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The circulation of books was the motor of classical civilization. But books were both expensive and rare, and so libraries - private and public, royal and civic - played key roles in articulating intellectual life. This collection, written by an international team of scholars, presents a fundamental reassessment of how ancient libraries came into being, how they were organized and how they were used. Drawing on papyrology and archaeology, and on accounts written by those who read and wrote in them, it presents new research on reading cultures, on book collecting and on the origins of monumental library buildings. Many of the traditional stories told about ancient libraries are challenged. Few were really enormous, none were designed as research centres, and occasional conflagrations do not explain the loss of most ancient texts. But the central place of libraries in Greco-Roman culture emerges more clearly than ever.
There is a rich body of encyclopaedic writing which survives from the two millennia before the Enlightenment. This book sheds new light on that material. It traces the development of traditions of knowledge ordering which stretched back to Pliny and Varro and others in the classical world. It works with a broad concept of encyclopaedism, resisting the idea that there was any clear pre-modern genre of the 'encyclopaedia', and showing instead how the rhetoric and techniques of comprehensive compilation left their mark on a surprising range of texts. In the process it draws attention to both remarkable similarities and striking differences between conventions of encyclopaedic compilation in different periods, with a focus primarily on European/Mediterranean culture. The book covers classical, medieval (including Byzantine and Arabic) and Renaissance culture in turn, and combines chapters which survey whole periods with others focused closely on individual texts as case studies.
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