SERTARUL CU GANDURI

04/05/2014

Stuart A.P.Murray – „The Library”


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“During the darkest days of the Great Depression, a noted bibliophile named Paul Jourdan-Smith wrote a heartfelt tribute to the eternal power of reading in which he offered a passing commentary on the continuing misery he saw everywhere around him. “This is no time for the collector to quit his books,” he observed. “He may have to quit his house, abandon his trip to Europe, and give away his car; but his books are patiently waiting to yield their comfort and provoke him to mirth. They will tell him that banks and civilizations have smashed before; governments have been on the rocks, and men have been fools in all ages. But it is all very funny. The gods laugh to see such sport, and why should we not join them?”

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“A week after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the charismatic mayor of New York City, Fiorello H. La Guardia, took to the airwaves on radio station WNYC for a series of Sunday night broadcasts in which he would speak directly to his constituents, keeping them apprised of world events, giving them all an encouraging pep talk in the process. At the end of each program, it was the custom of the man affectionately known as the “Little Flower” to conclude his remarks with the words “patience and fortitude,” calm advice that he felt would see everyone safely through the long ordeal that lay ahead. So inspirational was La Guardia’s message of comfort and hope that “Patience and Fortitude” were adopted as the unofficial names of the majestic lions carved from pink Tennessee marble that guard the entryway to the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

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“A great library cannot be constructed,” the nineteenth-century Scottish historian John Hill Burton reminded us in The Book-Hunter, “It is the growth of ages.”

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“Tablets were separated according to their contents and placed in different rooms: government, history, law, astronomy, geography, and so on. The contents were identified by colored marks or brief written descriptions, and sometimes by the “incipit,” or the first few words that began the text.

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“The Nineveh library was Assurbanipal’s passion, and he sent out scribes to the distant corners of his kingdom to visit other libraries and record their contents. These were among the first library catalogs. The king also organized the copying of original literary works, for he sought to study the “artistic script of the Sumerians” and the “obscure script of the Akkadians.” In so doing, Assurbanipal hoped to obtain “the hidden treasures of the scribe’s knowledge.” Assurbanipal’s library also held the Gilgamesh Epic.

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“By 3000 BCE Egyptians had developed hieroglyphics, which combines pictographs with symbols (glyphs) that represent syllables when spoken aloud. Hieroglyphics means “sacred engraving,” the term given to this form of writing by Greeks, who discovered examples of it in Egyptian temples and funeral sites. There are some six thousand known hieroglyphs from Egypt, where they were in use until the fourth century.

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The English term “library” derives from liber, Latin for “book.” The Greek term for a papyrus roll is biblion, and a container for storing rolls is called a bibliotheke. In some languages, the word for library is a variant of bibliotheke, a place where books are kept.

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The profession of scribe was a difficult one, its demands all-consuming, as exemplified by what an Egyptian instructor told his student: “I shall make thee love writing more than thine own mother.”

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Legend has it that when the preeminence of Egypt’s Alexandria library was challenged by a new library at Pergamum in Asia Minor, the Egyptians refused to export papyrus to their competitors. As a result, Pergamum developed a writing material of its own, made from the skin of calves, sheep, and goats, called parchment (it is pergamenum in Latin and pergament in Germanic languages, harking back to its origins in Pergamum). Parchment’s smooth surface took ink and paint better than papyrus, facilitating beautiful designs and calligraphy on the book page, and it was also more durable. The finest quality parchment is vellum, generally made from calfskin.

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The Greeks were the first to establish libraries for the public, not just for the ruling elite. By 500 BCE, Athens and Sámos were developing public libraries; however, the majority of people could not read, so even these early public libraries served just a small part of the population.

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Greek city-states founded specialized libraries for medicine, philosophy, and the sciences.

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The scholars Plato, Euripides, Thucydides, and Herodotus owned large personal libraries, pioneering a custom that blossomed in Roman days, when beautiful private libraries were essential centerpieces in the homes of the wealthy and the noble class.

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The most renowned cultural treasure of Alexandria was its Great Library, or Royal Library, established by Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian general who assumed kingship of Egypt upon Alexander’s death. Ptolemy’s Alexandrian library was founded by 300 BCE and became a world center for scholarship, literature, and books. The Great Library acquired—often by laborious copying of originals—the largest holdings of the age, although historians debate the precise number of scrolls. The highest estimates claim 400,000 scrolls at the Great Library, while the most conservative estimates are as low as 40,000, which is still an enormous collection that required vast storage space.

