Too Much to Know by Ann M. Blair

Some years ago, one began to hear people say ‘too much information’. Additionally one’s state of awareness on any matter was confined on a ‘need to know’ basis. Both phrases acknowledge that the totality of human knowledge (especially specialist scientific knowledge) so vastly exceeds any one mind’s capacity to absorb it that the hapless individual feels painfully humbled. Arguably, this state of affairs started with the advent of the printing press in the early 1500s, but has certainly been well established since the scientific revolution.

The digital age has brought an even more acute sense of ‘information overload’, and concomitant awareness of personal ignorance. One so often hears now that the convenient answer to any question is just to ‘Google it’. Convenient yes, but the assurance of the smartphone in hand masks truly horrible chasms of ignorance. What if you don’t even know what question to ask? What if you lack the discrimination to detect quality in the information you’re reading? The ‘smart’ phone will conveniently consolidate your ignorance. Information management is needed now more than ever. Perhaps we can be guided by its history?

In this intriguing book Ann M. Blair ( examines methods of information management in ancient and medieval Europe as well as the Islamic world and China, then focuses particular attention on the organization, composition, and reception of Latin reference books in print in early modern Europe. She explores in detail the sophisticated and sometimes idiosyncratic techniques that scholars and readers developed in phases of new technology and exploding information.

Check if this informative book about knowledge management is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at

416 pages in Yale University Press

First published 2011

ISBN  978-0300165395

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Ann M. Blair

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