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Libraries

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LIBRARIES, Ancient. The written word in some form or other is of immemorial antiq uity. Discoveries in Crete and Assyria-Babylonia and at Susa (Persia) have proved that relatively advanced civilizations were in ex istence as nearly as 6000 years Ile., and that the art of writing had been developed at that time. Some of the collections of stone and clay tablets unearthed at Knossos (Crete) and Nip pur (Babylonia), seem to have the characteris tics of libraries, even according to the strict definition of the term library (Latin Tiber, book) : a collection of books or other literary material preserved for reference or study; the designation also, by association, of the place or building wherein they are kept. This doubt less cannot be said of many finds of ancient cuneiform tablets for these were merely legal, commercial or sacerdotal archives, but others are historical, philosophic or pure literature in fact. The fact that stone and clay records have been preserved does not prove that more perishable materials were not used, for there is an example of Egyptian hieratic writing dating back to 3,000 years B.C. in the Louvre. The incised stone records of Egypt, many of them of immense antiquity, contain references to papyrus rolls. The roll (Latin volumen, volume) was the first stage in the development of the book, the second being the codex or the book as familiarly known, con sisting of separate sheets bound together. This was probably a development of waxed tablets, used by the Greeks, the adoption of which has been traditionally ascribed to the kings of Per gamus who were forced to use parchment (Pergamentum) for their books, the Egyptians having placed an embargo on papyrus. Just when paper supplanted parchment is not defi nitely known, but the indications are that the Arabs were the first to make and use paper, Arabian manuscripts of the 9th and 10th cen turies being in existence. Paper mills were in operation during the 12th century. Paper was known to the Chinese at a very early date, but the ancient Chinese book is a phase of the sub ject yet to be investigated. Recent explorations have added a most astonishing store of knowledge regarding the ancient world and there is little obscurity now regarding the existence and constitution of the libraries of the Classic Orient. The investigations of Paul Emile Botta, Sir Austen Henry Layard, Dr. John P. Peters and his successors, Dr. John Henry Hayes and Dr. H. V. Hilprecht of the University of Pennsylvania, have proved that a library in the strict sense of the term formed a part of nearly every temple and probably every royal palace. More than 50,000 tablets have been found, comprehending his torical and traditional records, epical narra tions, folksongs and ballads, hymns and prayers, medical lore and philosophy. Thus the temples were centres of literary as well as religious activity, the temple of Enlil at Nip pur, that of the Sun-god at Sippar and others in Babylonia possessing large collections of tablets.

pal (668-626 a.c.), known in Greek history as Sardanapalus, the grandson of the Biblical Sennacherib, was the first ruler of Assyria recorded to have taken an interest in the col lection of literature. IBeing endowed with an attentive ear, and inclined to the study of all tablets," he commanded that a great collection be gathered together in Nineveh to form the royal library. This was classified and indexed, and fortunately left undisturbed when Nineveh fell into ruins. Thousands of tablets from this library are in the British Museum and consti tute one of the great sources of knowledge re garding Assyro-Babylonian civilization.

It is impossible to say whether the libraries of ancient Egypt antedate those of the Assyro-Babylonian empires or not. Scribes, however, were known in Egypt as early as.6000 B.C. As in Assyria-Babylonia, the

temples were centres of learning in which were gathered records and literary productions of all kinds. The rulers often encouraged learning and made collections as is evidenced by hieroglyphic inscriptions on their tombs and monuments. A reference of this nature is contained in an inscription on a tomb near the Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu), and another in scription refers to the library (collected works) of Khufu. Papyrus was undoubtedly used in Egypt at a very early date, one of the most ancient examples being a roll relating the acts of King Assa (3580-3536 we.). An early ex ample of a purely literary papyrus is the Prisse papyrus, composed about 2500 B.c. Professor W. Flinders Petrie, during his researches in Fayfim, discovered papyri in mummy cases that dated back 3000 or more years B.C. That clay tablets were also used by the Egyptians is proved by his discovery of a collection of the reign of Amenophis IV (Amenhotep, 1466 B.c.). These were unearthed at the site of the king's palace in the city founded by him, Tel-el-Amarna. Heliopolis, the city of the Sun God, prior to the rise of Alexandria, was the centre of Egyptian culture. Here were numerous tem ples, each of which had its library of papyri, among them the famous Sacred Books of Thoth, an encyclopedia of ancient wisdom. Brugsch, in his (True Story of the Exodos) (p. 204), states that there was a library in the temple at Edfu, on the walls of which was a list of the works contained in the collection. The most noted library of ancient Egypt was that formed by King Osymandyas, who has been identified with the Biblical Rameses II (1300-1236 B.c.). This collection was in the palace of the king, the Ramesseum, Thebes, and is described by Didorus Siculus (I, 58 Wessling ed.) as "the dispensary of the mind?' The Persian subjuga tion under Cambyses (527 B.c.) marks the close of Ancient Egyptian culture and undoubtedly many collections of literature were destroyed during that period. The Persian influence was succeeded by the Greek and then the Roman, hence the later library history of Egypt properly belongs to those nations.

Ancient Greek papyri of great antiquity have been found in Egyptian tombs, one of these, discovered at Abusir, near Mem phis, dating as early as 4000 B.C. We do not know just when collections of literature began to be made, for classic historians state that libraries were first developed when Greece had already reached a very high degree of civiliza tion. Thus Aulus Gellius asserts that the first library of Greece was founded by Pisistratus (605-527 a.c.). The same tradition is repeated by Athenmus. That Pisistratus was a notable patron of learning is unquestioned, yet collec tions undoubtedly antedated his. The tradition that he founded the first library doubtless arose from the fact that he was responsible for the collecting and editing of the various poems of the Homeric cycle. Polycrates, the tyrant of Samos (d. 522 B.c.), and friend of the poet Anacreon, was also a patron of letters and is said to have formed a library. Others known to have been collectors and lovers of books were Nicocreon of Cyprus, the kings of Per gamus, Euripides the poet, Euclid the mathe matician, Aristotle the philosopher and Neleus, his biographer (Athenmus, (Deipnosophistm,) lib. c. 4). Strabo asserts that it was Aristotle himself, who formed the first library in Greece and gives a graphic description of its vicis situdes, which included its burial for many years to keep it out of the rapacious hands of the kings of Pergamus, antiquity's prototypes of the modern bibliomaniac. The most famous libraries of Greek antiquity, however, were those at Alexandria, developed during the regime of the Ptolemies. See ALEXANDRIAN