By J. Raven
This pioneering quantity of essays explores the destruction of serious libraries considering that precedent days and examines the highbrow, political and cultural effects of loss. Fourteen unique contributions, brought by means of a big re-evaluative background of misplaced libraries, supply the 1st ever comparative dialogue of the best catastrophes in e-book heritage from Mesopotamia and Alexandria to the dispersal of monastic and monarchical booklet collections, the Nazi destruction of Jewish libraries, and the new scary pillage and burning in Tibet, Bosnia and Iraq.
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Alexandria, a journal ‘devoted to exploring the philosophical, spiritual and cosmological traditions of the Western World’, is among the more respectable of these but few are free of esoteric offerings, especially given the democracy of the web. 93 In his more conventionally popular study, Cosmos, Carl Sagan reﬂects upon the survival of ‘only a small fraction’ of the literature once held at Alexandria. Sagan, particularly regretting the loss of the writings of Aristarchus of Samos, adds: Introduction: The Resonances of Loss 21 If we multiply by a hundred thousand our sense of loss for this work of Aristarchus, we begin to appreciate the grandeur of the achievement of classical civilization and the tragedy of its destruction.
Eco’s library and librarian defy natural order and mistakenly relish the guardianship of the truth, when, in fact, ‘without people to read and use the signs in books, the books themselves are dumb, useless’. 142 Approaches to the images of literary loss might suggest parallels: the recreation for different ends by different people of ideas of textual unities, of working resources and practices in which memory and remembrance of books past is paramount but also highly individual. The following essays discuss libraries from ancient Mesopotamia to modern Tibet, considering very different material types of library and different Introduction: The Resonances of Loss 33 deﬁnitions of collections and very different collectors, patrons, users and destroyers.
We would be unwise to believe that such legends built around the brutality that destroys libraries and book collections are part only of a distant past. Such histories are not without contemporary signiﬁcance, and many issues discussed in the following essays could hardly be more topical. The potency of many past images is explained by their capacity for re-use and reformulation, sometimes in justiﬁcation as much as in remonstrance. The war-led library destruction of the twentieth century stretches from the opening years of East Asian conﬂict and the bombardments of the First World War, to the air raids, burnings and deliberate looting of the Second World War and the many wars in different parts of the world thereafter.
Lost Libraries: The Destruction of Great Book Collections Since Antiquity by J. Raven