Libraries in the Ancient World

Libraries in the Ancient WorldLibraries in the Ancient World by Lionel Casson. Published by Yale University Press, 2001. 177 pages.

A selective look at the very early development of libraries. The earliest consisted of Sumerian clay tablets and Egyptian papyrus around 3000 B.C. The Assyrians built more elaborate libraries later about the time the Greeks were developing an impressive array of libraries. After the death of Alexander the Great, the unprecedented Library of Alexandria was founded around 300 B.C. Then the Romans developed an amazing number of libraries until the Empire fell. Finally, we see early Christian monasteries around 400 A.D. that created libraries and attitudes that helped ancient knowledge survive the Dark Ages.

Why did Sumerian writings survive while Egyptian works disappeared, and what lesson should present-day librarians learn from this? How did the job of librarian develop and how did they devise ways to organize and protect their collections? Why were libraries so plentiful in Greek times and what societal uses did the Roman Emperors have for libraries? How did the title page develop? Where did different alphabets come from and how did they affect libraries? All these questions and many more are covered in this interesting look at ancient history through the library door.

– Bob Sibert