Business World

Easily Distracted, September 19, 2012
Timothy Burke

Future of the book, June 9, 2012

The Page 99 Test, December 20, 2011

Rorotoko. Cutting-edge Intellectual Interviews, January 30, 2012

This book is an extended and updated version of the original ZettelWirtschaft (Berlin 2002) and was published with MIT Press in September 2011.