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Libraries

books, monastery, library, saint, century, monasteries and collection

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LIBRARIES, Mediaeval and Renaissance. —With the disruption of the Western Empire, learning passed into eclipse. It is impossible to estimate what has been lost to the world during that period of political and intellectual twilight. What was saved was saved by mon asteries, for they became the refuge of both scholars and books. Thus Cassiodorus, the favorite minister of Theodoric the Goth, gath ered a collection of books and retired to a monastery at Viviers which he had founded, endowing it with money and with his library. Numberless monasteries sprang up in Asia Minor and Egypt, their collections lost to the world until the researches of Tattam, Curzon and others brought them again to light. The majority of their books and manuscripts were theological, but many of these were of great importance, comprehending versions of the Gospels and books of the Old Testament in Greek, Hebrew, Coptic and Syriac, and also texts of ancient classics and palimpsests that have revealed productions of the writers of antiquity that otherwise would have been wholly lost. During the 6th century, it is said at the instance of Gregory the Great, missionaries, among them Augustine, went to the British Isles. Soon monasteries sprang up there which became great centres of learning. Canterbury was founded, and to this went Theodore of Tarsus with books obtained in Rome for its library. A library was also founded at York by Archbishop Egbert, of which Alcuin made use when there, and the lack of which he be moaned when, at the solicitation of Charlemagne, he became abbot of Tours. In the north of England, Jarrow and Whitby, the home of the Abbess Hilda and the poet Caedmon, both possessed libraries, that of the latter monastery being catalogued in the 12th century. Many of these monasteries were destroyed during the raids of the Danes, and their treasures were finally scattered as the result of the decrees of Henry VIII. The library at Christ Church Monastery, Canterbury, which was one of those to suffer at the hands of the Danes, was re stored in the 11th century by Lanfranc and Anselm. A catalogue made during the 13th century contains 698 titles, about 3,000 volumes.

Consult Edwards, 'Memoirs of libraries) (Vol. I, p. 122). A catalogue of Saint Augustine's Monastery at Canterbury has also been pre served, revealing that it was rich in historical works and in French romances. According to Baeda, the first abbot of Wearmouth, Bennet Biscop, made five journeys to Rome, each time bringing back books for the abbeys of Wear mouth and Jarrow. The collection at Wear mouth was cherished and increased by Baeda himself until it became the largest in England. It was destroyed by the Danes in 867, and Jarrow in 973. Croyland Monastery also pos sessed 700 volumes which were destroyed by fire in 1091. The monastery of Glastonbury, famous for its connection with the Arthurian cycle of legends, was ravaged by the Danes, splendidly rebuilt by Henry II and finally destroyed in the reign of Henry VIII. A catalogue of its collections (circa 1248) is con tained in Hearne's edition of John of Glaston bury. A catalogue of the Peterborough Mon astery library (14th century) reveals that it possessed 344 volumes and the Surtees Society has published lists of the books in the Durham Monastery. On the Continent, Charlemagne was the first of the Frankish kings to encour age learning and formed a collection of books for his palace. He also encouraged the estab lishment of other libraries. His son, Louis, formed a library which was extant during the time of Charles the Bald. Everhard, Count of Triuli, formed a collection which was later be queathed to a monastery. The greatest private collector of the 11th century, however, was Gerbert, afterward Pope Sylvester II, who spent large sums in developing his collections. The Benedictine Order was undoubtedly the most active in the cause of learning in western Europe, and its monasteries gathered large and valuable libraries. The oldest of the founda tions, Monte Cassino (A.D. 529), was the begin ning of a long line of institutions, among which may be named Fleury, Moelk, Saint Gall, Saint Vast, the famous Saint Maur; the English monasteries of Jarrow, Wearmouth, Bury Saint Edmunds, Croyland, Glastonbury, Whitby, Reading, Saint Albans and Tewkesbury.

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