The Ancient Library of Alexandria: A Pathfinder

Monographs: Works Devoted Entirely to the Alexandrian Library

"Concerning the number of books, and the setting up of libraries and the assembly of the Mouseion, what need I to mention, since they are known to everyone?" These are the words of Athenaeus, a scholar who had ample access to the ancient Library. His words are ironic, for today little is known about the Library, though its reputation has not diminished. This section presents works that seek to either present the Library as comprehensively as possible or that deal in-depth with a particular issue related to the institution.

Collins, Nina L. The Library in Alexandria and the Bible in Greek. Vol. 82. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum. Boston: Brill, 2000.
(Davis BS 410.V 452)

The focus of Collins' work is the Letter of Aristeas, the oldest surviving text that gives an extended discussion of the Library. Collins argues that the letter should be taken at face value, that Demetrius of Phaleron was indeed a 'trusted employee of Ptolemy II." This is in contradiction with the majority of Alexandrian scholarship. The importance of Collins' work is that it highlights just how small the body of information is upon which judgments are made regarding the Alexandrian Library.

El-Abbadi, Mostafa. The Life and Fate of the Ancient Library of Alexandria. Mayenne, France: Imprimerie Floch, 1990.
(D.H. Hill Z722.5 .E424 1990)

El-Abbadi's work is a recent study which deals in depth with all aspects of the ancient Library. The work does not have a powerful presentation, but it is thorough. The author has been intimately involved in the project to build a modern counterpart to the ancient Library, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and he has many articles on the ancient Library in print.

The Library of Alexandria: Centre of Learning in the Ancient World. Ed. Roy MacLeod. London: I.B. Tauris Publishers, 2000.
(SILS Z 722.5.L53 2000)

This is a collection of essays published in honor of the founding of the new Alexandrian Library, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The third essay gives a particularly helpful and intriguingly-written history of the Library. Many of the essays deal with very distinct aspects of the Library, such as the study of medicine in relation to it. The bibliography at the end of the work is a very helpful guide to standard sources both on the Library itself and on the history of Ptolemaic Egypt.

Parsons, Edward Alexander. The Alexandrian Library: Glory of the Hellenic World, Its Rise, Antiquities, and Destructions. London: Cleaver-Hume Press, 1952.
(SILS Z 722.5.P3 1952a)

Parsons work is a very thorough presentation of all aspects of the Alexandrian Library. The first part of the work details what is known of Hellenic books and libraries in general. Parsons then proceeds to describe ancient Alexandria before narrowing in on the Library. In relation to the Library, he discusses its founding, its method of collecting and cataloging its collection, its editing operations, and its personnel. A whole section is devoted to an analysis of the Library's destruction. Parsons' strong point is his detailed account of the manuscripts and fragments that form the foundation of our knowledge of the Library. The work includes color plates of one of these documents, The Plautine Scholium. At the back of the work is a fascinating pull-out map of the outlines of the ancient city superimposed on a map of modern Alexandria. Parsons work is well-cited in literature on the Library.

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