Cover image for Libraries in the ancient world
Libraries in the ancient world
Casson, Lionel, 1914-2009.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xii, 177 pages : illustrations, maps ; 22 cm
The beginnings : the ancient Near East -- The beginnings : Greece -- The library of Alexandria -- The growth of libraries -- The beginnings : Rome -- Libraries of the Roman Empire : the city of Rome -- Libraries of the Roman Empire : outside the city of Rome -- From roll to codex -- Toward the Middle Ages.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Z722 .C37 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
Z722 .C37 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Z722 .C37 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Z722 .C37 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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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 organising 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 eduction 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 differnt types of users (royalty, scholars, religious figures) and different kinds of 'books' (tablets, scrolls, co

Author Notes

Lionel Casson, professor emeritus of classics at New York University has written many books on ancient maritime history and ancient travel.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This, according to the author (Travel in the Ancient World; etc.), "is the first full-scale study of libraries in the ancient world." This alone will make the book very attractive to a readership well beyond those with professional interests in the ancient world. And yet the book's title sells its contents short since it is really about a great deal more than the curatorship of the written word through its very specialized beginnings in the Near East c. 3000 B. C. until the collapse of cities in the Western Roman world. Casson's book is not limited to where and when important libraries existed; it offers a social history transcending the idea of a library as we know it. Casson discusses literacy in the ancient world; the techniques of production and the materials from which books were made (clay tablets in the oldest repositories in the Near East; papyrus and parchment in the West); trade in books; the centrality of libraries as the predecessors of modern universities and research institutions; the organization of Greco-Roman libraries, which continues, necessarily modified, in today's libraries; the differences and intersections among royal, private and public libraries; the kinds of books favored by libraries and even observations on the concept of the rare book in antiquity. Detailed consideration of the architectural elements of ancient libraries (what did these libraries look like? Where and how were books stored? How were reading rooms arranged?) makes the book as appealing to the archeologist as the bibliophile. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

To find an English-language work comparable to this one in content, size, and scope, one has to go all the way back to James Westfall Thompson's 1940 Ancient Libraries (Univ. of California. o.p.). Casson, a professor emeritus of classics at New York University and author of numerous books on ancient history, provides an overview of the development of libraries (and, to some extent, of writing, literacy, bookselling, and archives), starting with Egypt and Mesopotamia in the third millennium B.C.E. and continuing through the periods of the political and cultural predominance of Greece and then Rome, ending around the fifth century C.E. Among the libraries featured are those of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh, Alexandria, Pergamum, and the Forum of Trajan in Rome. Numerous other specific royal, temple, private, and public libraries are also mentioned. Drawing upon the scholarship of the last several decades, Casson describes, wherever possible, the acquisition, format, cataloging, arrangement, subjects, and use of the library materials and the staffing, architecture, and size of the libraries. He makes clear when the archaeological or literary evidence is scant or lacking. General readers will find this book informative and engaging. Scholars will also be interested in the 18 pages of notes at the end. Libraries in the Ancient World now supersedes Ancient Libraries and should be in library science and ancient history collections in public and academic libraries.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.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Mapsp. xi
1. The Beginnings: The Ancient Near Eastp. 1
2. The Beginnings: Greecep. 17
3. The Library of Alexandriap. 31
4. The Growth of Librariesp. 48
5. The Beginnings: Romep. 61
6. Libraries of the Roman Empire: The City of Romep. 80
7. Libraries of the Roman Empire: Outside the City of Romep. 109
8. From Roll to Codexp. 124
9. Toward the Middle Agesp. 136
Abbreviationsp. 147
Notesp. 149
List of Illustrationsp. 167
Indexp. 171