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The Alexandrian Great Library was essentially a temple, dedicated to the Nine Muses, the goddesses of the arts—among them poetry, music, singing, and oratory. A building so dedicated was more than a place for records and books, but was termed a museum, a place of the Muses, a place of culture.

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Alexandria’s library administrators collected scrolls from all over the world and organized and copied them—not always returning those they borrowed. In one notorious case, Athens loaned the library some extremely important original scrolls so they might be copied, and, as a guarantee of their return, Alexandria gave an enormous sum in gold to the people of Athens. Alexandria’s desire for original books was so strong, however, that only the new copies were shipped back to the Athenians, who had to be content with keeping the gold and the copies.

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With a unique written language, Ge’ez, Aksum possessed its own translation of the Bible, and its libraries contained important Christian documents. Many such works were translated by Aksum’s Coptic monks between the fifth and seventh centuries. The pre-Christian Book of Enoch exists only in Ge’ez.

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In the fourth century, Aksum became the first significant empire to accept Christianity when King Ezana (320-350) was converted by his slave-teacher, Frumentius (d. 383), a Greek Phoenician. The zeal of Frumentius for proselytizing the people of the Red Sea persuaded the Patriarch of Alexandria to ordain him Bishop of Aksum.

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Emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Vespasian, and Trajan all created great libraries, emulating Julius Caesar, the first emperor who aspired to establish a library for the public. Caesar’s assassination in 44 BCE cut short his ambitions, but his successors built public and private libraries with books gathered from around the empire.

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Among the greatest achievements of these far-flung scriptoria, from Britain to the Black Sea, was the advance of the art of illumination. Bookmaking moved from papyrus scrolls to vellum bound pages inscribed on both sides—and new arts arose in the craft of bookbinding, calligraphy, and design.

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The Romans invented the codex form of the book, folding the scroll into pages which made reading and handling the document much easier. Legend has it that Julius Caesar was the first to fold scrolls, concertina-fashion, for dispatches to his forces campaigning in Gaul. Scrolls were awkward to read if a reader wished to consult material at opposite ends of the document. Further, scrolls were written only on one side, while both sides of the codex page were used. Eventually, the folds were cut into sheets, or “leaves,” and bound together along one edge. The bound pages were protected by stiff covers, usually of wood enclosed with leather. Codex is Latin for a “block of wood”; the Latin liber, the root of “library,” and the German Buch, the source of “book,” both refer to wood. The codex was not only easier to handle than the scroll, but it also fit conveniently on library shelves. The spine generally held the book’s title, facing out, affording easier organization of the collection. The term codex technically refers only to manuscript books—those that, at one time, were handwritten. More specifically, a codex is the term used primarily for a bound manuscript from Roman times up through the Middle Ages.

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The scroll remained a symbol of Judaism, however, with the Laws of Moses inscribed on the Torah scroll—the most sacred document of the Jews.

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The sixth-century Order of Saint Benedict, adherents of Italian priest Benedict of Nursia (480-543), became the most influential with regard to the world of books and libraries. Their own guidebook, Rule of Monks, set out the principles and duties of the monastic community, advising members to practice moderation in all things—eating , religious devotion, and fasting—and to read every day. The Rule of Monks required each monastery to have at least one book for every brother.

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The Benedictines established monasteries throughout Europe, from southern Italy to islands off Scotland. Many monasteries began to build libraries, with the most notable at Monte Cassino and Bobbio in Italy; Fulda and Corvey in Germany; St. Gall in Switzerland; and Canterbury, Wearmouth, and Jarrow, in England. The first monastery libraries usually had fewer than a hundred books, and collections of three hundred were considered remarkably large. Many titles were duplicates, produced by and for the community.

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Benedictine scriptoria became the most productive of the Middle Ages, as their far-flung monasteries industriously turned out copies of important titles—at first mostly theological.

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In the ninth century, after conquering much of Western Europe, Charlemagne (742-814), king of the Franks, encouraged a rejuvenation of scholarship and intellectualism. A true bibliophile, Charlemagne urged clerics to pursue the “study of letters,” to teach grammar and music, and to translate Christian creed and prayers into the vernacular. So much copying was accomplished as a result of this royal exhortation that virtually every ancient European manuscript that had survived until then was likely to be preserved.

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A substantial monastery might have as many as forty scribes at work in its scriptoria, the average scribe copying two books a year.

