The Library: A Fragile History

Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen. Basic, $35 (528p) ISBN 978-1-5416-0077-5
Historians Pettegree and der Weduwen (The Bookshop of the World) take a comprehensive and fascinating deep dive into the evolution of libraries. They trace “a repeating cycle of creation and dispersal, decay and reconstruction” from the Assyrian Empire of Mesopotamia in the seventh century BCE, when the earliest libraries on record, consisting of as many as 35,000 clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform script housed in palaces and temples and accessible only to scholars and royals, were destroyed by rival Babylonians, to 1990s Sarajevo, where the Serbian militia attacked the Bosnia state library. Colorful historical figures abound: Holy Roman Empire originator Charlemagne’s efforts to unify Europe in the ninth century hinged upon efficient communication, which led him to push for literacy education and the gathering of book collections in monasteries to encourage scholarship, while 19th-century steel baron Andrew Carnegie’s funding of public libraries in the U.S. and Britain made their holdings accessible to the average person. Pettegree and der Weduwen also explore changes in reading habits, the widespread availability of digital resources, and the transformation of public libraries into de facto community centers that fill societal needs unmet elsewhere. Bibliophiles should consider this a must-read. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 10/07/2021
Release date: 11/09/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-6686-0377-2
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