Lo(B)! The Universal Library is complete!

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This topic contains 153 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Krishan 2 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #300 Reply


    Although unbearably catered to an English speaking audience this site is without a doubt truly remarkable. I feel many linguists and Borges himself however would be very disappointed as the site is really just for English speakers. This is my only gripe with what is possibly the most interesting thing on the internet. Is there anyway to search with random Spanish, French, or Esperanto words?? Just a thought but I feel it would definitely make it much more of a “universal” library as opposed to one just catering to English speakers.

    Also, “If the passages above or below had a slightly transposed arrangement (see adjacent), then the parallel corridors could be accessed by going up one flight of stairs, passing to an adjacent hexagon, and descending again.” Pretty sure it is impossible for passages to have transposed arrangements as this would lead to vestibules that open on one side to another hexagon but on another side it would simply open to a wall? The layout of a floor in the library has many possibilities but I’m quite positive that once the layout has been established the floors above and below must follow the exact format otherwise this leads to vestibules that will open to only one hexagon as opposed to two.

    Muchas gracias por este bellisimo sitie!

    #304 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    Hey Quique,

    I’ve shared my reasons for tailoring the site to the English language here: http://libraryofbabel.info/theory3.html

    Because every language uses slightly different alphabet and punctuation, and because in any language these customs change with time, there’s really no character set which would offer the kind of universality which is the theoretical goal of a “universal” library.

    As I explain at length in the essay I linked to above, the play of alphabets in Borges’ short story seems to me to suggest the same thing. I think he takes the idea of a universal library with a bit of irony.

    I do hope to add parallels to the Anglishize and match with random english words functions for some other languages, though as I mentioned they will always be insufficient, even for English speakers. My ultimate hope is that people will come along to make “universal” libraries for their own languages – I’m happy to help with the coding if anyone would like to undertake the project.

    As for the passage about hexagons – I think perhaps you’ve misunderstood? I mean that if the linear arrangement of passages on two different floors were not parallel, each of those avenues would be accessible to anyone by passing from one floor to the other. Only in theory of course, since some would be so far apart that no finite creature could ever travel between them. I think the pictures on that page make clear what I’m describing.

    #305 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    Since you mention Esperanto, I’ll add that it offers an interesting case study of how difficult or impossible it is to create a neutral/universal linguistic milieu. This page summarizes some of the common objections, such as a grammar and even a vocabulary which are tied to those of European languages: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Esperanto

    #317 Reply


    When you release the bigger Library of All Books, will it be possible to search for text that runs across two or more pages – and perhaps even for the entire 1476000-character content of a particular book? If so, I hope you’ll also include the old method of searching for text (up to 3600 characters) that falls on a single page.

    #322 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    Absolutely – every 410 page book will be available and searchable, as well as every possible transposition of shorter strings.

    Only 1,312,000 characters in 410 pages, though – 3200 per page.

    #594 Reply


    Is there an ETA for the All-Books Library? I understand if it’ll take a while – creating it doesn’t merely involve creating content but also programming a solution to a problem.

    #595 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    Right now I’ve shifted gears towards working on the image library. The first version of an all-books library I created was a bit too slow for the web, but I’ve come up with a couple of methods from working on the image archives that I hope will prove applicable to the text project as well.

    The image library is nearing completion – I believe I should have the first version online in two or three weeks.

    #604 Reply


    I thought you said you were okay with creating a download-only all-books library.

    As for the image library, will there be a search function consisting of a single paint program, or will it be browse only?

    #606 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    All of these are things I want to work on, but I can only do one at a time. Right now, the image project excites me more than a downloadable extension of the text library, so I’ve focused my efforts there. I’ve actually picked up a couple of techniques in the process which may make an online 410-page-book library a possibility. I’m going to shift my focus back to expanding the text project once the image project is online.

    The image library will have similar options to the text one – browse, search, random slideshow, etc.

    It’s interesting to me – the mathematics of generating the images are quite similar to those which generate the texts, but the effect (I’ve found) is much different. Images have a different sort of attraction.

    #610 Reply


    I have to admit an image library didn’t appeal to me at first, because I was only thinking of all the colored static it would have. How many colors will there be? What will be the resolution of each image?

    Also, please call the image library the Gallery of Babel.

    #612 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    I’ve been leaning towards Babel Image Archives – Babelia for short – but I still haven’t settled on a name.

    Right now I’m working with 4096 colors (12-bit) and 640×416 images. Its about 10^1000000 possibilities, a good stepping stone between the 1-page library (~10^5000) and the 410-page library (~10^2000000).

    Colored static can be quite interesting as well…

    Randomly generated image

    #731 Reply

    Harith Bad Rani

    Hello, Jonathan.

    First of all, congratulation for this masterpiece. I must not be the only one who had spent days just wondering how huge the coverage of the materials is. Not without goosebumps, for sure.

    (I managed to scare my younger brother with this too. Haha).

    I’ve read the short story by Jorge on this ‘Universe’. But one question – The book mentioned that the library is made up by 25 orthographic symbols. Referring to the ‘About’ page of this site, you said that currently the pages are from 3200 characters which, if achieved, can be up to 1,312,000 characters.

    Is it 25 or 3200 (or one day, 1,312,000)? How does ‘symbols’ differ from ‘characters’?

    Harith, Malaysia.

    #734 Reply

    Jonathan Basile

    Hey Harith,

    I’m so glad you’re enjoying it – and that you’ve managed to frighten your brother. It’s never too soon to learn about the essence of language, and it is indeed a horror story. Although, with much potential for play.

    I think I haven’t yet found the best phrasing for explaining the parameters of the permutation – The character set consists of the 26 letters of the English alphabet (I explain why I used a different set from Borges here), space, comma, and period. The program can create all possible permutations of a set of 3200 of those characters. So each of those 3200 places can hold any of those 29 characters. It’s a massive number, but still much smaller than Borges’ library, which consists of all possible permutations of 1,312,000 of his 25-character set.

    Let me know if that’s clearer than the description on the about page.

    #789 Reply


    Thank you for this beautiful tribute to Borges.

    #797 Reply


    I am absolutely stunned. You have literally made my day. A wonderful find and being a Borges lover I am overjoyed. Thank you and if ever you need any help in maintaining the site(donations, anything) don’t hesitate to ask.
    You my good sir, have given Borges a memento of which he would be proud.

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