Saturday, October 3, 2020

Library? There's an Idea --- Day 9/171

 Walk: Presidio                                                                                                                               Distance: 5 miles, yoga stretches                                                                                                                             

Part of a neo-Assyrian clay tablet at Library of Ashurbanipal

Gold again!  Not intentional and Ciwt doubts that this ancient cuniaform tablet is gold in person.  But it's in the collection of the world's oldest known library so might be at least as valuable as gold.

The tablet is one of several 'collected' (ie, plundered from Babylonia and other conquered territories ) by the 7th century B.C. Assyrian ruler Ashurbanipal and kept in Nineveh (modern day Iraq). The library site, which included a trove of around 30,000 cuneiform tablets organized according to subject matter, wasn't discovered until the mid-19th century.  Mercifully, given activities in the mideast, the majority of its contents, including the 4,000 year old Epic of Gilgamesh, are now kept in the British Museum.

Why is Ciwt writing about this today?  Well a friend sent her a picture of the beyond sumptuous and stunning Waldsassen Abbey Library in Bavaria  
A supporter and lover of  libraries who knows little of their history, Ciwt started researching and found herself at ancient Ninevah and the 'gold' tablet. 

After Ninevah it was on to ca. 300 B.C. Alexandria where that Egyptian city's library became the intellectual jewel of the ancient world.  Numerous learned scholars came to live and study on site,  among whom were the likes of Strabo (first major geographer), Euclid ('father of geometry')) and Archimedes (mathematician, inventor, astronometer among other fields).  Sadly the Alexandria Library has been lost to destructive battles in ancient (probably Roman) wars.

A rival to Alexandria's Library was also constructed in the Third Century B.C. at Pergamum (now Turkey).  And quite the rival it was: .  Apparently Egypt's Ptolemaic dynasty became so competitive with the Library of Pergamum that it halted shipments of papyrus there to slow its growth.  The members of Turkey's Attalid dynasty responded, it is said, by becoming the leading production center for parchment paper.

From these very early beginnings, Ciwt was off through Greece, Rome, various ports in Asia, innumberable wars, countless book burnings, plunders galore, lavish displays of floor to ceiling scrolls by Roman tycoons who were illiterate, the invention of paper and moveable type, the insistence during the Industrial Revolution that the lower classes be educated to read, Benjamin Franklin, Madison and the Library of Congress, Andrew Carnegie, Bill and Melinda Gates, the audio-visual-digital (and many more!) services todays libraries provide.  

And to CIWT for today's offering after which she will walk and read a book from her personal library piled (decorously) beside her bed.

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