The Bottom Line
Lionel Casson's Libraries in the Ancient World is an easy-to-read overall history of ancient libraries, their organization, the development of books, and book copying that makes modern public libraries sound surprisingly similar to the ancient ones.
- Filled with fascinating facts, but compact
- Reverent look at the development of books and libraries
- Without an obvious agenda, shows the politics involved in library/book development
- Not enough
- Starts with the clay tablets filled with cuneiform that survived because of fire.
- Explains how parchment and book form replaced papyrus scrolls.
- Shows how libraries came to have reading rooms.
- Describes the physical arrangement of scrolls and how they were catalogued.
- Discusses book copying and the related problems authors might face.
- Discusses access to libraries and the materials.
- Describes the staffing of libraries.
Guide Review - Review of Lionel Casson's Libraries in the Ancient World
In "Libraries in the Ancient World" Lionel Casson discusses all the important topics about ancient writing and libraries, and supplements the chapters on ancient Mesopotamian libraries, the Greek, Alexandrian, and Roman libraries, the evolution of codex from papyrus roll, and the beginning of the Middle Ages, with ample diagrams and useful photographs. Among other intriguing anecdotes, Casson explains the development of parchment from papyrus as the result of a rivalry between Ptolemy V and the king of Pergamum (whence the word parchment), both of whose cities held important libraries. It was parchment on wooden tablets that were later joined together to make the first books. Greek libraries housed scrolls, but provided no room for reading and contained only Greek literature. In Republican Rome, Greek literature was greatly admired, copied by booksellers, and imitated by early Roman writers. Roman libraries in the time of Augustus had two rooms, one for Greek literature and one for Roman, which meant there needed to be some degree of selectivity about what to store, and that, in turn, required competent librarians. In the late Republic, the first public libraries and reading rooms were introduced, and later some were connected with the social centers known as public baths. Although there is a wealth of information in "Libraries in the Ancient World," Casson writes so that a reader can breeze through Libraries in the Ancient World.