Libraries in the Ancient World

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Yale University Press, 2002 - History - 177 pages
4 Reviews

This delightful book tells the story of ancient libraries from their very beginnings, when "books" were clay tablets and writing was a new phenomenon. Renowned classicist Lionel Casson takes us on a lively tour, from the royal libraries of the most ancient Near East, through the private and public libraries of Greece and Rome, down to the first Christian monastic libraries. To the founders of the first public libraries of the Greek world goes the credit for creating the prototype of today's library buildings and the science of organizing books in them.

Casson recounts the development of ancient library buildings, systems, holdings, and patrons, addressing questions on a wide variety of topics, such as:

- What was the connection between the rise in education and literacy and the growth of libraries?

- Who contributed to the early development of public libraries, especially the great library at Alexandria?

- What did ancient libraries include in their holdings?

- How did ancient libraries acquire books?

- What was the nature of publishing in the Greek and Roman world?

- How did different types of users (royalty, scholars, religious figures) and different kinds of "books" (tablets, scrolls, codices) affect library arrangements?

- How did Christianity transform the nature of library holdings?

Just as a library yields unexpected treasures to a meandering browser, this entertaining book offers to its perusers the surprising history of the rise and development of ancient libraries--a fascinating story never told before.


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - phoenixcomet - LibraryThing

A delightful little book on the development of libraries throughout the ages. Intelligent conjecture in many instances based on the remains of ruins (often Roman) and information noted in writings that still exist. Worth a read if you are a librarian or love history. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - drmaf - LibraryThing

I used this book heavily in writing my PhD thesis and its has the virtue of being the most recent comprehensive text on ancient libraries available. As an academic text it leaves a lot to be desired ... Read full review


The Ancient Near East
3 The Library of Alexandria
4 The Growth of Libraries
The City of Rome
Outside the City of Rome
8 From Roll to Codex
9 Toward the Middle Ages

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About the author (2002)

Lionel Casson is Professor Emeritus of Classics, New York University, and the author of Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World as well as many other books on ancient maritime history and ancient travel.

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