From a 1903 issue of Appleton’s Magazine (reformatted for easier reading):
A Problem of the Future
Carnegie is the great bestower of libraries, and the fact that his money can create many libraries that contain all the books ever written that are worth while, leads one to wonder whether private fortunes of the future will be commensurate to the bestowal of any complete library anywhere, for the mind is appalled by what we may come to in a thousand years in the way of books.
The art of printing is older than that, but its active employment extends over no more than about 150 years. In that time millions of books have been printed, and from the present rate of progress the speed of printing will be accelerated rather than diminished.
What are we to come to in the way of books?
In present conditions, one may read all the classics and other books worth while during the course of a lifetime. In a very short time this will be utterly impossible.
So much of the wisdom of mankind has been invested in books that it takes a lifetime to know it as it is written, but what will be the result when the number of books is increased by many millions?
As it is now, the files of the average daily newspaper amount to a dozen huge quarto volumes per year. What would you do with a thousand such years of accumulation?
The fact is, that in the years to come, the mass of literature will become so great that no man within the period of a lifetime will be able to do more than penetrate its edges.
Therefore the literary benefactor of the future will be he who is a condenser and an indexer.
The future has a problem in the way of books that we seldom consider, but which nevertheless will be a problem to the future.
— The St. Louis Censor.