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library, not only to scholars but to the general public, may here be referred to. Among the most sought for sources of information, the periodical press, both of the past and the current time, holds a prominent rank. When it is considered how far-reaching are the fields embraced in the wide range of these periodicals, literary, religious, scientific, political, technical, philosophical, social, medical, legal, educational, agricultural, bibliographical, commercial, financial, historical, mechanical, nautical, military, artistic, musical, dramatic, typographical, sanitary, sporting, economic, and miscellaneous, is it any wonder that specialists and writers for the press seek and find ready aid therein for their many-sided labors?
To the skeptical mind, accustomed to undervalue what does not happen to come within the range of his pet idols or pursuits, the observation of a single day's multifold research in a great library might be in the nature of a revelation. Hither flock the ever-present searchers into family history, laying under contribution all the genealogies and town and county histories which the country has produced. Here one finds an industrious compiler intent upon the history of American duels, for which the many files of Northern and Southern newspapers, reaching back to the beginning of the century, afford copious material. At another table sits a deputation from a government department, commissioned to make a record of all notable strikes and labor troubles for a series of years, to be gleaned from the columns of the journals of leading cities.
An absorbed reader of French romances sits side by side with a clergyman perusing homilies, or endeavoring to elucidate, through a mass of commentators, a special text. Here are to be found ladies in pursuit of costumes of every age; artists turning over the great folio galleries of Europe for models or suggestions; lawyers seeking precedents or leading cases; journalists verifying dates, speeches, conventions, or other forgotten facts; engineers studying the literature of railways or machinery; actors or amateurs in search of plays or works on the dramatic art; physicians looking up biographies of their profession or the history of epidemics; students of heraldry after coats of arms; inventors searching the specifications and drawings of patents; historical students pursuing some special field in American or foreign annals; scientists verifying facts or citations by original authorities; searchers tracing personal residences or deaths in old directories or newspapers; querists seeking for the words of some half-remembered passage in poetry or prose, or the original author of one of the myriad proverbs which have no father; architects or builders of houses comparing hundreds of designs and models; teachers perusing works on education or comparing textbooks new or old; readers absorbing the great poems of the world; writers in pursuit of new or curious themes among books of antiquities or folk-lore; students of all the questions of finance and economic science; naturalists seeking to trace through many volumes descriptions of species; pursuers of military or naval history or science; enthusiasts venturing into the occult domains of spiritualism or thaumaturgy; explorers of voyages and travels in every region of the globe; fair readers, with dreamy eyes, devouring the last psychological novel; devotees of musical art perusing the lives or the scores of great composers; college and high-school students intent upon "booking up” on themes of study or composition or debate; and a host of other seekers after suggestion or information in a library of encyclopedic range.
THE HISTORY OF LIBRARIES.
The Library, from very early times, has enlisted the enthusiasm of the learned, and the encomiums of the wise. The actual origin of the earliest collection of books (or rather of manuscripts) is lost in the mists of remote antiquity. Notwithstanding professed descriptions of several libraries found in Aulus Gellius, Athenaeus, and others, who wrote centuries after the alleged collections were made, we lack the convincing evidence of eye-witnesses and contemporaries. But so far as critical research has run, the earliest monuments of man which approached collections of written records are found not in Europe, but in Africa and Asia.
That land of wonders, Egypt, abounds in hieroglyphic inscriptions, going back, as is agreed by modern scholars, to the year 2000 before the Christian era. A Papyrus manuscript, too, exists, which is assigned to about 1600 B. C. And the earliest recorded collection of books in the world, though perhaps not the first that existed, was that of the Egyptian king Ramses I.-B. C. 1400, near Thebes, which Diodorus Siculus says bore the inscription “Dispensary of the soul.” Thus early were books regarded as remedial agents of great force and virtue.
But before the library of Ramses the Egyptian king, there existed in Babylonia collections of books, written not on parchment, nor on the more perishable papyrus, but on clay. Whole poems, fables, laws, and hymns of the gods have been found, stamped in small characters upon baked bricks. These clay tablets or books were arranged in numerical order, and the library at Agane, which existed about 2000 B. C. even had a catalogue, in which each piece of literature was numbered, so that readers had only to write down the number of the tablet wanted, and the librarian would hand it over. Two of these curious poems in clay have been found intact, one on the deluge, the other on the descent of Istar into Hades.
The next ancient library in point of time yet known to us was gathered in Asia by an Assyrian King, and this collection has actually come down to us, in propria persona. Buried beneath the earth for centuries, the archaeologist Layard discovered in 1850 at Nineveh, an extensive collection of tablets or tiles of clay, covered with cuneiform char
rs, and representing some ten thousand distinct works or documents. The Assyrian monarch Sardanapalus, a great patron of letters, was the collector of this primitive and curious library of clay. He flourished about 1650 B. C.
In Greece, where a copious and magnificent literature had grown up centuries before Christ, Pisistratus collected a library at Athens, and died B. C. 527. When Xerxes captured Athens, this collection, which represents the earliest record of a library dedicated to the public, was carried off to Persia, but restored two centuries later. The renowned philosopher Aristotle gathered one of the largest Greek libraries, about 350 B. C. said to have embraced about 1400 volumes, or rather, rolls. Plato called Aristotle's residence “the house of the reader." This library, also, was carried off to Scepsis, and later by the victorious Sulla to Rome. History shows that the Greek collections were the earliest "travelling libraries” on record, though they went as the spoils of war, and not to spread abroad learning by the arts of peace.
Rome having conquered Athens, we hear no more of the Athenian libraries, but the seat of ancient learning was transferred to Alexandria, where were gathered under the liberal sway of the Ptolemies, more books than had ever been assembled together in any part of the world. Marc Antony presented to Cleopatra the library of the Kings of Pergamus, said to have contained 200,000 rolls. There is no space to sketch the ancient libraries, so scantily commemorated, of Greece. Through Aristotle's enthusiasm for learning, as it is believed, the Ptolemies were fired with the zeal of book-collecting, and their capital of Alexandria became the seat of extensive libraries, stored in the Brucheion and the Serapeum. Here, according to general belief, occurred the burning of the famous Alexandrian library of 700,000 volumes, by the Saracens under Omar, A. D. 640. If any one would have an object lesson in the uncertainties of history and of human testimony, let him read the various conflicting accounts of the writers who have treated upon this subject. The number of volumes varies from 700,000, as stated by Aulus Gellius, to 100,000 by Eusebius. The fact that in ancient times each book or division of an author's work written on a roll of papyrus was reckoned as a volume, may account for the exaggeration, since the nine books of Herodotus would thus make nine volumes, and the twenty-four of Homer's Iliad, twenty-four volumes, instead of one. So, by an arbitrary application of averages, the size of the Alexandrian Library might be brought within reasonable dimensions, though there is nothing more misleading than the doctrine of averages, unless indeed it be a false analogy. But that any library eight hundred years before the invention of printing contained 700,000 volumes in the modern sense of the word, when the largest collection in the world, three centuries after books began to be multiplied by types, held