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A library’s most-used books were not only chained to desks and lecterns to prevent theft, but they were often protected by a “book curse” to scourge whoever damaged or stole them. After finishing the copying, the scribe usually added such a curse to the final page, warning that eternal damnation or prolonged physical suffering awaited any would-be perpetrator. Book curses are as old as writing—or at least as old as libraries. For all the reputed propriety and patience required of their calling, librarians have historically wished the worst of punishments on book thieves, as if they were no better than murderers or blasphemers.

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The scribe who completed the last book of the Bible, entitled Revelation, closed with a fiery admonition against altering what had been written: I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

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The Chinese achieved an early form of printing by pushing soft paper into the stone text and applying ink to the back of the sheet. The result, when the paper was withdrawn, was a black background with white letters. Many Confucian adherents made personal copies of the classics by this “stone-rubbing” method.

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Movable type—single letters or characters that can be placed alongside others in a printing form, or frame—was first developed in China in the eleventh century. Three centuries later, the Koreans established the first type foundry for casting movable type in metal, and Japan soon followed suit. Movable type did not, however, permanently catch on in East Asia. For centuries, woodblocks remained the leading printing method in China, Korea, and Japan.

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One of the most remarkable Asian libraries was hidden away for centuries in western China in the Mogao Grottoes, which became known as the “Caves of the Thousand Buddhas.”

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In 1258, Mongol hordes destroyed Baghdad and its thirty-six public libraries, the pillagers tearing books apart so the leather covers could be used for sandals.

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By the tenth century, many Islamic cities had major libraries, and one of the largest, with an estimated 400,000 to 600,000 books, was at Cordoba, capital of Al-Andalus, the Muslim-ruled lands of the Iberian Peninsula. The oldest mosque library, and among the most important, was the Sufiya in Aleppo, northern Syria, where a local prince had personally bequeathed 10,000 titles.

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Among the most legendary libraries was that of the Persian city of Shiraz, where there were more than three hundred chambers furnished with plush carpets. The library had thorough catalogs to help in locating texts, which were kept in the storage chambers and organized according to “every branch of learning.”

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Much cheaper and easier to produce than parchment or vellum, paper revolutionized book manufacture and stimulated production. For example, up to 40 percent of the cost of a book made in Constantinople had been in the parchment alone. The increased use of paper drastically reduced publishing costs. A skilled papermaker could turn out thousands of sheets in the time that a few skins could be made into vellum or parchment.

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As humanists built book collections and university libraries developed, the book trade grew to meet this unprecedented demand for reading matter. Around 1450, impelled by the need for books, Johann Gutenberg (c. 1400- 1468) developed the printing press in Germany. Within fifty years, millions of printed books were in circulation across Europe.

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One of the finest cathedral schools was at York in northern England. Founded in the seventh century, York was known for teaching theology as well as the seven liberal arts: grammar, rhetoric, logic, geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy. York won fame because of its administrator, Flaccus Alcuinus (c. 735-804). Known as Alcuin, this teacher, scholar, and poet was instrumental in preparing the way for the development of university education in Europe.

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“Faith is a free act of the will, not a forced act,” Alcuin told Charlemagne when discussing the subject of compulsory baptism. “You can force people to be baptized, but you cannot force them to believe.”

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Since the seventh century, parts of the Bible had been translated into Old English, but it was not until the close of the fourteenth century that a full Middle English translation appeared. English theologian and lay preacher, John Wycliffe (c. 1325-1384), led the efforts of this first translation of the Bible into vernacular English in 1382.

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Humanism was especially strong in Italy, where the scholar Francesco Petrarch (1304-74) was one of the movement’s founders. An important book collector, Petrarch searched for manuscripts of classical writings and personally copied them for his own library, which he referred to as “my daughter.” He bequeathed his collection to Venice, where it became the foundation of a future public library.

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Bibliophiles, such as Petrarch’s acquaintance, English bishop Richard de Bury (1281-1345), gathered books (manuscripts) wherever and however they could. De Bury was a tutor of royalty as well as a diplomat and clergyman. As a high official of King Edward III, de Bury was showered with gifts and bribes from those who desired his favor and influence with the royal court. The best bribe, however, was a book. He wrote: Indeed, if we had loved gold and silver goblets, high-bred horses, or no small sums of money, we might in those days have furnished forth a rich treasury. But in truth we wanted manuscripts, not moneyscripts; we loved codices more than florins, and preferred slender pamphlets to pampered palfreys.

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One estimate calculates that 40,000 book editions had been published by the start of the sixteenth century. Figuring an average print run of 500 copies of each edition, as many as 20 million books could have been printed. Although half the titles were Bibles or Christian texts, many were literary works by the likes of Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, and England’s Chaucer. Other titles offered valuable scientific and historical information, until then impossible to find without hunting endlessly through libraries and archives.

