Saturday, 25 February 2012

What the world knows now ... Libraries

Libraries which have weathered the vagaries of time ... corrections and collections – relative to my previous post Scarlett reminded me of Ashur, the Assyrian king, who established the first systematically organised library in the ancient Middle East, part of which survives at Nineveh, northern Iraq.

While I managed to omit the Asian libraries – the Imperial Library is the earliest known Chinese library, with history dating back to the Qin Dynasty (221 – 207 BC); while the first classification and book notation systems were introduced soon afterwards during the Han Dynasty.

Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra
University, Portugal
 (Baroque style 1700s) 
At this time the library catalogue was written on scrolls of fine silk and stored in silk bags .... reminds me of the origins of tea bags 2,000 years later!  But on a more serious note – the Rulers had this tendency to eradicate their history ...

In our western world Libraries were coming into their own at much the same time as those in the East ...

In Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable under ‘Library’ I find it reported that Strabo mentions the public libraries in Athens and Rome.  We know that Strabo travelled the Saharan region ...

... weathering the sands of life – there used to be trade routes (as above circa 1400) across the Sahara Desert connecting the oases to the shores of Western Africa, the Mediterranean and the Nile from where the Silk Route extended its trails further east, north and south.

We forget that trade and information exchange started about 9,000 years ago ... moving on over time to gold, ivory, spices, wheat, plants and animals ...  then salt, cloth, beads and metal goods – trade being recorded and conducted through middlemen inhabiting the area, who were aware of passages through the drying desert lands.

And believe it or not – education too – from a library in the sand ...  Chinguetti is a trading centre in northern Mauritania.  Michael Palin’s travels show us the tiny passageways in this town, with little shade from the beating, burning sun  ... the creep of the desert sand all pervading.

Library in the Desert
Yet in a side street nearby, the word ‘Bibliotheque’ is scrawled on the stone lintel ... when Palin enters he finds himself in a tiny room with a librarian! 

This old man presides and protects the bundles of papers wrapped in leather bindings or manila folders –  stacked on the shelves around the room.

As Palin mentions the quality of the work is exquisite and these books, loosened from their bindings over time, have been in the old man’s family for centuries ...

... he treats the texts like old friends, moving his finger from right to left, as the Chinese and Japanese do, across the delicate spidery calligraphy.

This library reminds us of the golden days from the 13th century and on when Chinguetti was one of the great centres of Islamic scholarship.  These “desert librarians” are struggling to save this treasure from wind and sand, as literary remnants from the time when Chinguetti was a flourishing city along the caravan route, a cultural lighthouse for poets and scholars alike.

In our time we worry about the pilfering that goes on – the early scholars and monks dealt with their books by chaining them – the Chained Library came into existence ...

... the Hereford Cathedral Chained Library (see below) has recently been relocated to a new building, where the whole library arrangement can now be seen in its original arrangement (1611 – 1841), but also allows the books to be better protected in a controlled environment.

The chain is fitted to the corner or cover of the book – not to the spine – avoiding the stress of wear and tear when moving on and off the shelf.  The chain is attached to the book (via a ringlet) and each book is housed with its spine facing away from the reader with only the pages’ fore-edges visible (for us that is the ‘wrong’ way round).  This means that each book could be removed and opened without the need to be turned around, hence avoiding the tangle in its chain.

There were books at Hereford Cathedral long before there was a ‘library’ in the modern sense ... with the Cathedral’s earliest and most important book as the eighth century Hereford Gospels – one of 299 medieval manuscripts held within the Chains.

Pope Sixtus IV appoints Bartolomeo Platina: Prefect of the Vatican Library - fresco by Melozzo da Forli, 1477

Brewer’s then mentions various other great libraries of our more modern day:–   (NB: my Brewer’s cost £3.75 in 1974!)

