A New website and Blog for Hammonds Hausmann

Our new Paris office website www.hammonds.fr is now online!

It is enriched with an editorial site in the form of a blog, which enables you to browse La Revue, either in its French or English version. Simply go to http://larevue.hammonds.fr.

We had contemplated setting up this website for a long time. It is now fully up and running thanks to the unwavering efforts of a team comprising Frédéric Aznar from Axessit, Frédéric Saffroy, Benjamin Lebreton our IT specialist, Agnès Bérenger our librarian and your humble servant.

For us, this website is not about succumbing to the digital disease, the fa(r)ce book trend or any other pernicious virus à la Googlemania. It is simply about being closer to you and offering you a more direct and dynamic vision of our firm, our services and our talented people (be they fully fledged lawyers, paralegals, trainees or support staff) and above all it is about getting to know you better, in order to meet your wishes and expectations faster and more effectively.

The whole essence of a website is to be lively, interactive and to adapt and evolve according to the needs of its users. Therefore, your desires, comments and suggestions on the website will be extremely useful to us.

The “La Revue” blog gives you access to all past articles, indexed by title, for easier perusal. You can retrieve online your favourite themes, titles, columns and editorials.

Is this magic of digital technology, virtual network, Web, and hypertext a radically new concept of unlimited access to comprehensive information? This has yet to be proven.

Metaphors of knowledge

Knowledge evokes many metaphors. Some examples are the ancestral tree of knowledge, the image of the circle of science which lies at the origin of the word “encyclopaedia” (“enkuklios” cycle, circle and “paideia” education), or even the allegory of the sea of knowledge.

King Ptolemy I founded the Alexandria Library more than 2000 years ago with the ambition of gathering and preserving all the (written) knowledge in the world. In ancient times, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, there were numerous compilers of more or less classified information, such as Pliny, Isidorus of Seville and Vincent of Beauvais, to name but a few.

In his “Arbor scientiae” (first illustrated edition produced in Lyon in 1515) Ramon Lull presented a science tree with 18 roots and branches relating to the main fields of knowledge. Today, IT programs and websites come in a variety of…. arborescence.

Following this straightforward, although somewhat baroque compilation of information, during the Renaissance (to mix not only metaphors, but also artistic periods), there was a surge of study aids such as concordances, indices, commonplace books (the famous “Officina” by Ravisius Textor first published in 1520); these were the forerunners of… search engines!

In 1610 Francis Bacon published in London his “Novum Organum” with a superb frontispiece representing a ship breaking through the Pillars of Hercules (the Straits of Gibraltar). By that time naval metaphors were more widely used than tree-based ones. The entire body of science was considered as an endless ocean without interruption or division. Today Internet users…. navigate or surf the Web.

Paradoxes of information

Derek Bok once said: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” Fair enough! This also applies to information.

But information is no information, if it is not useful and useable, which means selection and analysis, filters and hierarchy of knowledge. It seems that the myth of the Tower of Babel may be sliding towards the mystifying and demiurge like power of Google!

In other words, beyond the obvious ongoing global Big-brotherisation and content control by pipe control, for me the biggest danger of all lies with the meaningless and never ending flow of information. Like the image of the empire map on a scale of 1:1 in Borges’s short story (which requires a chimerical exact representation of reality and was incidentally the ultimate ambition of map-making), is there not a danger of this surfeit of information substituting (or even destroying) the real world and life itself ?

“The universe (which others call the library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings. From any of the hexagons one can see, interminably, the upper and lower floors.” (Borges,“The Library of Babel”).

Nabokov, Calvino, Eco have relayed the teachings of the Argentine Master. Isn’t technology, like metaphysics, simply a “branch of fantasy literature”? But beware; there are no palimpsests with digital technology.

There have always been three constants when it comes to knowledge: the fear of loss, the dread of corruption, and the anxiety of excess. This last evil is clearly the most menacing today. The French poet Paul Valéry said that two things threaten the world: order and disorder!

Zurich born Conrad Gessner published in 1545 his “Bibliotheca Universalis” which was the most impressive bibliographical work of the century. All areas of knowledge were considered and arranged alphabetically according to the authors’ forenames under 16,000 entries. Today, the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina celebrates its fifth birthday. It joined the Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh in its initiative to digitize a million books to produce a …universal digital library!

We rediscover past obsessions. This all relates to strange renewed themes, concerns, as old as the act of writing itself. Nothing (k)new under the sun of Alexandria… »The city, half-imagined (yet wholly real), begins and ends in us, roots lodged in our memory. Why must I return to it night after night, writing here by the fire of carob-wood while the Aegean wind clutches at this island house, clutching and releasing it, bending back the cypresses like bows ? Have I not said enough about Alexandria? » (Lawrence Durrell , « Balthazar », The Alexandria Quartet).

A Gallic cheer of victory to end this note. The only work which has been digitalized by Bibliotheca Alexandrina, apart from the archives of President Nasser, is the famous “Description de l’Egypte” published between 1809 and 1828, following General Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt. The French orientalists’ priceless work is composed of 12 large-size volumes of maps, lists and drawings, and 24 volumes of text. It is allegedly the birth of modern « Egyptology », shortly followed by Champollion’s translation of the Rosetta stone.

And to be ecumenical in our time of war of Holy Books and shock of civilisations, I leave you with a beautiful aphorism taken from the story of Aladdin: “Knowledge is the soil of the gardens of heaven”.

Humbly, I can only dream that the Hammonds Hausmann website might elevate you to such lofty heights. Nonetheless, I hope that you find the site useful and informative, when adrift on this sea of legal information and in any event Hammonds Hausmann and “La Revue” would like to take this opportunity to wish you a happy and fruitful surfing for the New Year 2008.