Most libraries, at least the old and important ones, have latin names. Bibliotheca Bodleiana (eng. ger.) is the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the “Herzog August Bibliothek” (HAB) in Wolfenbuettel is also known as bibliotheca Augusta [na] (eng. ger.) et cetera. The latin surname often originates from the founder, Thomas Bodley or Herzog August, or describes where the library is located, as in bibliotheca vaticana, Vatican Library (eng. ger.). This lives on in the nomenclature of manuscripts too: “cgm” or “clm” read as codex germanicus monacensis or codex latinus monacensis, codex in German or Latin located in Munich, BSB (ger. eng.) that is. The codex is one of the oldest forms of a book (eng. ger.), scroll, rota or rotulus is a predecessor and finally the bound book follows, at least in the European development.
In Western Germany the mandat to collect books was divided between several libraries. Incunabula (eng. ger.) and 16th century were collected in Munich, the HAB specialized in the 17th and 18th century, 19th and 20th were to be found in Frankfurt am Main and in Eastern Germany in Leipzig. The best library is of no use if you do not find a book.
You need a catalogue. One must have the possibility to search for names of authors and editors, titles, subtitles, names of series and their editors and it helps when the titles are pre-selected by subject group. In pre-digital times it was very helpful (and required!) to give the year – or at least a more or less accurate guess. Many library users did not understand the importance of this. But when you have stood in front of the “GV” you know why.
With the oncoming of the digital aera the search-facilities became really better. Now you can search without the accurate year of publication, in a spate of years from-until, without the accurate name and so on. You can get telecopies of essays and articles or chapters of books, and in good quality too, 20 years ago that was greyish nonsense. The books generally do not travel so much as they did, especial for the real old examples that is very good. One of the first realy working tools was and tool of choice until today is the “Karsruher Virtueller Katalog”, KVK. If you search for a book in Europe, try this. You can locate it and book it via your own library. A specalty is the VD17, they work on the VD16. It is a database that gives the complete title and a picture of the frontpage of any German book of the 17th century. I love it. It comes as close as possible to the originals, sets standards for the citation – and you have no more excuse, as in “sorry, I could not see that title”.
A pretty new thing is the “European Digital Library” (EDL). I am not sure whether it is the same as The European Library, but I doubt it. TEL is a child of the CENL, an organisation of European National Libraries. What the European Union, or better the Commission, tries to establish, goes even one step further: It is the Europaeana. Library, museum, and archives (article). I am a little sceptic about that. We even do not have national standards for the digitalization of archiv-materials or for digital photography in museums and other cultural institutions (its mostly a matter of format) – how is it to work in an European context? And most institutions are deep conservative – what is in their nature – and sit on their treasures. I do not want to complain or be too critical – it is a very demanding and challenging project: And it would be great to see it working. One step closer to the Universal Encyclopedia.
Borges smiles.