·        the Vatican Library being noted for its antiquity and manuscript wealth (formerly established in 1475, though in fact much older)
·        the Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana, Florence (opened to the public in 1571) has a particularly fine collection of classical manuscripts
·        other great national libraries in Rome, Madrid, Paris, Moscow
·        St Andrew’s University, Scotland (1546)
·        here in Britain – the British Museum (1753)
·        the Bodleian Library, Oxford
·        Cambridge University Library
·        Harvard Library – is the oldest in the USA (1638)
·        New York Library
·        Specialist libraries in California, Washington and New York

Bibliotheque Awra Amba,
Community Library Ethiopia
Natural disasters, human destruction or degradation, and weather systems all continue to play their role in the libraries of our times ...

... yet from the wellspring of humanity we are recreating the record of our world’s history and knowledge with new libraries, preservation of the old, and looking at new openings, as Steven Pressfield has reported here ...

... in an article by Callie Oettinger: The Blockbuster Super Library: Booksellers come and go – as do publishers ... But libraries ... Those have been constant throughout world history.  They never go away.

Oettinger quotes an article from Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly’s: At O’Reilly we’ve tried to focus not on the form of the book but on the job that it does for our customers.  It teaches, it informs, it entertains.  How might electronic publishing help us to advance those aims?

Here they are referring to the technical and educational books via Safari Online – let’s hope that publishers of novels will come up with a Blockbuster Super Library for all the genres.

Perhaps Joanne DeMaio of Whole Latte Life ....  is onto the right idea – have you seen her recent foray into marketing for her novel .. it is here: What’s www Got To Do With It?

StevenPressfield’s Online post: The Blockbuster Super Library – deserves a read and a study.

Enjoy the reading – here endeth my lesson on libraries (for now)!  This was not the route these posts were intending to go ...

MichaelPalin’s Travels – the tv series was accompanied by a book;
World Heritage – photographs by Remi Benali of Chinguetti .... beautiful!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


T. Powell Coltrin said...

Books are so awesome that I tear up thinking about not having books or libraries. This brings to mind the book by Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451.

I think your title says it all, "What the World knows now, Libraries". Our knowledge is resting in the hands of the library.


Joanne said...

It's interesting how the value of a library has remained the same, while through history it's physically taken so many different shapes. No matter what form the book, medieval manuscripts to eBooks, we like that collection to browse in one place, don't we? I like your idea of a Blockbuster Super eLibrary, and would love to see someone, maybe even the Publishing industry, be that innovative and forward thinking and get behind an idea like that. There's just no denying that the world is online now. said...

Wow! What an article! Thank You! It was so interesting and educational! It covered things I did not know about and MORE!
I hope we NEVER lose our libraries! Granted, some are MUCH better than others, but still, they are ALL libraries! Thanks Gosh we have them! A LOT of people would NOT have anything without them! Look how old they are, too! Amazing!
I honestly enjoyed this article! In April I am participating in an A to Z Challenge where we post every day through the month of April, using the letter A to Z every day. We start with A, of course, and work our way through. When the Letter "L" comes up, if you don't mind, I am going to include YOUR link here for Libraries! That article is SO GREAT!
Thank you for writing all about libraries! It was VERY educational and entertaining as well! Wow, is what I say! Breathless! Thanks for writing it!
Laurie Carlson

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Teresa .. I hear you - I haven't read Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 ... and by the look of it obviously should.

Certainly people aren't thinking and I guess because they haven't read .. and if children aren't directed appropriately heaven knows what they'll end up doing ...

We need to get away from the soaps, and the FBs and the Tweets .. and more importantly the games - we certainly waste our time .. life has so much to offer ...

Cheers - thanks so much for a brilliant comment - Hilary

Old Kitty said...

I love the phrase "cultural lighthouse"! That about sums up what a library was and is and will forever be! Take care
x said...

Hello Hilary,
I did not leave a way to contact me. I'd like to do that. I was saying in that A to Z Blogging Challenge - over 1,000 Blogs will be participating - we must post every day except Sunday - all through April, when the letter "L" comes up, I would LOVE to redirect people to YOUR blog to these 2 wonderful articles you have on Libraries. Is this okay to do? Would LOVE to know! For me to sum up what you had to say in these articles does not come NEAR what you have written, which is why I'd like to redirect people back to your blog. Is this okay with you?
Please let me know!
Thank you!
Laurie Carlson
laurieisreading at gmail dot com

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Joanne .. yes that sort of dawned on me - it really hasn't changed - books were and are available - then we can chose when and what we would like to look at.

