O saber de António Ribeiro dos Santos na arrumação dos saberes da Real Biblioteca Pública da Corte: da teoria à prática

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The quest for the perfect classification system has been an important issue faced by libraries and librarians, over the centuries. Ultimately, it is still
today a relevant chapter in the History of Libraries.
Knowledge and knowledge organisation pertain not only to the intellectual efforts to elaborate a comprehensive hierarchical array of subjects but also with the practical actions involved in applying such a system when it comes to the physical displaying of books and other manifestations in the libraries’ shelves. When António Ribeiro dos Santos was called upon to direct the Royal Public Library (1796) he already had the experience of a similar position at the library of the University of Coimbra. Furthermore, he was a man of the Enlightenment, with a strong intellectual reputation, and a bibliophile too, which made him aware of the best existing manuals and bibliographies that advised on how to build a library and how to choose the adequate classification system in order to make it useful for the readers. The object of this paper is to present Ribeiro dos Santos’ choices both intellectual and practical ones, in the Library’s organisation and management, highlighting his successful efforts to build a new “encyclopaedic” collection simultaneously focused on acquiring and displaying the latest scientific and technical bibliography, the valuable items of printed and manuscript cultural heritage and a cabinet of Antiquities, as was common on the eighteenth century.


  • António Ribeiro dos Santos
  • organisation models
  • Classification systems
  • National Library of Portugal
  • enlightnment
  • Royal public library
  • bibliographical collections

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