Tracking down the Fabled Library

I’ve always been a big fan of legends and stories of the past. In our sometimes hyper technical society, we forget that we are creatures of story and much of who we are comes from the stories of the past.

One of the stories that has always interested me is the story of the Library of Alexandria. The library was very important to the ancient world, but is not necessarily well known today. For example, the city of Alexandria is indeed featured in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but it is on the list for it’s lighthouse, not it’s library. I suppose that’s hardly surprising, since the lighthouse was reported to be between 115-150 m tall, being one of the tallest man-made structures at the time. Size does indeed impress.

The library was no slouch with respect to size, but it was the size of it’s collection of books, rather than the height of its towers, that made it so impressive. There are many legends around the unfortunate fire that supposedly destroyed the library, which makes the story all the more interesting and tragic.

Although I have read about the library before in books like “Library: An Unquiet History” by Matthew Battles, I’m very interested in the latest book I’ve just received called, appropriately enough, “What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria?”, by Brill Press. It contains a series of papers on the subject put together by the Bibliotheca Alexandria, or New Library of Alexandria. I just finished one talking about the tradition of private collections and temple libraries in Egypt, setting the stage for a library on the scale of the one at Alexandria.

I’m looking forward to learning more about this amazing building.