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Hungary’s fifteenth-century king, Matthias Corvinus (1443-90), built a great library of three thousand titles in his capital city of Buda, on the Danube. His royal court had a number of Italian humanists who—along with his queen Beatrice of Naples (1457-1508), a humanist and book lover—guided the establishment of the Corvinian Library.

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The Dutch philosopher and scholar, Erasmus—consultant to publisher Aldus—expressed the sentiments of many who were passionate about books: “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.”

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That books served various intellectual functions is suggested by the English jurist, statesman, scientist, author, and philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626): “Some books are to be tasted; others swallowed; and some few to be chewed and digested.” Danish physician A. Bartholini (1597- 1643), who was devoted to literature, wrote: “Without books, God is silent, justice dormant, natural science at a stand, philosophy lame, letters dumb, and all things involved in darkness.”

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One of Europe’s finest church libraries, that of the Monastero di San Nicholas di Casole in Italy, would not survive. It was destroyed during a 1480 massacre by the Ottoman Turks.

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Perhaps the greatest court library was that of the Vatican in Rome, after it was renewed by Pope Nicholas V (1398-1455). The papal library had languished for a century until Nicholas (Tomaso Parentucelli) came to the throne and contributed hundreds of his own manuscripts to the collection.

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As his Vatican librarian, Nicholas appointed scholar Giovanni Andrea Bussi (1417-75), editor of many classical texts. Bussi acquired titles by using the particularly effective method of ordering monasteries to give up any works he or Nicholas wanted for the collection. Vatican agents traveled around Europe, searching monasteries and private libraries for rare or otherwise important manuscripts, buying and selling as they went. Titles were often found in some dusty corner of a neglected monastic library. They might be purchased outright or borrowed for copying.

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The Sorbonne library in Paris was among the first to list titles alphabetically under each subject area. This cataloging organization was an improvement, but became cumbersome as the library grew. New acquisitions had to be entered in the margins of the catalog list until a new catalog was laboriously compiled. Further, it was common for several books to be bound in one volume, whose cover bore only the title of the first work. If the librarians were unfamiliar with the volume’s contents, most of its works would likely be forgotten—unless the library possessed an in-depth catalog.

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A physician and naturalist who compiled a Greek-Latin dictionary at the age of twenty-one, Gesner produced the Bibliotheca universalis in 1545. This Universal Bibliography listed 10,000 titles by 1,800 authors (including all known Latin, Greek, and Hebrew writers). A companion to the Bibliotheca universalis was published in 1548, with 30,000 entries, cross-referenced and grouped under appropriate subheadings. Known as the “father of bibliography,” Gesner’s work remained invaluable to librarians for centuries.

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Confiscation of monastic property, in particular their libraries and scriptoria, took place in many Protestant lands, such as Sweden, Switzerland, and Denmark. The Jesuits, whose libraries were among the best, suffered especially severe losses. Religious conflict also swept through England, where reformers had the upper

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The “Suppression of the Monasteries” between 1536 and 1541 was part of a methodical campaign to eradicate Catholic monasticism in England, Wales, and Ireland. King Henry VIII considered the links of many monasteries and abbeys to the French monarchy (whose throne he claimed) as a threat to his reign. If monasteries could afford to pay royal fines, however, they were allowed to carry on. In the 1530s more than 300 monasteries were threatened with dissolution, but approximately 70 were able to pay the fines and avoid being shut down.

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The great Kurdish leader and bibliophile, Saladin (c. 1138-93), presaged his defeat of Crusader kingdoms in the Holy Lands by first wresting control of Egypt from the Islamic Fatimid dynasty at Cairo. He promptly incorporated the most valuable Fatimid books into his own private collection, and allowed his viziers (ministers or advisors) to take what they wished from the rest. Saladin continued this custom whenever he captured a city. One vizier amassed 30,000 books—not all plunder, however, for many were purchased or commissioned from copyists.

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Among the significant Ottoman library developments was the 1678 establishment of a major library in a dedicated building in Constantinople. Also, the magnificent Topkapi Palace was simultaneously building up the largest collection of illuminated Arabic manuscripts in the world.

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Mechanical printing presses would not be employed by most Muslims for two more centuries because Islam favored elegant handwritten works over machine duplication. The transcendent value of such books to Ottoman bibliophiles was attested to by “mausoleum libraries,” book collections built beside the deceased owner’s place of eternal rest.

