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The Almost Mythical Andrea Crestadoro


Price: £10.00


By Lucy M. Evans BA Hons, Post Grad.Dip. Lib.

Andrea Crestadoro (1808-1879) was a remarkable man whose ingenious mind and imagination produced strange offspring, from startling inventions through to a vision of the Internet. Born in Italy, he came to England in 1849 with ambitions as an inventor but like many failed to make it pay. Being a scholar, a researcher and fascinated by information, he turned to indexing, created the Key Word In Context (KWIC) index, rediscovered by computer scientists in the 1950s, and wrote a marvellous pamphlet on catalogues, which is visionary in scope. By a stroke of luck, he became Chief Librarian of Manchester Free Libraries in 1864. The catalogues he produced there were greatly admired: his model was followed by most of the early public libraries. Crestadoro pioneered employment of women in public libraries. Despite his respectable position he never stopped inventing. As an author he produced various works in Italian, French and English and is said to have influenced the prime minister, Cavour, in first days of Italian unification.

Lucy M Evans is a qualified librarian who has worked for many years at The British Library, Boston Spa. Having encountered Crestadoro in background reading for a project, she was drawn to the challenge of unearthing the story of this obscure figure.

Coming from Manchester herself, Crestadoro’s love of the city was an added inducement. There have been some surprises in her research. Crestadoro can be credited with a number of “firsts”. In his time he was a key figure in librarianship and she found his influences in much of her daily work. Crestadoro also had his own secrets. And who could not warm to the man who invented the metallic balloon?

The book covers a biographical outline, Crestadoro’s works in different languages, his inventions (he exhibited at the Great Exhibition), his attempts at earning a living in London, and his final period in Manchester. As so little is known of him, much is told through other figures in his landscapes, from Italian political exiles, engineers, publishers and printers through to the staff and committees of the Manchester Free Libraries.

373 pages 36 illustrations

The book will be supplied as a pdf on a CD