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Putting Art in its Place: the “Modern System of the Arts” in Bibliographies and Bibliothecae

Mettre l’art à sa place : le « système moderne des arts » dans les bibliographies et les Bibliothecae
Cecilia Hurley
p. 87-110


The desire to gather, organize and classify knowledge has long manifested itself. In a library the books are arranged on the shelves in order to facilitate their retrieval. Similarly, in the large catalogues of books and bibliographies compiled over the centuries (“libraries without walls”), references are organised alphabetically or thematically (or using a combination of both). This article attempts to identify and examine the position of the arts within the major bibliographical systems, bibliographies and bibliothecae that have been published since the mid-sixteenth century. It therefore asks which arts were included, and questions how far we can identify a “modern system of the arts”. It also identifies the disciplines with which the arts were most frequently identified and connected (mechanical arts, sciences, literature and poetry). Careful reading and analysis of the bibliographies also raises related questions concerning the readership of artistic literature.

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Full text document will be published online on June 2017.


Art history and books
Putting art in its place
Contested affinities: the arts between mathematics and poetry
Early seventeenth-century reticences
The circulation of knowledge: libraries and book fairs
Art, mathematics, and philosophy
Early art bibliographies and the problems of readership
The Parisian booksellers’ system: sciences and arts on an equal footing
The growth of art bibliography and the recognition of the ancillary disciplines
The nineteenth-century bibliographical systems

First lines

In the preface to his Bibliotheca realis universalis (Lipen, 1685), the German pedagogue and bibliographer, specialist in theology and philosophy, Martin Lipen offered an elegant and succinct survey of the various meanings of the term bibliotheca when it appeared in book titles. It could, he explained, refer to a bookshop or a book auction (the Bibliotheca Cordesiana), to an institution (public or private) in which books were kept and read, to a printed collection of shorter works (Voellius’s Bibliotheca juris canonici) or to a collection of excerpts (for example Photius’ Bibliotheca or Myriobiblion). Having excluded these possibilities, Lipen informed his reader that he had employed the word bibliotheca to designate a catalogue of books whose entries would consist of the author’s name, the book’s title, its place and date of publication and its format. In other words, he proposed a bibliography. Furthermore, he stated, this was a bibliotheca realis as opposed to a bibliotheca nomin...

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Bibliographical reference

Cecilia Hurley, « Putting Art in its Place: the “Modern System of the Arts” in Bibliographies and Bibliothecae », Perspective, 2 | 2016, 87-110.

Electronic reference

Cecilia Hurley, « Putting Art in its Place: the “Modern System of the Arts” in Bibliographies and Bibliothecae », Perspective [Online], 2 | 2016, Online since 30 June 2017, connection on 24 June 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/perspective.6858

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About the author

Cecilia Hurley

Cecilia Hurley teaches museology and the history of museography at the École du Louvre and art history at the University of Neuchâtel. She is currently completing a book on masterpiece rooms in European museums during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and preparing a study on Maximilien de Meuron.

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