Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew…

Library: An Unquiet History (2003)

by Matthew Battles

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,654364,356 (3.51)29

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 29 mentions

English (35)  Italian (1)  All (36)
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Library: An Unquiet History was a fun book to read, as it jumps from one vignette to the next, highlighting times of turbulence and uncertainty in libraries' history, from the relatively light "Battle of the Books" of Jonathan Swift's time, to the darker episodes of systematic library destruction during World War II and beyond. Battles illustrates the truth of Borge's statement, "the library is unlimited and cyclical" as libraries fall and decay and are rebuilt throughout the ages. He makes these stories relevant by highlighting the fact that the fear for the modern library--that it will be rendered obsolete by the digital era--is a fear echoed earlier in history, as various technological advances were made. The only thing I'd fault is that sometimes the stories don't seem to relate to one another, and there are large jumps across time and topic that slightly lack coherency. A good, light read on library history. ( )
1 vote renardkitsune | May 16, 2017 |
A whimsical and articulate chronicle of the history of libraries, particularly in the western society, Battles' book is a treat for librarians and readers of all kinds. ( )
  Birdo82 | Jan 15, 2017 |
This is a small book, but don't be deceived by its size. The pages are crammed full of historical, anthropological, biographical, and pictorial information about books, bookstores, libraries, and the people who influenced them. If you enjoy and appreciate libraries and bookstores, and/or a bibliophile, you'll definitely enjoy this book. ( )
1 vote BooksForYears | Apr 1, 2016 |
Another dry non-fiction offering. I'm a librarian, and I am interested in the history of libraries, but TMI is just TMI...let's keep it interesting. ( )
  Auntie-Nanuuq | Jan 18, 2016 |
A personal perspective on the history of libraries. From Alexandria and Qin dynasty to Sarajevo and Tibet. I really enjoyed this 217 page journey. ( )
1 vote joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
"Library: An Unquiet History" explores the creation of libraries, beginning with the clay-tablets of ancient Mesopotamia, and proceeds to the destruction of libraries, culminating in the wars of the 20th century that shamelessly wiped out entire collections. Battles examines the two competing notions of the library's mission: the library as temple for the best and most beautiful works, and the library as a place where all knowledge is brought together under one roof. He looks at the library in Islam, in the Roman Empire, and in the Middle Ages, across centuries and cultures.
In this sweeping view of library history, Harvard librarian Matthew Battles provides a beautifully written story of the often-tumultuous saga of books and book-places in the world. Written first as an essay published in Harper's; this study grew into a book-length treatment, an admirable overview of the large issues facing libraries over the past couple of thousand years.
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Information from the Norwegian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
"The impious maintain that nonsense is normal in the Library and that the reasonable (or even humble and pure coherence) is a miraculous exception." -Jorge Luis Borges, "The Library of Babel"
For my family and for Ken Carpenter Keeper of Books
First words
When I first went to work in Harvard's Widener Library, I immediately made my first mistake: I tried to read the books.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393325644, Paperback)

"Splendidly articulate, informative and provoking....A book to be savored and gone back to."—Baltimore Sun

On the survival and destruction of knowledge, from Alexandria to the Internet. Through the ages, libraries have not only accumulated and preserved but also shaped, inspired, and obliterated knowledge. Matthew Battles, a rare books librarian and a gifted narrator, takes us on a spirited foray from Boston to Baghdad, from classical scriptoria to medieval monasteries, from the Vatican to the British Library, from socialist reading rooms and rural home libraries to the Information Age.

He explores how libraries are built and how they are destroyed, from the decay of the great Alexandrian library to scroll burnings in ancient China to the destruction of Aztec books by the Spanish—and in our own time, the burning of libraries in Europe and Bosnia.

Encyclopedic in its breadth and novelistic in its telling, this volume will occupy a treasured place on the bookshelf next to Baker's Double Fold, Basbanes's A Gentle Madness, Manguel's A History of Reading, and Winchester's The Professor and the Madman.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:59 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"From the clay-tablet collections of ancient Mesopotamia to the storied Alexandria libraries in Egypt, from the burned scrolls of China's Qing Dynasty to the book pyres of the Hitler Youth, from the great medieval library in Baghdad to the priceless volumes destroyed in the multi-cultural Bosnian National Library in Sarajevo, the library has been a battleground of competing notions of what books mean to us. Battles explores how, throughout its many changes, the library has served two contradictory impulses: on the one hand, the urge to exalt canons of literature, to secure and worship the best and most beautiful words; on the other, the desire to contain and control all forms of human knowledge."… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
164 wanted

Popular covers


Average: (3.51)
0.5 1
1 3
1.5 1
2 24
2.5 8
3 77
3.5 13
4 80
4.5 10
5 32

W.W. Norton

An edition of this book was published by W.W. Norton.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 115,213,203 books! | Top bar: Always visible