Universal Library

A Universal Library is a library that contains not just one copy of every book that has ever been printed but one copy of every book that it is possible to print. A version of such a fantastic place is described by Jorge Luis Borges in his melancholic short story "Library of Babel" from The Garden of Forking Paths (1941). It begins: "The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries." Each gallery is identical to all the others and contains 800 books identical in format. "[E]ach book contains four hundred ten pages; each page, forty lines, each line, approximately eighty black letters..." There are 25 symbols – 22 letters, the comma, the period, and the space. Because the Library contains every possible combination of these symbols it contains, in addition to vast tracts of gibberish, every truth, falsehood, idea, novel, thought, and description of events, past and future, that are possible. It contains, writes Borge, "All – the detailed history of the future, the autobiographies of the archangels, the faithful catalog of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogs, the proof of the falsity of those catalogs, a proof of the falsity of the true catalog, the gnostic gospel of Basilides, the commentary upon that gospel, the commentary on the commentary of that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book into every language, the interpolations of every book into all books, the treatise Bede could have written (but did not) on the mythology of the Saxon people, the lost books of Tacitus."