Translation:Treatise on Documentation

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Treatise on Documentation  (1934) 
by Paul Otlet, translated from French by Wikisource

Editiones Mundaneum     —     Palais Mondial     —     Bruxelles





The book about the book


Theory and Practise


Paul Otlet

The books and the documents. — La Lecture, la Consultation et la Documentation. — Rédaction, Multiplication, Description, Classification, Preservation, Utilisation des documents. — Édition et Librairie, Bibliographie, Bibliothèque, Encyclopédie, Archives, Muséographie documentaire, Documentation administrative. — Bodies, organisation, collaboration. — Office et Institut International de Bibliographie et de Documentation. — Universal Network of Information and Documentation.

[002 (02)]


101, Rue Piers, Bruxelles



Qui scit ubi scientia
habenti est proximus

OTLET, Paul.   002 (02)

1934. TREATISE ON DOCUMENTATION — The Book about the Book — Theory and Practise, 1 vol. (21 1/2×26 1/2), 452 p., two columns, illustr. Brussels, Editiones Mundaneum, Palais Mondial. Edit. D. Van Keerberghen & fils.

0 Foundations. — 1 Bibliological sciences. — 2 The Book and the Document per se. — 3 The Books and the Documents: Units and Assemblies considered from the standpoint of comparative Bibliology. — 4 Rational Organisation of Books and Documents. — 5 Bibliological synthesis.

Bibliographic note.

Printed by D. Van Keerberghen & fils. Start of printing 1932.10
Bruxelles End of printing 1934.08

All rights reserved




Ô le travail des ans. Ô le travail des heures.
Ce qui ne fut d’abord que songe et que rumeur
Dans telle âme profonde
Devint bientôt le bruit et la clameur
Du monde.

This book is devoted to an overview of the concepts related to the Book and the Document, the rational use of the elements that make up the Documentation.

Our time, of all others, is characterized by these general trends: organization and rationalization of methods and processes, machinery, cooperation, internationalization, considerable development of science and technology, concern to apply data to the progress of societies, extension of instruction at all levels, aspiration and latent desire to give all civilization wider intellectual foundations of the orient plans.

It is in this environment What today to evolve Books and Documents. Written expressions of ideas, instrument of their attachment, their storage, their movement, they are the gatekeepers of all relationships between men. Their enormous mass accumulated in the past, increases every day, every hour, the new units bewildering number can sometimes be maddening. From them as Language, we can say they are the worst and the best of things. From them like water falling from the sky, we can say that they can cause flooding and flood or spread to become beneficial irrigation.

Rationalization of Book and Paper is needed, starting with an initial unit extending to groups of units, more and more extensive, finally embracing all units, existing or to be achieved, an organization considering as Basically, the individual documentary entity form for each person the sum of his books and papers; collective documentary entity institutions, governments and firms; the entity bodies specifically dedicated to the Book and Document, to all or any of its features: Office, Institute Publications Writing, Libraries, Information Offices.


This book gives a general outline and presents a coordinated approach.

There is no lack of works which tell how to form, from simple notes, the sheets of a manuscript; of a heap of books, a well ordered library; of a heap of pieces of correspondence from accounting, archives in good order; of a diverse group of texts, a coordinated codification. But these numerous publications, excellent in their purpose, have each considered a single aspect of issues of the book, and therefore gave the impression that there were as many specific areas, distinct and separated by tight partitions, there was, by addressing each of them, to learn about any new concepts, familiarize themselves with practical no connection with those already acquired.

This treatise primarily intends to identify facts, principles, general rules and to show how the coordination and unity can be obtained.

This coordination, this unity, the International Institute of Bibliography, the International Office joined it, Institutes cooperating in the World Palace, the Mundaneum, endeavor since their founding in 1893, in 1895 and in 1920 to study them, to define, to make them a living and tangible reality. The international Congress of these organizations, and others, have already laid down a large set of regulatory data.

C’est d’elles que, dans cet ouvrage, on s’est inspiré directement et c’est à les développer qu’il s’applique sous une forme libre et n’engageant aucune institution. L’objectif est de préparer ainsi de nouvelles ententes, de nouvelles standardisations, de nouvelles œuvres à établir et à sanctionner en commun.

Pour des buts particuliers, d’autre part, on s’est efforcé de présenter distinctement les notions générales que l’analyse et la synthèse permettent actuellement de dégager. On les a aussi montré à l’œuvre dans des cas spéciaux, s’attachant à faire voir quels moyens la théorie et la pratique offrent maintenant aux organismes documentaires de tout ordre pour réaliser leurs opérations. Comme il ne saurait s’agir d’une standardisation et d’une mécanisation totales du travail, il est laissé à chaque organisateur de son propre travail, ou de celui d’autrui, de fixer finalement lui-même ses propres principes, directives et règles. C’est à chacun à composer, pour son propre usage, ou celui de ses services, un « Manuel de Documentation » retenant, adoptant et appliquant celles des données organisatrices générales dont il a pu faire choix dans le présent exposé ; car celui-ci, s’il contient de nombreuses formules, n’a cependant en réalité rien d’un Formulaire.



To make accessible the amount of information and articles given each day in newspapers, in magazines, to preserve brochures, reports, flyers, official documents, to find materials scattered in books, to make a homogeneous whole of these incoherent masses requires new processes, very distinct from those of the old library, to be applied .