Saturday, November 28, 2015

Library is greater than the sum of its parts

The selection or deselection of books for inclusion in a library’s collection was already acknowledged by historians in antiquity to have been a charged political issue. . . .

The social and political role of the ancient library, however, was not just a matter of whose written versions of history, reality, and experience were made available to the grateful public. Of far more lasting significance, it seems to me, is the actual concept of the library as an institution where the whole resource constitutes something infinitely greater than the sum of the parts.
Edith Hall, "Adventures in Ancient Greek and Roman Libraries," in Alice Crawford, ed., The Meaning of the Library (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 2015), p. 10

the ancient experiment in the creation of collections of texts that could even attempt to include everything that had ever been written in the history of the world changed our mental landscape forever, and so did the idea that the entire memory of the human race was vulnerable to complete erasure.
Id. at 11. 

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