Paul Otlet

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Born August 23, 1868(1868-08-23)
Brussels, Belgium
Died December 10, 1944(1944-12-10) (aged 76)
Brussels, Belgium
Web Wikipedia,
Otlet with his Mundaneum team, n.d.

Paul Marie Ghislain Otlet (1868–1944) was a Belgian author, entrepreneur, visionary, lawyer and peace activist. He is one of the founders of information science, a field he called "documentation". Otlet created the Universal Decimal Classification, one of the most prominent examples of faceted classification.

His major works are the Traité de Documentation, le livre sur le livre [Treatise on Documentation: the Book about the Book], published in 1934, and Monde [World], published in 1935. The former, synthesizing his decades of experience working in his various organizations and thinking about documentation, became not only a work of reference but perhaps one of the first comprehensive treatises on what was later to be known as information science. It discussed the nature and relationships of the various formats and media in which knowledge is conveyed. Among the many innovative ideas expressed in these books were what Otlet called livre irradié [the broadcast book] and the livre téléphoté [telephoto book]. He described what we would know as a scholar's work station (sometimes called by him Mondothèque) in which were incorporated a range of multimedia functionalities some of which have still not become routinely available in personal computers. He also wrote extensively about the need for a universal network for the communication of knowledge. His theoretical approach to the organization and dissemination of information was far ahead of its time, notably in foreshadowing the Internet, Hypertext, and the World Wide Web. (Source)

Traité de documentation, 1934, Log, IA, WS-FR, PDF (196 mb), HTML.
Monde: essai d'universalisme, 1935, PDF, PDFs.
International Organisation and Dissemination of Knowledge: Selected Essays of Paul Otlet, 1990, Log, IA.


Books and reports (selection)[edit]

  • L'Afrique aux noirs, Brussels: Ferdinand Larcier, 1888, 18 pp. (French)
  • Sur une forme nouvelle du livre: le livre microphotographique, with Robert Goldschmidt, Brussels: Institut International de Bibliographie, 1906, 11 pp; repr. in IIB Bulletin 12 (1907), pp 61-69; repr. in Journal des brevets, Jan 1907; partial repr. in Photorevue, 6 Jan 1907. (French)
    • El libro microfotográfico: comunicación sobre los últimos trabajos técnicos referentes a las formas nuevas del libro y de los documentos, trans. & notes Pedro Chico, Guadalajara: Publicaciones de la Revista de Escuelas Normales de Guadalajara, 1926, 14 pp. (Spanish)
    • "On a New Form of the Book: The Microphotgraphic Book", in Otlet, International Organisation and Dissemination of Knowledge, 1990, pp 87-95. (English)
  • Manuel de la documentation administrative: principes généraux, Brussels: Palais Mondial, 1923, 95 pp. (French)
    • Rukovodstvo k administrirovaniyu: doklad, sdelannyy na 2-m Mezhdunarodnom Kongresse Administrativnykh nauk v Bryussele v 1923 godu [Руководство к администрированию: доклад, сделанный на 2-м Международном Конгрессе Административных наук в Брюсселе в 1923 году], Moscow, 1924, 85 pp. (Russian)
  • Traité de documentation. Le livre sur le livre. Théorie et pratique, Brussels: Mundaneum, 1934, 431 pp, Log, IA, WS-FR, PDF (196 mb), HTML; repr., Liège: Centre de Lecture Publique de la Communauté Française, 1989. (French)
    • El tratado de documentación: el libro sobre el libro: teoría y práctica, trans. María Dolores Ayuso García, Murcia: Universidad de Murcia, 1996, 431 pp; 2nd ed., 2008. [1] [2] (Spanish)
  • Monde. Essai d'universalisme. Connaissance du monde. Sentiments du monde. Action organisée et plan du monde, Brussels: Mundaneum, 1935, 467 pp, PDFs. (French)

Selected works[edit]

  • Bibliometria teoria e pratica, ed. Edson Nery da Fonseca, trans. Alda Baltaz, Ivanilda Fernandes Costa Rolim and Jose Paulo Paes, São Paulo: Cultrix, 1986, 141 pp. (Brazilian Portuguese)
  • International Organisation and Dissemination of Knowledge: Selected Essays of Paul Otlet, trans, ed. & intro. W. Boyd Rayward, Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1990, 256 pp. Selection of texts covering the period 1893-1934. (English)
  • La organización documental del conocimiento: el marco documental, 2 vols., trans. José María Izquierdo Arroyo, Madrid: Tecnidoc, 1995, 502+188 pp. Selected excerpts. (Spanish)
  • Biblioteka, bibliografiya, dokumentatsiya: izbrannyye trudy pionera informatiki [Библиотека, библиография, документация: избранные труды пионера информатики], ed., forew. & comm. R.S. Giliarevsky, trans. R.S. Giliarevsky, et al., Moscow: Fair-Press: Pashkov Dom, 2004, 348 pp. (Russian)



W. Boyd Rayward, The Universe of Information, 1975, Log, PDF, TXT.
Mundaneum: Archives of Knowledge, 2008/2010, PDF.

Books, dissertations[edit]