The Blockbuster Super Elibrary idea looks very good - I hope others cotton on ... People will always go to the libraries to research etc and look through things - but the eRevolution is here to stay and grow bigger.

@ Laurie - WOW - thank you!! Delighted you enjoyed the post and found it informative.

I'm in the A-Z .. so of course if you'd like to include this post (reference it) in the 'L' post - I'd be delighted!

I did it last year and have a slightly different concept for the A - Z starting fairly soon!

Thanks Joanne - your website and book promotion are just great .. and Laurie - thanks for being such an enthusiastic first timer here ..

Cheers Hilary

Susan Scheid said...

As I've often written before, I love the way you set out and follow on the trail of things. So, here you are now, consulting "Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable," then bringing to light for us the library catalogue written on silken scrolls and on to Chinguetti (what a wonderful story that is!). To the list of great libraries, I want to add the Regenstein at the University of Chicago. I spent many a happy hour sitting among the stacks there, discovering obscure bits of information about secretaries and typists from 1880-1910 (the subject of a college paper). The aroma of age-burnished paper, the sound of turning pages, the textured book-bindings in my hands. What could be better than that?

Betsy Brock said...

I just love your posts, Hilary. So interesting and you style of writing is just wonderful. Wow...libraries! Where to start! They are fascinating and priceless. I do hope the generations to come appreciate their history and value.

MorningAJ said...

I love the fact that you use Brewer's. I've had mine almost as long as you have. It's one of my favourite reference books.

MunirGhiasuddin said...

Wow, what a nice post. I learned so much. I love libraries and sometimes we donate books, but lately our library is not able to stock enough copies of new books, so then I go and buy them. Then I donate after reading.

MunirGhiasuddin said...

Wow, what a nice post. I learned so much. I love libraries and sometimes we donate books, but lately our library is not able to stock enough copies of new books, so then I go and buy them. Then I donate after reading.

Diane said...

What an interesting post, I learnt a lot form this that I did not know.
So far I have not missed our local UK library as we brought masses of books with us. When the selection runs out I am not sure what we will do. French Libraries will be no good to either of us though Nigel has more chance of reading French that I have! Diane

Karen Lange said...

What would we do without libraries? I cannot imagine life without them. :) Thanks so much for sharing all of this with us. You are a treasure!

Happy weekend,

Rosaria Williams said...

What a wealth of information you present! Yes, indeed, libraries were the storehouses of knowledge, and appreciated and protected. We are in such a state of upheaval right now in many places, closing down doors to learning and corseting so much information from the public!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Old Kitty - glad you picked up the 'cultural lighthouse' phrase .. bearing in mind it's a library in the desert - a beam of light across those sands ... it does sum up the library - you're right.

@ Susan - many many thanks - I do wander around with my thoughts ... but know 'it amused' my mother as she never got bored - and if she did .. I was off again!

Delighted my style meets your approval .. the Regenstein has a huge number of books 7.9m and is relatively new - 'concrete brutalist' late 60s architecture.

I'd love to hear more about your College paper on secretaries and typists from 1880 - 1910 ..

Your description .. must bring back many memories for you ..sounds a wondrous time.

@ Betsy - thank you so much .. delighted I can give you an interlude from your 4 boys! I agree - I hope books are appreciated to their full in the future.

@ Anne - yes - it's open all the time - and is my favourite reference source. Brewer's is so interesting ...

@ Munir - well done for buying books and then donating them to the local library .. sounds a very thoughtful way of giving back to society ...

@ Diane - so do I .. that's why the posts contain so much! I guess by the time your selection runs out - a wee visit back to the old homeland might on the cards? I so admire people who can speak more than one language proficiently .. wish I'd been pushed a lot more as a kid. Your walks will improve your French as time goes by ...

@ Karen - I'm ashamed to say I never used libraries as a child - now I'm making up for lost time. Delighted you enjoyed the post.

Thanks so much Old Kitty, Susan, Betsy, Anne, Munir, Diane and Karen - enjoy the rest of your weekends .. Hilary

Patsy said...

