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Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew…
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Library: An Unquiet History (2003)

by Matthew Battles

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A personal perspective on the history of libraries. From Alexandria and Qin dynasty to Sarajevo and Tibet. I really enjoyed this 217 page journey. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
It's amazing how different books-about-books can be from one another.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
Got bored with it. Never finished it.
  madamepince | Jan 22, 2015 |
This short history, or better, these short historical essays, cover aspects of the history of the library from the Babylonians to the present. This is a popular history with very little pretense to original research or thought (the bibliography for each chapter is about what you;d expect from a good undergraduate research paper). The style is not distinctive or fluent enough for a really successful generalist history; the depth of coverage about that of reasonably sophisticated magazine articles (some appeared previously in Harper's and the London Review of Books). Judging from the pages of laudatory review snippets and blurbs that the publishers have assembled at the beginning, I am alone in my relatively negative assessment of this volume. ( )
  sjnorquist | May 11, 2014 |
Battles explores how libraries have impacted society across cultures and history. He begins by observing how rulers alternately established or destroyed libraries as a means of consolidating political power in the classical and medieval eras. Moving to the 17th and 18th centuries he examines the rise of publishing and libraries as ideological battle grounds torn between classical and modern ideals. He explores the linking of libraries and literacy to democratic ideals in the 19th century, and concludes by examining how political factions employed the destruction of books as a means of consolidating political power in the 20th century. ( )
  jahein | Apr 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (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.
 
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"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"
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For my family and for Ken Carpenter Keeper of Books
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When I first went to work in Harvard's Widener Library, I immediately made my first mistake: I tried to read the books.
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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)

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