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In India, the powerful Islamic dynasty known as the Delhi Sultanate, which reigned between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, developed several types of libraries. These included the Khangah (or Sufi) library; large court libraries; and academic, mosque, and private libraries.

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The sack of Baghdad in 1258 sent surviving Islamic scholars, doctors, writers, architects, teachers, and musicians to Delhi, which became the great center of Islamic culture.

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The Malays also followed traditional Muslim methods of book design and layout—symmetrically decorated double pages and beautifully illuminated colophons (brief, informative texts about the book or author).

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The era spanning the tenth to seventeenth centuries is known as China’s “period of encyclopedists.” The government employed many hundreds of scholars to compile massive encyclopedias of collected knowledge, the largest of which—completed in 1408—totaled almost 23,000 folio volumes in manuscript form.

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The fifteenth-century Yi dynasty established the Korean alphabet, Hangul, expressly for teaching, and it was a key contribution to the growth of libraries and archives in the country. The Korean royal libraries classified titles as classics, history, philosophy, and encyclopedias.

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The Tokugawa family came to power in 1603, beginning a more peaceful age in which the country was governed by a shogun, meaning “commander of the armies.” With Japan at peace, warriors and warlords often turned to reading for intellectual development. Book learning increased and libraries grew, especially those of the exclusive schools for children of leading families. Japanese libraries were, regretfully, not for the people.

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The Francis Trigge Chained Library in Grantham, Lincolnshire, is considered the ancestor of the public libraries that followed it, largely because its patrons were not required to be members of an institution, such as a college or a church. Trigge (c. 1547-1606), rector of Welbourne, established the library in 1598 in a room over St. Wulfram’s Church, decreeing it should be open to the clergy and residents of the neighborhood. The borough provided furnishings, and Trigge provided a hundred pounds to buy books.

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Europe was especially decimated during the final conflict, the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-48. Her population declined from 21 million in 1618 to 13 million by war’s end. Many of the deaths were caused by famine and disease. Much of Germany was devastated, from the Baltic Sea in the north, to Munich in the south.

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Sweden’s King Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632), a Protestant, virtually emptied libraries in his army’s path. The king donated these books to many a budding Swedish library, and he improved the Royal Library; but the largest consignment came to rest in the university library at Uppsala, founded during this age of upheaval. Specially targeted by Gustavus Adolphus’s raiders were the schools, seminaries, and colleges of the Jesuit order. Devoted to intellectual pursuits, including education and preaching, the Jesuits possessed fine book collections that became valuable prizes.

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The Vatican acquired the Palatine Library of Heidelberg University in 1623, spoils won by a Bavarian noble who had each book rebound, making sure to include an inscription that announced he had taken it “as a prize of war from captured Heidelberg” and sent “as a trophy” to the pope.

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Library collections were always at risk, and many succumbed to fires, both accidental and suspicious. Untold numbers ofbooks were burned up in the 1666 Great Fire of London, which destroyed 13,000 houses and 87 parish churches, as well as old St. Paul’s Cathedral with its venerable ecclesiastical library.

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Book-buying agents, book collectors, scholars, writers, printers, and publishers made their way to the fairs to buy and sell and learn what was new. Frankfurt and Leipzig held the most prominent book fairs, followed by Basel, Geneva, Paris, and Antwerp.

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The line of eminent figures essential to the development and administration of libraries continued with French scholar and physician Gabriel Naudé (1600-53). Author of the seminal work on library science, Advice on Establishing a Library, Naudé instructed private collectors on how many books were practical (which depended on the collector’s wealth and ability to maintain them), how to select and acquire titles, and how to create catalogs.

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Arranging a library well is essential, Naudé said, quoting ancient Rome’s Cicero: “It is order that gives light to memory.”

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The Bodleian Library, as it came to be known, was the first of its kind officially designated to receive “legal deposit” copies of every recently published title, a means of maintaining accurate government records on book publishing. The library was open six hours a day (except Sundays). The first librarian, Thomas James (c. 1573-1629), wrote, “The like Librarie is no where to be found.”

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Bodley worked daily at his chosen life’s task despite persistent weak health. He saw to it that the library would have one of the best catalogs of the day. He was knighted by the scholarly King James I, who remarked on a visit in 1605 that the library founder should have been named “Godly” rather than Bodley.

