“The Universal Library,” Kurd Lasswitz, 1901 — Professor Wallhausen and his wife pose a question to Max Burkel, an editor, regarding the limits of human imagination, commenting that perhaps everything that “can be expressed with letters has been tried.” The editor responds that the “human mind seems inexhaustible” and is met with the reply “[i]n repetitions, you mean.” This launches a discussion of how many volumes it would take to create a Universal Library to encompass all existing and future literature, given a “hypothetical reader” willing to read it.
Comments: Read in Fantasia Mathematica, which contains a postscript by Willy Ley. ISFDB entry. This story “served as the basis for The Library of Babel, a short story by Jorge Luis Borges.” (Wikipedia) For an article discussing this connection, see Lasswitz and Borges.
Author: Wikipedia: “Kurd Lasswitz…April 20, 1848 – October 17, 1910) was a German author, scientist, and philosopher. He has been called the father of German science fiction. He sometimes used the pseudonym Velatus.”