© 2016


Shaping Knowledge from Antiquity to the Semantic Web

  • Introduces metadata to a general audience

  • Approaches metadata from a historical perspective

  • Shows how central metadata is to the way we build our knowledge and understanding of the world


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Richard Gartner
    Pages 1-13
  3. Richard Gartner
    Pages 27-39
  4. Richard Gartner
    Pages 41-52
  5. Richard Gartner
    Pages 53-63
  6. Richard Gartner
    Pages 65-75
  7. Richard Gartner
    Pages 77-86
  8. Richard Gartner
    Pages 87-96
  9. Richard Gartner
    Pages 97-106
  10. Richard Gartner
    Pages 107-110
  11. Back Matter
    Pages 111-114

About this book


This book offers a comprehensive guide to the world of metadata, from its origins in the ancient cities of the Middle East, to the Semantic Web of today.

The author takes us on a journey through the centuries-old history of metadata up to the modern world of crowdsourcing and Google, showing how metadata works and what it is made of. The author explores how it has been used ideologically and how it can never be objective. He argues how central it is to human cultures and the way they develop.

Metadata: Shaping Knowledge from Antiquity to the Semantic Web is for all readers with an interest in how we humans organize our knowledge and why this is important. It is suitable for those new to the subject as well as those know its basics. It also makes an excellent introduction for students of information science and librarianship.


Information Science Knowledge representation Metadata Technical communication semantic web

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.The Warburg Institute, University of LondonLondonUnited Kingdom

About the authors

Richard Gartner is a librarian and academic who has specialised in the field of metadata and digital libraries for over twenty years. He is currently the Digital Librarian at the Warburg Institute in London. Previously, he was for sixteen years the New Media Librarian for the Bodleian Library in Oxford, where he was responsible for the introduction of the Internet into the Library, its first CD-ROM network and its first digital imaging projects. More recently he was a lecturer at King’s College London where he taught and researched metadata and digital curation.

Throughout his career, his research has concentrated on metadata, a subject in which he has published widely.  He is on the editorial board for METS (Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard), a widely-used metadata standard in digital libraries.  He has also maintained a long-term interest in international librarianship, which has taken him in the past to China, Bangladesh, India, Taiwan, Uzbekistan and Armenia amongst other countries.

Bibliographic information

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“In Metadata: Shaping Knowledge from Antiquity to the Semantic Web, Gartner, the digital librarian at the Warburg Institute at the University of London, thoroughly covers not only the history of metadata, but how it affects and forms knowledge and culture. … The author concludes the work with recent advances in metadata creation—metadata produced via Web 2.0, crowdsourcing, and folksonomies. This is a meticulous overview of metadata and its history and application. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals.” (A. Hollister, Choice, Vol. 54 (9), May, 2017)

“The book presents an enjoyable bird’s-eye view of metadata and related concepts, with outstanding examples accessible to non-experts. … I highly recommend the book.” (H. I. Kilov, Computing Reviews, May, 2017)

“The book covers continuous evolution of metadata from the history of cataloguing to the modern forms … . This book will attract readers interested in metadata, the semantic web, metadata ontologies, digital libraries, and semantic retrieval. So, it is highly recommended to information professionals, digital librarians and students. The book is well structured and motivating. The results of Gartner’s effort are very much worth reading due to his librarianship perspective on metadata.” (Elaheh Hossseini, Information Research,, Vol. 22 (1), March, 2017)

“All of the usual elements of a book on metadata are present and correct … I would urge you to read this book if you are new to cataloguing or if you are old in cataloguing and world-weary about our professional mission. It’s a book to provoke your own thoughts, and quite possibly to give to your manager if you suspect they are unsure why metadata, why cataloguing and, therefore, why you and your team matter.” (Anne Welsh, Catalogue and Index,, Issue 186, March, 2017) 

“The book provides an overview of existing metadata approaches and standards such as MARC, Dublin Core, MIX and EAD. This book also offers a succinct history of metadata and discusses emerging metadata approaches. … This book can be read by both technical and non-technical people as it uses a rather accessible language. Metadata makes information finding easier. This is an excellent read and I highly recommend it to my colleagues and friends.” (Getaneh Alemu,, January, 2017)

“This slim volume aims to provide the reader with an overview of the history and development of metadata from the earliest times to the present day, and it offers a straightforward and readable account of metadata for the novice or the non-professional. … There is plenty here to intrigue and entertain for those wanting a lightweight introduction to the subject, at a very attractive price … .” (Vanda Broughton, Library & Information History, Vol. 33 (2), 2017)