I love old books. A week or so ago at work I got my hands on a bible from 1758! It was fragile but still perfectly readable.

M. Reka said...

What a great article Hilary! Thank you for sharing with as! It was really interesting and educational!

Much love

Bob Scotney said...

A brilliant article Hilary. I learnt a lot. It was good to see St Andrews mentioned - my old university, long before William and kate had heard of it.

Jemi Fraser said...

So interesting! Libraries are such special, powerful places. Thanks for sharing! :)

Marja said...

Another great post about libraries and well written. Interesting that they chained the books so you couldn't take them away and to read them there and then. I love libraries We have some beauties here. One is right at the beach with chairs sitting in front iof the window so you can look at the waves an/or read a book.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I love Michael Palin's Travels, and as for libraries... well, can't go there. Just thinking about the libraries that have been destroyed in wars makes me sad and angry. I think it must have been a wonderful thing when ordinary human beings learned to read and thus gained permission to enter these magnificent buildings.

Well done, Hilary, even if it wasn't where you intended this post to go.

Chase March said...

Hi Hilary,

Most kids have no idea about the past and how important libraries were. When I was in university, I studied with some ancient, original texts and it was incredible to interact with such history. Of course, there were all sorts of security measures in place to preserve the texts.

Now, a few of those texts I studied can be found in their entirety online.

Of course, online libraries aren't as secure as we might like to think either. Favourite sites of mine have disappeared along with their content.

Long live the public library!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Patsy - gosh your Bible must be so interesting - 1758 .. is it annotated by previous readers? Patsy - what fun .. so educating as to language etc ... brilliant!

@ Marinela - glad you enjoyed the post.

@ Bob - thanks - I thought I should add in a Scottish University as it went back so far .. well no longer yours - now William and Kate's!!

@ Jemi - good to see you and glad you enjoyed the post.

@ Marja - the Chained libraries from the Medieval Ages are fascinating. Your beach library - now that would be the thing .. fabulous enticement to visit, sit and read ... we have museums like that - but haven't heard of libraries. I'd love to visit yours!

@ Joylene - glad you've seen Michael Palin's travel works - I wouldn't have know about the Sand Library unless I'd seen it in one of his episodes.

Destruction from war - or in this day and age just sheer terrorist vandalism .. or vandalism too .. is appalling and terrifying.

It's wonderful how we come to appreciate our life through our books, art, countryside, music etc .. and research when we use these fantastic buildings.

@ Chase - I agree there and even adults have no understanding of the past .. I'm teaching myself so much as I blog - which is why I sprinkle the posts with facts and pictures.

University must have been so interesting to get to read, research and work with the ancient texts. You appreciated it so much by the sound of it.

Many books and texts can be found on line - sorry to read about some of your favourite sites disappearing ... and as you say long live the public library.

Wonderful comments - a library by the beach would be my ideal?! Thanks Patsy, Marinela, Bob, Jemi, Marja, Joylene and Chase .. have a peaceful Sunday .. it's chilly and clear here with the sun pouring in - still I need some hot coffee! Cheers - Hilary


Wonderful post Hilary, where would one be without books.

Am back in one piece. Great meeting Arlee Bird. Grand vacation.


Talli Roland said...

Fascinating as always, Hilary. I wonder what the libraries of the future will look like - online, mainly? Whatever form they take, it's clear humans have always enjoyed reading.

I love Palin's travel series.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Yvonne .. so true - did you take a few with you?! Glad you're back in one piece - andjust wonderful you met up with Arlee .. and had a grand vacation.

@ Talli .. I suppose we'll find out in due course .. but the Steven Pressfield article had some interesting thoughts and Apple are onto something ..

.. the most important point that humans have always enjoyed reading and learning .. long may that last -

Thanks Yvonne and Talli - haven't we had a glorious sunny day - a wee chilly though .. have good weeks .. Hilary

Jannie Funster said...

As I recall they used to chain the newspapers in the college library. Making me think of Googling y Alma mater, maybe see if I can see the Harriet Irving Library and the chains.

Imagine books on silk, kept in silk bags! I never knew that. I'd want to wear them as a dress I think.