  • W. Boyd Rayward, The Universe of Information: the Work of Paul Otlet for Documentation and International Organization, Moscow: All-Union institute for scientific and technical information (VINITI), 1975. (English)
    • Universum informatsii. Zhizn' i deyatel'nost' Polya Otle [Универсум информации. Жизнь и деятельность Поля Отле], intro. & trans. R.S. Giliarevsky, Moscow: Knjiga, 1976, 401 pp. (Russian)
  • Paul Schneiders, De bibliotheek en documentatie beweging 1880-1914: bibliografische on dernemingen rond 1900, University of Amsterdam, 1982. Dissertation, unpublished. (Dutch)
  • Les prémisses du Mundaneum: cent ans de l’Office international de bibliographie, 1895-1995, Mons: Mundaneum, 1995. (French)
  • W. Boyd Rayward, Hasta la documentación electrónica, trans., ed. & intro. Pilar Arnau Rived, Madrid: Mundarau, 2000, 387 pp. (Spanish)
  • Ronald E. Day, The Modern Invention of Information: Discourse, History, and Power, SIU Press, 2001, 152 pp. (English)
  • Françoise Levie, L'Homme qui voulait classer le monde: Paul Otlet et le Mundaneum, Mons: Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2005. (French)
  • Charlotte Dubray (ed.), Le Mundaneum: Les archives de la connaissance, Brussels: Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2008, 96 pp. Excerpt, [3]. (French)
  • Yoshiyuki Yamana, Kōhei Kuwada, Le Corbusier, Paul Otlet: Mundaneum [ムンダネウム], Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 2009, 120 pp. [4] (Japanese)
  • Jacques Gillen (ed.), Paul Otlet: fondateur du Mundaneum (1868-1944): architecte du savoir, artisan de paix, Brussels: Impressions nouvelles, 2010, 208 pp. Excerpt, [5] Review: Rouyer-Gayette (2010). (French)
  • Wouter Van Acker, Universalism as utopia: a historical study of the schemes and schemas of Paul Otlet (1868-1944), Zelzate University Press, 2011. Dissertation. [6] (English)
  • Frank Hartmann (ed.), Vom Buch zur Datenbank. Paul Otlets Utopie der Wissensvisualisierung, Berlin: Avinus, 2012, 202 pp. (German)
  • Alex Wright, Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age, Oxford University Press, 2014. (English)
  • Femke Snelting, et al., Mondothèque: A Radiated Book / Un livre irradiant / Een irradiërend boek, Constant: Brussels, 2016, 225 pp. (English),(Dutch),(French)

Book chapters, articles[edit]

  • W. Boyd Rayward, "The Origins of Information Science and the International Institute of Bibliography / International Federation for Information and Documentation (FID)", in Historical Studies in Information Science, eds. Trudi Bellardo Hahn and Michael Buckland, 1998, pp 22-33. (English)
  • Isabelle Rieusset-Lemarié, "P. Otlet's Mundaneum and the International Perspective in the History of Documentation and Information Science", in Historical Studies in Information Science, eds. Trudi Bellardo Hahn and Michael Buckland, 1998, pp 34-42. (English)
  • Ron Day, "Paul Otlet's Book and the Writing of Social Space", Journal of the American Society for Information Science 48:4 (1997), pp 310-317; repr. in Historical Studies in Information Science, eds. Trudi Bellardo Hahn and Michael Buckland, 1998, pp 43-50. (English)
  • W. Boyd Rayward, "Visions of Xanadu: Paul Otlet (1968-1944) and Hypertext", in Historical Studies in Information Science, eds. Trudi Bellardo Hahn and Michael Buckland, 1998, pp 65-80. (English)
  • Markus Krajewski, ZettelWirtschaft. Die Geburt der Kartei aus dem Geiste der Bibliothek, Berlin: Kadmos, 2002. (German)
  • W. Boyd Rayward, "Knowledge Organisation and a New World Polity", Transnational Associations 1-2 (2003), pp 4-15.
  • Nader Vossoughian, "The Language of the World Museum: Otto Neurath, Paul Otlet, Le Corbusier", Transnational Associations 1-2 (January-June 2003), Brussels, pp 82-93. (English)
  • Bernd Frohmann, "The Role of Facts in Paul Otlet’s Modernist Project of Documentation", in European Modernism and the Information Society, ed. W. B. Rayward, London: Ashgate, 2008, pp 75-87. [7] (English)
  • Pieter Uyttenhove, Sylvia Van Peteghem, "Ferdinand van der Haeghen’s shadow on Otlet: European resistance to the Americanized modernism of the Office International de Bibliographie", in European Modernism and the Information Society, ed. W. B. Rayward, London: Ashgate, 2008, pp 89-103. [8] (English)
  • Pierre Chabard, "Towers and Globes: Architectural and Epistemological Differences between Patrick Geddes’s Outlook Towers and Paul Otlet’s Mundaneums", in European Modernism and the Information Society, ed. W. B. Rayward, London: Ashgate, 2008, pp 105-125. [9] (English)
  • Charles van den Heuvel, "Building Society, Constructing Knowledge, Weaving the Web: Otlet's Visualizations of a Global Information Society and His Concept of a Universal Civilization", in European Modernism and the Information Society, ed. W. B. Rayward, London: Ashgate, 2008, pp 127-153. [10] (English)
  • Charles van den Heuvel, "Architectures of Global Knowledge: The Mundaneum and the World Wide Web", Destination Library 15, 2008, pp 48-53. (English)
  • Charles van den Heuvel, "Mundaneum", Volume 15: "Destination Library", Spring 2008, pp 48-53. (English)
  • Charles van den Heuvel, "Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web in Research from a Historical Perspective: The Designs of Paul Otlet (1868-1944) for Telecommunication and Machine Readable Documentation to Organize Research and Society", Knowledge Organization 36:4 (2009), pp 214-226. [11] (English)
  • Charles van den Heuvel, W. Boyd Rayward, "Facing Interfaces: Paul Otlet's Visualizations of Data Integration", Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 62:12 (Dec 2011), pp 2313-2326. (English)
  • W. Boyd Rayward, "Introduction: International Exhibitions, Paul Otlet, Henri La Fontaine and the Paradox of the Belle Epoque", in Information Beyond Borders: International Cultural and Intellectual Exchange in the Belle Epoque, ed. W. Boyd Rayward, Ashgate, 2014, pp 1-22. [12] (English)
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See also[edit]