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Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English jurist, philosopher, and scientist, was a patron of the Bodleian and Cottonian. Bacon expressed the veneration he felt for noble libraries, which he considered sanctified places: “Libraries are as the shrines where all the relics of saints, full of true virtue, and that without delusion or imposture, are preserved and reposed.”

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The British civil conflicts between the forces of the monarchy and Parliament exacted their own price in library destruction. Yet, Puritan champion Oliver Cromwell was a benefactor of libraries after the Royalists were defeated, and he came to power in 1653 as Lord Protector. At the death of James Ussher (1581-1656), Anglo-Irish book collector and Archbishop of Armagh, his library was about to be sold to the king of Denmark, or to Cardinal Mazarin—that is, until Cromwell stepped in and forbade it. Instead, Ussher’s collection was acquired by the parliamentary army in Ireland and, in 1661, became part of the library of Trinity College, Dublin. Trinity’s library was immediately elevated in stature and was destined to become one of the world’s finest.

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Another controversial English author, Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), contributed mightily to the deluge of popular literature. Swift’s 1726 satirical novel, Gulliver’s Travels, was “universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery,” according to a friend. Sensing an immediate best-seller—and determined to keep ahead of book pirates—Swift’s publisher had five printing houses produce the first edition simultaneously. Since then, Gulliver’s Travels has always remained in print, although governments and religions, skewered by his wit, would have preferred banning it.

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Ironically, what the Spanish were eradicating was, in fact, a biased Aztec version of history. The Aztecs, themselves, had tried to wipe out Mayan culture and traditions previous to the Spaniards’ arrival. By the time Cortés arrived, the Aztecs had dominated the Mayans and Mesoamerica for about a century. In those, years the Aztecs had destroyed Mayan books and documents and replaced them with new works and a false history that portrayed the Aztecs as rightful rulers. Now, the Aztec books were, in turn, destroyed by Cortés and his priests.

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Within a few years, the Spanish realized the immense value of these books, which were filled with precolonial history, genealogies, land claims, astronomy, poetry, and medicine. The surviving volumes were collected and copied, and Spanish priests and scholars collaborated with native scribes, who were taught the Roman alphabet in order to translate them.

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Sister Juana wrote: “Oh, how much harm would be avoided in our country” if there were women to teach women rather than risking the hazards of male instructors being placed in intimate settings with girl students. Many fathers refused their daughters an education for just this reason. Sister Juana said that such risks “would be eliminated if there were older women of learning, as Saint Paul desires, and instruction were passed down from one group to another, as in the case with needlework and other traditional activities.” For her outspoken defiance, Sister Juana was punished, commanded in 1691 to stop writing, and forbidden to use her beloved library. Next, her books and her musical and scientific instruments were confiscated. She died four years later. Hispanic literary tradition ranks Sister Juana as a major figure, known even in her own time as the “Mexican Phoenix,” a flame rising from the ashes of religious authoritarianism.

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Spanish America led the way in book publishing, as the New World’s first printing press was set up in Mexico, where in 1539 the first North American title was printed. This was a book of religious instruction, written in both Spanish and native Nahuatl. No British colonial titles were published until the mid-1600s. The first printing press in the English-speaking colonies arrived in Massachusetts in 1638, and was set up in the home of Henry Dunster, first president of Harvard College in Cambridge. In 1663 this shop produced the earliest Bible published in British North America. As with the first Spanish book, it was intended for native readers and was the first book printed wholly in a Native American language—Algonquian.

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To the north, New France possessed no printing presses, its culture and economy tightly controlled by a dictatorial governor based in Quebec. Canada’s small population of native peoples and French colonials were mainly employed in producing furs and lumber for the profit of the crown. There were only 2,200 Europeans in New France in 1663, when Quebec’s Jesuit seminary, Laval College, established the first Canadian library—one of the oldest in North America.

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English engraver and type caster William Caslon had designed the typeface that became the most popular in North America. Widely used in books and newspapers, Caslon type was used for the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

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In 1638 British America’s first institutional library was established in Massachusetts as the foundation of Harvard University. Harvard’s library was founded by a donation of books from a clergyman intent on propagating his faith. Puritan minister John Harvard left his estate and four hundred volumes to a seminary starting up in Newtowne, a village near Boston. Harvard’s library consisted mostly of theological titles, with some Greek and Roman classics. The collection was invaluable to the school, which immediately attained credibility as a place of learning. The seminary was named in Harvard’s honor, and Newtowne was renamed after Cambridge, England, where he had earned his degree before immigrating to the colony in 1637.