Love it!! I like to think of the library in Chenguetti. Just to go back there for a day, as a fly on the wall would be quite the trip, I think!!


Romance Reader said...

What a great post about our shared passion- Books and Libraries!

What would we do without libraries?


Sweet Lily said...

Impressive, inspirational!
Thanks for sharing, Hilary, I enjoyed the visit.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jannie - yes - you're right .. I think I've seen batons round them - perhaps to carry them though - Uni would be different wouldn't it?! The University of New Brunswick .. great place to study by the look of it.

I know that vision of silk catalogues, or even 'books' in silk bags - think how colourful they could be ...

Ah - a fly trip - that would be the way too .. they can cope more easily with the heat .. I'd love to see Chinguetti .. but at least we can see it via the eyes of the camera. xoxox

@ Riya - how lovely to see you here - welcome .. and am delighted you enjoyed the 'story' .. book lovers would be lost without libraries .. so true!

@ The Tame Lion - welcome to you too - thanks for coming over .. and so pleased you found the post interesting ..

Good to see two new faces - Riya and The Tame Lion, and an old friend Jannie .. have good weeks - cheers Hilary

LTM said...

So interesting, Hilary! and you know, libraries are evolving with the evolution of digital publishing, too! I have a good friend who's a librarian, and she's talking about how library services are changing. Perhaps the good thing about digital is that the books can't be destroyed by fire like in the old days... yes? :o) <3

Julie Flanders said...

Since I work as a cataloger, I can't get the image of silk catalogs out of my mind! Hard to imagine that.

I loved your journey through the history of libraries, Hilary!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Leigh - there's so much going on. Your friend must have a wealth of knowledge about the future .. the transition between our way of lending books and the new digital services - very interesting to keep in touch with her .. and yes you're right about their longevity - but we won't be able to see the 'real thing' as such - art work etc ...

@ Julie - I think a few of us will have those silk catalogues in their scrolls .. must be just beautiful - but for the Chinese back then .. just plain logical and useful!

Great to see you both -Leigh and Julie .. thanks so much for these interesting comments .. cheers Hilary

Sara said...

I almost clicked away before I checked the date and realized this was a new post. I'm so pleased I didn't. This post was filled with delightful information. I love the silk wrapped scrolls and your comparison to tea bags:~)

It's amazing about the chained books. It must have taken a lot of consideration to figure how best to do that.

I suppose that's one good side the eLibraries idea. Books that will not be stolen or damaged. On the other side of this, if something happened to our ability to access things online, we'd be without books. I think a compromise is due. Have both real bricks and mortar libraries and eLibraries. You never have too many books!

This was a very informative post. I'm pleased it went in this direction. Thanks:~)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sara .. good to see you stuck around - I had so much to say .. that I just needed another library post of sorts .. I loved the Sand Libary - just amazed me in the 'middle' of the Desert .. and the Chain Libraries are fascinating ...

Steve Pressfield's post is very informative .. I'm sure we'll be able to see books still - whether we'll be able to read novels that way in a few decades remains open to debate .. so I hope you're right a compromise is due ..

Delighted you enjoyed it .. and the silken scrolls ... just had to link it to tea bags - which were in silk when they were invented in New York in 1902 or thereabouts .. my post late last year mentions it. The ones we would call history tea bags! today came during and after the war ..

Cheers - Hilary

Glynis Peters said...

Love your post, Hilary. You find such interesting topics. The books on chains is an interesting fact.

What I would give to have a library to sit in and while away the hours. I miss my UK hideaway. I have made a suggestion to our newly elected village council for a multi-cultural library as we house the three schools for the county. Aside from Cypriots and English speaking expats, there are Bulgarian, Russian and Sri Lankan residents in the area. All would love a library.

Robyn Campbell said...

Love this post, Hilary! It scares me to think what would happen without libraries. You are right. That is where the knowledge lies. A lot of the libraries in the states are becoming unused and unwanted. Some areas of NC they are no more.

I understand the value of getting info online in a moment, but there is no mistaking the value of watching children listening to an author at their local library or checking out their own books and learning the value of reading.

writing and living by Richard P Hughes said...

