It’s the 4th of July. While the nation is having a birthday, this blog is, also. It’s 5th. My first blog post went up on July 4th 2011 celebrating “writer independence” for self- or “indie-” published authors. I’m still celebrating that 5 years later! DIY publishing has gotten bigger and better!
Now, on to my blog post…
The Library of Alexandria
As someone in the business of books as well as psychotherapy — writing books and helping others write books which hopefully contain useful information for the world — I have always been intrigued by the story of the burning of the Library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt, an event that caused much information to be lost to us. I can’t help but wonder if some of that lost information might have put us ahead of where we are now. I guess that depends on what information was lost, and how we decided to use it.
Scrolls to Scrolls in Only 2500 Years
The Library of Alexandria was quite an undertaking. Its mission, starting back in about 300 B.C., was to gather up all the world’s knowledge in one place — mathematics, astronomy, physics, the sciences, the arts, and other subjects. The folks in charge of acquisitions were pretty serious about it, descending on any ships entering their port, snatching up all the books on board and rushing them to the library where scribes copied them onto papyrus, kept the originals for the library, and returned the copies to the ships. By such means, the library, according to some estimates, built up a collection of half a million scrolls cut up into self-contained topics (basically, the first books). They were indeed the Amazon Kindles of the ancient world.
The library was a magnificent place with rooms and rooms of scrolls stuck into beehive-like structures, lecture halls, gardens, meeting areas, and living quarters. Above the shelves of scrolls a sign read: The place of the cure of the soul. Many well-known scholars from other countries, such as Greece, came to live there to study, research, write, lecture, and translate and copy documents. Alexandria found itself the leading producers of papyrus and used up so much of it themselves that they had little left over to export, which forced others “book” producers in other countries to use different substances, such as leather and parchment — which proved more durable.
In 48 BC, during the Roman conquest of Egypt, the library was burned down by Julius Caesar. Apparently, it was an accident, and he later gave Cleopatra 200,000 scrolls (pilfered from someplace else) as a wedding present to try to make up for it..
In the 1980s, plans went ahead to build a new library in its place. An architectural design contest was held with more than 1400 entries. The competition was won by a Norwegian architectural office, Construction began in 1995 and, and on October 16, 2002 the new library was opened with shelf space for eight million books. Donations to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina have been donated from all over the world.
Maybe even from Amazon.