Information Overload: La Mothe le Vayer and the Digital Age

By Sara Decoster.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper deals with the 17th century information explosion and its influence on scholarly reading behaviour. The invention of the printing press had increased drastically the amount of books and at the same time, the volume of knowledge. As a result, it became very difficult for researchers to embrace the full account of available science. Starting from the work of the French libertine Sceptic François de La Mothe le Vayer (1588–1672), the analysis will focus on two major questions of 17th century research: The first question “Is the immense profusion of books instructive or rather confusing?” will be the basis for a second one: “Hasn’t everything been said? Is it still possible to add something to this colossal knowledge?”

Keywords: Information Overload, Information Explosion, Reading, François de La Mothe le Vayer, Skepticism

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp.67-78. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 926.133KB).

Sara Decoster

Librarian, Bibliothèque générale de Philosophie et Lettres, University of Liege, Liege, Belgium

Sara Decoster studied Romance languages (University of Leuven, Belgium) and information science (University of Liege, Belgium). She worked at the Academia Belgica in Rome before joining the library network of the University of Liege, where she is in charge of the Romance and Germanic language and literature library sections. She is preparing a PhD about early modern library theories, with a special focus on the French libertine thinker Gabriel Naudé. Her research interests include interdisciplinary topics of seventeenth-century library history, involving literary and epistemological aspects. She is also publishing on curiosity and carte- sianism, and teaches a research method course at the University of Liege.

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