I love libraries. Too bad there's not enough time in the day to read everything of value.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Hilary
I worked at a University library once. It was fun and enlightening.

Manzanita said...

Hilary, You always have such interesting posts. You are my teacher. Books, books, books..... I love the paper and the smell. I had my run with the kindle.... now crying in the closet. Can't hold a candle to the original. 9,000 years ago. Imagine that.
I must have missed the tea bag post. Imagine hand-sewn silk tea bags. Yes, I can. I now am in the process of sewing some silk little bags.(not for tea, heavens.... just little bags for jewelry). By hand, of course, but imagine sewing all the little tea bags. Oh My. What delicate gorgeous china tea cups you'd need to show off those exquisite tea bags.
My love and peace

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Glynis .. thanks so much - I'm surprised you didn't know about the Chain Libraries .. but now you do!

You know your idea for your village - I do hope they can put it into practise .. not sure if it's the Cypriot home, or ex UK one .. but either way - brilliant idea!

@ Robyn .. the collections of books are just amazing - and the idea of the catalogued library was such a great thing 2,200 years ago!

I'm afraid libraries will probably survive in the larger towns/cities .. with a few financially supported local libraries probably volunteer run by book lovers.

Children listening enthralled to an author reading their own books .. then being given a chance to write a short story - or a blog post for the local village blog?!

@ Richard .. oh gosh - just not enough time! Full-stop! Libraries and books - just too good to miss out on ...

@ Nancy - so pleased you're feeling better - your opportunity to work at a University Library must have been amazing - I can imagine 'fun and enlightening' ..

@ Manzanita - delighted - thank you. Did anyone whisper quietly to you .. that I'm teaching myself as I go? Oh dear poor Kindle - I've yet to try one ...

... I think the 9,000 years was trade starting .. and records being required .. slowly over time via clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, parchment .. before paper really came into its own with the printing press.

The tea bag post was before Christmas - actually it's a fun one .. but you're making little jewellery bags for jewels - those must be beautiful - silk does produce stunning colours.

In Edwardian times .. porcelain cups would be the order of the day - very delicate. Lovely thought ..

Thanks Glynis, Robyn, Richard, Nancy and Mananita - great additions and thoughts to the creativity of libraries .. cheers Hilary

Susan Blake said...

Hi Hilary!
These posts on libraries are wonderful! I cannot imagine a world without them! My father made me go with him to the library from early childhood, before they even had much in the way of chldren's books like they do now. It was a love affair - then and now - with books!

Unknown said...

You have some interesting posts. I love how you're doing a series on libraries.

Also, thanks for those cool links at the bottom. I'm going to check out Joanne's for sure.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

I find it particularly fascinating that books were chained together at one time. I would like to see that library!

dolorah said...

Where do you find this stuff? Fascinating. I had to read both Library posts as I was so intrigued.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Susan - how lovely to see you again. Delighted you enjoyed the read .. it was interesting finding out about them and learning how libraries came into existence.

The memories with your father must be very precious .. and I know you do excellent research .. and love your educational learning still.

@ Clarissa - thanks so much .. that's it for libraries - though I know I could do more.

Delighted to hear you're going to check out some of the links .. Joanne's marketing her book with some extra pzzazz.

@ Amy - that chaining is one of those facts that's fun for us to know about.

If you ever get to Hereford Cathedral .. that's where the Mappa Mundi is .. that's an amazing medieval map of the world - and would be a brilliant visit.

@ Donna - I've some knowledge over the (many?!) years and just tie things that interest me and thus wonderfully interest you too! So pleased you read both posts ..

Thanks Susan, Clarissa, Amy and Donna - so good to see you all and for your wonderful comments - cheers Hilary

Rosalind Adam said...

I loved libraries as a child. I regularly visited them throughout my adulthood... until I got my Kindle. I haven't been to our local library for months now and that's sad.

We visited the chain library at Hereford several years ago. I'm not sure if that was in its old or new building but I remember that it was freezing in there.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Ros ... I only found out about libraries once I got to boarding school - we'd had lots of books at home .. and I read avidly. Perhaps a visit to your local library is due?!

