Office of Address
The Office of Address project of Samuel Hartlib and the Invisible College, a precursor of The Royal Society was the Google, WIKIpedia and Encyclopedia of the 1600s. It was an early attempt to realizing "Pansophia"", a unified "System of the World" which would advance Human understanding and bring about cooperation and peace.At a time when great scientific discoveries were being made, but trickling out slowly to industry and the people, the Hartlib Circle ( Sir Cheney Culpeper ; Benjamin Worsley ; Charles Webster; William Petty; Robert Boyle; Arnold Boate; Gerard Boate; Cressy Dymock; Gabriel Platte; Thomas Birch) pursued knowledge of the Natural World. Others involved in the similar 1645 group also at Gresham College included Rev John Wilkins, who was working on the creation of a Universal Language (which we would recognize today as a primative form of the Dewey decimal system, applied to language and the "Platonic Forms"); John Wallis; John Evelyn; Robert Hooke; Francis Glisson; Christopher Wren and European corespondents, like Educational reformer John Amos Comenius. In the late 1600s mathematics and science were accelerating human capacity for knowledge. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who created an elegant form of Calculus at the same time as Sir Isaac Newton, traveled the world collecting new knowledge and his letters spread that knowledge, and the term Pansophia, to all who would listen. But is was Samuel Hartlib himself who was know as "the Great Intelligencer of Europe" .
The The Office of Address was meant to be a local, government supported House of Knowledge where the latest political, scientific and Cultural news could be distributed for practical applications that would aid National development. Part of it's function would be as a center for labor to be hired for funded projects, centers of innovation applying science to industry, and toleration of others.
The goal was "To record all human knowledge and to make it universally available for the education of all mankind". Likely this influenced Ben Franklin in his organization of the first lending libraries in America. The modern Public Library, with it's collection of local newspapers, magazines, internet access, non-fiction, reference sections are all the direct descendants of the Office of Address. That many offer workshops where people share skills, discussion groups, and children's programming were the desired result of the concept. That they also lend fiction books is an addition the original Hartlib Circle would have celebrated, as fiction by such as thinkers as Voltaire were as much if not more influential than their non-fiction work. The Republic of Letters project seems to have been more specialized knowledge, similar to modern Professional Journals.
Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert followed 100 years later, trying to collect all knowledge in a series of books, the Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (aka Encyclopaedia or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts and Crafts) 1751 and 1772, as did the Encyclopædia Britannica from 1768 and 1771.
In the computer age, Project Gutenberg, the Sacred Text archives, Amazon, Google and Google Books have all moved information out of the Library, the central meeting house and distributed it into our homes. Rather than separate scholars and isolate them, new tools such as blogs, websites and search services to locate them have connected researchers all over the world. The goal of making Human Knowledge widely available, that as many as possible may experiment with it and improve our world with the results, is more true today than at any time in previous Human history.
Pan Sophia - All Knowledge - delivered to your doorstep.