Libraries or collections of written materials are almost as old a written language itself. Written language appears to have developed out of the need to create records. And of course once records were made, there needed to be a location to archive them for future use. There were thus libraries throughout the ancient world. The most fabous was the great library at Alexandria. There were libraries located throughout the Roman Empire, but these disappeared with the fall of the Empire and the onset of the Dark Ages. Some manuscripts were saved in monastaries, but this was only a fraction of the learning of the clasical world. Here Irish monastaries played a critical role. Other libraries in Byzantium and the Arab world also helped to save clasical manucripts. New libraries appeared in the developing universities of medival Europe. Lending libraries began to appear in the 18th century. The first free public libraries did not appear until the late 19th centurty. Here Andrew Carnege in America played an important role. Until this time, libraries were institutions for adults. With the appearance of public libraries, programs for children appeared.
Libraries or collections of written materials are almost as old a written language itself. Written language appears to have developed out of the need to create records. And of course once records were made, there needed to be a location to archive them for future use.
There were thus libraries throughout the ancient world. The most fabous was the great library at Alexander.
The earliest known library that we have noted is a collection of clay tablets in Babylonia dating from the 21st century BC. The library of Assur-bani-pal was the most notable (620s BC).
The primary Egyptian libraries were temple libraries.
The great temple at Jerusalem had a library of sacred texts.
There are reports of private Greek collections as early as thr 6th century BC. Public libraries supported by city sates appeared in 330 BC. The most noted libraries were located at Alexandria and Pergamum. The Great Library at Alexandria was destroyed when fighting broke out after Ceaser arrived pursuing Pompey.
The first libraries in Rome were composed of collections brought from Greece and other areas cnquered by Roman armies. There were eventually libraries located throughout the Roman Empire.
We have no information on early Chinese libraries at this time. We do know that one early Chinese emperor had all the manuscripts he could find burned as well as mny of the living scholars.
Important libraries appeared in the Arab world. They were composed of both classical texts and Arab scolarship. Much of these collections were destroyed in the Mongol invasions which devestated the Muslim socities of the Middle East (13th century).
Roman librearies disappeared with the fall of the Empire and the onset of the Dark Ages. Some manuscripts were saved in monastaries, but this was only a fraction of the learning of the clasical world. Here Irish monastaries played a critical role. Other libraries in Byzantium and the Arab world also helped to save clasical manucripts. Italian Humanist scholars traveled to Byzantium to learn Greek and to buy the old manuscripts that had been saved from Barbarian and Crusader pillages. Many original Greek clasical texts were found in Constantinople. Libraries were founded in Italy and other locations. The papacy participated in the search for classical texts. Pope Nicholas V was a strong proponent and helped found the huge Vatican collection. Cardinal Bessarion helped found thee Library of St. Mark at Venice.New libraries appeared in the developing universities of medival Europe. The Sarbonne founded the first such library (1257). Many other great university libraries appeared soon after in the 14th century. These university libraries were at first under clerical control.
The Vatican Library which can be considered the first public library in Europe was founded in the the 15th century.
Lending libraries began to appear in the 18th century. Benjamin Franklin helped found the first circulting library in America. This was not true public library. It was more of an organization in which members shared their books.
The first free public libraries did not appear until the late 19th centurty. Here Andrew Carnegie in America played an important role. Andrew Carnegie was one of the greatest industrialists of the Gilded Age at the end of the 19th century and one of the most prominent residents of Pittsburgh. He founded many free public libraries in Pittsburgh and other cities.
The 20th century totalitarians (Communists and NAZIs) wanted to monopolize ideas. The NAZIs, upon seizing power, began strictly censorsing what was published in Germany. Books were one of the first casulties of the NAZI regime which organized mass burnings of books written by Jews or expressing "degenerate, "un-German views. Many of the books burned came out of public and university libraries. Often the university libaries were desimated by the students in those universities.
The NAZIs organized Wagnerian spectacles, marching in longlines by torchlight, singing Party songs, and chanting the twelve "theses,"--their manifesto for the "purification" of German literature and thought. NAZI authorities advised public and private libraries and book stores to ensure that they did not have the "degenerate", "un-German" books. Books used in schools and eduction were a pecial concern. The NAZIs proceeded to rewrite German textbooks and unabashedly use schoolbooks for propaganda purposes. They also introduced their major themes into children's books. Stalin's nortorious purges posed a problem for librarians. Among those consumed in the purges were most of the formerly important Bolshevicks whomade the Revolution as well as colleagues of Stalin in building the Soviet Union during the 1920s. Thus the KGB went into libraries and cut material out are blacked out ofending passages in books, encyclopedias, newspapers, and magazines. Special targets were photographs of those purged, especially when shown with Stalin. I do not know of staged book burnings in the Soviet Union comparable to those in NAZI Germany. We suspect, however, that the destuction of books in the Soviet Union was even greater than in Germany, in part because of the fear enspired by the Great Terror and the KGB. In this regard the Italian Fascists seemed less committed to erasing the past.
Many of the activities here are active outdoor activities. Not all boys were athletically inclined. Even those that were had occassion to visit the local public libary system. This was both to check out reading material and to do research for school. America in particular developed a superb public library system. Many American public libraries were establish through philanthropic contributions. Andrew Carnege in America played an important role in launching public libraries.This allowed even low income families access to books for their children. We are less sure about the libraries in other countries.
Until the appearance of public libraries, libraries were institutions for adults. With the appearance of public libraries, programs for children appeared. This received a boost from the same man who founded many public libraries. Carnegie took a special interest in establishing rooms in these libraries dedicated to the needs of children. One of these programs was library clubs. Here we see boys gathered in a room with a stage or platform for public presentations (figure 1). They are sitting on the stage or on the floor in front of it. The photograph is not dated but seems to have been taken in the early 1910s.
There are many great libraries in the modern world. Some of the most important are the Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris), the British Library (London), the Bodleian Library (Oxford), the University of Cambridge Library, the Vatican Library (Rome), the Ambrosian Library (Milan), the Laurentian (Florence), the Lenin Library (Moscow), the Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.), and the New York Public Library. These are only a fewof the world's great libraries. Each have their own speciial collections and fascinating history. The Library of Congress began for example as Thomas Jeferson's own personal library. American universities have wondeful collections. Perhaps the most impresive are the various Harvard university libraries. The Weidner Library at Harvard is the most important research library in the United States after the Library of Congress. There are many other important university library collections, including the Sterling Library at Yale, the University of Chicago, University of California libraries (especially Berkeley and UCLA), University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois, Indiana University, and the University of Texas.
Many of these libraries in addition to books, maps, and other materials also have wonderful photographic collections.
The Library of Congress is in the process of making its collection online. Many of the other libraries have not done so.
I am not sure about ancient libraries, but there had to be some kind of classificatiobn system. I believe many Greek and Roman libraries filed works by author rather any subject scheme. One of the earliest systems we know of in the modern world was in England. Henry VIII's court academics amassed a large book collection to use as references in preparing the case for anulling his marriage with Queen Catherine. The Dewey Decimel System is widely used in America, althopugh the Library of Congress system is also popular. Another system was created by Charles Ammi Cutter.
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