I wonder what the impact of the Kindle and eReaders will have in the years ahead ...

I'm sure you visited before the building was refurbished! It's probably cold - but not that cold in its new setting ...

@ Karen - pleasure .. it didn't sound like the easiest of paths and I admire you for doing what you could for your family members .. so very glad that my distant support helps .. my thoughts continue on with you ..

Cheers Ros and Karen - lovely seeing you both .. Hilary

Mimi said...

wow, you have a popular blog!!

I love old libraries and have always hoped that someday an ancient library be rediscovered, (you know, after they were all destroyed by the church some years ago)

also wanted to tell you that there is ONE company producing chocolate from the ground up in the USA (Kona, Hawaii) no slaves or serfs abused there!

Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors

Southpaw said...

Hilary, you've outdone yourself. This is just wonderful.

And wow, I want to go the the library in Portugal.

Linda said...

Hilary, this is an amazing amount of information, interesting facts and history of libraries from ancient times through to the present. I used to read actual books all the time, but now most of what I read is online or the newspaper. Thanks to one of your posts, I do have a book on Da Vinci waiting in the wings to read.

Ella said...

Great post Hilary! I loved the tea bag rich and delicate!
How fascinating, where we have come and where we are going~ :D

Denise Covey Writer said...

Hi Hilary. I'm so pleased you have such a lot of readers as you put so much research into your excellent posts. Wouldn't it be lovely to touch those silken bags in the ancient Chinese library?

Libraries are amongst my favourite places. I teach in our city State Library and would happily spend extra hours here anytime.

When I travel I love to visit libraries great and small.

Thanks for an informative post as always.

You'll be pleased to know I'm just using plain old popup comments now.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Linda .. thank you - yes I agree with you .. I struggle to read books - though I'm endeavouring to change that. I only scan one newspaper a week, I scan-read The Week (a digest of the world wide news), I read the odd educational magazine, listen to the radio - a little, watch tv documentaries ... and buy or list books I'd like to read! via blog posts too. I find a point that interests me and thus you; then I elaborate around it - historically, educationally and give it my take.

Excellent you've got a Leonardo book waiting to read! That's great .. and enjoy it.

@ Ella - amazing to think that book cataloguing on silk and tea bags could be linked .. just had to remind us of the 2,000 year gap.

@ Denise - many thanks .. I don't post too often and really appreciate everyone giving my blog a read, and then a comment. I'd love to see those silk scrolls - any scrolls must be so fragile now - I expect most are stored in environmentally controlled rooms now - not in the Sand Library, Chinquetti obviously.

I hadn't realised you teach at your State Library .. in Brisbane I think .. must be fascinating to be amongst keen students.

I know your love of travel .. enjoy your future library visits ..

Google and comment boxes are so frustrating .. wonderful I'll be popping over to say Hi! Now I can comment ..

Thanks Linda, Ella and Denise - great to have you here with such lovely comments - cheers Hilary

Golden Eagle said...

Fascinating post on libraries! It was great to learn more about their history.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating posts! But I would expect nothing less from you. ANother contributing factor to the destruction of libraries were Christain missionaries who destroyed books, even Indian writings sketched in stone that were deemed pagan. This also happened with art as many statues were defaced or the heads cut off and smashed for various reasons. too bad. So much history lost forever.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...


Have you thought about writing for a magazine? You are a seriously good researcher!

A couple years ago we went to Washington DC and visited the Library of Congress. I have to say it was so exciting for me....Thinking about every copywrited book in the US being right there under my feet. Plus is was beautiful!

Empty Nest Insider said...

What an interesting historical review of libraries that truly deserved two posts! Now many of us are anxious to ditch our Kindles and iPads to run to our local libraries! Julie I

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ The Golden Eagle .. glad you enjoyed the history - thank you.

@ Stephen .. you're right - there was much destruction .. Henry VIII could be called the destroyer in many ways - sadly it continues to happen. I hope that at least by now - we have much recorded .. so if destruction occurs we at least have a digital record.

@ Sharon .. many thanks - I just enjoy the simple things I hear or find out and then weaving them together in a different fashion.