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Harvard allowed patrons to borrow or return books only on Friday mornings, when three titles could be taken and kept for up to six weeks. In those times, an education depended more on textbooks and lectures than on the library. For those who tried to read in the library, no candles or lamps were allowed, in order to minimize the danger of another fire. Whenever a fire was burning in the hearth, the librarian or an assistant had to be present at all times.

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For all its success, Harvard’s library grew relatively slowly, with only 20,000 titles at the close of the eighteenth century. Major European university libraries of this era had 200,000 titles. This shortcoming was cause for complaint among contemporary students and graduates, who would eventually see to it that Harvard Library grew to become the largest private collection in America by the late nineteenth century, with almost 230,000 books.

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In 1731, fifty founding members contributed funds to establish the Library Company of Philadelphia, which, for Franklin, was “[his] first project of a public nature.” Membership increased to one hundred subscribers, who paid an initial fee and annual dues. The idea caught on across the colonies, and by the 1750s a dozen new subscription libraries had appeared, established in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Maine. By contrast, the first British subscription library was not established until 1756.

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Permanent library quarters were built in 1791, when Philadelphia was temporarily the nation’s capital. The Library Company served as the library for members of Congress until the establishment, in 1800, of the new capital at Washington, D.C.

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When, in 1800, the United States established its capital city at Washington, D.C., the government also established the Library of Congress. This library was soon destroyed by the British during the War of 1812, but rebuilding began immediately. Even as the Library of Congress was literally rising from the ashes, a vision of what it could be was expressed in an 1815 editorial in the National Intelligencer: “In a country of such general intelligence as this, the Congressional or National Library of the United States [should] become the great repository of the literature of the world.”

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In April 1800, president John Adams approved legislation to transfer the government from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., which now officially became the nation’s capital. In this same act was the authorization to establish the Library of Congress.

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The act called for a library containing “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress—and for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them therein. . . .” The congressional Joint Committee on the Library was created by this act, and, in 1811, the committee was officially made permanent. It is Congress’s oldest continuing joint

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Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801 and took great interest in the library, often recommending books to acquire. Jefferson had a large library of his own and was known for buying books on his visits to Europe. In 1802, an act of Congress authorized the president to name the first Librarian of Congress, and gave itself power to establish library rules and regulations. This act also granted the president and vice president the right to use the library.

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Then, in August 1814, during the War of 1812, a British invasion force captured Washington and torched the Capitol building. The Library of Congress was destroyed in the conflagration.

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In January 1815, Congress purchased Jefferson’s 6,487 volumes appraised at $23,950, more than doubling the congressional library’s original size. Further, the Library of Congress was transformed from a special library of books on law, economics, and history to become a general library, the result of Jefferson’s personal interests being so broad. One of the most influential political philosophers of the age, Jefferson was fluent in several languages and a skilled architect. Mainly self-educated, his education had come from his books, which composed one of the finest private libraries in North America. He described his library as containing everything “chiefly valuable in science and literature.”

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Throughout the next fifty years, the Boston Athenaeum was the premier center of Boston’s intellectual and cultural life. By 1851 it was one of the five largest libraries in the United States.

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Boston Public Library became a leading model for the modern urban public library. Following European library policy, Boston Public had noncirculating, “reserved” scholarly books that were not to be borrowed, but patrons were permitted to take out popular titles at no charge. This “reference books” policy soon became a widely followed standard in the United States and Canada.

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State libraries began to appear in the 1800s, often as collections of reference books for their legislative bodies. These libraries grew slowly, supported inadequately at first. Pennsylvania’s was the first true state library, established in 1816, soon followed by Ohio, New Hampshire, Illinois, and New York (all created by 1818). The U.S. Bureau of Education produced a national survey in 1876 that reported every state and territory as having an official library, though these were made up of mainly law collections.

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Carnegie made his fortune in the Allegheny-Pittsburgh region, largely from steel producing and construction. By 1870, at the age of thirty-three, he had resolved to keep only $50,000 a year from his earnings, and to “make no effort to increase fortune but spend the surplus each year for benevolent purposes. Cast aside business forever except for others.” This was Carnegie’s “Gospel of Wealth,” and in his lifetime, he gave away more than $333 million—90 percent of his fortune. He believed the rich should live without extravagance, provide moderately for the needs of their dependents, and distribute their “surplus” funds for the benefit of the common man—especially to help those who endeavored to educate themselves. Library construction was part of his vision for “the improvement of mankind.”

