Library: An Unquiet History

Library: An Unquiet History, by Matthew Battles, is a great short non-fiction about the history of the library. Or, more correctly, the search to create the universal library.

Battles starts back at the library of Alexandria. The curators there were always searching for new writings they didn't have, going so far as to confiscate all papyrus works coming into Alexandria on ships, ostensibly to copy them but frequently just keeping them! While there wasn't ever a full on sacking/burning/pillaging of the library there were several fires. Those events prompts one of Battles' themes: libraries, besides making books easy to find, make books easy to destroy.

He moves through the medieval ages in Europe and the Middle East, the Renaissance, onto America. Battles has an amazing cast of characters to work with. He covers Jonathan Swift's Battle of the Books and Antonio Panizzi, who took years to catalog the British Library. Dewey (of the decimal system) was really a dick! The most amazing and heartbreaking parts for me dealt with World War 2. There was an amazing library destroyed both in World War 1 and World War 2 by the Germans. Published in 2004, this book could even have another chapter added on with more on the new internet age and ebooks.

It is a very short book. That's a great complaint though; there are not many books that i wish were longer! I also kept stopping to look up further info online! I recommend this one to anyone who loves to read and loves books; it's quick and fun. a 6!


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