I haven't tried - but I'm sure there are plenty of unemployed journalists out there .. but your idea has gone in - I'm very grateful that you think of me that way.

Your visit to the Library of Congress must have been so interesting and I can imagine you must have been wandering around in a little bubble of absolute delight! The history of the library must fascinating to read .. and then the architecture - we do have the ability to create beautiful buildings for our national and private assets.

Thanks so much Golden Eagle, Stephen and Sharon - wonderful to see you .. have happy weekends ..Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Julie .. then you sneak in with your comment - lovely to see you! I just couldn't put everything into one post - or actually two .. but a sample overview of libraries I achieved! Glad you enjoyed it .. roll on me getting an ipad or Kindle!

Cheers and enjoy the weekend .. Hilary

Anonymous said...

Libraries are awesome! Thanks for sharing this wonderful information and equally wonderful pictures, Hilary! It is true. The entire history of the world rests in libraries. It would be awful if they disappeared to technology. Who of us writers doesn't love to browse in a library? I used to go along the aisles, and if a title caught my eye I would open the book, and if it looked interesting, I'd check it out. Ebooks just aren't the same as books on shelves, in bookstores, in libraries.
Ann Best, Memoir Author of In the Mirror & Imprisoned

scarlett clay said...

So interesting, so many amazing details you've included, too..can you imagine writing on fine silk? And I have never heard of a chained library much work that must've taken to assemble!? Glad to see your reference to old Ashur...considering all of his clay tablets I think we can go ahead and award him as having established the heaviest library in the world as well. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Ann .. I can't believe that we won't be able to visually see, feel and hold a book in the future's changing our senses too much.

I absolutely agree with your thoughts about picking a book up, looking through it and then becoming interested and buying it .. I still do that in shops and via a catalogue which sells very interesting quality books for discerning readers (out of date) covering all subjects - fascinating to read the catalogue.

As you say books in hand are so much more than an ebook read.

@ Scarlett - glad all is better with Knox .. and am so pleased you've come back to read the 2nd post .. I had to mention Ashur (after your reminder to me - thank you!) ..

.. I think the Chained Library was a very sensible way of holding onto books, which were very valuable back before the printing press, and in its early days .. the scribes, monks and noble households would have had a steady supply of 'tradesmen' to help with the setting up of the Chain Libraries.

And as to the heaviest library in the world .. Ashur's would take much to be beaten ... clay tablets - certainly are unlikely to be stolen.

Thanks Ann and Scarlett .. lovely to see you both .. I hope Spring and calmer weather will arrive soon in the States ... with thoughts - Hilary

Paula RC said...

Wow Hilary, I do so love your postings. I have a copy of Brewers which I picked up in a Charity shop, it's a leather bound one dated 1887 and was presented to M.B.Sealt for her Diligence and attention in all her studies in 1888.
The book as then called The Reader's Handbook of Allusions, Reference, plots and stories by the rev. E.Cobham Brewer, LLD.

This is what readers of the future will miss out on the history of a book as it pass on in its life. I paid £15 pounds for it and it was worth every penny I paid and I hope I'm as proud of owning this book as M. B. Sealt was when she won it for all her hard work.

Best wishes to you and your Mum

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jarmara .. what a fascinating account of a Brewer's book .. mine is in the 1970s ..

I love the detail you've given us .. and the title of the book as it was .. it would be interesting to do a comparison of yours and today's versions.

I wonder if the Sealt family are still around .. and were in your neck of the woods .. it would be amazing to trace EB Sealt back - and find out what her Diligence and attention to all her studies was for .. she was obviously a very good student and enjoyed learning.

So interesting .. thanks for adding to the story on libraries and books here .. brilliant to know about ...

Thanks for the wishes for my Mama - she sleeps an awful lot now - understandable, but still knows what is what .. appreciate your thoughts .. mine to you for your family ... Hilary

Paula RC said...

Hi Hilary I've just check out the school and it's still there! It's rather a posh school for 14 to 18year old girls and was founded in 1850 by Miss Frances Mary Buss. Her Father illustrated books for Dickens. The school was set up to educate girls.
It's North London Collegiate School at 46 Camden street, Camden Town