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Carnegie’s open-stack approach was in keeping with the latest American library thinking, as expressed by John Cotton Dana (1856-1929) in his 1899 A Library Primer, written to teach “library management for the small library, and to show how large it is and how much librarians have yet to learn and to do.” Cotton was emphatic about patrons being permitted to browse stacks: Let the shelves be open, and the public admitted to them, and let the open shelves strike the keynote of the whole administration. The whole library should be permeated with a cheerful and accommodating atmosphere.

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The first known circulating library that loaned books for a fee was most likely that of Scottish poet Allan Ramsay, who rented titles from his Edinburgh shop early in the eighteenth century.

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Circulating libraries in Britain, America, and parts of Europe were crucial to the spread of literacy and the love of books and reading, as expressed by English essayist Charles Lamb (1775-1834): “I love to lose myself in other men’s minds. When I am not walking, I am reading. I cannot sit and think; books think for me.”

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In 1850, the process of founding public libraries was initiated by the British Parliament, which passed the Public Libraries Act. This act authorized municipalities with a population of 100,000 or more to levy a tax to build a public library—although they could not buy books with that money. Norwich, England, was the first city to adopt the act, and the eleventh in the country to open a public library (the first was in Winchester, England).

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In other and completely separate Asian library developments, the world’s largest book was literally “built” as part of the Kuthodaw pagoda in Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma). Constructed between 1860 and 1868, the book consists of more than seven hundred marble tablets inscribed with Buddhist teachings—originally in gold, which has long since been removed. Each tablet, three and a half feet wide by five tall and five inches thick, stands in its own stupa, or cave-like structure, containing Buddhist relics.

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Li Dazhao (1888-1927), who studied in Japan and in 1921 was co-founder of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), was the university’s head librarian for much of this period. In 1927, Li was executed for radicalism by a regional warlord. It was Li’s assistant and intellectual adherent at the university library who would play the dominant role in China’s mid-twentieth-century revolutionary history: Mao Zedong (1893-1976). Destined to become chairman of the CCP and founder of the People’s Republic of China, Mao was strongly influenced by Li Dazhao. Mao’s mentor and fellow librarian advocated armed revolution, which would have to originate with the Chinese peasantry, who would be educated in the Communist doctrine found in books.

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The Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s, however, dealt a crushing blow to the progress of Chinese libraries. More than 2.7 million books were lost during the years of Japanese occupation, almost half of China’s total stock of books. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, libraries continued to suffer in the almost five years of civil war between the Communists and Nationalists. There were only fifty-five public libraries of any size in China when the People’s Republic was established in 1949.

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Since the death of Mao in 1976, and because of the opening and reform movement launched in 1978—largely by Deng Xiaoping (1904-97)—Chinese libraries have boomed. They have added materials on economics and finance, and are no longer restricted to the writings of approved Communist theorists.

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The National Diet Library was established in 1948, its facilities divided between Tokyo and Kyoto. The library was originally founded for the policy and legislation research of Japan’s parliamentary body, much like the American Library of Congress.

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Since the Thirty Years’ War of the seventeenth century, few decades have seen the immense destruction of libraries that occurred between 1914 and 1945, an era of two world wars. Germany and much of Europe were spared library losses in World War I—northern France, Belgium, Russia, and the Italian-Austrian border were the most populated European theaters of war. In World War II, however, heavy aerial bombardment destroyed many libraries in many regions of the world.

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In 1992, as Yugoslavia disintegrated, the newly founded Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina sent forces to lay siege to Sarajevo, stronghold of the independent Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The National University Library, a prominent symbol of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s identity, was targeted by Serb artillery in a three-day bombardment that reduced 90 percent of its 1.5 million books to ashes. As the fire raged, hundreds of Sarajevans struggled to rescue what they could, saving 100,000 volumes.

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In the second half of the nineteenth century, librarian Ainsworth Spofford steered the LoC into becoming a truly national library for all Americans. Yet its collections are not limited to Americana; rather, they are universal, encompassing some 450 languages. The library grew to occupy three massive buildings in Washington, with 530 miles of shelf space—more than any other library. Such space is needed to accommodate the 22,000 items published in the United States, which arrive every workday. An average of 10,000 items is added daily. The rest are traded with other libraries, distributed throughout government agencies, or donated to schools.

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The largest library in Austria, located in Vienna’s Hofburg Palace, the interior of the national library is one of the most beautiful in the world. Aptly named the Prunksaal—ceremonial or “splendor” hall—the heart of the library has been described by library historians as “incomparable” and “astonishing.” Its lavish eighteenth-century splendor is considered a masterpiece of baroque Austrian architecture.

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