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Lionel Casson and Ancient Libraries

The classicist Lionel Casson has passed away at the age of 94. While much of his work dealt with issues relating to ancient maritime history, a number of years ago he wrote a book on libraries in antiquity, Libraries in the Ancient World. It is a relatively short book and an easy read, making it good summer reading. Other books such as The Great Libraries: From Antiquity to the Renaissance (3000 B.C. to A.D.1600)
seem to go into more detail, but also cost much more. Since during late antiquity rabbinic literature was oral (אכמ”ל), it is very difficult to talk about libraries of rabbinic literature in the same manner that one can speak of libraries of Greek or Latin literature. There has been a lot of discussion about how to define the library/repository of scrolls found at Qumran. See some discussion here, here, and here. For a discussion of literacy and libraries in Jewish society during late antiquity see Catherine Hezser’s Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine. Hezser quoted Menachem Haran who said that “there is no evidence for the existence of Jewish libraries from Second Temple times through the talmudic period.” (Hezser, 161; Haran, “Archives, Libraries, and the Order of the Biblical Books,” JANES, 1993)

3 Responses to “Lionel Casson and Ancient Libraries”

  1. 1
    Manuscriptboy:

    On Jewish libraries in medieval times, see Malachi Beit-Arie, ‘Were there Jewish public libraries in the Middle Ages?’, Zion 65 (2000), 441-451.

  2. 2
    Menachem Mendel:

    I think that this article was recently reprinted in a book published by Mercaz Zalman Shazar.

  3. 3
    Manuscriptboy:

    ספריות ואוספי ספרים, ירושלים תשס”ו

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