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Libraries in the Ancient World Paperback – September 1, 2002
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Ancient libraries grew, Casson writes, by many means: by peaceful trade, as when book-hungry Romans spent extravagant sums on Greek texts made in southern Italy; by conquest, as when the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal looted the libraries of his ancient rival Babylon, carting the contents to his capital of Nineveh; and by fiat, as when the Egyptian pharaohs appropriated private collections to round out their own. Those libraries nourished the great philosophers and writers of old, shaping world culture into our own time. But, as Casson ably shows, the enemies of books are many, among them floods, fires, insects, and intolerance. As it is today, so it was in the past, and contending empires and ideologies too often expressed themselves by sacking and burning the collections of their enemies--by reason of which we have only a few of the works that engaged readers in the distant past.
Casson's slender book enhances our understanding of the role of books and their collectors in the ancient world, and bibliophiles and historians alike will find much of value in its pages. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
It was the Greeks who instituted libraries with aims similar to our own, shelves full of books on a wide range of subjects, available to readers who could come in and consult them. There was a demand for books, and by the fourth century BCE, bookselling was a flourishing industry. The booksellers probably employed scribes to turn out copies of works. There were no such things as royalties or author's rights. Rome conquered all, but Greece held intellectual sway over the Romans, who continued the library tradition.Read more ›
Casson also keeps the work interesting by including the derivation of certain words such as "ostracism" and "parchement". He also gives an important sense of how scrolls and tablets were used in ancient times and by whom.
This book would probably not be adequate for a library scholar but I did not think it was intended as such. For the other 98% of us with deep interests in Classical history, antiquity, and libaries in general, it is a wonderful work and well written.
Written in a lively prose, this well-researched, fact-filled book explains when, where, why, and how the forerunners of today's modern libraries were created and developed, treating in detail topics such as:
*How did they acquire their materials?
*How were they physically organized?
*Which, if any, system of cataloguing they used?
*Who had access to their holdings?
*How they solved problems like theft and damage of their collections?
*What was their connection with the rise and fall of education?
The author also presents a concise account of the history of books from clay tablet to papyrus roll to parchment codex to our modern day volumes. He shares fascinating insights into the development of writing and the evolution of writing technology, including:
*What was the purpose of writing?
*Which topics were more commonly written about?
*Which materials were used and why?
*Who did the writing?
The best part of this book is the entertaining and charming way in which the author illustrates his exposition. By employing captivating anecdotes from sources contemporary to the facts, literary sources that have survived to this day, and archaeological finds combined with modern technology that make possible the reconstruction of ancient library buildings, he makes what would otherwise be a very boring topic feel like a true adventure.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An extremely interesting book. A great reference if you love libraries.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
This book provides a great look at the original mission of the library and presents great light on the role of various libraries throughout the ancient world. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Benjamin
Histories often talk about battles, rulers, and cities but do not give enough details to picture or recreate what they talk about. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Jordan Bell
I have only read the first few chapters because I was only interested in the very very early times. Well written and easy to read.Published 8 months ago by Liz
A very enjoyable little book. Casson is scholarly but not pedantic, and his grasp of the scope of the references to libraries and books (or scrolls) in antiquity is impressive. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Joe Cicero
it is a very well researched book dealing with a subject about which it is difficult to find source material in view of the destruction of so many records from that period.Published 12 months ago by william callan
The book was written from the point of view of a librarian and historian. Very good information on a topic that is seldom discussed in any detail. Read morePublished 22 months ago by O. Allen
It's a very difficult thing to treat an academic subject in a congenial style without sacrificing information, but Casson does it here -- and does it well. Read morePublished on January 3, 2014 by Larry N. Stout
In this delightful little book, Professor Lionel Casson traces the history of libraries from the archives of ancient Mesopotamia, through the extensive libraries of classical... Read morePublished on July 19, 2013 by The Reviewer Formerly Known as Kurt Johnson