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Great Library of Alexandria

[journal article]

Phillips, Heather

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Abstract Though it was Alexandria's lighthouse at Pharos that was counted among the Seven Wonders of the World, Alexandria was a city in which wonders abounded. Perhaps most notable among these wonders was the Great Library of Alexandria (hereinafter Great Library or Library), an institution which has assumed legendary proportions in the mythos of western civilization. However, institutions which assume mythological proportions are often obscured by the very legends they generate. While the Great Library’s cultural and intellectual achievements resonate to this day, many do not, indeed cannot discern the true nature and history of the Great Library from the fog of legend that surrounds it. Was the Great Library, in fact, even a library? Was it a library in the modern professional sense of the word, or was it something else; a kind of proto-library containing a large collection of texts, for example. In order to explore these questions, and to bring clarity to the topic of the Great Library, this paper will examine the founding and history of the Great Library, which will illustrate its purpose and philosophy, and then will then analyze the Great Library according to established library criteria. Section I will provide an overview of the founding, intellectual achievements and fall of the Great Library. Section II will examine the characteristics of the Great Library according to modern professional criteria. While Section II will provide a deeper analysis, in short, the Great Library of Alexandria exhibits all the characteristics distinctive to the modern requirements of a library.
Keywords library; antiquity; Egypt; historical development
Classification Information and Documentation, Libraries, Archives; General History
Free Keywords library definition; library philosophy; history; Egypt; Great Library of Alexandria
Document language English
Publication Year 2010
Journal Library Philosophy and Practice (2010) Aug.
Status Postprint; reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution