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Ray Girvan

"This got me thinking a little about the storage and dispensing of information in antiquarian times, about how some of the writers of great and high-erudite works were actually able to accomplish their efforts"

Yes. I've discussed this recently with David Platt of "Where London Stood" http://traumwerk.stanford.edu:3455/71/Home , regarding the task of finding examples of ruined London scenarios in Victorian texts. Even if it's limited to only the past couple of centuries - and I know I've moaned along with others about faulty metadata - I'm still boggling at how Google Books enables anyone to do in minutes or hours lexicographical research that would have taken decades for someone pre-Internet.

Ray Girvan

"Placcius did have some sort chest-like devices with rods and pins and god knows what that functioned in a way I don’t understand as a note-keeping/comparing device"

There's a brief explanation here: Coping with Information Overload in Early Modern Europe http://web.princeton.edu/sites/english/csbm/papers/blairpaper.doc

It contained lots of hooks with topic labels; he wrote notes on little slips of paper which went on the appropriate hook.

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