Thursday, March 05, 2009

In Praise of Libraries

Think you can find everything you need online? What if you’re trying to trace a judicial duel held before the French King in 1386?

I had found an entry for a document about the piece of land in question in a manuscripts catalog for the Bibliothèque Nationale and made a note to examine the document the next time I visited Paris. But months later, when I wrote the shelf mark on a call slip for the clerk at the bibliothèque, he looked at it and said, "Ça n'existe pas." A lengthy conversation in French with the curator on duty went nowhere, so I tried again the next day when a different person was working. He explained that the shelf marks in the 19th-century catalog had been superseded and wrote down a new reference number, but once again I was told at the call desk, "Ça n'existe pas."

More Here.

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