Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 545 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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LIBRARIES. A library (from Lat. liber, book), in the modern sense, is a collection of printed or written literature. As such, it implies an advanced and elaborate civilization. If the term be extended to any considerable collection of written documents, it must be nearly as old as civilization itself. The earliest use to which the invention of inscribed or written signs was put was probably to record important religious and political trans-actions. These records would naturally be preserved in sacred places, and accordingly the earliest libraries of the world were probably temples, and the earliest librarians priests. And indeed before the extension of the arts of writing and reading the priests were the only persons who could perform such work as, xvi. 18e.g. the compilation of the Annales Maximi, which was the duty of the pontifices in ancient Rome. The beginnings of literature proper in the shape of ballads and songs may have continued to be conveyed orally only from one generation to another, long after the record of important religious or civil events was regularly committed to writing. The earliest collections of which we know anything, therefore, were collections of archives. Of this character appear to have been such famous collections as that of the Medians at Ecbatana, the Persians at Susa or the hieioglyphic archives of Knossos discovered by A. J. Evans (Scripta Minoa, 1909) of a date synchronizing with the XIIth Egyptian dynasty. Itt is not until the development of arts and sciences, and the growth of a considerable written literature, and even of a distinct literary class, that we find collections of books which can be called libraries in our modern sense. It is of libraries in the modern sense, and not, except incidentally, of archives that we are to speak.
End of Article: LIBRARIES

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