Over the past decade, Wikipedia has drawn together a community of volunteer editors, translators, and programmers who have created the largest encyclopedia in history and one of the ten most visited websites in the world. But, while Wikipedia was born online, many of the ideas that inform its composition have long histories. Human beings have strived to give order to knowledge in the face of worries about information overload for ages. Their various responses have been shaped by the cultural norms, social needs, and technological possibilities of their historical contexts. This talk will focus on the old media precedents for Wikipedia’s new media success story to explore what reciprocal relationships they reveal between concepts like knowledge and information and the technologies we design to build and distribute them.