Cover image for The great libraries : from antiquity to the Renaissance (3000 B.C. to A.D. 1600)
The great libraries : from antiquity to the Renaissance (3000 B.C. to A.D. 1600)
Staikos, K.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Vivliothēkes. English
First English edition.
Publication Information:
New Castle, Del. : Oak Knoll Press ; London : The British Library, 2000.
Physical Description:
xvi, 563 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 34 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Z723 .S7313 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize Non-Circ

On Order



This beautiful and vast volume is a fitting tribute to the libraries of the Mediterranean and Western Europe from 3000 BC to AD 1600. Divided into two books, the first presents the motives that prompted people to collect and then establish and maintain buildings specifically designed to house texts. Staikos also traces the influence of intellectual trends and historical events on the development of libraries and the factors that affected the architecture and internal fittings of libraries. The chapters include discussions of Aristotle, Ptolemy, Cicero, Hadrian, Cosimo de'Medici, Johannes Cuno amongst many others and encompasses Mesopotamia, Egypt, Hellenistic Greece, the Roman Empire, Early Christian libraries, Byzantium and the Renaissance. The huge range of themes and comparisons includes: popular reading, the arrangement of libraries, catalogues, scribes, public and private collections, the book trade, education, Byzantine humanism, Carolingian and Anglo-Saxon scholarshp, the first universities and the impact of the printing press. The Great Library of Alexandria, Pergamon and the collections of the Roman emperors are amongst the ancient libraries discussed. The second book presents fourteen specific monastic and humanist libraries and their creators, including the Library of the Monastery of St John of Patmos, the Vatican Library, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris and the Bodleian Library, Oxford. The first book is richly illustrated with black and white illustrations of texts, writers, readers and building reconstructions. The second book contains beautiful large colour photographs of the fourteen libraries along with their most stunning manuscripts.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

At first glance, this book, copublished with the British Library, appears very similar to Anthony Hobson's Great Libraries (Putnam, 1970. o.p.), but only the second half is comparable to the earlier work. Book 1 is an encyclopedic narrative history of libraries from approximately 3000 BCE to 1600 CE. Except for two short chapters on library development in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, this section is nearly equally divided between the libraries of the Greek East and the Latin West. Book 2 contains individual chapters on 14 European libraries founded before 1600. Ten of the libraries, including the Vatican Library, France's Bibliothque Nationale, and Oxford University's Bodleian Library, are also covered in Hobson. Staikos also includes additional Eastern European libraries such as the Oecumenical Patriarchate Library in Constantinople, the Strahov Abbey Library in Prague, and Hungary's defunct Corvinian Library but, unlike Hobson, excludes all non-European libraries. Author Staikos (The Charta of Greek Printing) has worked on the interior design of two of the historic Greek libraries featured here, and he displays impressive scholarship in this lavishingly illustrated (in both black-and-white and color) tome. For large libraries collecting on library science and European history and civilization.DThomas F. O'Connor, Manhattan Coll. Libs., Bronx, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Eagerly awaited by cultural scholars and library historians, this book is a monument to the enduring role libraries played from earliest times to the beginning of modern history. The author, an interior design architect, has worked in some of the libraries he describes. His book contains more than 400 illustrations, about half in color and many full-page. Translated from a 1996 Greek edition, it has no competitors, but it is not simple to describe and evaluate because it attempts to reach several audiences and accomplish several objectives. The first part of the book consists of historical narrative in 11 chapters, replete with charts, diagrams, drawings, and other illustrations, as well as informative documentation. The second part consists of brief historical sketches of 14 noteworthy libraries and their buildings from the Oecumenical Patriarchate Library to the Bodleian Library. The profuse illustrations in part 2 lead one to regard this as a coffee-table book. It invites comparison with Anthony Hobson's Great Libraries (1970), but Konstantinos's work is much more than that. The historical section, about 240 pages, contains more material than any other single monograph covering this sweep of time and includes details omitted in most surveys. The bibliography, nearly 1,000 items in several languages, is most impressive. Because it inspires awe about the history of libraries, a species endangered in this new century, this reasonably priced book will find a place on library reference shelves, and on coffee tables of library directors and library lovers everywhere. D. G. Davis Jr.; University of Texas at Austin