"Libraries in the Ancient World," by Lionel Casson (Yale...

May 13, 2001|By Michael Pakenham

"Libraries in the Ancient World," by Lionel Casson (Yale University Press, 177 pages, $22.95).

With today's explosion of knowledge and book publishing, compounded by electronics, there's much discussion and controversy over the role and responsibilities of libraries. It's fair to assume that books have always been kept and catalogued. But it has often been a battle. This remarkably readable and provocative little volume goes to the origins of libraries -- clay tablets stored by the Sumerians of Mesopotamia shortly before 3000 B.C. From there, with scholarly attention to archaeology as well as literature, Casson traces the trials and development of libraries in ancient Greece, Alexandria, Rome and into the Middle Ages. A fascinating and nourishing tour of the history of the glue of civilization.

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