Key Quotes

This book, the 'Biblion', the Source, the permanent Encyclopedia, the Summa, … will constitute a systematic, complete, current registration of all the facts relating to a particular branch of knowledge. It will be formed by linking together materials and elements scattered in all relevant publications. It will comprise inventories of facts, catalogues of ideas and the nomenclatures of system and theories. It will condense various scientific data into tables, diagrams, maps, schemas. It will illustrate them by drawings, engravings, facsimiles and documentary photographs.

We must bring together a collection of machines which simultaneously or sequentially can perform the following operations: 1° the transformation of sound into writing; 2° the reproduction of this writing in as many copies as are useful; 3° the creation of documents in such a way that each item of information has its own identity and, in its relationships with those items comprising any collection, can be retrieved as necessary; 4° a classification number assigned to each item of information; the perforation of documents correlated with these numbers; 5° automatic classification and filing of documents; 6° automatic retrieval of documents for consultation and presented either direct to the enquirer or via machine enabling written additions to be made to them...

Man would no longer need documentation if he were to become an omniscient being like God himself. A less ultimate degree would create an instrumentation acting across distance which would combine at the same time radio, x-rays, cinema and microscopic photography. All the things of the universe and all those of man would be registered from afar as they were produced. Thus the moving image of the world would be established - its memory, its true duplicate. From afar anyone would be able to read the passage, expanded or limited to the desired subject, that could be projected on his individual screen. Thus, in his armchair, anyone would be able to contemplate the whole of creation or particular parts of it.

The Network must link together, by whatever means, the centers of production, distribution, and use, regardless of specialization and place. In practical terms, it is the matter of every producer who has a fact to make public, or a proposition to present or to defend; every user who needs information for the development of his theoretical or practical work; and every person, ultimately, being able to get hold of what is available to them with the minimum of effort and the maximum in terms of assurance and reward.

Selected Works


Les Sciences bibliographiques et la documentation


Traité de documentation

Le livre sur le livre
Théorie et pratique



Essai d'Universalisme


The Universe of Information

The Work of Paul Otlet for Documentation and International Organisation


International Organisation and Dissemination of Knowledge

Selected Essays of Paul Otlet


Cataloging the World

Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age

External Links